At SETsquared Bristol, we often hear that one of the most valuable parts of our business support programme are Business Review Panels (BRPs). Their purpose is to act as a sounding board for the venture, to keep the business on track, and to help facilitate rapid growth.
During these sessions, our venture members present their business and key challenges to the chair (usually one of our entrepreneurs-in-residence) and a pre-selected panel of experts, with specialist backgrounds in legal, finance, growth, marketing and tech. Members typically have three BRPs during their time at SETsquared, over a course of 2 years.
I’ve been working at SETsquared for over six years, taking notes for BRPs at least twice a month. During that time, I’ve recorded a plethora of advice from our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EiRs) and our bank of over 500 business experts that give their pro-bono time to contribute. No two BRPs are the same, although I’ve found that tech start-ups usually have common problems to solve. Over the course of my blog series, I’m sharing with you the most prevalent issues and common business advice that I’ve encountered over the years.
The chicken or the egg?
One of the most common problems amongst start-ups is knowing where to focus limited time and resources. You have innovative ideas for new products that can be developed for different market verticals. Which do you concentrate on, and for what customer base, and via which route to market? Funds are limited, running out even. You need to grow the team in order to develop the minimum viable product (MVP), in order to get funding. But you need money to grow the team. It can seem like a ‘what comes first, chicken or egg’ situation, and the most resilient of people can get bogged down.
No one said being an entrepreneur is easy or everyone would be doing it, right? It’s difficult to answer these complex questions in a short and generic summary. But I frequently hear one word that is key to solving these problems, and that is ‘focus’.
What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?
Firstly, you need to map out the different scenarios for taking the business forward. Ask yourself: what is your passion, what sort of business do you want this to be, and what role do you want to play in that? What is your ambition for the business, is it big enough, do you have an exit in mind? Perhaps the most important question is ‘what is the problem that you are trying to solve?’. You can’t move the business forward until you know the answers to these questions. And yes, they may evolve and change over time, but that’s okay.
Solid gold strategy
Once you’ve worked out where you want to be, map out your opportunities and targets using a roadmap, and pin-point where you are now. Choose your targets and work backwards from them. Time is arguably the most valuable thing, so you need to set your business milestones in order to not waste it, and let the plan, vision and your passion drive you forward. You’ll need a solid gold strategy: a realistic and executable business plan, including a detailed cash flow strategy.
Never spread yourself too thin when you have little time and resources; if you try to do everything, you’ll implode! Make the important decisions according to your business strategy. Essentially, you need to go where the money is, but make sure you put your energy where your passion lies. If you feel like you’re straying into a different direction, refer back to your plan and reset yourself. And finally, make sure you re-visit your plan at intervals to keep it all on track.
SETsquared BRPs are a great way to help our member entrepreneurs to step back, look at the big picture, and make sure they work on the business rather than just in the business. Whether your company is a pre-revenue start-up or a scaling alumni member, it’s all part of the support service you get from SETsquared.