Austin, Marketing Assistant with Click Mechanic, asks his team about launching a digital start up. Here’s everything you need to know…
Giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon dominate most business discussion as their influence on the modern world is unparalleled. Entrepreneurs are constantly hoping to be the next company to break through meaning tech start-ups are springing up at an increasingly rapid pace. This race to expand into markets by new tech businesses has alarmed some economists as we see companies like Uber hemorrhage money just to break into a new city. Many businesses are set up in a similar way, with a lot of venture capital firms paying costly prices for failed enterprises. By interviewing our founder, COO, and a customer service executive at ClickMechanic, I hope to shed some light on the inner working of a digital startup and what insight you can apply for you business.
Andrew Jervis – Founder and CEO
What was the biggest challenge to setting up CM?
The biggest challenges always revolve around hitting those business milestones, like getting your first customer, the first ten, the first hundred, and on to hitting profitability. These business challenges have kept changing and getting bigger as the company expands. The more personal challenges will involve pitching and negotiating with investors or as part of grant competitions. To stand on stage and ‘sell’ the idea of your business can fill you with nerves, especially when key weaknesses are revealed in your strategy but it is a core way to grow. Many people say the step between business idea and reality is the most difficult challenge to new businesses but it is easier than ever to get a minimum viable product running. With a host of free web domains/storefronts, free digital advertising credits, and some elbow grease, you can have a business set up in a matter of hours. ClickMechanic was started in two weeks, with £10 for the domain hosting, a single page site, and adwords credits helping to secure the very first customer.
What key advice would you give to a university student looking to start their own business?
- Solve issues for a large audience of people
Let’s take an example, people seem tired so you start selling sweets, would you choose to stock haribo or liquorice? The answer is haribo as it is universally liked meaning you have a large audience of people to sell it to. Choosing liquorice appeals to no one and you will have a market of zero people to sell it to. Try to focus your energies on problems that a large number of consumers in the market feel strongly about, no one in the mood for sweets wants liquorice.
- Get to your MVP then quickly learn and iterate
The largest hurdle is always the first but it shouldn’t be. That first step from turning an idea into a practical reality should be a rush to produce your minimum viable product. If we go back to the sweet shop example, that might mean buying a big box of sweets, making a sign, and standing on soapbox in a high street. That is the minimum you could do to start selling sweets and from there you can start improving. You should quickly learn from what works and doesn’t, making changes to the operations and to your product. This would mean the sweet seller on the corner might find that they get more customers by selling the sweets in little paper bags, or that you need a wider variety of sweets to choose from.
- Stretch every penny and make the most of free services
Beyond the starting of a business, you want to make sure that every decision is taken with some sort of budget in mind and that you utilise free opportunities and services. This ‘tight’ mentality is good to keep further into your business, as you will more easily be able to spot spending which can be tightened, such as spending on services that you don’t use. To this day, we still make use of free services like HotJar, which allows you to run simple polls and generate heatmaps of your users on-site. To go back to the sweet shop example, this may mean holding onto that soapbox as a stool for when you open a stand or going to a wholesaler for your sweets and paper bags.
Richard Utting – Chief Operations Officer
What do we look for in applicants?
The ability to rapidly adapt and learn. Within start-ups, you will be tasked with constant responsibility of new areas where you may have no experience. Picking them up may not be difficult but you should be aiming to constantly learn whilst doing it, and make adjustments as you go. These fresh tasks come about with the constantly shifting product and operations. All of the new fields of work will give you broad experience of many different roles within a business and will certainly teach you how to manage yourself better.
What makes an interviewee stand out?
The amount of preparation a candidate puts in can make them stand out far and above their abilities or CV. There are probably about 4 stages research that you can put:
- A small amount of effort would be adjusting your CV to the role, and showing up clean and on time.
- To put a little more effort into your preparation would involve visiting the employers website, looking into their product, and their competition.
- The standard is to do all of the above and then start looking into the founding story of the business, what they pride themselves on through press releases, and their reviews to see how they fail.
- To go even further beyond, you should be looking to speak to current or ex-employees via Linkedin or Twitter to get a greater sense of the internal structure and culture within the company, ensuring you’re a good fit.
Chris – Intern to Account Manager/Superhero
What were your first few weeks like?
Back when I first started, there were 4 of us around a co-working desk, including the two co-founders who had already done 18 months as just the two of them. The only set processes were those that had been developed on the back end, which was not much to go by. The role I initially joined with was Customer Experience intern, and this involved speaking on the phone between customer and mechanic to both organise bookings and resolve any that may have gone wrong. With no training wheels, this did mean a lot of mistakes but it was seen as an opportunity to add to our operations and this is how a lot of learning will get done. As I have become a more senior member of staff, there have been interns working under me, who I have given a similar start with a bit more of a helping hand if they are unsure.
Can you describe how you’ve developed during your time?
As I mentioned, I first started as a Customer Experience intern handling a lot of the operations within the business to ensure that bookings coming in were flowing smoothly. This role was constantly shifting as I took on greater responsibility managing and hiring into that team. Eventually, I handed over that position for a project with our sales team to get mechanics set up and running on our system. From the world of customer experience, I had a large amount of knowledge of pain points for established mechanics and so could guide the new ones through while eventually removing those roadblocks by requesting changes. Managing relationships is a full time job at many companies; At ClickMechanic, we have 1500 independent businesses that we send work to and I am now managing our relationship with all of them, on a personal level and at scale. I have learnt to scale teams and introduce process throughout the business, experiences that I would be nowhere close to achieving with similar corporate tenure.
Inspired? Get involved with Cardiff University Enterprise and Start-Up
Do you have entrepreneurial inspirations and aspirations? Cardiff University Enterprise and Start-up could help you realise your full potential in business and entrepreneurship. It’s all about thinking creatively, spotting opportunities, making things happening and developing skills for life. It’s not just about business; it’s about helping you to make the most of yourself.
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Austin, Marketing Assistant at Click Mechanic.
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