Thelightbulbfactor.com: Angus MacLeod

Angus MacLeod sheds light on his new website for startup firms

Angus MacLeod has just started up his own business, www.thelightbulbfactor.com. Here he talks to Startups.co.uk about the challenges he has faced in setting up his new service.

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: Angus MacLeod Age: 37 Business: www.thelightbulbfactor.com Type of business: An on-line service providing ideas for starting a business. Start date: Oct 2003

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do, a natural development in your career or something else? I’ve wanted to set up and run my own business since my mid twenties, but could never secure that great business idea. I guess I got immersed in chasing corporate success, but after being involved in a successful M.B.O. it gave me the opportunity to take time out and chase the start up dream.

Tell us about your business It’s a service which aims to address one of the main barriers to starting a business – coming up with the great business idea.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? No, it wasn’t the first (and won’t be the last), but it is the one that I feel most confident about given the market niche it fills.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? Not really, it was more driven by the fact that I wanted to do something that I believed in and that I could build and develop in a way which suited what I want out of life. I’m also continually inspired by those who are already making it happen with their own ventures.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? The fact that your web site is so popular! That aside, there are 400,000 businesses started every year and that is just the tip of the ice-berg.

Many people are keen to set up and run a business, but creativity is definitely a barrier for some. We provide those business ideas for them.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Looked at how much money it would take to set up and how quickly it could produce a profit.

What research did you do? I researched pretty much every angle to establish whether there was a demand, competition, who the target audience would be, how to reach them – generally the full commercially holistic approach.

What advice did you seek? Did you approach any of the government advice centres such as Business Link? I didn’t really explore any advisory bodies in any depth aside of legal input for the terms & conditions. However, I am now talking to Business Link to establish whether there are any reciprocal promotional opportunities as well as working with a number of other organisations.

What other help did you get? I used my accountant to advise on V.A.T. issues, setting up a Ltd company and other administrative issues.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? If so, what should they do? Other than encouraging people to start up and making funding easier to get hold of, I think it’s mainly down to the individual to help themselves as much as they can.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. How did you find it? I constructed the business plan in a fairly standard way. I basically used Excel spreadsheets, but that’s about it. I was fortunate not to need funding, so it was more to keep myself on the straight and narrow, rather than convincing a lender to part with funds.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? It’s a good reminder of what my original perception of trading was, but I’m constantly revisiting it as things develop.

How much did it cost to start the business? It’s been set up on a budget of around £10,000, the main cost being the site design and the legal advice.

How did you fund this? It was funded from my own capital.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? The business plan covers this for an initial period, but the indications are that we’ll be generating revenues sooner than anticipated.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? Yes. By basically ensuring that sufficient funding is there to support us if the numbers don’t hit target.

When did you stop working? I stopped working in July 2003, launched in Oct 2003 and enjoyed every minute of it! Full-time to self-employed is such a breath of fresh air and was definitely a milestone.

Are you working from home or from premises? I’m working from home; a) because it’s entirely possible to do so, and communicate with colleagues via email, b) because it keeps the costs down and c) because it gives me flexibility in my lifestyle.

Maintaining a professional approach isn’t a problem at all. It’s all about perception!

How many hours are you working at the moment? I’d say about 50 ish, but my brain is on it 24/7, which is a good feeling.

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? I’ve never found drive and self-motivation, or time management a problem. However, it’s good not to have your boss or shareholders wreck your schedule with their daily wants and needs!

What about staff, is it just you? It’s being driven by me initially, but there is a network of ‘specialists’ I use for a variety of different areas I’m involved in. Eventually I want to recruit someone to oversee it whilst I kick-start the next venture.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? Yes, but I haven’t got to that yet. I guess I’ll do more reading and take external advice.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? We’ve concentrated on traditional marketing (PR mainly) and online search engine promotion. We’ve also been in touch with any and every point of contact where would-be entrepreneurs might visit.

Advertising will follow along with viral activity, but we see all of this as an ongoing task.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? I’m aiming to be ahead on sales and profit projections, having set them at conservative levels from the outset. I’d also like to be up and running on another venture, providing that can be done without losing any quality from this venture.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Creating awareness and recruiting subscribers to the service.

How do you plan to overcome these? Constant marketing initiatives and close monitoring of the site activity, plus some user research.

Tell us about your website. How important is it to your business? The web site, www.thelightbulbfactor.com, is the main window for the business. We designed the framework, but used a professional design team to get the look and feel right, which was vital.

We’re very happy with the results. There’s loads of useful free advice and contacts as well as the core service we provide.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? A bit of both really, the more money I can make the more I can pick and choose what I enjoy doing.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? I think the most difficult part has been taking the leap of faith and having the self belief you need to keep you going. The only different thing I’d do is to have done it years ago!

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? I think self belief is critical, plus a huger to achieve success in whatever you decide to do.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Plan it, believe in it, then just do it.

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? Definitely.

If you’ve just started up and would like to feature in one of our profiles email matthewt@crimsonpublishing.co.uk

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