A decade and a half ago when I built my first company, the word “startup” was practically unheard of in Australia. When we talked about entrepreneurship, it was people starting small businesses or service based companies; and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s been the backbone of the economy for decades, particularly for migrant families and migrant entrepreneurs making their way in a new country.
But technology has changed that entirely.
Today, startups are the buzzword, and tech startups are all over the media, with billionaire founders becoming the new rockstars.
I’ve learned a huge amount building my startup into a nationally recognised company with turnovers in the millions, but looking back on it now, here’s how I would do it differently in a world where startups aren’t an all new concept.
Plan long term for your cashflow and be lean
This isn’t something I’d do differently – it’s something I would do every single time. The market is unpredictable. Just because people are rushing to fund and invest in startups right now, doesn’t mean they’ll have that same confidence in a year’s time. And a year might seem long, but it can go in the blink of an eye when you’re head down and building a company. The best advice I could give anyone starting now, is to stay lean.
Be frugal. Don’t spend on inessentials and don’t let success go to your head. You can see startups getting a bit of cash and hiring in-house chefs to cook lunch for their staff, and that’s a great way to make people feel at home – but they’ll feel more at home if they still have a job in a year’s time, because you were smart with your cash flow.
Read more: Let’s Talk: The startup blues
Go hard on the cloud
We didn’t have this option when I started. We were constrained by having to maintain physical servers and physical technology. Today, the entire Broadband Solutions operation happens in the cloud, and it’s made everything possible in a way that it just wasn’t 15 years ago. If I was starting today, I would not take that technology for granted; look for how you can be even more efficient than your competitors. Don’t let your tech team get lazy or complacent, just because it’s easier to build than it once was. Always be on the hunt for a way to be more scalable, more practical and more efficient. The tech is there. Use it.
Wait to hire the right people
I’ve hired great people, and I’ve hired people who were completely the wrong fit. I’ve made mistakes in who I’ve trusted and who I’ve brought on board. If I was starting again today, I’d follow one rule for hiring; don’t give someone a job just because you want to fill the desks. It’s always worth waiting for the right candidate and the right fit who’ll make the business proud, put in the hard work, and become a family member. If you rush into hiring, you’re always going to regret it. The right people are worth not just waiting for, but actively searching for.
When you find that right fit, don’t lose them. Offer them what they are worth, support them, and give them every single reason to stay. It’s always cheaper in the long run to keep amazing staff happy and thriving, than to have to replace them.
Be prepared to pivot and change
We’ve had to make a lot of changes at Broadband Solutions. When we started, our product was connectivity, and we’ve had to struggle through government policy changes, infrastructure and the NBN, and the impact that’s had on our business. We’ve made it through every challenge because we’ve always been prepared to adapt our business and evolve. We moved into new areas of business that unlocked huge opportunities for us, from cloud computing to PABX, and if we hadn’t been open to that, we wouldn’t have achieved our success and longevity. If I was going to do it all differently, I’d have started with a longer-term evolution in mind, and been prepared to adapt even sooner.
Ultimately, there is no right way to build a startup, and I can give you all the advice in the world from where I’m sitting – but until you’re in the thick of it, you won’t know which choices to make and which direction to go in. If you remain as agile as you can, and you focus on the things that matter, from your people to your cash flow, you’ll be in a better position.
Sam Bashiry is the founder of Broadband Solutions and the host of podcast, From Thousands to Millions. Sam started Broadband Solutions in 2005 with $1000 in savings and a second hand router. The company is now in its fifteenth year with turnover close to $30million.