Mark has 20+ years of high-level experience operating as an entrepreneur, investor and commercialisation expert in the technology and digital media sectors. In 2006 he and Peter Jones co-founded Versatile Connections, a London based specialist advisory firm that has invested in, launched and exited from several technology companies, collectively creating over $80m in shareholder value.
Mark currently holds Board Advisor / Investment positions in a range of growing UK and US based businesses. An adopted Welshman, Mark lives in the Gower, South Wales with his wife and two daughters. Despite his growing waistline and greying hair he’s a keen mountain biker, enjoys fishing (well telling stories about the one that got away) and for his sins is a Swansea City FC supporter.
While the sources vary, it’s often stated that most new businesses will fail within the first 18 months. The number one reason why I think so many businesses fail so quickly is because the founders don’t realize how hard it is, how “all in” you have to be, and how much talent it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
I’m not promising that the following advice for first time founders will guarantee they will survive the first year, but without these considerations they’re not setting themselves up for success.
BE PRACTICAL ABOUT YOUR MONEY
Cash is king or more specifically cash is oxygen. How much money do you have to stay afloat and for how long? Ideally you should have at least 9 months worth of operating overhead. No matter the situation, starting a new business, particularly one that requires an upfront financial investment and not just your time, drains money. You need to understand financially what it takes in order to pay for necessities like rent, supplies, staff wages and inventory and (that doesn’t even include your own personal expenses).
BUILDING A BUSINESS IS A HUGE TIME COMMITMENT
By starting a business, you have made a decision that in reality will consume a majority of your time, especially in your first year. Be well prepared before you make the leap as substantial sacrifices will likely need to be made and as such considerations must be given, especially if you have family commitments.
EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
Surround yourself with the best Advisors and Mentors you can find. Individuals who have been there, done it and who have the t-shirt. Learn as much as you can about your industry immediately, become an expert in that industry and build contacts within it.
Create the right culture to attract the team you want. Find the right co-founders and first employees. As tempting as it may be to staff your new business with friends and relatives, this is likely to be a mistake. If they don’t work out, asking them to leave will be very tough.
STAY COMMERCIALLY FOCUSED
Put most of your energy into creating product/market fit and knowing who your customers are and what they want. Create or offer a product or service that people adopt very quickly, or that you can reliably sell repeatedly. Aim to generate recurring revenues as fast as possible and don’t take your eyes off that prize.