Speed > Perfection

Lessons from building a £1m business in 12 months…

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Speed, not perfection is the key to growing a business

It’s funny how when you start with an idea of what a business is going to look like, you don’t tend to see something held together with sticky tape, with the guys building it slamming espressos to wake themselves up and days spent running from meeting to phone call to meeting, to airport, to email, to meeting to phone call.

But that’s exactly how it looked when we were doing it.

I was fortunate enough to be part of an amazing group of four guys that wanted to dominate a space in a saturated market. Our belief in ourselves was strong — we’d all got a decade of selling and business-building under our belts and we knew we could each deliver what was needed: cashflow.

What we’d imagined (as an end goal) was strolling into the office in immaculate suits, with the phones ringing off the hook and our teams crushing it. But what we knew deep down was ultimately one of the main reasons why we ended up being successful in creating £1m of revenue in the first 12 months of building that new business unit…

…it was going to look UGLY on the way to the top.

What we had in common was the awareness that building a rapid-growth business relies on three pillars:
1. New customer acquisition, EVERY DAY
2. Feeding fresh ‘shots at goal’ into our pipeline, EVERY DAY
3. Eye-widening levels of customer service, EVERY DAY

Stubbornly focusing on these three elements meant filing paperwork took a back seat, buying new furniture took a back seat, pretty signs on our office door took a back seat, going out to buy lattes for the team so they felt warm and fuzzy took a back seat, updating pages on a website took a back seat and hiring assistants, HR, a finance team, a strategist, a data entry team and IT took a back seat.

All day, every day, it was about customers. It wasn’t “work hard, play hard”, it wasn’t dropping £1,000 on bottles of Krug on a night out after closing a deal. It was just work hard. That was it.

How our business looked to US in those early days was a million miles from our minds. How our business looked to our CUSTOMERS was everything. So we’d take them to the restaurants, we’d “be there” in 30 minutes and grab a taxi across town to meet them for a coffee. I once was flying from London to Zurich to close a piece of business and even added a detour via Copenhagen (yes, via Denmark!) for an extra 2 hour meeting that meant before I eventually touched down in Zurich, I’d closed another £8,000 deal.

The speed was what mattered at the start. We had rent to pay and a business to keep alive.

Everything for that year was about being aggressive with ourselves about the pace of growing. After we (almost) hit £1m at the end of the 12 months, we’d bought ourselves space to breathe, to hire and to polish. We’d earned the right to survive and not go extinct because we’d focused on pace rather than on perfection.

So many new businesses fail each year because there is more time spent in the learning and development room and not enough time spent on the sales floor. When you’re starting out, you need the essentials, like when a baby is born they need milk; they don’t care about what colour it is or if the bottle has pretty pictures on it. They’re 3 days old. They just care about the fuel they need to grow.

So stop for 30 seconds and just take stock of your week so far. What have you done to generate that essential oxygen for your business? Have you even lifted a phone or written a single email yet? It’s already Tuesday and if you tend to spend time perfecting instead of pitching, there’s only one of two outcomes waiting for you: either shallow-as-hell growth, or demise.

Don’t get left behind. So, stop polishing and start speeding up. It doesn’t have to look good at the start. It has to WORK!

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