NEWS14 December 2015

Stand out or stand still

Features Healthcare

Craig Scott co-founded his medical device research company, Greensand, a year ago; building on his previous article about his experiences as a start-up he shares how the journey is unfolding.


Starting a company is an emotional journey where the highs are very high but the lows are very low. A year in, it hasn’t changed. In fact, I’m told by other, more established, business owners that it never changes as you lurch from the crest of a project win to the bottom of a project loss. I had said that I feel life more acutely and that continues to be true. No more so than the day we won our first project (it was a Friday and things got messy).

So, what are the highs and the lows of a start up?


  • Without doubt, by a billion country miles, winning projects. For me our first was a dance-round-the-office-by-myself-high-fiving-my-imaginary-friends moment. It was that good. This was swiftly followed by a sitting down and humbly thinking, “we’ve done it, we’ve actually won some business”.
  • Being busy. For people like me, who function best when they are busy, it’s a privilege to be busy. I know that there is ‘good busy’ and ‘bad busy’, but any busy is welcome after months of tough business development. I have never valued work as much as I do now.
  • Positive client feedback. In my experience, if you haven’t performed, you soon know about it. However, less common are those angels who take time out to share their positive thoughts of your work with you. One client went as far as writing a testimonial for us. I nearly cried.


  • Radio silence. As a new company and as you’d expect we are approaching potential clients to share what we do, how it’s different to others and why we think they’d benefit from working with us. Obviously they receive many such approaches. A simple ‘thanks but no thanks and good luck’ would be received respectfully and observed. It’s very hard to receive no response. Perhaps email is too easy to delete, perhaps they are fed up, perhaps we are not a priority but we are all in this industry together and a brief acknowledgement would be appreciated.
  • Tumble weed. Even harder to take are those who express interest and are positive in their views of you. To then disappear for months. Again they don’t haveto take time out to update a never-heard-of-you-before agency. But a quick note to inform of status would also be valued.

A friend raised the question, ‘so how do you get considered for projects?’ Our view is that you have to stand out or stand still. In other words, drive awareness then interest (to use the AIDA acronym).  Where do you go to stand out? That depends on your industry but start by raising your presence at key industry events and with key target clients. How to generate interest?  It’s a perennial challenge for agencies to differentiate but you cannot be a cookie-cutter. Find your meaningful point of difference and magnify it to stand out. What may be old hat in one industry could be cutting-edge thinking in another.

There are two other factors that are important in the mix of success. Firstly, time – projects happen when clients need them to happen, not when it would suit you. So you have to be in the game long enough for the projects to occur (which is inevitably all at once). And secondly, of course, luck – of which you cannot have too much but some of which, you make for yourself.