Aged2Excel Ltd: Andy Finnie

Made redundant and finding it difficult to gain new employment, Andy Finnie decided to start an online service for mature jobseekers

After being made redundant from his job and suffering a series of setbacks in his attempts to gain new employment, Andy Finnie decided to go it alone and set up Aged2Excel, an online service for mature jobseekers. He tells Startups.co.uk how he’s done it.

Startup profiles go straight to the hub of the action by speaking to entrepreneurs who have literally just started up. We find out what made them decide to start their own business, how they got it off the ground, the obstacles they’ve overcome and the barriers they still face. We’ll look at their hopes and aspirations for the future, and then, in six months time, we’ll go back and find out how they’re getting on.

Name: Andy Finnie Age: 51 Business: Aged2Excel Ltd Type of business: Job search and selection services website for mature and experienced job seekers Start date:  4 June 2004

When did you first decide you wanted to start out on your own? I was made redundant as part of my previous company’s strategy on major cost reductions. It was a strange feeling as I had worked continuously since school.

After a number of disappointing job applications I decided to ‘stop the carousel’ and take stock of what it was that I really wanted to do last summer. As part of ‘finding myself’, I knew that the only way I could satisfy all the wants and needs I had listed, was to set up my own business. I found the website www.agepositive.gov.uk and the seeds of a new business began to emerge.

Tell us about your business I started by researching ageism and what this meant to people like myself, who through no fault of their own find themselves unemployed at 40+ years of age. I investigated a number of websites that purported to support the mature population. I knew that whatever I was going to do, I had to include the Age Positive objectives and reference its Code of Practice.

So I’ve developed a website that will become the job seekers companion. Providing support on all aspects of career management, helping them to match the right job with the right employer and providing up to the minute news on everything from age and legislation, to market trends and analysis. Aged2Excel was born …

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? Although I’d had been unhappy for some time with my career, nothing had made me feel like giving up the relative safety of a full-time job. Unemployment can be a blessing in disguise and for me it provided the platform to do something different.

Having no job gave me the opportunity to build something on my own that would be worthwhile, stimulating and challenging, while Age Positive and the prevalence of ageism helped me realise that I could make a difference while making a living at the same time.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? First and foremost, it’s demographics. There are more people aged 40 plus than there are in the 24-38 age range. People are living longer and family sizes are smaller than at any time in modern history, yet we have skills shortages so, in future, businesses will no longer have the luxury of employing the so-called ’employable’ age range.

As ageism is still rife in many UK businesses, people with a wealth of experience, skills and ability are deliberately ignored on the basis misconceptions.

Once you’d decided to start a business, how did you go about it? I started by researching the market as I needed to convince myself if I was to influence anybody else. Using the Internet and the library to study the latest market statistics, I also conducted extensive competitive analysis. There are currently a number of good government initiatives such as Business Link, Jobcentre Plus and New Deal 50 plus available to help get you started.

Although I have an MBA, I attended a free Business Link week-long course which provided a refresher on business financials and business tax elements. I made some good contacts on the course and a couple of entrepreneur friends were happy to talk about the pitfalls of starting your own business.

How useful has your business plan been? The business plan is essential. It tells you and anyone else about your business idea, what the market place is like, how you plan to promote the business, what prices and services to employ, how to sustain the business, what the financials will look like (e.g. cash flow, P&L).

In any good business plan you document the risks and how to mitigate them. So, if the business proves to be a failure, exit barriers for Aged2Excel are minimal and I will end it at the appropriate time, having announced this to my customers.

How are you funding the business? The plan is to fund as much as I can by myself. I have used my own funds so far and have a prudent P&L and cash flow. I will only approach the bank, once the next phase is due for development. By that time, Aged2Excel will have a financial history on which to base any funding needed.

Are you enjoying self-employment? I see it as by far the most enjoyable, yet frightening experience of my life. The fear of the unknown really strikes home and yet there is considerable comfort, in knowing that I am master of my own destiny!

Where do you work? Initially I’m working from home – for my type of business, this is by far the best way to start. I have a separate office out of the mainstream of the house but whether I’ll still be able to work in my home office in years to come is hard to predict. Right now I’m working long hours as we are determined to get the Aged2Excel launch off to a flying start.

How many staff do you have? There are three of us at present – the web designer/developer, the database programmer and me. On launch of Aged2Excel the other two members will slowly detach themselves as it’s intended that I’ll do most of the work myself. If I need to employ someone in future, and the business can support it, then I will do.

What marketing and advertising have you prepared? There will be PR and local promotion in the form of advertising. I intend to advertise in areas where I am guaranteed to receive optimum return on investment, which currently includes the West and East Midlands. I have also engaged a local design and creative agency to design and create the sales and marketing collateral.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? The Aged2Excel’s remit is simple: become the leading UK player in uniting job seeker with employer. We will only succeed if Aged2Excel provides the highest quality services and value for money. The bottom line in this type of business is to ensure that an employer finds the right candidate first time!

What are the main obstacles to growth? Specifically, creating a website and database that is not up to the job – I was determined that the Aged2Excel website would be the best of breed, designed around extensive and accurate research and developed by professionals on sound, tried and tested engineering principles.

It’s important that Aged2Excel is a true reflection of the people it represents mature, experienced and highly skilled individuals, with all the attributes of seasoned professionals, namely, flexibility, adaptability and ability.

Other obstacles to growth include being reactive instead of proactive, being static instead of dynamic, providing ‘me too’ services at the wrong price, promoting and advertising in the wrong places, failing to deliver on promises, misinterpreting the market place and failing to understand our customer base.

What are your ambitions? Obviously, to make a good living is important, but if there is one thing life has taught me, it’s to enjoy what I do. My naturally optimistic personality has helped me even in the darkest hours.

I am determined that I will enjoy building and developing my new business and I want to make a real difference for my clients, whether job seeker, employer or agency. So far (touch wood!), it has been an enjoyable, but sometimes frustrating experience. I honestly don’t think there is anything I would change – ask me again in twelve months time!

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Determination, self-belief, stamina, sense of humour and lets face it, the right opportunity.

And what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Do your research honestly and accurately, develop your business plan and, if it holds water – GO FOR IT!!! Remember if you can’t convince yourself then it’s probably because it’s not the right idea for you.

Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time?

You bet!!

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