The Challenge & Advantages of Being a Solo Founder

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Hey guys,

It’s day 19 and yesterday was something of a turbulent day for me.

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I operate in a silo.

There is no co-founder at Pearl Lemon.

I have one for Word Pigeon – but that’s a completely different animal that we shall treat separately.

Over the past few weeks, a couple of things have happened that have been of significance in my business life.

Right now, it’s actually this damn Coronavirus.

Right now my partner is messaging me telling me not to make my weekly visit to go and see my parents (amongst other things):

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And I’m telling my dad not to go in and work at the airport.

I also have boxing today with my coach Marquis, alongside my sister Kanti coming from Worthing tomorrow to London for an evening out and I’m seeing my homeopathic doctor today as well.

I’m not quite sure what will happen with any of it, it may be the case I don’t see anyone.

My partner is Italian and so what is happening with Italy and the entire country being in lockdown is pretty tragic.

And it seems in the UK enforced self-isolation will soon follow:

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But who knows what is true and who knows what isn’t:

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Anyway, this wasn’t how I intended to start this morning’s blog.

As you may remember from my blog a couple of days back about starting new ventures, I’m going to be building out Pearl Lemon Invest.

Right now – totally separately, a friend of mine Haran has been working with me (well his company has) on their R&D Tax claim.

What it means is that if I’ve been involved in any level of software development, I can claim back some of the cost of it as a tax break for research and development.

It’s a pretty slick process as there is no upfront cost for me, and his company simply processes the claim after a short interview with myself; turn this into a report which I approve and then in combination with my accountant, submit the report.

Consequently, they take a % in whatever the return is and sign their clients onto 5-year contracts.

It’s a pretty effective business model, and they’ve taken their company to £2.4 million in their first year which is pretty incredible – and they’re looking to sell the company within 2-3 years for probably 3-4x that.

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So hearing stories like this is pretty incredible.

I spoke about this with my good friend Nick Ellison

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(He’s also having Corona virus issues atm)

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We met for a night out, and he told me how a friend of his has also setup a similar type of business and has taken it to £1 million+ in their first year.

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And herein lies the opportunity and the problem:

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Having ideas like this is excellent because it leads to creativity and innovation. But at the same time, it’s very easy to fall off the ‘dotted road’ and get distracted by shiny object syndrome.

One of the discoveries through talking to Josh my agency growth coach: 

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About my business is that there are clear areas where I am operationally weak that the company could really stand to benefit from.

E.g I don’t have an ‘all-in-one CRM’ – which is what he recommends Basecamp for (to plug clients as well as our team into).

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The same can be said for my sales team – and looking at moving them all into Hubspot probably makes the most sense.

At the moment too many items are in too many places and to achieve scale I need to be organisationally better.

So, when you’re a solo founder these are the kind of problems that occur.

Your business becomes a reflection of yourself, and where you are weak, the business tends to be as well.

And this is a big challenge of working alone; you don’t have that dialogue and ability to bounce ideas off someone and to continually discuss future plans and where you think something should go.

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What then happens is that you can continually waste time and resources upon projects or directions and ideas that just don’t make operational sense for the company.

And I’ve done this time and time again with projects I’ve got involved in that in hindsight I likely should not have got involved in.

One More Rep is a good example of a business that scales very badly that I spent 4 months and £5,000 on.

Wish I didn’t do that.

What I need to be mindful of is that I don’t make the same mistakes here and repeat history.

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Working in a silo means you start to lose reference points and don’t understand quite what level of progress you’re making – you’re the victim of your own way of thinking.

And despite my attempts, I’ve likely not made the best choice in business partners over the last several years.

I need to thank my accountant about launching this R&D Tax company with him – because he made me see a big error I was about to make:

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I wanted to get him involved in this business idea because it emotionally and therefore ‘logically’ felt like it was the right thing to do.

However – he pointed out that I could do it all alone.

And as you can see from what I’ve written there.

‘Starting things alone is tough’

For the most part – even solo founders like myself tend to not start alone – you tend to start with a partner and then for whatever reason it doesn’t work out.

And then there is no one to prevent you from making big mistakes.

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The upside of all of this, of course, is speed.

Ideas can get executed and rolled up very quickly with no one else to have to answer to.

This means that building out brand ‘Pearl Lemon Invest’ from scratch is something that can happen at the pace at which I push to make it happen.

And in this instance that can mean extremely quickly.

Success – as someone said – loves speed.

And so this is the upside of having just yourself to answer to.

So this is where we wrap

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This morning has been terrible for writing – taken me forever to get this done – I got pulled into work and messaging and significantly also left my headphones at home – and I have heard the news blaring for 30+ minutes now.

It means I’m unable to type.

As you can tell – it’s taken me basically a full 30 minutes longer to produce this content.

But here’s today’s final learnings:

  • If you’re working alone – seek regular feedback upon your ideas
  • Get a business growth coach – it’s hugely making a difference to my progress
  • When figuring out if you need a partner – really discern if you do – or whether (like me) you just don’t want to journey alone 

It’s a wrap – until tomorrow!