TheBusiness.uk.com: Dan Ross

Dan Ross has just started up his own design and advertising company

While working for a graphic design agency, Dan Ross came up with the idea for his new company, TheBusiness.uk.com. Here he talks to Startups.co.uk about how he’s getting on.

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: Dan Ross Age: 32 Business: www.thebusiness.uk.com Type of business: Design & Advertising Start date: 31st September 2003

When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business? I worked for a large graphic design agency and realised that there was not really a correlation between the prices charged and the service offered.

What the client seemed to be paying for was plush offices and endless meetings and this meant that the small or new business could not get great design with out shelling out thousands of pounds. I felt that I could bridge this gap and was so excited about the idea, I knew I just had to give it a go.

Tell us about your business Specifically geared towards new and small businesses, we offer striking design packages at affordable prices.

To dispel the myth that great design is expensive we have simply provided set prices and packages in order for any start-up and small business to bring the vision of their business alive.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?

From working in a design agency that catered for blue chip clients – there was no middle ground for the small businesses to start up. If small businesses needed literature/logo/web site they would either go for ‘budget’ companies with little or no brand experience, or spend a large amount of money in order to ‘Get it right’ with an agency.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals?                                             It was inspired by a couple of friends who found it difficult to get a decent corporate id with a limited budget. They originally went with a company that offered a logo for £150…what they received was dreadful! In the end I did the logo as favour for them and that’s how the business idea began.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? Image is so important in today’s market that it is key for small businesses to look just as professional as larger companies.

The design we offer is no different from what you get with a big design agency – just considerably cheaper and perhaps not as many biscuits during meetings!

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Designed my logo – as it became one step closer to making it a reality!

What research did you do?                                               Viewed the competition to see how they operated. A questionnaire to local businesses to find out what people wanted from a design service.

What advice did you seek? Did you approach any of the government advice centres such as Business Link?                                                                                            No I did not. I went to a couple of business networking meetings though and these seemed quite good. I plan to join an organisation soon. I also joined the Federation of Small Business as they offered some great benefits for a start-up company.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow?            Useful as a benchmark, but I think it is key to revise the plan on an on going basis.

How much did it cost to start the business?                     The joy of this was that I got the design free so didn’t have to pay for my logo, website, stationery and even flyers! I would say about £3000 which covered first couple of months rent and some basic web promotion.

How did you fund this?                                                            Through my own savings.

If you’ve already got premises, are you glad you made that decision?                                                                                      I share an office with another company. I felt that it was important to make a distinction between home and work and therefore believe that it is worth the rent/bills etc. I have seen friends who have run a business from home and they have advised that the downsides outweigh the upsides!

How many hours are you working at the moment?          Too many – according to my wife!

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock?

It is a question of focus and prioritising. I am very strict in how I plan jobs for clients – now we just need to gain the same experience in promoting ourselves. It’s like playing the violin in public & learning as you go.

What about staff, is it just you?

There are two of us (myself as designer/director and Suzy, Client Services Director) – I’m very fortunate to have someone who also believes in the idea.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? 5-6 employees, in larger offices, with an annual turnover of £5-600,000.00

What are the main obstacles to growth? Cash flow – i.e. late payments from clients, and leaner months.

How do you plan to overcome these?Our business model is set so we get a proportion of the payment up front and the balance on completion. We just need to stick to these terms.

Tell us about your website. How important is it to your business?The web site is our forum for explaining the services, contacting us, and displaying our work. Apart from our logo, it’s the cornerstone of our business.

It was important that it is bright & noticeable, yet simple enough to download, navigate and communicate our message.

It is something that is constantly amended/updated.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? My ambition is to be successful.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? I would say that I have learnt to be more level headed and not make decisions on impulse. Also to listen to the right people – everyone has an opinion, but I will tend to just listen to people who I feel have had the best experience to be advising me.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? I would say two key things: 1. Tenacity – you will be dealing with a few knock backs! 2. Boldness – it can be scary and you have to be prepared to take risks

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Try not to run before you walk – it is worthwhile planning properly before implementing.

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?Yes

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