How to ensure your start-up’s success (even during a pandemic)

The concept of ausbiz was born around the middle of 2019, I’d been made redundant but had plenty of options and was in no mad rush to jump into a new job. As it turns out, I’m not very good at taking “time out” and it went from being an idea to a “let’s do this” in a matter of weeks.

Suddenly, I was pitching to any potential investor we could find and within a few months, we had committed to building not one, but two TV studios in Sydney’s Barangaroo. By early 2020, we’d signed up a full team of 14 people, and announced we’d be launching a live business and finance streaming service in March. What could possibly go wrong?

When COVID hit, the tail end of our capital raise vapourised, as did a big whack of advertising revenue we had locked in. Suddenly paying the bills for those studios, not to mention keeping our newly employed team in a job, seemed like an insurmountable task.

Despite all of this, we managed to survive. Here are five things I have learnt that were key to my start-up’s survival.

  1. Cashflow is King (and Queen, and Jack etc.)
    To be honest, I had already been quite conservative with our cashflow forecasts, like most business owners I believe, I just hadn’t factored in a pandemic. While it’s impossible to plan for such an event, if I was doing this again I’d factor in at least three months of zero revenue as a contingency.
  2. Hustle is not a dirty word
    It only took 10 days for our financial position to go from rosy to, well, let’s call it challenged, and there’s nothing like being in that position to focus one’s mind. While most businesses and many individuals were in the same boat, some weren’t, and we had to find them. We revisited cold leads, reworked stale pitches and offered some deals which two weeks prior we would never have considered. It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes you have to swallow your pride and do whatever it takes.
  3. You can’t do it all. Don’t even try
    I’m constantly asked how I juggle a new business with family commitments and the truth is, I don’t. I haven’t packed a school lunch all year and I’m lucky to make it home for dinner once a week. My husband does it all because, at this juncture, I can’t. It’s taken me a very long time but this year I’ve finally let it go and have learned to stop beating myself up about it.
  4. It’s true what they say about investors backing people, not businesses
    I started “selling” our business to investors and customers with the most detailed, fully-costed proposal you’re likely to come across. And I didn’t really get anywhere. My lightbulb moment came when I took a step back and realised I was so caught up in the detail I’d forgotten to explain the story. The proposal got slashed, I dropped my ‘corporate’ approach and showed people how passionate I was about the concept. People buy people!
  5. Podcasts
    One silver lining of the pandemic was a complete shutdown of my social life, meaning I gained a lot more spare time, which I mostly spent walking the dog. During this time, I discovered the real value of podcasts and hoovered up anything and everything to do with start-ups. I got lots of fantastic tips and ideas from other founders and found a tribe experiencing the exact same challenges as me… it always helps to know you’re not alone!