10 things we learned about being a start-up

As we come to the 2nd anniversary of Cloud9 People and get ready to year 3 we’ve reflected on what we’ve learned over the last 2 years of being a start-up in the HR consultancy and People technology space.

1. Network…hard

Networking is so important to your business, you’ll meet amazing people and see what they are doing and what stops them doing a great job. They in turn will get to see who you are and what you do to make the world of work a better place for people.

You’ll see other companies too and get to understand what mistakes they made and how they overcame them (or didn’t)

And having conversations will undoubtedly lead to new ways of thinking and maybe even some paid for work!

2. Understand the time between the initial conversation and the cash in the bank

Initially you’ll probably be selling time and experience, consultancy work or interim work will happen and you’ll get fairly quick payment for your time.

But often these are one-off work events and if like us you decide to develop technology as part of your business its a different story entirely!

Be prepared to have long lead times, the time from initial conversation to deployment to payment can be quite long.

Be prepared for your cash flow to take a hit and think about how you’ll manage this.

We recently went through a round of angel investment to help grow our business to the next natural level, there are loads of other options though so take the time to look at these.

3. Be prepared to step up and step back

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, if you are working in a small team (like us) then the role you take will need to be pretty fluid.

You don’t have time for ego or hierarchy in the business if you want to be agile and add real value for your clients.

Our approach is that the right person has to be in the right place, sometimes Nick will be taking the lead and other times taking notes and making the coffee while Luigi runs with something.

Be there for each other to deliver and delight!

4. Get a fabulous accountant

Sounds obvious? The amount of times we have heard people tell us accountant horror stories:

  • They charge the world
  • They only do transactional work
  • They only provide advice when you ask for it

It was really important for us that we had someone we could trust to let us know if we were making bonkers decisions as well as to file accounts and compliance.

We work with Sophie Wheeler and her advice is wonderful, timely and most importantly given in a way we understand.

5. Pay your debts

As you travel through your start-up journey you will get some great advice, some amazing leads and some fab feedback on what you are doing.

Remember to pay your debts, take the time to say thank you, share new discoveries, learnings and insights, repay that coffee and listen when someone else needs an ear.

We have seen people who will take every lead you pass them but not answer the phone when you have a question and the complete flip side of that people who are always thinking of you (and of others) and are ready to help out.

It is a two-way street

(Also pay your cash debts too)

6. Time on the business vs in the business

It is so easy to spend all of your time working on projects and consultancy that you forget to spend time working on your own business.

Make that time!

Social media, accounts, filing, developing the brand, meeting people, thinking, sitting back and taking it all in are all things that won’t happen if you are hell for leather non stop working.

But it all needs to be done, so you will end up working evenings and weekends and you just won’t enjoy it.

7. Collaborate

There are so many brilliant companies and people out there doing great stuff, so join in!

The opportunity to work in industries or specialisms that you would have never worked in is massive when you collaborate, you can bring your skills to the table and do stuff you never would have if you only worked in your own area.

Soon you will build up a network of people you trust and when a client wants you to deliver work that has an element outside of your comfort zone – collaborate!

Winners all round!

8. Networking is not enough – you also need to do

At Cloud9 People we love networking but while its awesome on its own it is not enough.

You need to be an active networker not a passive one, not participating is not an option!

But more than this you need to deliver, on your promises, on your contract, on your values and for the benefit of your client – No matter how well you network your reputation needs to be awesome!

A massive percentage of our revenue from 2016/2017 was from referred work, from people who said “They will do a great job for you”

9. Remember to love what you do and take time to enjoy it

We’ve been privileged to work with some amazing businesses and some fabulous people over the last 24 months.

And what keeps you getting up and doing a terrible commute, London in the rain, 5 hour traffic jams coming home from Manchester and more is that it is your business and you love it!

Remember that part of loving what you do is taking the time to enjoy it, switch off and chill out.

Your wellbeing and your colleagues is vital, so look after each other.
10. Develop a culture and environment where you can make mistakes

You will make mistakes

You will try not to – but you will.

Good now that you know this you can be prepared, there will be small ones, medium-sized ones and massive clangers that make you want to crawl under the duvet and not come out!

Don’t let these mistakes define you, put right what you need to, ask for help and learn.

And share – other people will be walking a similar road to you, maybe a few helpful signs ‘Watch out for this pothole!’ or ‘Beware of the <<Insert animal of choice in here>>’

Every day is a school day

Is that it?

Nope, there are loads of other things we have learned and lots we can share (and we will) but a list of 10 is enough for anyone to take in!

This blog was written by Nick Court, Ben Keating and Luigi Ho-Tien-Ton

You can connect with Nick on social media on twitter @Scruffy_Nick and LinkedIn or contact Nick directly on nick@cloud9people.co.uk

You can connect with Ben on social media on LinkedIn or contact Ben directly on ben@cloud9people.co.uk

You can connect with Luigi on social media on LinkedIn or contact Luigi directly on Luigi@cloud9people.co.uk

At Cloud9 People we help all sizes of companies look at how they can add value to their people conversations, feel free to get in touch and see how we could help you.


One thought on “10 things we learned about being a start-up

Add yours

  1. Great and very useful assessment. All things mentioned are oh so true and interesting learning points for new entrepreneurs. Thanks for sharing your first hand experience.


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