Regrets, they’ve had a few: what the Fast 100 would have done differently

Ben Hurley Reporter

Regrets, they’ve had a few: what the Fast 100 would have done differently

Published 16 October 2013 11:31, Updated 16 October 2013 12:28

Every entrepreneur has regrets. And, like failure on the course to success, regrets should be celebrated as wisdom is gained. So here are some gems from this year’s BRW list of Fast 100 companies, which will be announced in full at an event in Melbourne this evening. Common themes are that companies wish they had been more strategic from the start rather than bogged down in the minutiae of running the business, invested more of their scarce funds in marketing and hiring great staff, outsourced more functions to allow them to focus on their core skills, and taken more external money and advice. Easily said of course, but food for thought. This last theme of taking more money early is pertinent, because 60 per cent of the Fast 100 say they were founded with less than $50,000, most of it from savings. And three-quarters have not raised additional rounds of capital. Would they be bigger today if they had?

Fifo Capital Australia:

“I would have done a number of strategic partnerships and leveraged off their customer bases.”

MitchelLake Consulting:

“[I would have] raised more capital at start-up, hired more senior people earlier as opposed to people we needed to train and manage directly, developed a closer relationship with a good business banker, and become more educated around tax and compliance at an earlier stage.”

NSR Soccer Australia:

“I would have built the business like I was going to sell it. I’m on top of everything now but it would have been a lot easier to have prepared for the future.”

Open Colleges Australia:

“The one lesson we have learned in building a fast-growing online business is that you need the smartest people available to create and drive value. When you have the wrong people, you usually know this. Make the tough decisions and move the wrong people out quickly. When it comes to hiring the right people, over-recruit for the role and have the confidence that as the business scales, you will have the right skills and experience to manage the growth.”

Letterbox Deals:

“In hindsight, we have sometimes invested too much time (and therefore money) in products and services that either haven’t worked or have not been core to our business. We have learned from those experiences.”

Electro Seconds Factory Outlet:

“I would have trusted my staff more from day one rather than trying to do it all myself.”

S&C:

“I would have set up an employee share scheme on day one, and taken tax advice from day one.

The Web Showroom:

“When we were starting out we made a conscious decision to only employ people we liked and who we thought had a great attitude. If their skills weren’t initially up to scratch, we knew we could train them on the job. Then as we got bigger we thought we should become more ‘professional’ and hire people we might have been less comfortable with personally, but who had impressive resumes and experience. For us, and the way we run our business, this turned out to be a mistake. We know now we are much better at training and mentoring like-minded people than trying to live with or battle cultural/moral issues in the workplace.”

Flexischools:

“My strategic focus was too narrow five or six years ago. In hindsight we could have moved into the highly successful schools market much earlier. Am I under-investing in growth opportunities due to a failure to understand or see the potential return on that investment?”

Planet Innovation:

“If I knew we were going to be this successful I would have been less conservative in many areas of investment including marketing, R&D and renting bigger premises right from the start.”

Itcom:

“Get better advice, ask more questions of those people who have experienced what you are experiencing. Be prepared to pay for quality advisers rather than trying to cut too many corners. Get the best staff possible in your business even if you have to pay a bit more.”

Austunnel:

“I would have stopped contracting myself out to job sites earlier on to start focusing more on growing the business.”

Mars Recruitment:

“I would have not spent so much of my own time initially using my accounting skills to maintain the figures and reports, but systems in place etc, and employed someone sooner to do this.”

Crawford Property Group:

“The business growth and success has been fantastic, however if I had chosen to actively seek funding through the business growth rather than rely on my own funds to drive growth, I feel the business would be much larger at this time.”

Jetts Fitness:

“I would make the harder decisions faster. Sometimes they have to be made and people don’t like it, but as long as you have the right intentions for everyone it works out in the end.”

Mexia Consulting:

“I would definitely consider the merits of angel investment in future start-ups to accelerate and de-risk early growth.”

AtomicSearch:

“I would remove myself from the business for six months. If it can’t run itself, it is not going to make me wealthy or retired soon.”

Aged Foot Care Australia:

“I should have spent more time working on the business than working in the business. In hindsight, I would have . . . developed a clear vision and goals for the business to help keep us focused on where we are going.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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