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The blog for ambitious founders.

My blog covers the MANY highs and lows of starting, scaling and selling my business for 7-figures, in just 4 years. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur then add your email below to get a new episode delivered every Wednesday.

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The 5 best investments I made at Molzi.

The Molzi journey was start up to acquisition in almost exactly 4 years. We chose to grow quickly in order to capture the opportunity we had as the leader in a new hot category. And to chase growth requires investment in growth driving activities.


But looking back there were a handful of core investments that got us over the line. And I think they're all things that any start up can focus on, whatever the budget.



Our first senior hire

Surely a contradiction to the last sentence above. Early stage start ups can't afford senior hires I hear you cry. Technically correct, but we looked at senior hires in a slightly different way. We chose to ignore the annual salary (head in sand) and instead focus on the monthly cost to the business.


As long as all senior hires brought with them some kind of route to revenue, whether it's a new service offering or a strong client network, then the investment should be measured in months not years. A £100k hire actually only costs £25k for 3 months (I know, slightly more with PAYE etc) at which point they should be expected to be covering their cost with new client wins. A £25k investment is much easier to swallow than a £100k one. But for some reason salaries are always quoted as an annual figure, even though most peoples bills are monthly. Odd.


Anyway, the scalability that these senior hires will bring to your business, as well as the revenue opportunity, is game changing.


Of course, you can find bad senior hires too. So you need to be ready to have a difficult conversation after that 3 month window, or you'll have a £100k problem on your hands in no time.


A really big office

Again, sounds like I'm missing the mark here with advice for all budgets. But there is method to my madness.


In our first 2 years of business we signed leases on 3 office buildings. I built a lot of flat packed furniture and I spent a lot of time searching for the fourth office building. We were growing fast, and finding office space that would fit the ever growing team took a lot of my time. 100% wasted time.


So just after the first lockdown I took advantage of cheap rents and leased a massive office. Waaaaaaay too big for what we needed at the time. Big enough for 100 people, when we only had 40 in the UK. but it meant that I never had to even consider office space again when planning for growth.


So this might not be office space for you, it might be accounting software, or a fundraising round, or a marketing plan. If you're planning to grow, then make sure your infrastructure doesn't hold you back. Plan big and then grow into it.


Advice

I'm a bit of a control freak. Not proud of it, but I like to be in control of my own destiny and decisions. This was enough to get Molzi to a point where it was a 'proper company', but the next stage of growth needed knowledge and experience that I just didn't have.


We brought advice into the business in the form of investors. We didn't really need the money they invested, but we really needed their guidance. There's no way we'd have had the confidence to grow so quickly without their backing.


And advice doesn't need to be in the form of investment. There are many former exited business owners that would love the opportunity to work with young ambitious entrepreneurs (cough cough, like this one). It may look much cheaper to get free advice from an investor than pay for it, but it's much easier to part ways with a hired advisor. And if you end up exiting for millions, it's a lot cheaper than the equity you gave away too!


*please note, other great advisors are available too.



Travel

In Molzi's first year, the largest expense after payroll was travel. Where we could have spoken on the phone or video call, we opted to drive to see people. Even after the lockdowns where virtual meetings were the norm, we pushed for face to face time with employees, clients or partners.


It's so difficult to build relationships remotely. There are many other benefits to remote working. But relationship building can't compete with 'in real life'. But it can be expensive, especially if your business is operating across different countries. But for my own business, investing in this travel helped gain us patience if things went wrong, and unlocked opportunities that may not have revealed themselves on a Zoom call.


Linkedin (#NotAnAd)

As I'm sure you're aware, there is a monetary cost to using Linkedin fully. Sales Navigator costs around £70/month. And of course we invested in this. But the main investment here was time. From day one of Molzi, we shared the journey on Linkedin. We connected to likeminded people, with the hope that one day we could do business, but without expectation. We tried to avoid cold pitching (but sometime it's just too damn tempting) and instead played the long game of sharing advice, news and opinions.


Even by the time we sold the business, I would guess that 70% of our revenue was driven from our Linkedin network. Very rarely was it people that liked a post or commented. Often it would be people that we'd connected to years before and had been waiting for a reason to need us.


It can be really sole destroying when you keep posting and only see a few likes or comments. But focus on the impressions. Often in the thousands or tens of thousands. Imagine that many people in a room, it would look like A LOT of people. That's your audience, and if you're consistent they will build an awareness of you and your business whether they realise it or not.




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