Five Biggest Mistakes of 2014
In short, 2014 was the year where our revenue growth more or less flatlined, we invested more than ever into the business and 180Vita ceased to be the romantic startup story filled where the celebrations far outweighed the challenges.
In no particular order, this post will cover some of my biggest mistakes as a founder in 2014:
Someone once told me, that when you have a significant doubt about a member of staff you need to let them go right away. The more experience I have working together with all kinds of people, the more this statement rings true.
Error: When sales calls were not being followed up, we were making no attempt to retain our users and being negligent all over the shop, I waited too long for things to change. In hindsight it was clear that no change was ever really going to happen and I cost the business by kidding myself that it would.
Action Taken: Trial periods for new members of the team moving forward, and never to doubt my gut for such a long period of time.
Improve our products, the revenue will follow
I thought that if we invested in improving our products, revenue would naturally follow. I am not a big believer in the “If we build it, they will come” philosophy, but took my eye off the ball on what actually converts users, what actually makes our most valuable customers tick and our core KPIs which of course are necessary to keep any bootstrapped start up growing.
Action Taken: Personally focus more on revenue generation, website marketing and the areas that are essential to keep the company growing. This means weekly meetings and better organisation.
Jack of all trades, master of none
Unlike many other online businesses with one product, we have multiple sites, customer bases etc. This is not something I regret – It gives us multiple bites at the cherry and is common for online marketing businesses – We are involved in affiliate and traditional marketing in a number of different areas, so multiple sites / brands are essential. In fact, having these multiple brands (in theory) forces us to focus on scalability, which should serve us well in the long run.
However, in 2014 I failed to recognise that our current products were not in a good enough state where we could attempt to move onto other brands. This led to us moving onto new projects, bugs appearing on old projects and everyone running around like headless chickens for months on end.
Action Taken: Focus on our core projects and team up with suitable partners for sites such as Highroller.com and our sports offerrings.
Red Herrings & Learning to Say No
Our goal is simple – To be an online marketing company who operate their own brands, each with a clear view of adding value value for the user, thus our partners.
It’s a unique model, very few others are trying to build such a thing and requires all our attention. In 2014, we were distracted with all the usual stuff; opportunities to invest in other businesses, red herring projects with other partners and always lots of talk of ideas that we could not achieve. The problem is, I love ideas – Not because I value ideas alone, I definitely do not, it’s all about commitment to the goal – but, because I believe we can more or less achieve anything we set our mind to.
Action Taken: No new brands other than improving our core brands (those we already own) in 2015.
Not Focusing on What Worked
2014 was not just a year of struggle. There were diamonds in the dirt. For example, we had great success by automating some parts of our business. In fact, in many areas automation can do the job far better than a person can – For a business like ours with a number of websites and relatively small team we need automated processes to help us stay on the right path.
When it was clear we had success in these areas, I ignored it or at best stuck it on the later list. “Oh we will get to that in a month” – I should have made it priority one. It is only a few times a year that you get something that you can point to and say “That really made an instant impact” – Whether it’s a new type of email newsletter, a Facebook post or some marketing channel you never touched before. When you find it, you need to grab it with both hands.
Action Taken: Do not pursue new ideas or new features until we have perfected the initiatives that are already showing great results.