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Ask James Caan – Business Advice

Written by Kimberley Startup | August 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dear Member,

The column has been running for nearly six months now. In a short amount of time we’ve covered a range of subjects, from how to use social networking to staff motivation techniques.

This week I’d like to turn your attention to one of the column’s success stories. If you may recall, in May I advised Mat Wilkinson on the best way to set up and grow a business.

Mat, managing director of RRE (, a resource solutions provider to the IT and telecoms sectors, asked what steps he should take to get his business idea off the ground.

Fast forward to today, and his business has been trading for six months and has posted profits month on month. I’d like to share what steps he followed to help any budding business men and women we have within the group.

From the word go, Mat’s situation has shown him to be an entrepreneurial character. He founded his company in a recession, his business is now going from strength to strength, and his success shows it’s not always the idea that makes a company, it’s hard work and determination.

I told him that if you’re thinking of setting up a new business, the first thing you need to do is to research your potential market. To really stand out, you need to know your competitors, what they offer and how you plan to be different.

The idea behind Mat’s company came from researching what clients actually wanted when it came to their engineering requirements. He found that the recession had forced many companies to lay off their engineers, but still needed to meet KPIs. It was this premise that enabled him to identify a unique proposition for his business: an engineering workforce that companies could hire on a contract basis – at a sensible price.

The next stage was to formulate his business plan. Quite rightly, he took his time to come up with a plan, and created it with caution. He was realistic, provided specific figures, and learned a few things along the way, such as the practicalities of not taking a salary for the first six months.

To get the business up-and-running, the next decision was to secure funding. Business owners have a number of options available, such as private investment, government grants or bank loans, but in Mat’s case he was fortunate enough to secure the money from a private source. This meant investors were able to fund the costs for the first 90 days, and there was no factoring involved.

What struck me the most about Mat’s situation was his determination. Setting up a business can be incredibly satisfying, but it’s also extremely difficult. And Mat demonstrated this drive most when it came to promoting the business.

He started to get RRE’s name out there by getting on the phone and calling everyone he’d come across in his five years as a consultant. This activity was driven by his mantra of ‘don’t work hard, work smart’.

Interestingly, he has achieved success through Twitter. He knew he had to make the tools he already had available work for him and explored the capabilities of social media. The results were apparent overnight – by following IT and telecoms companies he had instant results and to this day one of his largest clients still works with RRE after its initial contact on Twitter.

Mat, I’m pleased to hear business is still going well. As someone who ensures they ‘observe the masses and do the opposite, ‘I identify with your situation. To establish a business during a recession may have seemed a gamble at the time, but it’s paid off.

Now, to ensure your business goes from strength to strength, it’s important to be prepared for things to not always work out as planned. When things become unpredictable, it is necessary to be prepared to take risks. Ensure to maintain that level of proactivity, and I’m certain your company will continue to flourish.

Best of luck,

James Caan

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