OPINION14 February 2013

Week 4: With the benefit of hindsight


Learning as you go is par for the course when setting up a new business. Here, Spring Research’s Tom Holliss shares some of the insights he’s gleaned from his own journey into the unknown.

We really are very close to going live now with our new business, so I thought it might be a good time to reflect on and share a few of the things I’ve learnt over the last year or so. For a non-technical person thinking about launching a digital enterprise, there are certainly a few things you can do to make the process run smoothly.

Do your research, know what you want, and make sure your initial briefs are as clear and developed as possible

We know we have a great business concept; we’ve always known that from the enthusiasm we get when we speak about it. However, we developed the execution iteratively, learning as went while researching and talking to potential clients. If we had invested more time upfront into a dedicated research phase, we would certainly have saved time and stress.

Be realistic about your timings, and monitor them carefully

It’s vital to get an accurate estimate of the development schedule so you can inform the rest of the marketing and sales plan, particularly if you are commissioning work outside of your core expertise. Our enterprise has been almost a year in development now, and our initial estimates were a conservative two months. Workshop with all the relevant parties so they understand the commitment and can give accurate dates, then set up automatic reminders a week in advance of key deadlines, with a formal process to account for those which are missed.

Bring clients in early, and use their honest feedback

One of the most valuable sources of information for us has been our beta test clients. Bringing them in early, getting them excited about the concept and showing them as it develops is not only a great source of knowledge, it’s also not a bad way to win clients at launch (we hope!).

Don’t let the setbacks get you down

It’s not going to be plain sailing, no matter how much you want an easy ride. I am constantly fighting bugs or arguing with unhelpful red-tape bureaucrats, but ultimately it’s worth it and I know we will get there in the end.

But the best piece of advice I can offer is: Hire a digital agency in Romania and ask them to send you some Palinca in case of emergencies.

Tom Holliss is a senior research executive at Spring Research, who is preparing to launch a new research technology company.