5 things you shouldn’t do when starting a business (and 5 you should)

Iqbal Gandham, chief marketing officer of investment management company Nutmeg, discusses the essential points to consider when starting a business...

Iqbal Gandham started India’s largest web hosting provider Net4India and has been involved in a series of start-ups in the tech space.

Now chief marketing officer for Nutmeg, which claims to be the world’s first online investment manager, he shared his essential lessons of successful start-ups while speaking at the Hotwire Ignites FinTech, part of the wider FinTech City London initiative.

1. DO NOT listen to experts all the time

Nobody, no matter how experienced, or what expertise they possess, knows whether your business will be a success. Everyone is hedging their bets and the moment you accept that nobody knows what’s going to work, it makes starting your business a lot easier. Then all you’re doing is testing a series of hypotheses based on the resources that you have.

2. DO create momentum

Everyone seems to create a five-year business plan when they start out. They don’t work. You need to break it down into three years, a year, into months, weeks and days. You need to know what you’re going to do tomorrow. You need to celebrate the small wins, whether it be the first line of coding you’ve created or when an investor backs £10, then £100, then £1,000, then £500,000, even £1m, at every stage you need to recognise and be proud of your achievements.

3. DO speak the same language as your team

Most entrepreneurs are intuitive, other entrepreneurs need their staff to tell them what they need. If you can’t understand your team and your team can’t understand you then you need to adapt and attempt to speak to them in a way they understand. In turn, this will affect the results you’re going to get back. When I’m trying to look at a new business idea I’ll have a meeting with one guy who focuses on data and the other who’s more technical and one will say it’s great and the other will have the polar opposite view, but you need to ensure you involve your team to get this feedback.

4. DO go back to basics

I’ve been in so many companies where they spend days and days asking themselves a million questions; what collaboration software they need to use, how do they share documents, how do they use software so 20 people can co-edit the same document, what voice conferencing should they use, and it’s a complete waste of time. Get a marker pen, a whiteboard, a laptop and a mobile phone and you can create a really great business.

5. DO NOT create new customer segments

If you tell me your customer’s name is Ben, who shops at Primark, drives a Porsche and likes to watch the Wolf of Wall Street, you’re not going to find him. Just go on Experian or TGI and look at their customer segmentation; they’ve already done all the research and pick one of those which most closely match your idea of the perfect customer. They’ve already been marketed to, which gives you a far better chance of reaching them and saving yourself a lot of money.

6. DO NOT spend months creating a tone of voice for your website

Again, I’ve seen so many companies sit there and debate what picture they should use on their site, what language they should use etc. and it just wastes time. If you know who your customers are then just go out and find the media they read, throw it on the table, pick the one you like, download their style guide and use it. It will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

7. DO spend time on messaging

We ran two ads recently on the London Underground, one said “Does your investment manager skim off a fortune?”, the other one said “Are you paying hidden investment fees?” Both similar messages, both focused around fees. One delivered four times higher assets under management (AUM) than the other. Ensure you run focus groups on your target market to find out what works.

8. DO NOT assume digital advertising is the answer to all your problems

In most industries, especially in financial technology (FinTech) you can generally spend thousands on digital advertising and Google AdWords. With Google AdWords you have such a competitive market and you’re so often spending resources trying to rank higher on Google. Which leads me onto my next point:

9. DO give old-fashioned advertising a go

Print, radio, rail, PR; it all works. It’s really not as expensive as you think and it gives you credibility. Consumers actually think that if you’ve got the money to spend on tube ads that you are a real and well-established company.

10. DO NOT think too much

Two ads, three days and seven people all discussing and debating upon whether the cat in the advert should have its tongue sticking out or not. Did it make a difference? I have absolutely no idea because we didn’t test both the ads but really it’s not worth it. Do the 80/20 rule and go with your gut ultimately. You don’t always need a shadow or a chair.

So, did it work for us?

In 2013 we over-achieved our AUM targets. We’ve got a long way to go, we’re doing well and 2014 is the first year of having a marketing team on board. All in all we’re in a positive place for the year ahead.

Finally, one last lesson: Just do it! Look at what other entrepreneurs are doing and go out and start a business for yourself.

Iqbal Gandham is the chief marketing officer of investment management company Nutmeg.

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