By Lewis Reeves, Founder and MD, VIGA .
“My definition of success? The more you’re actively and practically engaged, the more successful you will be.”
Wise words from a font of all entrepreneurial knowledge, Richard Branson. And for me, with our new agency VIGA, this continues to play out.
True entrepreneurialism is a way of life. And so, when I’d been mulling the concept of launching VIGA for a while, I knew there was only one way I could take the idea forward: by becoming the company myself. To begin with, as a one stop shop, I didn’t only talk the talk (although hosting a raft of meetings early on were vital to gain momentum) I walked the walk. I created the business plan and implemented it, doing every role myself for a fair few months.
This was the first and most important step to gaining investment from a Group, without which we wouldn’t have been able to accelerate and fulfil our potential. By proving the concept worked and its vast potential myself, as a one man band, the initial outlay was small. Even if it did involve me seeing 15 states in 3 months and spending Christmas driving to a business meeting in Texas with my new wife. But it was key to convincing a much larger, more experienced company to invest in my startup.
Here are six more learnings from our journey to gain the support – both financial and resource-wise – of a Group:
1. Do your research and ensure you approach the right Group in the first place. Obviously investors won’t be forming an orderly queue but if your model is right and the potential is there you should be able to choose a partner who will support and not stifle you in the early stages. For many Groups, taking this arm’s length approach is actually an appealing way to work.
2. Remember to keep them updated at each stage – both by being always-on but also by taking time to arrange set times for face-to-face meetings. The negotiating stage can seem like a slow process at times – particularly to someone used to thinking and acting swiftly. But at all points ensure you continue to take the Group on the journey with you. To gain and maintain trust, keep them in the loop.
3. Quickly become adept at delivering both the magic and the maths. Chemistry and excellent presentation will get you a foot in the door but it’s the balance sheet that will ultimately win you their support. Ensure you are professional in the way you present and deliver your business plan and always keep profitability front of mind.
4. Provided you’re pitching them a complimentary service you can bring vast benefits to a Group – so it’s your job to show them how. As well as financial potential this also means demonstrating how you bring with you a fresh influx of talent and ideas. Demonstrate how everyone within the Group will have access to your solutions and show that you bring strategic benefits as well as monetary ones.
5. Consider raising your profile and demonstrating there’s a buzz around you and your ideas. If you’re not ready or able to seek PR help at this stage there are relevant sites you can contact to see if there are opportunities to give your point of view. Particularly if your business proposition is unique. Twitter is a great place to start. Ensure you’re also maximising your own social channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and an agency or personal blog. You can then share your content and points of view with the Group.
6. Ensure you don’t lose your entrepreneurial edge along the way. It’s in Viga’s DNA and as we grow and develop we ensure it stays there. Don’t forget what makes your venture unique and exciting in the first place. Entrepreneurialism is what makes Viga successful and we’d be a less appealing proposition to both clients and our supporters without it.
As with most areas of starting and growing a business, persistence and hard work provides the biggest pay-off. We’ve found being part of a Group invaluable both in terms of getting the financial backing but also of the experience and support in systems and processes they bring.
Don’t lose heart if you don’t gain the support of a Group on the first attempt. Some more Branson wisdom which I’ve found poignant in fast-changing times: “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”
This article was originally published in Interpreter & Investor