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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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What I would do differently with my business if I could go back in time

Sorry to be a party-pooper (do people still say that?) but to be honest I wouldn't change a single thing about my own business journey. Purely because the outcome was better than I could have hoped. But, that's not to say that there aren't things I think I could have done better. Oh, there's lots of those!

Here are three key things that I would advise others to consider in their business journey...

Focus on profitability

My business was an Amazon marketing agency. We started in 2017 and were very much in the right place at the right time. We managed to grow organically to a size that meant when COVID hit, and Amazon sales went through the roof, we could take advantage and scale quickly. It was a bit like a very very very small version of the gold rush. Everyone suddenly wanted Amazon capability in their agency. We started getting acquisition approaches very early, when we were realistically not even valued at £3m. At this stage, because agencies were wanting to buy the Amazon capability that we could offer them, the focus wasn't on EBITDA but scale. And the best way to measure scale is revenue and number of people. Because we knew we wanted to sell in the coming years, we focused on this.

And as I mentioned in the first paragraph, we did it well and I wouldn't change the outcome. We were able to grow revenue by triple digit % in every one of our 4 years. We grew to a team of 80 people spread across 3 continents. And as a result we were attractive as an acquisition target.

But, because we had done all of that, to the detriment of EBITDA (still profitable but not focusing on it), our options were very limited had the acquisition broken down. It would have been a big change to the way we ran the business to suddenly optimise for profitability. So the business wouldn't have been a cash cow to keep running. And the acquisition approaches we did get (13 of 'em, so still not too bad!) were from companies that didn't care about EBITDA, but maybe had we been optimising that, we would have got even better offers.

Profitability over growth may have been less appealing to acquirers in the short term, but it would have allowed us to take our time a bit more at the end.

Hire project owners earlier

This was a game changer for us. In the early stages we had lots of processes breaking and evolving. Lots of crazy ideas we wanted to test and implement. And lots of clients to keep happy. And as a small management team of 3, these things were all on our heads. Sound familiar, early stage founders?

We had a great team of people executing the clients campaigns and managing the day to day relationships, but any needle moving new initiatives were on us to take on. This limited the scale of innovation by our own capacity.

Our eyes were opened around two years in when we made our first senior hire. Their salary requirement was challenging for us at the time, but we knew we could grow the revenue quickly to make it work. The impact of bringing them in was instant, in that we suddenly had 4 people that could take on the growth projects. Cue another mountain of projects.

And from that moment we focused on hiring experienced people that could join us and own projects. Not just to manage a group of clients or a team, but actually develop a new product offering or manage a process optimisation. It was really easy to justify the high salaries by linking them to either a revenue growth or a cost saving.

And once you get these smart people into a team together, they start creating their own crazy ideas which is what you need to stay ahead of the competition.

I had a lot of fun opening a Molzi office in Hong Kong, but if I had my time again I might have gone bigger on the markets that I knew would drive big growth.

Make bigger, but fewer bets

Achieving fast growth in a young business rarely happens by accident. Once you get to the £1-2m revenue mark, it's easy to plateau and you really need to work at growing. We did this by placing bets on new countries or new products.

At any one time we probably had 10% of our team working on these bets rather than our regular business. And some of the bets really worked and helped get us to where we needed to get to. But most of them failed. My view is that we made too many bets and didn't back them with enough investment.

For example, we opened offices in Hong Kong, Spain, Brazil and Singapore. But actually if we had used that full investment into making US work, then the likely impact on our revenue would have been significant.

If you're looking to grow and eventually sell your business you need to be placing bets, but consider going big on the best opportunities rather than spreading yourself too thin.


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