Have the Finance to get Started. You will always need a certain amount of money to launch your startup. This can come from your own resources or you can borrow from family members or friends that support you and your idea. It can take a while to secure venture capital, and potential investors will want to see that you have skin in the game, that you have made a start and can demonstrate proof of concept.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.
Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?
In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Harvey Raybould.
Harvey Raybould is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years’ experience running successful businesses. He owns a multi-million-dollar property portfolio, recently sold a business for hundreds of thousands of dollars and has angel invested in nearly 30 companies. He enjoys writing for his blogs and is an extremely passionate crypto investor.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Being an entrepreneur is in my DNA. From a very early age, I had the entrepreneurial bug and was constantly looking for the next thing I could make money from. I think I was about fourteen when I started my first money making venture and went through dozens of business ideas before I started to gain some success in my mid to late twenties. Friends of mine would laugh and ask what I was up to now, but I got there in the end.
When I left school, I went to work for a large bank but pretty much from the first week I knew it wasn’t for me. I’m an adrenaline junkie for the challenges running my own business brings. My drive is for freedom, to be able to do what I want, when I want and unfortunately, I knew I couldn’t achieve that working for someone else.
I resigned from the bank after a year or so and at aged 20 I started my first full time business in the landscaping industry. I had many hard times; had to make many sacrifices and I went through long periods with very little money. But I was determined to succeed and gradually during my twenties things started to turn around. I’d moved from landscaping into the computer sector, bought my first property and the most important thing, I invested in myself and became more financially literate. I stopped buying things I didn’t need and started saving and investing any spare cash I had.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I don’t think I had a conscious Aha Moment, for me it was more of a natural progression from one business to the next. I am in the real estate investing and development industry now but when I exited my computer business, I set up a web hosting and internet marketing company. However, during the time I ran the computer and hosting businesses I bought or invested in real estate on a part time basis. So, when I sold the web hosting business, I decided to move into real estate investing full time. I had already built up some experience and had some successes and so it just seemed like the natural next step for me on my entrepreneurial journey.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Two people actually … my Mum and Dad. All their lives they have supported me and worked hard to give me everything they can. They have gone without themselves, in order to give me a great education, upbringing and opportunities in life. I’m so blessed and grateful to have such loving, caring and supportive parents, I would definitely not be where I am today without them. Whenever I need them, they are always there to listen and give me no strings attached advice and guidance.
They have encouraged me through the hard, stressful times and been there to celebrate with me the successes I have achieved. I’m so proud to be able to call them my parents. Thank you, Mum and Dad, for everything, I love you so much.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As humans, we have two ears and one mouth and I am a great believer in listening twice as much as we speak. We don’t see people as paying customers, but as highly valued partners. So, first and foremost we listen intently to our clients’ needs, and take time to educate ourselves on their exact requirements or goals. Only then do we speak and offer the solution we believe to be perfect for their situation now and in the immediate future.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have been very fortunate to be able to travel over the last 12 years or so for at least 6 months of the year. Not holidays per se but just being able to work anywhere I choose. I manage to do this because of the systems and team I have built. Over these years, I have spent a lot of time in SE Asia following my main hobbies of golf and photography.
Being a vegetarian for 20+ years, ever since I was young, I have cared very much about animal cruelty and welfare. So, for the last five years or so I have heavily been involved in street dog care and rescue in Thailand. On a daily basis, at our sanctuary and on the streets, our volunteers feed and take care of hundreds of sick and malnourished dogs. We nurture injured and sick dogs back to health and find loving homes for those that can be adopted. We run regular sterilization programs to try and get on top of the puppy situation, which is very problematic, but slowly and surely, we are beginning to make a difference
A lot of the dogs that come to us have never been played with, cared for or sadly been shown any love. We try to change that little by little.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Persistence. Never, ever give up and I don’t mean keep flogging a dead horse. The business you have started has got to have potential to make a lot of money, that research should have been done way before you started, so what I mean is, never, ever give up on your dream of being successful. I literally went through dozens of ideas before I started to get traction and become successful.
Failure is imminent but it is how you deal with those failures that defines you as a person or entrepreneur. You might have a discouraging string of poor results or bad luck and it feels like the world is on top of you but you have to be strong, dust yourself off and just keep going. Persistence will always win out.
Willingness to get my hands dirty. I once bought a property where previously 30+ dogs had been living. If you can imagine the old carpets and floorboards were sodden with urine, the stench was nearly unbearable and many of my contractors were gagging or being sick when trying to remove the carpets.
Underneath the carpets hardboard had been nailed, with thousands of nails, to the floorboards. It was soaking wet with urine and needed to be removed. The problem was it was nailed every inch or so and you could never get a big piece up, just small bits at a time.
I didn’t want to ask anyone else to do the job, it was a nightmare, so I did it. It took days and days to remove all the hardboard, but eventually I got there. Doing things like this earns respect with people that work for you. The willingness to help the team out and get down and dirty with them is very important, in my opinion.
Working harder than anyone else I know. If you ask any successful entrepreneur, none of them, or at least a very small percentage, will tell you they’ve got to where they are without having to work really hard. No days or hours of the day are excluded. Working 80, 100, 120 hours a week, whatever it needs, whatever it takes to get things done, is a trait you will see in most millionaires and billionaires that have made it for themselves.
When I was younger, I made many short-term sacrifices because I had the bigger picture in play. Friends of mine would be out partying or going on amazing holidays but I didn’t go because I was driven by an inner fire to succeed.
I remember when I was 21 years old, it was New Year’s Eve and I was talking to a friend about my dreams, ambitions and goals. She said to me, Harvey you will never be happy, you will never be content. In part that’s true, I am happy but I’m not content. I still have the fire inside of me, for my next success, my next big deal, my next goal achieved. That is my DNA and happily I can’t change that, because this is want makes me feel alive.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I don’t really have an example of this to be honest. I am normally quite quick to change my opinion on things, if deep down in my gut I don’t think this is the right path.
I do have an example of advice I didn’t follow but in hindsight I should have.
Back in 2008, I got offered a lot of money for one of my businesses. The company had been trying to acquire me for some time. Anyway, to cut a long story short I turned down their offer thinking that I could get a lot more money for it, in the not-too-distant future. There was an acquisitions broker involved, and he was trying to advise (persuade) me that this was a great offer and I should accept. I didn’t budge and shortly after that the financial world collapsed, the offer got removed and it took me many years to sell that business for less money than I got offered in 2008.
This taught me a valuable lesson, not to be greedy and to take the opportunities that are presented to me.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
To be honest there have been a lot of very hard times. I resigned from a reasonably well-paid job to nothing, when I was 20 years old. It took a long time, many, many years, to get some momentum going.
However, one story does stick out and still makes me sad today. One of my best friends from school was getting married. There were about eight of us that stayed in contact after school. We’d known each other from around eleven years old and we used to hang out together most weekends. We’d all been asked to be groomsman and one as the best man.
My friend’s fiancé lived quite a way from us, so the venue involved a couple of nights overstay. When I added it all up, with the cost of the hotel, food, drink, etc. etc. it was probably in the $500 range. I just didn’t have the money at the time and I felt very embarrassed to tell anyone that. So, I made some lame excuses and sadly I missed the wedding. I still feel bad about it to this day, especially whenever their wedding gets mentioned or photographs come up.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?
As I mentioned previously being an entrepreneur is in my DNA, I am basically unemployable. So, I had no choice but to keep going. Starting a business comes with guarantees of hard times and sacrifices but the rewards are so worth it, if you are consistent and persistent enough.
You might have heard the saying: If you are persistent, you will get it. If you are consistent, you will keep it. I believe consistency is the most important characteristic of a good entrepreneur. Consistency develops routines, builds momentum and forms habits that become second nature. It earns trust among employees and customers alike. This trust nurtures reputation and in the long-term, consistency creates a synergy that radiates across the whole business: cementing how we relate as an organization and also how we attend to our customers. In my opinion being consistent is the difference between failure and success.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
Resilience is something that an entrepreneur needs a high level of. Things are definitely going to go wrong when you are involved in any business venture and you need to be able to bounce back every time. See every challenge as an opportunity to grow. Treat setbacks as temporary road blocks because that is what they are.
Entrepreneurs need to be mentally tough. I have had projects go wrong at the last minute, and by looking at these problems in a calm and unemotional way I was able to come up with solutions. Over the years I have strengthened my emotional resilience. Setbacks used to drain me emotionally, now I look at problems without any emotion involved.
Be sure to celebrate small wins. What you do to celebrate is not important, but when you celebrate regularly you will create a strong sense of possibility and you can focus on this whenever problems arise. Dealing with the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur is all about celebrating the positives and seeing the negatives as an opportunity to celebrate again.
Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?
I have always favored bootstrapping my startups because I like the freedom and control that this provides me. However, there is nothing wrong with seeking venture capital, and I have done this as well.
Here are the main points that a founder should look at to determine if bootstrapping or raising funds is the best way for them to go:
- You have the freedom to do things your way
- You are in total control of your business
- You will tend to be more careful with your spending
- You will be taking all of the risk
- If you are unable to raise sufficient funds to launch your startup then fund raising is the only option
- If there is a significant competitive advantage to being first to market then fund raising is the way to go.
- Being backed by a venture capital firm can make your startup more credible
- You will not be in total control and will need to spend time communicating with and reporting to your investors
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
From my experience of startups that have succeeded and failed, these are my five things you need to create a successful startup:
1. The Market wants your Product or Service
I have created startups on the back of what seemed to be very sound new product or service ideas. But these failed because there was not enough demand for the product or service I had created. You need to have a way of properly testing the demand for a new idea in a systemized way. If you can’t, then I would personally avoid creating a startup around this product or service until you can.
2. Build a Franchise
So many founders, including myself, fall into the trap of working in the business and not on the business. They deal with the day-to-day stuff and never have time to build for the future. They create a very low paid job rather than a successful company.
Eighty percent of small businesses fail within 5 years and so it is vitally important founders spend the majority of their time on planning, systemizing and high-level income generating tasks
In his great book, The E-Myth Revisited, author Michael Gerber explains the need to adopt the mindset that your business is a nationwide franchise, like McDonalds, KFC or Domino’s. This amazing book teaches you how to do this. Build a thriving, profitable business that relies on systems not on you.
3. Have the Finance to get Started
You will always need a certain amount of money to launch your startup. This can come from your own resources or you can borrow from family members or friends that support you and your idea. It can take a while to secure venture capital, and potential investors will want to see that you have skin in the game, that you have made a start and can demonstrate proof of concept.
4. Get the Right People Onboard
It is tempting to try and do everything yourself when you first get started, but there are going to be areas where you are not an expert and need to call on others for help. In this digital age, it is easy to find freelancers that have the skills that you don’t have.
When I started my computer business in the mid-1990s there were many things that I didn’t know. Once, I was asked to quote for a large software development project which I’d never done before. I got the right advice, built the right team and was able to win the contract and successfully deliver it to the client.
5. Focus on Marketing
The reason that a couple of my startup businesses failed was because I didn’t focus enough on marketing. I got too involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and as a result I spent very little time on lead generation and the acquisition of more clients.
I have seen many other entrepreneurs make the same mistake. Cashflow is the lifeblood of your startup, so you need to make marketing your number one priority. If this isn’t something you are good at, then you need to find someone that is.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Very often we get wrapped up in an idea, and all the family and friends we talk to about it, think it’s brilliant. They will say that of course!!! There needs to be a real demand. You need to ensure that the market wants what you will provide and it is essential that you do your homework to establish demand.
A lot of startups run out of money and this can be overcome with proper financial planning to ensure that financial resources are used in the most effective way. Don’t just create a business plan to keep the bank or investors happy. Follow the plan and change it where necessary.
Not getting the right help is a classic mistake of CEOs and Founders. Many entrepreneurs feel that they can do everything themselves but they can’t. You need to have the right team that will support you. This does not mean employing lots of people. These days you can create a virtual team of experts that you only use when you need them, thus avoiding unnecessary costs and headaches.
Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
You need to plan and take breaks. Not getting enough exercise is a common cause of health problems as is eating the wrong things because you don’t have the time to prepare and cook healthy meals.
In the past, I have let setbacks in my business overwhelm me and this caused me a lot of emotional stress. Now I will take a break from the problem and focus on something else. Mindfulness meditation can help here as it grounds you in the “here and now”.
Plan your breaks and stick to them. Set goals and create a strong WHY statement. Have a good morning routine where you exercise and set yourself up for the day ahead by reading your WHY statement and using positive affirmations.
Get enough sleep and get up early in the morning. Be organized and have a “to do” list every day so that you know what needs to be done. Prioritize your daily tasks and ensure that you complete the most important ones.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
In my opinion most school curriculums fail in some very important areas of life. We learn the ins and outs of history, algebra and lots of other subjects that the vast majority of us will never need during our lives. However, we are never taught vital life skills like relationships, having a baby, money management, investing or entrepreneurialism. Personally, I believe a lot of these life skills are far more important than many other things we learn at school.
So many people get themselves in debt, mismanage money and have no concept of saving and investing. I think this desperately needs to change as the situation is just getting worse and worse. Forget about ancient subjects from a bygone era, teach our kids the life skills they really need to succeed.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
There is only one for me and that is Sir Richard Branson. He has always been my hero. The things he has achieved, the life he has led are just awe-inspiring and it would be a great privilege to spend time with him.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!