Opinion

4 important reflections to fuel the year ahead in your business

- January 12, 2023 5 MIN READ

 

Amid the daily hustle of leading a startup in the fast-moving tech sector, there isn’t usually much time to pause and reflect on the wins, losses and lessons learnt of the past 12 months. But a little bit of self-reflection can help to identify new opportunities for your business, rather than simply dropping back into the same old groove for another year. So, with 2023 just beginning, I’ll be making time to reflect on what was a big year for FoodByUs, writes CEO Ben Lipschitz.

Take a moment of reflection to fuel the year ahead

Since launching in 2016 we’ve had several iterations of the product to get to where we are today – as the only hospitality marketplace in Australia that allows venues to not only choose from a curated list of top food and alcohol suppliers, but offers an entire procurement solution around how a venue orders. We know we’re solving a real problem in the industry, we’ve built an amazing culture and team, and now have thousands of customers on both sides of the marketplace.

Yet we’re only ever as good as our current strategy. To be true to ourselves, our investors, our customers and our own team, it’s important that we analyse our successes, own any shortcomings, and be clear-eyed about what we’re trying to achieve.

Ben Lipschitz, CEO and Co-Founder FoodByUs

Ben Lipschitz, CEO and co-founder of FoodByUs.

 

Among the many things we achieved in the business in 2022, here are four key areas we’ll be reflecting on as we think about what 2023 holds.


Your customer’s problem is your problem

One thing we always need to be clear about is what problem are we solving for our customer? You might think you know the answer; but in tech, yesterday’s answer to that question might be very different to tomorrow’s.

At its core, FoodByUs is a marketplace. However, the needs of the customer have evolved around this initial concept over time – and their problems have become ours to solve:

  • Marketplaces take payment on behalf of suppliers, so accounting integrations need to be created.
  • Marketplaces show costs of goods, so reports to help understand costs and profitability need consideration.
  • Marketplaces become financial partners with a venue, so flexible payment options are imperative.

Our great strength is the passion we have for the industry. We conduct surveys and analyse data to see how our customers are using our platform. Even more importantly, though, we visit our customers and spend time in their kitchens and venues, to see and hear their pain points in person.

What they tell us might mean we need to introduce new tech features, roll out updates, or look at ways we can connect with other players in our industry to provide a more compelling offer. After a tumultuous few years in hospitality, we’ve realised it’s more critical to success than ever to understand that our customers are at the centre of everything we do, and that their problems are actually our problems.


Don’t be afraid to break stuff

From the earliest iterations of our marketplace, a key point of difference was that we provided our customers with a curated list of vetted suppliers, because we wanted to make sure they had a great experience every time they placed an order and received their goods. Curated supply was our USP – our unique selling proposition – and a fundamental promise across our sales, marketing, operations and technology.

But hospitality is a business built on long-standing relationships, and some customers told us they didn’t want to leave their fruit, vegetable or meat guy because “he’s my friend”, or because “we have a 20-year relationship”, and so on.

It was an enormous call for us to open the FoodByUs marketplace up to allow customers to add their own suppliers. The tech build itself took about six months, and we then had to test the feature with select customers to iron out any bugs. But it’s one of the most successful things we’ve done, with our list of suppliers jumping from about 150 to around 3,000 virtually overnight, allowing us to truly claim to be a one-stop shop for the customer.

We’ll keep observing and listening, and we won’t be afraid to break stuff as we continue to evolve. We’re close to launching a new payments system that will revolutionise the way our customers manage their wholesale purchasing. It’s a bold development, and we’re confident it’ll be a game-changer. But as always, we’ll let our customers tell us how good it is, not the other way round.

apps can help hospitality businesses

If you build it, they will stay

The past year has been a challenging time in the tech sector, with a skills shortage making it especially difficult to attract and retain great talent. While we experienced larger organisations trying to poach our staff and came up against some ridiculously high salary offers, I am proud to say we doubled our headcount to 85 which is a testament to being really clear on our mission, values and process around recruitment.

We also noted a shift towards the back end of the year where the job market started to open up, offering the opportunity to access some fantastic talent. There’s a great opportunity to galvanise your team in 2023, and really forge ahead.

Key to our recruiting success has been the culture we have built at FoodByUs. We work hard to support and empower our team but also recognise that sometimes it’s little things – the perks – that best exemplify what your company stands for.

This year we’ve introduced ‘birthdays off’, offering staff a day of leave on their birthday. We’re also introducing ‘first of the month brekky’ – on the first Monday of the month, we put on a breakfast spread for the whole team, which helps with bonding and also acts as a reset for the new month ahead. And we offer staff the option of one mental health day per quarter, with no questions asked or proof required – we trust if they need it, they need it.

The message is clear: Profitability is king

Financially, 2023 will challenge startups to be more conservative in how they deploy capital, and more aggressive in their growth plans. The message from the investment community is clear: profitability is king.

Whether or not you have external investment, staying on top of your finances and being really clear on money-in versus money-out will help ensure you have a business to run.

Don’t forget to grab a dose of reflection, and use the lessons learned to unlock critical new opportunities for 2023.


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