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7 things you need to consider if you are a full time employee that wants to start a side business

I have to say that being a "dabbler" has armed me with a whole lot of experiences when it comes to balancing a side business and a full time job. I spend a lot of my spare time creating and experimenting with different business ideas and concepts - it just keeps me occupied. I might go as far as to say that I've sunk thousands and thousands of dollars into business ideas that I've thought up during "bathroom" time or heated conversations with friends. Through all these experimental projects, I've learn about importing from China through Alibaba , creating a website from scratch, hiring and managing outsourced labour as well as sharpened up my design skills and learning about new apps and tools .  Despite having not made my million dollars yet, I do not regret the money I've spent, because I've learnt and grown just as much. I guess this is the kind of attitude you need to keep going on your entrepreneurial journey.  If you are really seriously about turning your side job into a serious business there are a few things that you must be prepared to accept: 1. You will have no social life  If you are really serious about packing in a growing side business, you will need to dedicate a large majority of your spare time to it. This includes evenings and weekends. As a result, you will discover that your social life may have to be put on hold for a while. Your close friends that support you will totally understand, and you can use in between times to fit in social gatherings. This brings me to my next point. 2. Make the time and schedule it in like you would an important meeting The first step to taking the plunge is being able to be disciplined enough to set aside time for your business, and make this a non-negotiable event, even if the commitment is to yourself. It's a lot easier to commit to something where other people depend on you, when it comes to your own business, no one is there giving you a guilt trip for not following through, so it's very easy to push it back for other commitments like dinner with friends or a social event.  When I'm asked when I'm free and I'm pursuing a project I will count the project evening times as "not free time" and commit to other engagements at other times. I've met with lots of wantrepreneurs that ask me for help with bringing their idea to life, and they weren't even able to commit to one night a week to work on their "dream business" because they had "yoga" or "had to meet up with a friend". If this is your current attitude, don't even consider starting your venture. 3. Work smart, outsource Unless you are in an isolated niche which no one has thought about before, which I doubt, since I swear everything has been thought of, chances are you'll be competing with someone that may be doing it as their full time venture. This means that they have the capacity to spend up to 40+ hours a week working on their business while you can most likely squeeze in a maximum or 20-30 hours (or risk burnout). That means you need to work smarter and hire extra support.  The benefit of having a full time income while hopefully your competitor is living off their credit card or instant noodles, is that you can afford to hire an extra pair of hands. And I advise you not to skimp on this part, as it helps massively. Outsourcing all the repetitive and menial admin work can be a huge life saver and keep your sanity and passion for your business alive. Trying to do all of it yourself and you can end up massively burnt out and frustrated. 4. Learn and grow Learning and reading can also save you hours of time. You can make mistakes yourself or fast track your success by learning from others. Spending a few hours reading a book can help you avoid weeks of rework by following a dud tactic.  I also find that reading entrepreneurial and business motivation books also motivate me to keep going. When no one around you understands you, having read through someone that has been there and done that and came out the other end helps you stay focused and inspires you to keep going.  The book that I recommend to you is 4 hour workweek by Tim Ferris. It's a best seller for a reason, it's not only inspirational, motivational and entertaining. It's hugely practical for those that want to work smarter with less time and obviously run a company in 4 hours or less. 5. Moderation is key The thing that makes small businesses produce great products and exceptional personalised service is their passion for what they are doing. When that dies, so does the competitive advantage many small businesses have over their large powerhouse competitors.  The key to keeping the passion alive is to stick to a sustainable schedule. I learnt from this the hard way, forming incredibly bad habits such as working from 7-pm till 9pm having a 1 hour nap till 10pm that will keep me working till 3am in the morning before I collapse and sleep 5 hours to go to work in the morning.  After 3 months of this, it resulted in a very overworked and uninspired entrepreneur and also resulted in me putting the breaks on the project in order for me to re-gain my sanity. Don't do it, no matter how tempting it is, and trust me - it's tempting. 6. Work in synergy Since the practical lot of us are not prepared to give up a stable income to chase our dreams it does not mean that where you derive your income from has to be that different to the side business you want to start. Why not consider finding a job in an industry that you want your business to operate in. Not only will you gain experience that you will need to run your business,  you may meet invaluable contacts along the way that could help you grow.   Even if you have to take a pay-cut consider it getting paid to learn :) In addition what you learn from your side business can also make you a more efficient employee, because the skills align. Blogging on my site wengie.com helps me become a better digital marketer for SavvySME and vice versa since I'm thinking about the same issues all the time, just applying it to different topic areas.  My freelance blogging and writing experience has also allowed me to get guest posting spots on more recognised publications as well for SavvySME, so it all helps. Forward thinking companies recognise the benefits of their employees having some synergistic personal projects. 7. Know your legal and tax implications I'm not an expert on this topic but we have some great members on this site that can help you out with this. One such question and answer is this one: What are the tax implications for an employee starting a business part-time whilst still being employed full time?  If you have any other questions all you need to do is ask a question and our friendly accountants and lawyers are more than happy to answer.   For those of you that have successfully turned your "side business" into a real business I'd love you to share your story with us by writing your own article, and for those of you working on one right now I'd love for you to share your views in the comments section below. To get cracking on your social media, don't forget to join our January blog challenge by simply blogging. To create a new blog post simple use this create new article link when you are logged in. 

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A Story About Taking the Road Less Travelled: Starting a Business That Suits Your Life and Values

  Tell us about your business Grow to Succeed provides coaching and project management support for small business start-ups and creative ventures. Through friendly, holistic and personalised support, we help people who have a business concept but don’t know how to turn their idea into a viable business. Tell us a little about yourself I am very blessed to live on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, and be a Mum to two gorgeous children, 4 and 5 years old, who I raise mostly on my own. I graduated last year from a BA in Political and International Studies, and followed that up early this year with a Cert IV in Small Business Management. I have a passion for social justice, particularly in the developing world, and I occasionally travel and regularly volunteer for a couple of international aid and development organisations that I believe strongly in. I also work 1 day per week as Business Manager for an international non-profit. That role is perfectly congruent with what I do in my business, and I love that I get to experience a sense of flow and unity of purpose in everything I do. Why did you start your business? The unifying factor in all of my work is a deep sense of calling to be a ‘platform builder’ – one who works to help others find their voice and step up to their own greatness, in whatever way that looks for them. I founded my business out of this deep passion to see people be all that they can be. On a more practical level, I found myself mid-last year in a fairly defining season in life: turning 30, freshly graduated and divorced, with two small children. As far as I could see, I had three options: 1. I could have embraced the single mother stigma, raise dysfunctional children and struggle to make ends meet; 2. I could have sought out a graduate position with a government agency, moved away from my home and community to a town I don’t love, to work inflexible hours in a job that suited my ego but kept me from my family; or 3. I could take the road less travelled and create the life of my dreams. I ran with option 3. Starting my business gave me the flexibility to invest in the things that really matter to me. How has your life changed? The biggest change is that I have the daily joy of doing work that excites me and matches my talents and passions, in a way that suits the lifestyle that I value. All of the challenges and uncertainty are worth it for this. I also love the personal growth that is a necessary part of being in business; I am a better and bigger person for it. What are some of the challenges you have experienced in starting your business? The greatest challenge I experience in my business is mindset. Often we imagine limitations that don’t really exist, and I have found that when my business becomes stale, it’s usually because I have stopped dreaming, or have lost my confidence or clarity in a particular area. Making a conscious effort to surround myself with positive, successful people helps to shatter those pre-conceived limitations, and reminds me to think of larger possibilities. When you manage your own micro-business, you are your business’s greatest asset. That means that taking care of your physical and mental health is imperative, though often difficult under the demands of a business. The operational aspects of business can also be challenging, particularly when you’re starting out. Learning how to charge clients, how to communicate with them, how to set appropriate boundaries with work flow, these have all been challenges for me. I learned to listen to my intuition; if something doesn’t feel right, don’t just put up with it. Being in business requires consistent reassessment and growth. I have found that clients appreciate honesty and integrity, so don’t be afraid to communicate with them about changes that you need to make, and why – as long as you can show them the benefits. What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are in the process of starting a business? I often work with micro-enterprises and solopreneurs, and I usually suggest to these kinds of clients that it’s great to keep at least a part time job while starting out. If you know you can cover your basic living expenses, the pressure is off your business to perform, anything it makes is a bonus, and you can enjoy the adventure. I also say often that it doesn’t need to be as complicated as we often make it. Do your research and plan, yes. But also know that you can’t see every eventuality before you launch; your plan will change and adapt over time, and that is perfectly ok. In fact, it is imperative. Lastly, the best piece of advice that somebody gave me when I started out: plan to fail. Failure is an inevitable part of business life – some things will work, some things won’t. Again, we adapt and grow along the way, and failure is sometimes our impetus for doing so. Don’t fear failure, make it work for you. What is the vision for your business going forward? Our vision is to increase our influence in the local small business community and to grow our professional networks. For 2013, we will focus specifically on growing our coaching and training services, and will begin to offer on-line coaching, as well as group seminars and workshops. We started strong this year, and it is now time to consolidate, focus and grow.   

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ABN, ACN and Business Name: What’s the Difference?

When starting a business, there are so many things the owner should be aware of in terms of legal, taxation and other affairs. Many entrepreneurs confuse the Australian Business Number (ABN) with a business name. Which is exactly why you should know the difference before jumping into the business world. ABN identifies your business and is a must-have if you're operating in Australia to ensure a healthy business management for your company.  A lot of new businesses tend to think that an Australian Business Number (ABN) is the same as a business name. This confusion may land then in hot water later, when they discover that the business name they want is already taken. First of all, do not confuse a business name with an ABN.   An ABN is an 11-digit number that identifies your business to anyone you conduct a business with. It is unique for each business. If you are running a business in Australia, then you must have an ABN, unless what you are doing is deemed to be a hobby. How to register for an ABN You can apply for an ABN online www.abr.gov.au and its free. You can also get your BAS Agent or Tax Agent to apply for the ABN on your behalf, however they will charge you a fee for doing this. What information you will need will depend on what structure you are applying the ABN to – sole trader, partnership, company or trust. Generally, you will need the name, date of birth, physical address, email address and TFN of the persons associated. If you apply for an ABN online, it should take no more than 24-48 hours for the ATO to assess your application and process your ABN. If you are registering a company, you will need the Australian Company Number (ACN) instead. This is different to an ABN. An ACN is issued upon registration of the company. A company still needs to lodge its own tax return and to do that you also need a Tax File Number for the company. Using Your ABN Your ABN needs to be on invoices you issue irrespective if you are registered for GST or not, and invoices you receive (if above $1,000).   You can search on the Australian Business Register: http://www.abr.gov.au to check on ABNs of your suppliers to ensure that they are valid, and whether they are registered for GST or not. This is something I do every time before I pay a supplier for the first time (or enter as a purchase where doing bookkeeping work for clients). You can search by name or by the ABN provided on the invoice. ABN vs Business Name A sole trader’s ABN will be issued in the name of the individual. A company’s ABN will be issued in the legal name of the company. You will need to register a business name if you trade under a name that is not your individual name or the legal name of the company. A business name is registered nationally with ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission). You register a business name on the ASIC website, using the ASIC Connect Services. You need your ABN to register the business name. It is also free. You can also check name availability. Current costs to register a business name is $35 for a one-year period, or $82 for three years – payable to ASIC. You may register more than one business name - however, they must all operate under the same structure. So, if the ABN was originally set up as a Sole Trader, then all business names attached to that ABN are also operating as a Sole Trader. If you intend to operate under a company business structure – the company name needs to be registered with ASIC, but you don’t need a separate business name (unless you will trade under a separate name). For example, Legal Name Business or Trading Name Do I need to register?       Joe Blogs  Joe Blogs Swimming School Yes Joe Blogs  Joe Blogs No Joe Blogs and John Brown Blogs and Brown Swim Academy Yes Joe Blogs and John Brown Joe Blogs and John Brown No  Joe Blogs Pty. Ltd. Little Flippers Swim School Yes Just remember, registration of a business, company or domain name does not give you exclusive ownership. You may need to register a trade mark if you want exclusive use of that name throughout Australia. That’s it folks. ABN, ACN and Business Name in a nutshell. Hopefully, you are not running in the opposite direction. Compliance is tough, but its part of being in business. Remember – if this hurts your brain – you can get assistance from those number nerds who thrive on this. Partner with a decent bookkeeper or accountant. They are worth their weight in gold – saving you time and money and giving you peace of mind. Allows you to focus on what you do best – your business.

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All about insurance for start up businesses

Many start up businesses often do not have a big budget and may feel that insurance is unnecessary. Even if you do not have much money to spend, it is important that you get insurance. The benefits of insurance policies for business start ups include that your personal financial state is protected in the event that your business fails, insurance may save your business in case of certain calamities and if you are unable to work. An insurance cover can serve as a safety net for young businesses when they fall on hard times so that they do not fail but are able to continue after the hard time has passed.  There are numbers of insurance policies that are available for a business that is just starting up. This includes business liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, credit insurance, health insurance, travel insurance, legal insurance, equipment insurance and others. The type of policy that you go with will depend on the kind of business that you have and the needs that you may have. For instance if you are an online based business, you may not need equipment insurance if you have do not have any equipment. Professional indemnity insurance on the other hand is necessary for certain professional businesses such as accounting firms. It is important that you do research to find out the insurance policy that you need to get.  Business liability insurance is important for businesses that have a physical premises. It covers situations like if a customer falls in your premises, if a product is faulty and you are sued or any other legal issue that arises from your business. This policy will cover accidents that may occur as a result of our business or in your business. To protect your business from failing as a result of lawsuits then you can get litigation insurance. This insurance protects business assets and your personal assets from being seized in case you are sued, lose the case and have to pay damages. Litigation insurance may also help cover part or all the damages in case you lose a lawsuit.  Catastrophic insurance protects a startup business from natural disasters and catastrophes. This is important if you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters then it is advisable that you get this policy. In case your business premises, products or equipment is destroyed by fire or flood then you will be able to get back on your feet fast. If you have a home based business then you can get home based business insurance.  There are many other types of insurance that are suitable for start up businesses. The best kind of insurance for your business is one that will protect you from the most likely situation. It is not wise as a start up business owner to take insurance policies for situations that are unlikely to happen. However the right kind of insurance will save your business from collapsing in unfortunate circumstances.   

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Asthma Peeps: Breathing Life into Children's Asthma Management

  Tell us a bit about your business? 
 Asthma Peeps is the result of my passion for Asthma education for parents and children.  We have created a range of products aimed to help parents teach their children to effectively communicate about their Asthma symptoms and medication. Why did you start up your business? 
  Asthma Peeps was launched 2012 following a personal experience that saw my own daughter hospitalised for almost a week after a serious asthma attack just days before her sixth birthday. She had been diagnosed with mild asthma in 2011.  We had begun the usual preventative asthma medications using an inhaler and spacer. We did well for a few months.  However, our daughter started to hate her medication. The inhaler and spacer were large. They were obvious medical-style equipment and they singled her out.  To avoid fights, we became relaxed. We decreased the asthma medication to an ‘emergency’ response, rather than an everyday activity. She seemed fine, had no symptoms and we avoided arguments.   In autumn 2012 our daughter had a severe cold. Throughout the night she began to cough, her skin took on a bluish hue, and she told us she was scared. Then she started having serious trouble breathing. We spent three days in Emergency in the most horrible of situations.   Asthma Peeps was created when we vowed to take asthma management seriously. We were no longer going to be flexible about her asthma medication. We needed a way to help her accept her asthma and make it something she could cope with throughout her life.   The Asthma Peeps characters were designed to reflect our daughter’s personality. She is a happy unique, vibrant and bright girl. She loves silliness and she very much loves stickers If Asthma Peeps can make asthma medication and management easier for families, and help children embrace their condition in fun and positive way, we’ve made something that makes us all smile.   What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business? 
 When we first founded Asthma Peeps our first hurdle was finding an Australian printer that could produce kiss-cut stickers cost effectively.  We are a small business so ensuring our product was cost effective was very important, but also ensuring that we stayed within Australia was incredibly important to us as well. 

 We also struggled with leading the way with creating awareness within our niche market (parents with children living with asthma).  Being the first of its kind product meant that we were educating our consumers and creating the demand for the product.  We realised early on that the best way to achieve this was through alliances with large organisations, but even then creating awareness around our product on a shoestring budget was tough!  What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business? 

 Dream big, but be realistic about the amount of time, money and personal determination it takes to get something off the ground.... It’s a lot! 

 I also learnt not to be afraid to ask for something... if you don’t ask the answer is defiantly NO, but if you do ask you may be very surprised with the answer. 

 Surround yourself with experts, you can’t do and/or be good at everything! Start by deciding where you time is most valuable in being spent and find someone else to do the rest, it will save your sanity!! My biggest piece of advice is to think outside the square and do things in a  "non-traditional " way... The Internet and social media has been a real game changer for small business What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? 
 Through my own personal experiences, I found that there was a need for the products that Asthma Peeps provides, and I truly believe in our products! Our products can make a  "real" difference to improving asthma management amongst young children in Australia, which ultimately helps reduce hospital
admissionsHow did you family and friends react? Our friends and family reacted with cartwheels and cheers, well maybe not literally, but I am so lucky to be surrounded by the most encouraging and supportive people imaginable!  How has your life changed? In a word, Busier! However I have also learnt to be more selective about what I spend my time on both in the business and personally ... Work/life balance is hugely important to me. What success have you experienced since starting your business? We have worked hard to align Asthma Peeps with some of the leading consumer health authorities in Australia.  Our most recent success has seen Asthma Peeps create a partnership with Asthma Australia, and has resulted in our self published book The Trouble with Bear Hugs, A Story About Asthma , entering its second print run with co-branding from Asthma Australia What is the vision for your business going forward? 2013 is a big year for Asthma Peeps; we are working on expanding the product range to include another children's book and an interactive iPad book. 
 We are able now to also look more closed for targeted promotional activities for the early childcare sector and wholesale partnership/distribution of the entire product range. Through the development of additional partnerships/endorsements from leading health authorities, I would love to see out the year knowing that our products are EVERYWHERE What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your start-up? 

 There will ALWAYS be challenges, and it is important to remember that the challenges are a good thing because it keeps you on your toes! But when things don’t go the way you expect try looking at it from a different perspective, your attitude and reaction to things has the ability to change EVERYTHING.... Oh and my final tip is GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!! I know that’s not motivational, but its very important! There comes a point when too much lack of sleep will make everything go pear shaped VERY quickly and you ability to make rational decision diminishes... and your brain will be incapable of creatively thinking how you can turn a negative into a positive.  *** As part of Asthma Peeps partnership with Asthma Australia, $1 from every purchase made via the website is donated to Asthma Australia. 

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Big Mouth Media - Voice Overs and eLearning Narration - Our Story

    Tell us about your business? We provide voice overs to organisations here in Melbourne, interstate and across the world.  Voice overs can cover anything from TV and radio ads, to corporate videos, web videos, on hold messages, IVR’s (when you call a company and someone tells you to “press 1 for this” !). Our main focus though, is eLearning narration.  We were approached just over 8 years ago by a company whose voice over guy was just giving them the voice over on a CD, leaving them to do the editing and all the other work – so we started providing the editing and final delivery - and have been doing so ever since for them and all our other clients. The one thing we discovered was that in the field of eLearning (and most media organisations), people have got enough jobs of their own, and don’t have time to do something that you can do for them and in turn, take one less task off their plate. Our motto sums it up – “Record. Edit. Deliver” Why did you start up your business? I started in radio almost 15 years ago and had always worked either on air or in production making the ads, so it was a natural progression to turn a skill into a business. It was a sideline while I worked full time but things have since flipped around – now the business is the full time venture, and I work as a casual in my former full time job. What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting your business? Getting new clients on board, getting ourselves known and finding the capital to get our equipment and marketing materials.  Also, bringing in a second person (my partner) was a challenge as we knew we had to generate enough work to keep two people going. What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting their own business? Research the area you want to work in, have enough capital behind you if it’s going to involve an office/shop/anything retail, and don’t be afraid to do it. Sometimes you can skate on thin ice, sometimes you might not be paid when you wish, but the benefits of running your own business and having so much more control of your life and lifestyle is great. What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? I had got to 2004, decided to get out of commercial radio and ended up working as a radio dispatcher for Victoria Police – the “treechange” – but the hours were long and a lot of it was shift…and I found out my father’s health wasn’t the best and needed to take time off in case he needed someone to look after him. By giving up a (fairly well paid) job, I had to keep making money – and ramping up the business was the solution, in addition to giving me freedom to focus on family without explaining time off to the boss ! How did your family and friends react? Pretty well as a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever heard a negative word or a doubt from anyone – which is always a great way to move forward in a venture which could go either good or bad. How has your life changed? I’ve got much more freedom time-wise, I don’t answer to a boss (except when I get called into dispatching !), and I do something I know I’m great at. What is the vision for your business going forward? We’re still looking for another ‘string to the bow’ – our main focus as I mentioned before is eLearning narration (which is an ever growing field) – so we’re looking to bring more clients on board there, but it would be great to have another arm of the business. What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your start-up? Talk to someone about it ! Whether’s it’s a business mentor, a good friend, family member, former co-worker, or even someone who’s doing what you’re doing but further down the track – sometimes it can take that little kick of motivation to keep you going. You’ll have times when there’s little money in the bank, or all your clients have gone quiet, and you think “is it me ?” – invariably it’s not, it’ll just be that the conditions surrounding you and them are something you can’t control. Push through the challenges, take constructive criticism, and MARKET the business – you might have a great product or service, but if nobody knows about it, you’ll be invisible.  Don’t be afraid to boast ! 

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Bootstrapping – does it make you a better entrepreneur?

Following of form my article earlier this month What have I learnt from bootstrapping my latest venture, 6 months in? I have spent some time reflecting on how the experience of bootstrapping this latest venture has helped me nurture some key areas of expertise which I'd not wholly tapped into prior to this period of bootstrapping. Every entrepreneur faces this question are pretty much the same time as they decide on the idea they wish to work on in a start up….. how can I fund this start up? The answers to this question are pretty much limited to looking for outside funding, which for most is a remote possibility, or rolling the sleeves up, and taking a long hard look at the bank statement to access if you are in a position to finance the venture yourself, by bootstrapping. 6 months ago I faced this question and choose the bootstrapping option. I had not bootstrapped a business before though the decision I made has taught me many things about building a business and honed my ability as an entrepreneur. I believe the 6 months of bootstrapping my latest venture has driven me to become a far more effective and hardened entrepreneur, the insights associated with this personal evolution are considered here: 1. Size does matter…small wins every time Bootstrapping is certainly about thinking big, but from an execution perspective I have found small to be the clear winner. With limited funds I was forced to start small, test my thinking and scale as I gained confidence from my customers feedback and an improving bank balance. 2. Superior Products With limited funds my focus on the product became close to obsessive, and by placing customers centrifugal in the development phase the product we evolved through the build phase generated revenue from day 1. This attention to detail coupled with constant listening to our customers resulted in a far superior product and formed a strong basis of our product roadmap for the next 12 months. 3. Control Freaks work just fine in bootstrapped businesses Let this be heard I’m a control freak, but here’s the good news; Bootstrapping a company with your own cash buys you the right to run the show your way with no external forces (e.g. investors), so nobody but you, unless you choose to invite others, has the right to calls the shots. 4. Deliver more with less The art of spending money wisely in business comes a whole lot more naturally when it’s your own hard earned cash that you are deciding to spend. You soon learn the habit of delivering significantly more than you would normally for the same time or cash outlay, and heck you learn quickly how to be an effective and hardened negotiator. 5. The accelerator pedal is full on, there’s a need for speed With limited cash comes limited time, in this finite time period the product must be completed and be in market. Adopting the Minimal Viable Product approach to product development was a gift which ensured we worked on the absolute necessities and on none of the nice to have’s. This challenges your instinct and there is no room for perfectionism, good enough was a term we used frequently and thanks to Nike, “Just do it” became our mantra. This absolute need for speed is created by the sheer lack of funds, interestingly when funds are injected into bootstrapped businesses there is a tendency for the accelerator pedal to be lifted, as the pressure to hit the deadline, dictated by when the cash runs out, significantly shifts in proportion to the $$ invested. 6. Frugal does have an upside The skill of keeping costs low as you get the product to market has a tremendous upside beyond not leaving you cash-less, it helps deliver a great lift to the bottom line, in terms of early profit. With this lean approach to running the business instilled in the DNA of the business through the bootstrapping phase, you are set up to deliver industry leading margins which not only deliver great profitable earnings but are a key indicator used by investor to access investment opportunities.

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Business and Startup Advice from a Digital Agency

Tell us a bit about your business? AndMine (http://www.andmine.com/) is a full service digital agency. Built to balance the need for technical development and creative advertising capabilities in one shop. We service and have produced work for a range of SME to national clients and many household names including: Medibank, Ego, Sunsense, QV, Matchbox Homewares, Sir Richard Branson, Mamma Lucia, Crumpler, AC/DC and Rydges to name a few. We also love helping startups and small businesses make it online and produce work for them as passionately as our big brand clients.   Why did you start up your business? A few years ago, I owned a handful of businesses, one a software company, one a creative and print agency, another geared towards entertainment. Although they were all doing well in their own right, a clear opportunity was emerging in the online space as technology - including eCommerce, social media, apps and web software from companies like Google - started converging on businesses. "The writing on the wall" was everywhere, if you weren't strong online, your business was in trouble. I was developing a lot of websites and software platforms at the time, so digital marketing wasn't a huge leap for me. I consolidated my efforts, walked away from some sizable and profitable companies to start AndMine and didn't look back.   What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business? Hmm hurdles, there are many. I think the main ones are building a new client base and growing the team. The client base is difficult as at the start there are a lot of costs and a lot of pressure to land projects. The early team members and I worked a lot for little reward and slowly grew the pipeline using many 'new' digital strategies. One of the greatest challenges are great team members. I stuck with the philosophy that you need to employ amazingly talented people and with our early budgets this was very hard. Finally learning, you are always learning, even now, just as I'm confident on the next 50 things I've learnt for my business there are new hurdles. I still consider the company in startup-phase even though we are now 40+ team members and 3 offices. What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business? Old-World-Service; Maybe you do remember, maybe you are too young! But I always think of the example of the service station, and how someone used to come out and fill your car up with petrol for you. When I was little, there was only a few places left that still did this. I didn't realise till later, but that service was drowning fast. With the new-online, super-fast, get-it-done world we live in, we've lost some of that old-world service. We have meetings here regularly and have built tasks into our CRM (customer relationship software) to ensure our clients 'feel the love'. When you do things differently like this, in today's service landscape, you stand out. You can't buy good word of mouth, not offline, not online, but you can build relationships that guarantee it.What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? Timing. A combination of wanting more control over my business life and solidifying my efforts under one entity. I thought of it as a Funnel-In and Fan-Out strategy. Where I'd funnel all of my efforts under a single brand, and then fan out services, skills and capabilities to do things better and better under that single umbrella. We started with a few key services and grew from there, now instead of thinking we know a lot about online and business services, we uncover leading edge concepts and are able to consistently deliver them for our business and our clients. Here is one example: eStorefronts (Online Stores) are a big service of ours. Before I started AndMine, I knew how to build a simple online store and connect it for a client. These days we integrate seamlessly with eBay, are an expert Partner on BigCommerce (http://v2.bigcommerce.com/experts/andmine-1/), can develop in all of the top tier e-Storefront platforms (eg. Magento, Shopify), and write and host company critical synchronisation modules for our clients products, fulfilment and business logic.  How did your family and friends react? Some positive, some negative. I remember my Father (another business owner) and my Lawyer pushing me not to give up stakes in the Design Agency which was doing very well. I was adamant that the risk at staying involved even just as a share-owner would distract me from my future business potential.   How has your life changed? Wow - It couldn't have changed more. I earn more, I have full control over my business, I met my future wife Tegan and had 2 beautiful kids (twins - a boy Joseph and a girl Eden). Work life balance is good, getting better (you can probably imagine what having twins is like... so that is another massive challenge).   What success have you experienced since starting your business? Aside from the life changing :) ... We started with 3 people around 3 years ago, we are now 40+ full time team members across 3 offices, in Melbourne, Sydney and Asia. We started with a handful of clients and grew them into a list any agency would be proud of.     What is the vision for your business going forward? Continue to grow and deliver exceptional work, expand the intelligence and creative strategy of all our services and engrain ourselves in the minds of anyone looking for a great agency as the go-to company. And have fun along the way.What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup? Be critical (not overly critical) of your work and how you service your clients. Ask clients for feedback and listen carefully. Stay focused and don't get distracted with side projects (except family!). I'd recommend building a foundation around strict positive cash flow and taking risks when appropriate that won't cripple your previous success. When you know something doesn't feel right, steer away. Build an inspirational team around you who share your philosophies and vision. Sell the dream while staying grounded and honest. Grow gracefully and be careful not to burn out - Find time to take breaks and holidays to ensure clarity around your thinking.  

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