November 12, 2017

7 tips for running a successful tech business

Starting a business takes dogged determination putting in long hours, enticing investors and doing multiple jobs at once.

Once things get off the ground, scaling up as the company continues to grow requires a whole new set of insights, tools and tactics.

At times, it can be a challenge to keep an eye on the future while still nailing the day-to-day operations. So what do you do?

When looking for advice, its best to turn to someone whos already been there, done that.

We spoke to a handful of business leaders with companies featured in the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100. The diverse founders and CEOs in this story run companies ranging from a social platform for crafters and solar tech to cloud storage experts and a money transfer service. Together, they provided insight into how to start, grow and scale a successful business.

#1 When growing your team, look to your own network

When hiring for open positions, look to current employees for recommendations.

Your extended network is definitely one of the best sources of early talent, says Nigel Whiteoak, co-founder and director of LoveCrafts, a global social commerce business for makers. Founded in 2012, LoveCrafts ranks #3 on the Tech Track 100.

A large proportion of the team knew someone else who worked here before they joined, says Whiteoak. When we grew from our initial roots, many of the early additions to the team were people wed worked with directly in the past.

Whiteoak says that doing this means youll always be bringing in people who you can trust, and whom you know can do their job.

Id hired our CMO into her first graduate job at eBay 10 years ago. Our Operations Director had first worked with co-founders Edward Griffith and Cherry Freeman in an eCommerce start-up in the early 2000s. Even today, many people join thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations.

#2 Hire people who live and breathe your mission

We strive to be an office of smart and kind makers people who are curious, like to collaborate and to craft solutions, says Whiteoak. These are the kinds of people we wanted to surround ourselves with every day and they were a big motivator for starting our own business.

Hiring people who share your mission helps create a great office culture, too.

The leaders at LoveCrafts really want to emphasize that the kind of people who work at their office also represent the companys ethos overall. In fact, their three conference rooms are actually named Smart, Kind and Makers thus driving home the point even further.

We want to build a great place to work that will attract the very best talent. We encourage flexible, remote and part-time working to suit each employees lifestyle.

It doesnt hurt, either, that they have cake every Thursday.

Image: Startup Stock

#3 Dont go it alone

When first getting into the game, team up with a co-founder who can go the distance someone you trust, who can share the pain of growth and can pitch in to help.

Doing it alone is possible, but tough, says Christopher Baker-Brian, co-founder and CTO of solar systems manufacturer BBOXX.

Im not sure how we would have managed to grow the business without the three of us working together from the start.

Co-founders create a solid foundation in what can be an otherwise uncertain world. Starting a business from the ground up is scary. Having others to lean on helps to lighten that load.

#4 Keep an eye on finances

It may seem like an obvious point, but watching finances especially your cash burn will be integral in helping you manage your bottom line and plan for the future.

Baker-Brian stresses this point as well.

Keep a close eye on your cash burn and know well in advance when you need to raise money, increase sales or reduce spending, he says. This is probably the most valuable metric in the first few years of a growing business. Once youre out of the woods after those first years, investing in a position to help manage the companys finances is integral to the overall success of the company. But its important to constantly check in to make sure theyre the right person for the job.

Good finance directors are hard to come by, particularly if you are growing rapidly, says Baker-Brian. The one that might be good in a 10-person company is going to be out of their depth in a 100-person company, therefore be prepared to regularly question if you have the right person for the job when it comes to handling the reporting and financial side of the business.

#5 Let the pros handle your storage

When planning for IT storage, some business leaders suggest that offsite solutions are the best option.

Simon Hansford, founder and CEO UKCloud, says that for start-up or medium-sized businesses, the cloud can be your best employee.

All of [your] IT should be bought as-a-service and paid for in that manner (by the hour, by the seat, etc.) and deployed within the Cloud, Hansford says. A business should not need to capacity manage or forecast their storage needs because they will be consuming on demand.

This means that as your needs grow or shrink youll only be paying for what you need.

For more established businesses who have already purchased on-premise storage, Hansford says, upgrading to cloud storage means no longer having to worry about capacity management or spending the large amounts of Capex needed to maintain the IT infrastructure.

Image: WOCinTech Chat

#6 Theres no one-size-fits-all for IT investment

While building your business whether its a two-person operation or an office of 100 its important to make buying decisions based on your offices unique needs. This is especially pertinent when making decisions about IT operations.

If you buy your IT as a service, then you should be able to buy wisely and appropriately for the job role and by doing so save significant costs, Hansford says.

Otherwise, Hansford says, buying an on-premise CRM system with high fixed or one-off costs may not make sense if only one or two people are using it.

Dont overspend and pay for a service based on the headcount of your office go by the number of employees who will actually use it.

A coffee shop will have very different needs than a software development business, Hansford says.

#7 Be ambitious when setting goals

Ismail Ahmed, co-founder of money transfer provider WorldRemit, says that being a business owner means aiming high when it comes to building and growing your company. It takes passion, persistence and optimism in the face of adversity in order to succeed.

Remember entrepreneurship is about relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to the tangible resources you currently control, says Ahmed.

Be ambitious and look beyond the horizon to seize on the vast global opportunities and exciting new technologies available.

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