For every small business owner, there will at least one moment where something goes wrong at the worst possible time. It can be as small as a computer crash when you’re a sole trader and due to present to a client, or an event out of your control that still threatens your small business.
It’s at these moments, you find out what you, as the owner, are made of. The qualities that saw you start out by yourself can also carry you through these tough, testing times. Here, three SME founders tell us about the moment that made them – a point in time that could have had seriously implications for their company but gave them the focus to turn disaster into triumph.
From launching a new business just as catastrophe threatens to cut off your funding source to dealing with an issue that seriously threatens your company’s reputation, here are the moments that made these two business owners.
Andrew Sunnucks, Audio Network Ltd
“Out of chaos comes order. When finance markets dried up following the 911 attacks in 2001, just a few months after our launch, thirteen leading composers and Oscar winning sound designers became shareholders in Audio Network
“Having such depth of creative talent supporting the business as shareholders means that we developed a company culture that puts composers, music and creativity first and that’s what our customers need. As a result we have sustained growth of the business at a compound annual rate of 40% per annum for thirteen years.
Andrew Sunnucks is the co-founder and chairman of Audio Network Limited. Listed as one of the UK’s fastest growing companies in the Hiscox Sunday Times Tech Track 100 in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and the Sunday Times Profit Track 100 in 2013 and 2014, Audio Network has also received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for both Innovation (Technology), 2008 and International Trade, 2012.
Tim Morgan, Mint Digital
“In 2006, Mint was a four person digital agency. We used to spend weeks coming up with ideas and sending them to big companies in the hope that one of them would resonate and we’d be able to show them what we were capable of. Inevitably most of our ideas fell on deaf ears.
“That February we entered a BBC competition for ideas of what to do with the vast BBC archive of televisual content that was stored in the basements of Broadcasting House. Four shortlisted entrants would be invited to MIPTV in Cannes to pitch their ideas in front of an expert panel and an audience of industry bigwigs.
“Our idea was called Buried Alive and it allowed the public to use the then brand new social web to navigate the BBC archive and green light the content they wanted to see digitally restored and made available for all to enjoy. We were delighted when weeks later we received a letter from the BBC inviting us to Cannes as one of the four finalists. Information accompanying the invitation suggested we’d have a booth at the event for a few days.
“We saw this as a great opportunity for us but we didn’t have much time and even less money. We hurriedly put together some marketing material for our booth to accompany a technical demonstration of our idea. The marketing material arrived from the printers at 6pm on the night before our flight. It was of a very low standard. I remember feeling upset and a little bit sick in my stomach. I felt like our big opportunity was ruined by poor presentation.
“In the eventuality we went to Cannes, won the pitching competition and a £10000 development. Our idea and technical demonstration wooed the crowds and the marketing material never left our hotel room. In terms of learnings:
1. Competitions are a great way for small companies to demonstrate their capabilities;
2. That the strength of your idea and competence to execute is far more important than how you present yourself. To this day I see Mint as one of the digital world’s best kept secrets. We are all execution with very little presentation, just like our booth at Cannes in 2006. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a brochure, when our technical demonstration did so much talking;
3. Our idea Buried Alive is a great idea for the BBC today in 2014. It was off the scale good in 2006. Sometimes you’re not wrong, you’re just early.”
Tim Morgan is the founder of Mint Digital. He now heads up Mint’s startup incubator Mint Ventures. In its 10 month lifetime, Mint Ventures has launched startups such as DeskBeers, Boomf, The Bathory and Wagonn.
Rachael Ede, Compare4Kids
“There have been lots of little moments, or stepping stones, along the way that have made Compare4kids, but the moment that most sticks out as being defining was realising that I don’t have to do everything myself.
“Three years into the business and I seemed to be the jack of all trades – I was the web designer, the web developer, I did the marketing, wrote the content, liaised with my merchants and was hands-on with everything else in-between. Although I had gained an impressive array of skills, it just was not an efficient use of my time.
“As someone who likes to be in control, it was quite difficult for me at first to hand over the reins, but gradually I started hiring freelancers to take on various parts of the business, from content writers to my web developer who has been with me now for almost three years.
“Suddenly, I had all this time to focus on the heart of the business and to let it grow, instead of always trying to juggle between a hundred different jobs. It was a bit like taking off a pair of tight shoes at the end of a long day, and I’ve not looked back since.”
What’s your moment?
What’s the moment in your business that made you? Let us know in the comments or tell us on Twitter @HiscoxUK.
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