5 things I learnt from starting a business
Alex Preece, the co-founder of UK-based start-up Reward Cloud, shares his advice and key learnings for new startups attempting to set off on the right foot in their first year of business.
1. Choosing a name for your business
It might sound obvious, but if you’re new to the market you should be looking for a name that’s unique. When first thinking about potential names, most start-ups initially look for something that is easy to remember and will help explain what they do. Whilst this is solid advice, it doesn’t always result in a top name!
A method that helped us find our name is known as a ‘word salad’. This brainstorming exercise involves everyone in the team – each person thinks of different words that they most associate with the company, and then writes them down on a piece of paper. The team then groups them together by theme or meaning. It was this that produced the first word of our current name - ‘Reward’.
However, one of the obstacles of choosing a name is making sure there’s an available domain to match. A lot of this depends on what is actually available, but the key is to end up with something that represents who you are and sets your business apart. Our original domain wastalktorewardcloud.com, but we wanted something shorter and snappier. When we found out that.cloud was officially launching, we registered our interest in ‘reward.cloud’ at GoDaddy, and luckily, about a month later, we got it! It represents our modern business and our modern approach to business, and it’s so easy to remember.
2. The importance of work-life balance
It can be very difficult to find a good work-life balance when you’re running any business - let alone a fast-growing start-up! Start-up culture is full-on and you never switch off. Whilst this aspect can be one of the most tricky to manage, once you crack it, I firmly believe that success will follow.
For me, a big part of it is health. I’m an avid gym junkie and a lover of CrossFit and Olympic lifting. I train at 5am before my kids are up and it gives me a clear and focused approach to my work and personal life.
3. Cracking an industry that you’re new to – high risk, high reward
Bear in mind that the verticals within which most existing traditional businesses sit are normally already well embedded into the way of life for millions of people. Changing this is a difficult task - but there are a lot of benefits if you succeed.
Take a look at the banking and payments sector, for example. Financial services is a massive industry, much of which is built on legacy systems. When new FinTech players came onto the market and fundamentally changed the way everyone interacts with money, they were the ones to become part of our everyday lives, changing it for potentially decades to come. That is hugely rewarding, yet hugely challenging at the same time.
When you’re new to an industry you’ll need to prepare yourself for people and businesses that won’t want you to succeed, and will make it as hard as possible for you to break through and get traction. Fear not though, because if you truly believe that there is a need for your product, and you can prove it can be done, then dig deep and keep going. I’ve personally found that a lot of it is down to timing. Cashflow is something to bear in mind - big businesses can take time to make a decision, often 12 – 18 months. Be prepared or consider if you can go that long with no income.
And finally… never give up!
If I say work hard and the results will follow it sounds obvious, but by being the hardest and smartest worker, it’s just a matter of time before success and good things start to happen. Working this way has been instilled in me as far back as my dad coming over here from Iran, when he started businesses from scratch and didn’t even speak English.
Also, don’t be afraid if you find out that your original idea is rubbish – move on and start afresh. Challenge certain processes - both personal and professional - and always strive to try something new. I like to change things, create things, and hang around or learn from people that do the same. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get yourself out there – call, email, and be persistent. Never give up!