Now, more than ever, it is important for start-ups to look at the way they operate, and plan ahead to ensure that they are able to handle whatever the economy, politics and the business world tries to throw at them. The residual fallout from the Brexit results has shown that the unpredictable is always possible, even if it seems unlikely and start-ups find themselves in a vulnerable position in uncertain times such as these. So, how can new businesses prepare themselves for the journey ahead of them?
The founding principle of a start-up plan needs to be agility – or the ability to pivot an idea in reaction to – or even preparation for – an uncontrollable external factor.
Adopting an agile, or flexible approach to your business gives you a competitive advantage. Big companies and brands are used to working with the larger agencies, where almost every business process seems to take twice as long as it should to be completed! Big companies will weigh the risks of working with start-ups against the sheer hunger, ambition and desire to raise the bar which is often seen in independent start-ups. This leads to the larger brands often working with smaller businesses and start-ups, in order to access the best talents and innovation on the market – regardless of how big business has been carried out in the past. This sort of change is already happening at places like financial services firm Fidelity who are using small incubator teams to solve specific problems.
Big organisations are also fond of working with businesses who are able to work around them, evolving and developing their products and services to match the brand’s needs perfectly. Being agile means that start-ups can bring Clients into their team and build products around them. Also, when you are a start-up working with a top tier brand, there is no question over who is the big fish and who is the little fish. When companies deal with large suppliers, they often feel like there is a power struggle. So the little start-up where the founder is on the phone can sound very appealing.
Changing Your Outlook – Becoming Agile
It may not be easy to change your outlook on business practices – education, tutorials and journals seem to be set in a certain mind-set of ‘this is how it’s always been done, therefore this way is correct’. However, a different way of thinking about how you market your products and how your products and services will benefit clients during times of uncertainty will make a huge difference to your business operations.
Meera Kaul, writing in Forbes, advises that start-ups should plan for the future based on their own rules, without trying to imitate those followed by small companies. She poses:
“Start-ups are not companies. And they never will be. The parameters and thesis that define corporate success may not apply to them. A start-up is an experiment. The entrepreneur or a group of people with the acumen to identify an opportunity and match their skills, create a solution to meet the opportunity or gap. They possess the necessary skills to execute the vision, or have the capability of executing the skills.”
I think she is right, start-ups cannot be defined by the same rules as companies, especially those who have a reliable business model, which is so ingrained in society that changing times seem to leave them unaffected. Start-ups must be more experimental, ready to change and adapt with the times and flexible – just to survive long enough to become established.
Planning for Every Possible Outcome
Alison Freer advises that start-ups and small businesses need to plan for every potential outcome – even those less savoury and unwanted outcomes. Planning ahead gives the start-up the opportunity to see each eventuality and have a solid plan in place to overcome, circumvent and weather whatever situation happens. There’s a lot to be said for positive thinking, but denial that other outcomes are possible is sheer naivety.
As the effect of Brexit become more and more volatile and apparent, you will see more big businesses beginning to question the necessity of expenses as margins are squeezed. This means that highly agile and cost-effective suppliers are far more appealing. Therefore, providing that the start-up is themselves cost effective – i.e. not having a Soho office and a company Mercedes – you have the opportunity to take away business from the big guys, especially when the barrier to entry is now so low.