This article is based on the lessons I have learned from starting a web company over 3 years ago. We started with very little money and even less experience, a combination that you think would make us almost guaranteed to fail. In the early days, the joke between myself and my business partner was that I could barely send an email attachment and now here I am running a web company! It just goes to show that you can only learn so much from reading; the real knowledge comes from when you are actually ‘doing’ something.
Our business, TreatmentSaver, is a website that allows people to book laser eye surgery and cosmetic surgery appointments online and save money when doing so. However as you can imagine there have been many twists and turns on the way to get us to the point where we are today. Whilst we are far from taking over the world, our website is now starting to see some good growth and we fully anticipate this to continue. Below is a list of my top 5 pieces of advice for building a web company:-
# 1. Pivot but easy on the band wagons
Our website initially launched as a platform to allow people to save money by travelling overseas for medical treatment. However we very quickly lost momentum when the value of the pound plunged meaning the savings made through our website were negligible. This in itself highlighted our inexperience and naivety as we hadn’t even considered what would happen in such a scenario. . . DOH! This led us to pivot to become a comparison website for clinics in the UK. As a revenue model we then jumped on every bandwagon going from directory sites like Yelp to voucher sites like Groupon. The problem with jumping on band wagons is that you initially get excited only to realise that everyone else is climbing aboard the same bandwagon and things are getting a little too crowded!
# 2. Plan for the future but not too far
My business partner and I are very different. I tend to want to focus on the hear and now, whereas he is planning our first TV advert before we have even made our first sale! There are probably some virtues in both schools of thought but I think compromising somewhere in the middle is ideal. Just remember the future doesn’t pay the bills, it is what your doing in the here and now that does. This is especially the case if you have very little money at the start.
# 3. Keep things simple
When we initially started building our website we were like children in a candy shop when it came to adding features. We wanted every possible feature but in reality we could have launched with only half of these. The reality is in the early days you will have very few visitors to your site meaning most of the features will never be used or appreciated. You would be much better off starting with the most important features and then adding extra ones as your traffic builds and you can gauge what your users want.
# 4. Set yourself targets
This is an obvious piece of advice but I think it is especially important in a startup. In the early days you can become obsessed with the product as opposed to getting people to use it. The website wasn’t built for your personal enjoyment although sometimes it can feel like it has been! Set yourself targets for site visitors and sales etc. which will give you focus on how to make some actual money.
# 5. Don’t forget to sell
Just remember if no one buys your product then you business isn’t going to last for very long. Building a website is extremely exciting but don’t fall into the same trap as we did thinking people were going to come knocking on our door with bundles of cash asking us what’s for sale. We often found ourselves continuing to improve our website without ever having attempted to call clinics up to ask if they wanted to be on our site. As warm and cosy as development can be, remember you need to get out there and sell what your doing too!
Hope this article was useful and it would certainly be great to hear any other peoples stories in the comments section. Feel free to add some of your own pearls of wisdom as everyone sees things differently based on the experiences they are presented with.
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