Simply Business met with several British entrepreneurs at the Business Startup Show in London's ExCeL centre. We've asked business experts about their startup tips to guide new entrepreneurs through the process of starting or growing their business. In this interview, MailRight CEO Richard Quick encourages startup business owners to embrace difficult decisions, seek the advice of trusted mentors, and build long-term relationships with customers.
Simply Business: Hi there, could you just start off by introducing yourself and telling us more about your company?
Richard Quick: My name is Richard Quick, and I run a company called MailRight. We do email marketing. So, it’s basically helping businesses keep in touch with potential customers and existing customers through emails.
Simply Business: You run this business and you set it up yourself. Could you perhaps give us more information about your experiences starting this business?
Richard Quick: With this business, and my experience with businesses in general, it was something that evolved rather than something that was an intentional decision. My first business was set up because I was working as a web designer, and people were coming to me and asking me if I could make them a website on the side. I said yes, because people were paying me money to do it, and I set up my business. Again, with this business, we didn’t actually start out specializing in email. We were just a general web design company, starting out in 2009. But, it [email marketing] was something we seemed to be good at… lots of people came to us, and it just grew to the extent where we were no longer really a web design company. We were specializing in email. So, we changed our name to MailRight, and the rest is history.
Simply Business: Are there any pieces of advice or top tips that you’ve picked up along the way that you would pass onto other businesses thinking about doing the same thing?
Richard Quick: I think the thing I would say is surround yourself with people who you trust and who will give you good advice. Listen to their advice. Don’t be afraid of making difficult decisions. Sometimes business is really, really great fun; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there are things you don’t want to have to do… whether it’s letting a member of your staff go, whether it’s letting a customer go, whether it’s turning down a really big job that would be worth a lot of money but you think you’re not quite ready for. It’s about not being afraid to make those difficult decisions, and having a support network around you… whether it’s mentors or just other people in business that you can bounce ideas off.
Simply Business: You mention mentors. There must be people that you turned to for advice over the years of running your business. How have you found that advice network?
Richard Quick: Most of the people start off as casual acquaintances at a breakfast meeting or something like that. You see them once or twice, and then you arrange to have lunch, and they turn into good friends and people you can confide in. Over the years, I’ve also used paid mentoring services. At the moment, I work with Rachel Eleanor at Dragon’s Den. Basically, she’s got a mentoring service that I’m subscribed to, so once a week I get to chat with her and bounce ideas off of her, and listen to what other businesses are doing as well. A lot of it is about focusing your thoughts, bouncing off other people, seeing the expressions on their faces—seeing if they go “wow that’s a brilliant idea” or “I don’t quite get it.” That can be really useful.
Simply Business: If there was a final piece of advice you would want people to take away from something like today, where people are thinking about starting a business, or just on the cusp of doing it, what might that be?
Richard Quick: Sign up to a really good email marketing service. No, what I would say is to think about business as farming, not hunting. It’s not about quick bucks, it’s about growing it over a period of time. If you piss people off, if you annoy people, if you burn bridges… yes, you might make a few pounds in the short-term. But, if you foster relationships and you build those up, then those will come back to benefit you over time. To give you a specific example, I got a phone call from someone in January who I met at a networking meeting six years ago. We kept in touch through email and she gave me a call out of the blue. She said, “Rich, you probably don’t even remember me, but I met you and you seemed like a really good guy. I knew that, when we had the budget for doing a website, you would be the right person to speak to. We’ve got a budget now, what can we do?” It took six years to get that sale, but it happened. I could have just dismissed her out-of-hand day one, and I wouldn’t have known any better, but long-term that would have cost me. Think about it as a long-term thing, don’t think about it as a short-term thing, and also try to grow organically rather than pushing it too fast. What you want are happy customers, because happy customers will go out and sell for you. If you’ve helped somebody grow their business, if you’ve helped somebody get their kids asleep at night, they’ll tell people about it; you don’t need to. If you annoy them—just ask the telephone or rail companies—they will tell everybody about it. So, think about it for the long-term.