If you follow the rules of business, you are more likely to achieve success. At least that’s the theory, but as some entrepreneurs have discovered, when the pressure is on and you need to make things happen, the business rules can be broken.
Rule 1 - Write a business plan
It is a golden rule of business, creating a plan that sets out the business goals and how they will be achieved. But in the race to be first market, Dave and Anna France decided to dispense with it. The couple had spotted a growing demand for dog-walking services, and gap in their local market. In 2011 they quit their full time jobs and launched Best Paw Forward. "New dog walking businesses were appearing, but none in our area," says Dave. "We had to move quickly to get in there first, so without making a business plan of any sort, we started marketing our services, initially leafleting, and had customers coming on board very quickly. Had we waited to draw up a business plan, we might have missed out."
Six years on, with over 100 canine clients on their books, they still have no formal business plan. Anna says: "We are sticking with what we know and do best. Instead of diversifying or taking on staff, we’re focused on delivering our high quality personal service for our customers and their dogs."
Rule 2 - Allocate a sensible marketing budget
When he was setting up his business HayMax an organic allergen barrier balm for hay fever sufferers, Max Wiseberg broke the business rule on marketing spend. Convention suggests a marketing budget of between eight and10 per cent of turnover. Wiseberg’s was closer to 30 per cent and his rule breaking rationale was simple.
He says: "If people with hayfever don’t know about this product they won’t know to buy it. I knew it was a good product, but I also knew that people wouldn’t buy it from the shelves of Boots unless I told them about it. I work on the basis that I know I can get every pound spent on advertising back in my sales revenue."
With company turnover up by more than over 10 per cent in 2016 and profit significantly up, too, it’s a broken rule that has paid dividends.
Rule 3 - Follow protocol when pitching to buyers
Your product is ready for market; all you need now is to get it in front of the right buyers. Accepted protocol is to approach by email and then follow up with a phone call, and then wait in vain for an invitation to pitch. The frustration of being unable to get buyers’ attention led entrepreneur Laurence Kemball-Cook, founder of Pavegen, a paving system that converts energy from people's footsteps into electrical power, to do something radical. To land his first sale he simply installed it on the construction site of a potential customer.
He says: "I installed a Pavegen tile on a building site, without permission, took some photos, posted them online, and then used social media to ‘persuade’ the developer to acquire a Pavegen system."
The installation broke the rules of business, and technically, the law, yet Kemball-Cook’s creative pitch impressed the developer so much that he gave him his first sale. It also marked the start of a successful journey for Pavegen, which has now completed over 150 installations worldwide.
Rule 4 - Be yourself in business
In business, knowing who you are dealing with is key to building good relationships. Yet Gush Mundae, founder of international branding design agency Bulletproof put his risked business reputation at risk by pretending to be someone he wasn’t simply to get in front of the key contacts he knew could make things happen for his business.
He says: "I blagged my way into a Coca-Cola agency day without an invite by saying I was the creative head of another agency based in their Indian and West Coast offices. I got access to untold information, which won us a huge amount of work, and I was taken to dinner with the client by the agency. On another occasion, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, (E3) event, I said I was part of Eidos's marketing team and managed to get in front of the VP Marketing for EA Sports. As a result we won the FIFA work, their biggest franchise, for four years."
Mundae launched the business 19 years ago with less than £2,000. Today Bulletproof employs 93 people in the UK and 21 in its US office.
Rule 5 - Don’t try to run before you can walk
Anthony Macri launched his consulting firm Anthony Neal Macri in 2016 while travelling the world. Along the way he met each of the 15 people he now calls his employees in a different country.
"Everyone said I could never manage to create a firm, agency, call it whatever, while traveling and also while allowing all my employees to live in different countries," says Macri. "But I did it; we did it."
A year on, the firm works with over 20 start-ups across the globe, managing over 18 million followers combined, and has consulting contracts with some of the largest start-ups in the world. He adds: "My agency is the future of digital work. It's decentralised, and my employees and I are free to move and work from wherever we want. We live an inspired life, for inspired work."