No startup journey is completely perfect, and there will always be mistakes - it's a crucial element of the learning process, after all. Looking back at your startup journey, there may be lessons you wish you had known beforehand. But the great thing is that you can reflect back on these, apply them to your future startup journey, and also use them as a way to help other entrepreneurs. We decided to talk to David Humpston of Viewpoint Video about his startup journey so far, and about the mistakes he made and learnt from.
Two years ago I started Viewpoint Videos, a production company that helps people at experience venues share their best moments. I started the business on my own and it’s now a team of five people working part-time. It’s a great adventure so far, but there are a few things I would do differently if starting out again.
In my case, the sales are business to business, so credibility is a huge factor for clients to have confidence in the service. It was difficult to give the right impression at the start, as a teenager being the only person in the business, with no clients or track record.
I made up for this by underselling to the first client - the equipment and support was free of charge, where revenue was based solely on results. As soon as the technology was ready and this first client had huge results from us, it was much easier to gain traction with the next clients. Recognition and awards can also improve credibility. Part of the seed funding for Viewpoint came with an award from Peter Jones of Dragon’s Den, where he said our pitch was better than 90% of the pitches he sees in the Den.
The business still had to look reliable and dependable, especially as future clients would often pay up front. The solution was to create email addresses for the different departments at the company, where I would reply to all emails at the start. Accounts, Sales and Marketing did a good job – but it was hectic! I never took it as far as answering the phone in different voices, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Fortunately, we now have a few people in customer services and marketing.
It’s important to think about teaming up with other people, or whether you want to go it alone. Viewpoint started out as just me, and I often think I should have got together with close friends, or found other people in the same industry at the outset.
Everyone knows that starting out in business is all-encompassing – it takes over. There are a lot of areas to consider in the beginning; The service/product, company mission, branding, website, pricing, route to market, marketing, sales strategy, hiring, and your survival. This can be a huge burden to take on just by yourself, so it might be worth teaming up with people that have the skills to complement yours. Don’t let me put you off going it alone, though. Remember that you might be weighed down at some point – but get on and go for it!
Mentoring is key for entrepreneurs, regardless of where you are. I was lucky to get a an awesome mentor through Virgin StartUp, the founder of a Fast Track marketing agency. The commitment is 15 hours over a year, though he’s given more than 100 hours over the last two years. The advice has kept the business guided in the right direction and we’ve become great friends.
It’s worth reaching out to people in your area that inspire you; you might be surprised at how happy people are to give something back.
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