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This tech start-up which grew by 500% in its first year has a few tips on growing your business

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500 per cent growth and reeling in multiple millions in turnover in the very first year of business is the stuff entrepreneur dreams are made of. And this is exactly what tech start-up Shift8 has managed to pull off.

Shift8 also recently clinched the Franchise Council of Australia’s Supplier of the Year Award.

Reporting 200 per cent growth for the current period with over 830 outlets across 45 franchise brands using the system, 2015 looks set to continue the pattern of success.

Not resting on their laurels

Yvette Anelli, one of Shift8’s four founders disclosed that they had reinvested 80 per cent of turnover back into the business for longevity, hiring more support staff and undergoing further product development. These guys are determined to not waste the spoils…

“We spent over a year developing our product and business plan so that we would always have a foundation of focus and I think to achieve the long-term success we desire reinvestment is paramount,” she remarked.

“It would have been easy to just enjoy the rewards and get dizzy in the face of our growth but we think reinvestment is a must for any start-up.”

Why has Shift8 grown so big so fast?

Anelli attributes the dizzying growth her company has managed to achieve to the world’s growing reliance on time and labour saving technologies.

“Software is the key to delivering convenience to both businesses and consumers,” she explained. “The rate of growth in smartphone usage is a huge driver of this, and hosted solutions are hugely important in reducing the enormous infrastructure requirements that were traditionally needed when implementing software solutions.”

“We filled a genuine gap in the market so there was an appetite for our product. After we had success with a couple of clients, the word spread quickly. Our clients continue to be our best product and brand ambassadors.”

What exactly does Shift8 do?

Co-founded by Jonathon Britton, Amy Renae and Alden Zhou, Shift8 designed a comprehensive point of sale (POS) system specifically for franchises.

The software, called Hivemind, beats traditional products by providing functionality such as staff rostering, timesheets and KPI benchmarks, as well as sales reporting.

It is now the POS system of choice for a range of franchise giants, including Sumo Salad, New Zealand Natural, Bucking Bull, Mrs Fields and more.

“The scalable nature of the product means we are perfectly positioned for growth and we have the advantage of being able to organically grow through our existing client base in addition to new brands that come on board,” Anelli pointed out.

Very particular about customer care

Despite their growth to 16 team members, the Shift8 founders are committed to taking a hands-on role in the company; ensuring customers receive one on one contact with one of the founders for the life of their professional relationship.

“We don’t use sales people. It’s always been us who interact with clients from the first meeting and for the life of the relationship. It’s created a sense of trust and faith in the products and in our ability to stay relevant to clients as their businesses evolve.”

“We realise this may get harder as we continue to grow but it is a commitment we believe is fundamental to our success so we will ensure the business structure supports this.”

They didn’t see this much growth coming

While the Shift8 team predicted that their business plan was indeed a viable one, they had no idea it would work out this fast and this well. In fact, their biggest challenge was deciding which work to decline!

“We did enough research and planning to be confident that the business would support us financially, but we had no idea that within two years we’d have clients Australia wide, let alone in New Zealand, Fiji and Singapore,” Anelli revealed.

“The biggest hurdle has been knowing when to say no. It’s tempting to agree to everyone and take on the whole world at once, but you have to think of the customers best interests first or you’ll end up disappointing them, and possibly causing major problems for their business, as well as your own.”

Maximising the opportunities that their fast growth presented was a challenge which the Shift8 team met through a combination of wise staffing decisions and an in depth understanding of their industry.

Tips on growth for other start-ups

For other start-ups predicting or undergoing fast growth, Anelli had the following pointers.

  1. If the business is a partnership, make sure you have selected wisely. You need good diversity of experience among the team to be able to handle all the various facets of business operation, especially in the beginning.
  2. Choose strategic alliances carefully. Most times working with other agencies or developers will create a huge amount of work before it leads to success, so make sure that investment in time is going to be fruitful for all parties. 
  3. Manage your growth – reinvest funds in the right areas, like people and infrastructure. A minimum of 60 percent turnover is advisable.
  4. Know your industry, where it’s going and what the trends are so that you’re ahead of, or at least keeping up with, client needs.
  5. Know your strengths and learn or outsource the rest. 
  6. Don’t presume you always know what your customers want and need. Ask them. 
  7. Be prepared for hard work and long hours. You don’t get something for nothing. 
  8. Demand the best, from yourself, your business partners and your suppliers. 
  9. Celebrate your wins. There’s no point doing it if you’re not having fun and enjoying the good times.

Pictured above are the Shift8 founders (L to R: Jonathon Britton – managing director, Amy Renae – special projects manager, Yvette Anelli – Director, Alden Zhou – information systems manager).

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