Running a Startup: 1 Year On

To celebrate successfully navigating our first year as a startup, our Managing Partner Richard posted this little series on LinkedIn this week over a few days. Here is all is in one place:

Just over one year running our growing little agency RFS Marketing & Communications Ltd and a few observations from me over the next few posts…


1) Cashflow is a beast. Turns out, 90% of start up fails are due to cashflow surprises*. You’ve really got to be on it to avoid cliff edges.

How good is your forecasting?


2) Collaboration. I have been blown away by the willingness of individuals and companies to support a startup. After decades working in, essentially, agency silos where everything is delivered in house and cross pollination of ideas, leads and client work across an industry is unheard of, it has been incredibly refreshing to work in an environment where people are willing to pass on leads, ask for help, provide help, and form a collaboration of all the talents so that a client’s needs are properly met. We’re super social apes (h/t Mark Earls) so this makes eminent sense to me. And yet business practices too often prevent it. Suffice to say, when I’ve offered helping hands, those helping hands have been quick to return the favour. Everyone wins in the long run.

How do you collaborate, and what does it mean to you? Are we treated kindly as a startup? Is this unique to the South West UK? I hope not. I’d like to hear your thoughts.


3) the importance of FOCUS. When exploring challenges and issues with sales and marketing with clients, 9 times out of 10 a lack of focus has been at the heart of an issue, or emerges as a risk to success. And that applies to my business too. So whether you are a startup or an established business, it can be a challenge.

It takes a couple of simple challenges to keep us on track. Sometimes it’s a daily mantra. – The ‘Why’ factor. Simon Sinek captured this perfectly. Why are we in business? What’s the purpose? And does what we are proposing to do fit that purpose? – The ‘So What?’ factor. That information you’re giving me about your technical abilities. So what? How is that different to everyone else. More importantly, does that tell me as a customer what it will be like to work with you? Or to use your product.

Don’t tell me what it does, but how it will make me feel. What’s driving your business, and what are you doing to drive it further? (This post is a great assessment of the importance of focus


4) Flexibility. Tony Robbins (among others) talks about the human need for both Certainty and Uncertainty / Variety. He said: “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” Within weeks of setting up I was learning that a business that is flexible and responsive to need is one that succeeds. For one of our clients, we rapidly became the ‘go-to people’ for all their problem solving. This at times means taking on something we’ve never done before, or booking last minute flights to get to that client meeting. That can be easy for a startup, right?

When people know they can rely on other people, and you are open about cost or time, the relationship becomes stronger and healthier. But flexibility can also put your business under too much stress or risk. The question to ponder upon is: to what extent does flexibility stretch your business ‘why’ to breaking point? Meaning, are you chasing unicorns and losing focus? Because no one benefits in the long run from that.


5) Selling. It’s something I’ve always been able to do. And something I take for granted. A LOT of people are not comfortable selling. They find it too exposing, they don’t like using the phone, they are naturally reserved. “It’s just too *cringe*” one client said! Advice I gave someone who was thinking of setting up a new company on their own, not about cash flow, focus, collaboration or flexibility.  It was: if you aren’t comfortable getting yourself out there and selling, do not do it. Just find a different job and keep excelling at what you are doing.

And if you can do it enough but need help and guidance, seek it out. Sales and marketing will feed you.

Here’s to the next 12 months. Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far.

*(Tip – they aren’t surprises. I tend to like surprises…)


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