Owner and Managing Director of DCSL Software, Nick Thompson, worked at DCSL for 17 years before purchasing the company in 2013. In the four years since, he has employed 70 people and quadrupled turnover to over £4M. Whilst he continues to have a very active and hands on role here at the firm, Nick is also an award-winning entrepreneur and can regularly be found investing in innovative ventures and startups.

Immersed within the latest issues and developments within the business sector, Nick shares some of his top business tips that will help you catapult your startup to success.

1. Know your Market

Overestimating the market is one of the most common stumbling blocks start-ups face. Sadly just because you think you have a great product doesn’t mean everyone else will. Never underestimate the importance of in-depth market research and testing as without these measurements there’s no way of telling just how positive, or profitable, the public reaction will be.

When we’re creating software we always tell our clients to start by creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and then bring it to market with a friendly group of beta testers. Doing this allows them to share all of the good bits, bad bits, and even if they think it’s a waste of time. Start-ups should follow the same tactic. Rather than developing a fully-fledged product or service, they should develop gradually and test regularly to ensure they stay on the right track for the market. By doing this they are more likely to create something that has all the features and offerings needed for success.

2. Embrace Competition

Many startups fear competition, but sometimes it can work to your advantage! If there are other startups working on the same product or service, then it just further indicates the strong market demand for it and should inspire confidence. We all make mistakes along the way, however if a competitor makes a mistake before you, then it gives you the advantage of learning from their error and helps you to avoid doing the same thing. That said, you should keep the main focus on your own business. Ultimately, if you have a great product or service, and a team of people that are devoted to making it work, you should concentrate on that and not get too distracted by everyone else.

3. Monitor Finances

Entrepreneurs and start-ups can often struggle when it comes to accurately predicting costs and keeping hold of their finances. Whilst some fall victim to overestimating the market, others may find themselves relying too much on investment that never materialises. Should the product get to market, the costs of marketing and advertising are easy to underestimate, yet these two elements can make or break a product launch.

To avoid making these mistakes you should always add a surplus to estimated costs, and have a backup plan for any investments that may not come to fruition. Taking too long to mobilise can also affect revenue, so aim to get your product to market as swiftly as possible. Consider keeping track of your finances and spending using cloud based accounting software such as Quickbooks.

4. Keep Data Secure

While it is tempting to try to rush a new app to market without looking at the full picture, overlooking the security requirements could result in business failure before the great idea has even got off the ground. In an era of escalating cyber security threats and punitive data protection regulations, a failure to prioritise security is compromising customer data, leaving the business at risk of both fines and reputational damage.

For the vast majority of start-up organisations security remains an incredibly low priority – if it is even considered. As a result, many organisations are simply assuming that an app developer will have the skills to add on the required security solution. Robust app development requires a team with diverse skills ranging from business analyst to technical architect; front end developers, security experts, and, critically testers.  With the recommended ratio of one tester to every two developers, a successful team will require a minimum of five people. And that is where a bespoke software development company that has spent years building up the right skills can ensure every aspect of the app development model – especially security – is addressed.

5. Empower your Team

Your team are the backbone of your company and can prove key to getting a startup project off the ground. Make sure they stay engaged with your business objectives and the brand ethos by introducing initiatives such as weekly meetings, accreditations and skills training, a great social environment (why not consider offering free drinks, or installing a pool table?), pensions (ahead of the legal requirement), flexible working, regular touch points with the MD, email updates on the business, growth and initiatives.

To really make the most of your team and enable your resources to be used most efficiently consider installing planning tools. These can be particularly useful for startup companies as often there are lots of side projects all in progress at the same time. Consider using apps such as Bit Planner, which has a physical scheduling tool that uses Lego bricks in order to enable teams in the office to collaboratively plan rotas, projects and development schedules.Once agreed and the bricks have been moved to the right location, as soon as the app is hovered in front of the board, Bit Planner automatically updates everyone’s digital calendars. Using a resource like this will keep everyone on the same page and never let you lose sight of project progress.