Before entering the world of business and finance, William Gooderson, Associate Principal of Performance Consulting at Findex, was a Major in the Royal Engineers. Gooderson tells KBB his previous profession provided plenty of insights which he’s since leveraged to build a successful career in business.
“Among many other things, my army career taught me to think on my feet and learn how to adapt quickly to my environment. In a similar vein, startup founders are often plunged into the unknown, and as a result need to be prepared to refine their ideas and concepts based on their environment,” Gooderson says.
Gooderson suggests the similarities don’t end there.
“In fact, much of the advice I give to small business owners stems from many of the same principles I learned in the Royal Engineers. Several of these are woven throughout my five golden rules for startup success, including a need to focus, remain vigilant, and have a clear understanding of both your strengths and potential weaknesses as a business.
“Following these rules isn’t a surefire guarantee of success – there’s much more needed for that, including a little bit of luck – but they should provide startups with a solid starting point.”
Gooderson’s five golden rules
- Focus on a single problem and get clear on your industry positioning
Your business can’t be everything to everyone and solve every problem, much like Abraham Lincoln said: “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.
Make sure you undertake thorough market research to understand your customers’ needs so you can focus on providing a targeted and effective service or product.
Also be clear on your revenue model, for example, in terms of what you’re selling, are you high volume but low margin, or high margin with low volume? This will inform not only how you sell your products, but also how you market the business.
- Outsource and avoid ownership
Concentrate on what you’re good at and make sure you’re spending time on business critical activities. Often for small business owners, business admin can cut into their time, barring them from focusing on the pursuit of growth. Where you can, outsource to the experts, whether that’s marketing or bookkeeping – don’t try to do everything yourself.
Remember that cash flow is king, don’t let it get caught up in non-essential assets. Most hard assets depreciate in value over time so consider carefully what you spend your money on. Leasing rather than purchasing is often the sensible option. Instead, keep cash ready to invest in core growth activities.
- Have an external focus
When building your business, you should never stop seeking inspiration from companies and individuals around you. If they are competitors, use them to benchmark your own successes and treat competition as a challenge.
Overall, be proactive not reactive. If you see an opportunity for a strategic partnership, reach out and grab it – don’t rely on a potential partner contacting you. Similarly, if a competitor is offering something that your business could also offer, or do better, consider expanding the offering
- Pursue world’s best practice
Pretty much all successful multinationals started out from small beginnings. Research those that came before, see if you can learn from their mistakes and model your own business on them, if appropriate.
Pursuing best practice should also be informed by your customers. Listen to them and place yourself in their shoes. Service their needs for today, but also anticipate what they’ll want tomorrow. This will keep you ahead of the curve.
- Develop a Unique Culture: Build your intangible assets
No matter how big or small your team is, a strong culture is rewarded with increased retention, client and customer loyalty, sustainability, increased productivity and more managerial time. Happy staff often lead to happy customers.
Achieve this by providing a clear sense of direction for your team, develop improvements in conjunction with your team and regularly assess and measure performance. Also remember to reward success, it will motivate your team and help you to work towards key goals.