Growing up in Western Sydney, my family lived on little more than the bare necessities and I longed for toys and experiences that were just out of reach. By the time I was 14 and able to work, I was juggling two retail jobs and unwittingly entered the world of entrepreneurship in pursuit of success by starting a small business.
I had a thing for electronics, having played with electronic kits that were purchased secondhand from the markets. I figured out circuitry and using my older sister’s car as a guinea pig, I managed to figure out how to install a head-unit and a set of speakers. I began telling people that I could install car stereos and word quickly got around. When people began asking for quotes, I requested they get a quote from a professional car stereo retail chain and promised to charge 50 per cent less.
When I look back I realise I was always a marketer, even then, using word of mouth to build a successful business. This venture ultimately enabled me to fund everything in my life from age 14 to 20, but also learn some strategies that are critical to any small business that is starting out.
1. Find a gap in the market
I learned the importance of embracing a market opportunity when it’s there and thriving. At the time, standard car stereos that came from the vehicle manufacturers were average. As such, there was a need and strong market opportunity to service this market with upgrades. This to some degree has declined as the technology and the integration of systems in vehicles has improved tremendously.
2. Do a great job and it will sell itself
Word of mouth was the single biggest driver of business for me at 14. I didn’t advertise, I just did a great job. In a world pre-social media, people saw me working, they heard the sound systems and they spoke with their friends. This ethos (of working hard and doing a great job for customers) has carried into each of the businesses I run today. My agency has grown exponentially through word of mouth, purely on referrals.
3. Know your audience
I didn’t realise it at the time, but I managed to hone in on a very select audience. Primarily these were people with a nice car that they were doing up, who wanted an excellent sound system. I’ve also learnt to focus on exactly WHO I am best at servicing.
4. Establish your position among competitors
I understood my strengths and my weaknesses. I knew I didn’t have overheads and I ensured my competitive advantage reflected that in my offering. I saw what the competition did, and I bettered it both in quality, service and price.
I’ve carried these lessons from first starting a small business through to the several subsequent successful businesses I have founded.
Kevin Spiteri, Founder, Menace Group and author of “I Just Want It To Work: A Guide to Understanding Digital Marketing and Social Media for Frustrated Business Owners, Managers and Marketers”