My business, UrbanYou recently completed the strategic acquisition of HomeHello, cementing their position as the market leader in the on-demand home services sector. The acquisition comes after a year of phenomenal growth for UrbanYou. The company has serviced over 30,000 bookings and generated over $4 million in sales through its platform, and in July this year, closed a Series A raise in under two weeks.
During the early months of running a business, I can’t count how many lessons I’ve learnt, lessons about the business, myself and how to overcome that sinking feeling it will never workout. Running a business has its own set of pressures, however the satisfaction of taking an idea and seeing it come to life is what’s most rewarding, that’s what’s kept me in the business for the past four years. It’s been an exciting journey and one which we’re still thrilled to be on.
For those looking to follow on our heels, I have thought about the top five lessons I have learnt in my first few years which will hopefully clear some of the dust on your personal path to success.
Find your tribe
The biggest lesson we learnt in our first 12 months of operating was our audience wasn’t who we anticipated. Finding an audience or “your tribe” is an essential part of developing your business plan, however, don’t be married to it, and adapt the rest of your business plan to fit with who is embracing your business – not who you thought would be.
Remember that starting your own business is an investment, invest some money into finding out who you are selling to with market research. The money you spend in the short term will really pay off in directing your business down the right path in the future and finding the customer base to support you.
That old adage, “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is simply not true. Starting your own business is hard work with a list of challenges that will at times feel like it is not worth it. But stay in there and learn from your challenges (there will be many, just accept it). It is important to be open minded when thinking of solutions to your initial challenges, particularly when you are a solo operator and may not have anyone to bounce ideas off.
Are you being too rigid with your problem solving? Are you being too precious about sticking to your original idea? Being adaptable in the face of challenges, and listening to what they are communicating to you can go a long way in establishing the grounds for success. While challenges may get less and less as your business develops and you feel more confident, new ones will present themselves; set good habits early on how you confront them and you are already ahead of the crowd.
Take advice – but trust yourself
There’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, people have been starting, succeeding and failing at businesses for a long time – take their advice. Having a mentor or at least a trusted advisor is always helpful when you are taking on new challenges and swimming in unknown waters.
However, finding a mentor is often quite difficult, there a loads of books, articles and podcasts out there to help you along the way and will perhaps enable you to dodge a few of those obstacles others have already overcome. Nobody can get everything right straight from the start. Be prepared to listen to advice and learn from what’s working and what’s not.
Having said that, it is also really important to trust yourself. You know your business or product better than anyone else, but a great way to figure out where you need advice, or even a business partner is to honestly write down your strong points and things you aren’t necessarily good at.
You may have all the technology, but if you don’t have the skills to market your product, you should be looking for sound marketing or communications advice or a business partner with complementary expertise. And vice-versa if you have a great idea, but lack the technical skills seek out that knowledge.
Invest in people
Undoubtedly, the biggest contributing factor towards a business success is the quality and talent of its people. It’s vital from the outset that the members of your team genuinely feel valued and respected. Provide them with relevant training to grow their skillsets and reward them for their efforts. Who doesn’t appreciate a free team lunch on a Monday? When you invest in them, they will, in turn, invest back in you and your business. At the end of the day, your people are the lifeblood of your business.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
When we first started UrbanYou, we were trying to stretch ourselves too thin, trying to be something for everyone and the message got too complicated. Taking a step back, we quickly recognise that at the heart, we were a services business, one reliant on trust, reliability and quality.
We scaled back our service and decided to hone in on the most popular categories; cleaning and gardening. We dedicated time to sorting out these issues early and we encourage any start ups to do the same. Find out what makes you special and focus on that, going back to our first point, this will really help you find your tribe.
Elke Keeley is an entrepreneur and Co-Founder of URBANYOU, the easiest way to book reliable household help.