17 February 2015
Winning Advice for Small Business Owners
Four invaluable tips from founders who’ve done it. By Troy Douglas and Drew Bilbe, founders of Nexba.
When we first decided to start Nexba, a natural beverage company, we were in our early 20’s. We were working or studying full time- Drew Bilbe as a Civil Engineer in Penrith, and Troy Douglas as a Law and Communications student at UTS- and were both newcomers to the beverage industry.
What set our experience apart as entrepreneurs is that early on, we learnt the importance of seeking good advice. We surrounded ourselves with mentors and people who had reached the top of their career and could provide valuable insight in areas we were new to.
Here is some of the best advice we received that shaped the future of Nexba, now the fastest growing beverage brand in the petrol station and convenience market.
Lesson One: Only start a business if your ‘why’ is extraordinary
A key difference between start-ups that thrive and those that falter is a genuine understanding of ‘why’ they exist and the purpose they will play in the market.
We were inspired by Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, which explores what sets iconic brands like Apple, apart from a standard technology company.
Both sell computers, so what makes one extraordinary? The answer is understanding what drives your business, and why it exists.
For Nexba, defining our ‘why’ has become integral to our success. We started Nexba to help people drink better in a healthier and more fun way.
We exist to help Australians lead a natural lifestyle without compromising on taste or quality. Once we defined this purpose, we were able to better understand our audience and our market opportunity. It’s a lesson that kick-started our business plan, and one that we’d recommend to every entrepreneur in the start-up phase.
Lesson Two: Pressure test your idea
Early on a mentor shared with us the Harvard [www.blueoceanstrategy.com.au|Blue Ocean Strategy]. Essentially, this is a model that helps business owners identify what makes their idea stand out from ones that already exists.
It recognises a ‘blue ocean’ as being free of competition, so you have a greater chance of success. As a small business owner, your goal is to differentiate your company so that it ideally sits in a ‘blue ocean.’
We used their Strategy Canvas tool to test our business idea. It allowed us to understand what Nexba offers the market by looking at the competitive factors that other brands or services compete on. This system was key to helping us position Nexba for maximum growth.
Lesson Three: Believe in yourself and back your partner
One of the greatest pieces of advice we received when Nexba was in its early stages was from a mentor, who said, “if you have a good idea, then the only way your business will fail is from within.”
In a business partnership, you need to work hard on the relationship to align.
As your business develops, it’s inevitable that you’ll be challenged and meet opposition, but if you have a strong relationship with your business partner and believe in yourself then you’ll have a solid foundation for growth.
Lesson Four: Don’t leave finance ‘til the end
As a small business owner it is often easy to leave the basics of accounting and commercial modeling to the end because it is not as fun or sexy compared to the other aspects of starting a business.
One of the most valuable lessons we learnt though is that managing your finance and being commercial needs to be a priority. Without it, you could be on a fast track to financial trouble.
There is good news though: if you don’t enjoy that area of the business, you don’t need to be the person to manage it. Most entrepreneurs are creatively inclined, so number crunching can be mind numbing. If that’s the case for you, don’t waste your time and effort when it could be better directed within the business.
It’s okay to outsource. For Nexba, switching to XERO Accounting was the greatest time saver and useful tool in understanding the financial health of our business. It’s allowed us to free up time to focus on what we’re good at- growing Nexba and leading our business into its next phase.