In a spirited Q&A session, Anil and Mark spoke candidly about what it’s like to build a small business from the ground up. Here are some of the highlights:
What are the key ingredients that entrepreneurs need to succeed?
Mark: “The number one thing for me is people. You can have the best idea in the world but without the right people around you, the whole thing would just fall apart. You need people with the right skills and expertise that can actually help you build a successful business.
The other thing is resilience. Somebody described it to me once as being like climbing a mountain: every time you come over the crest of the hill you see another steeper piece of the puzzle. There are moments where you think you’ve gone mad but you can’t panic. You have to remain calm and get on with it.”
Anil: “Something that is just as important is staying close to your customers. That’s a real source of inspiration for me when things get tough.
I remember two years in, we weren’t growing as fast as I wanted us to. I went to visit a customer and they told me that they wouldn’t be able to grow and export internationally without MarketInvoice.
That gave me the strength to see that actually there were people out there getting real value out of what we were doing, we just needed to do a better job of explaining and marketing it.”
What keeps entrepreneurs up at night?
Mark: “Running out of money. Businesses have a life of their own in that you need to keep feeding them and scaling them. We’re about to go full swing into our Series-B round of funding, so that will take a lot of my time.
When you’re raising money, it takes you away from running the business and that’s always problematic because you need to be focussed on your business primarily. Balancing that with life outside of work is also important. You can’t be all about work otherwise you’d drive yourself and your family mad.”
Anil: “One thing that’s on my mind is which bets do we make? Which way do we go forward? Because we’re at a point where we can do many different things. We can develop new products or go into new markets or agree new partnerships.
You’re usually making those decisions with imperfect information so you have to take a leap of faith and just hope it will all work out. Not everything will work out and I think that’s okay as well.”
How can entrepreneurs stay motivated?
Mark: “Life as an entrepreneur tends to be a real zig-zag roller coaster journey. It’s a bit like being in a boxing ring: you learn from getting knocked down and you’ve got to get up to continue otherwise you’re going to be out for the count.
Entrepreneurs tend to be very optimistic, madly optimistic at times. You have to be able to raise the game, keep everybody smiling. There will be ups and downs, so you need to work with good people to get through that.”
Anil: “One thing I touched on before is the importance of spending time with your customers. If your customers tell you that they’ve had an average experience, then I think you’ve got a problem. If they speak passionately, that can give you motivation.
It’s also about the people around you. You’re not going to have a perfect work-life balance and things aren’t going to go according to plan. You need people with grit who are going to stay optimistic and see the silver lining. At the end of the day, you are who you surround yourself with so having that energy and positivity is important. If you hire the right people, it can have a 10x effect on your business.”
What is the biggest cash flow challenge facing small businesses?
Mark: “It’s all about that payment cycle: when do you get paid? At one end of our payment cycle we have our clients, big media agencies like WPP and Publicis. Let’s say the media agencies give us $100 and we take a transparent 20% fee (in this case $20). With the remaining $80, we buy the advertising that we’ve integrated with Google and one or two other global exchanges.
That’s a simple business model, it works for us: we keep our 20% and make our money but when we come to invoicing, life suddenly gets very complicated. What happens is that the agencies typically pay on 60 to 90-day terms but I have to pay Google within 30 days. Now we’re only taking $20 dollars out of the $100 but I have to pay the entire $80 to Google within 30 days. If I’m not going to get paid for 90 days, essentially I’m carrying my client’s debt.
It sounds obvious but there are not many easy-to-use solutions out there to fix that problem and the larger you grow, the bigger the problem becomes. Our company literally couldn’t survive without the ability to service those invoices, so finding MarketInvoice was game-changing for me. Suddenly we could fix a fundamental problem in running our business, without which we wouldn’t be able to scale. It’s simple, it’s incredibly effective and it’s business critical for us.”
At MarketInvoice, we think entrepreneurs should be able to get on with growing their business, instead of having to worry about cash flow. That’s why we’re making it quick and easy to get funding. With invoice finance, our customers can advance funds against their outstanding invoices, accessing that working capital straight away. It’s a simple solution that gives entrepreneurs more time to focus on what they’re really passionate about.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call 020 3784 4450.