When I first started building businesses for companies, it was an expensive and time consuming enterprise. We’d need to think through and plan for every aspect of a creating a large scale business even though we’d always start small. After all, this was an investment being made by global tech brands, and they always had a view beyond a single market.
And because I was usually operating within a global business, I expected that there would be support. Technology. Budget. Or maybe even some resources. More often than not, the largest investment that was made was my time. The rest was up to me. To find. Squeeze. Convince and convert. Luckily I would be given a technology head start in the shape of an early stage product or solution – but a wad of documentation and a handful of hard disks would arrive in the internal mail and I’d be flying from there.
First up, I’d start with a straw man business case. Get some agreement from sponsors and stakeholders and get out on the street. I’d need paying customer pretty quickly so I’d need a clear value proposition, a presentation and some pricing. The product or solution that had fallen in my lap was usually at an early stages of maturity – so there would always be some rough edges that would need to be talked around, and customer service and onboarding would be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants activity. This meant long hours and completely different ways of talking to people. One minute I would be signing a deal with a CEO, next I’d be answering a customer service or tech support question on my mobile.
Back in the office I would be scrambling to knock out some standard processes. I’d be needing to report on sales and opportunity pipelines, but would not be able to use the corporate CRM until there was significant volume. That meant spreadsheets and email, templates and boilerplate. And if I could find a few extra hours, a self running demo would be fabulous.
With a team of one, there was no need for collaboration suites (just yet), but with an eye on success, I’d pull in favours, convince colleagues to help me out in their spare time and generally hustle my way through the first 30 days. By the time we’d closed a couple of deals, I’d have some good “time and materials” contracts, some new friends in the legal and finance departments and maybe even a customer facing website.
But that was all possible because I had the backing of a mature business.
Fast forward to starting a business in 2016 and the landscape looks strangely familiar. What is fundamentally different is the simple fact that you don’t have to be a global tech brand to work this way.
In fact, global tech brands would struggle to operate with the speed and agility of a hungry startup entrepreneur.
All the infrastructure that was once only available in the large enterprise is now available on a trial or relatively cheap monthly subscription. Software as a service (SaaS) has levelled the playing field and shortened its length. Now, you can literally setup your communications infrastructure with Google Apps with a few clicks and a credit card. You can create a lean canvas – or one page business plan – in about 20 minutes, kick into validation with stakeholders and investors, create a pitch deck and make your first sale by late afternoon.
It has never been easier to start – or to start fast.
But the question is, can you “start well”?
We have distilled over 20 years worth of business knowledge and insight into our series of Disruptor’s Handbooks and make them available for free. We do this because we believe that the more we innovate, the more we will all benefit. We even have a big list of “must have apps” – the kind of apps that get you started fast.
The good folks over at Stripe have done something similar – produced a great slide deck showcasing some of the best apps, platforms and tools to help you to not only start fast, but start well.
What are you waiting for? You’ve got a new business to kickstart!