Sir Richard Branson
You’ve taken the leap and decided to build your own business. Your dream might be to become your own boss, or create products you’re really passionate about, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve decided to create your own path and that’s brilliant.
It is no easy task but with the right support and a smart approach, the dream of scaling up your venture from start-up to successful business is in reach. If you want to be in business ten years down the line, you must have a deep understanding of your business, the market it operates in and a great team to support.
1. Plan for the long-term
Mapping the risks and opportunities for your business early on can make all the difference. Setting some milestones for you and your team to work towards will keep you motivated and driven. There will be obstacles to growth you cannot foresee but having a roadmap in place from the get-go will help build structure and focus to decision-making.
If there are some obvious risks to your business model from the start, put in place some strategies to mitigate them. If you have a clear vision of where you would like your business to have expanded to after ten years, plan how you can achieve this. So far we’ve supported over 500 entrepreneurs with funding and mentors via Virgin StartUp and we’ve worked with every one of them on business planning as the very first stage. Planning long-term promotes long-term thinking.
2. Stick to your founding principles
When expanding into different territories or creating new products, having a brand uniting them all under one roof is one of the best advantages a business can have. Customers relate to brands and the values it stands for more than the tangible aspects of a product. Create your businesses values and principles early on and work hard to turn these values into tangible activities your customers can interact with. Virgin has always been about putting the customer at the heart of everything we do and innovating in industries ripe for disruption. This is what our brand stands for and is applied to every business bearing our brand name.
3. Gather a great team
Investing in your people and delegating out responsibility is another key ingredient to building a successful business. I learnt this from a very young age. There is little point recruiting great people if you don’t then give them the autonomy to take their role and run with it. It also frees you up as the founder to focus less on the day-to-day activities and more on the over-arching objectives laid out in your ten year roadmap. Over my 40 years in business, I have assembled a fantastic team to run the Virgin Group’s day to day activities and this has freed me up to spend 80% of my time working with Virgin Unite – the not-for-profit arm of the Virgin Group.
4. Get the right support
From my experience the key to long-term growth is much more than just raising enough funds. You need support and mentoring from those who have been there and done it themselves, teaching you how best to use the funds and help you avoid any mistakes they may have made. I myself benefited hugely from the words of Sir Freddie Laker when starting Virgin Atlantic. He told me I could never compete with the big advertising budgets of the large airlines and would have to get out there and use myself to promote Virgin Atlantic.
For this reason Pitch to Rich 2015, a competition championing UK SMEs which I launched in March, is offering support and resources from the Virgin Group and other industry experts. The winners will receive mentoring from the Virgin Group Investment Team, financial advice from the ICAEW and a start-up workshop from Europe’s leading pre-seed and seed stage acceleration fund Seedcamp. There will also be free Wi-Fi from Virgin Media Business, free first-class train travel from Virgin Train and energy from nPower.
All of these prizes will help start-ups save costs and give them guidance on what they need to do to build their business successfully. Hopefully with this support and mentorship, these ventures will be around ten years down the line and become the Virgin’s of the future.