Today, one of the selling points of any small business is its ability to scale – but in doing this successful, founding principles must be in place. Simon Porter is no stranger to this concept. With a proven entrepreneurial spirit built around an understanding of how to deliver unique sales solutions for clients, Porter has turned a number of businesses into desirable targets for acquisition.
Porter set up Iris Worldwide in Sydney and Melbourne in his early 30s and grew the insights and communications company from a staff of one to 50, with an annual turnover from $0 to $10 million.
It was here Porter says he learnt some valuable lessons which set him on his way to successfully running other businesses, the latest of which has just been acquired.
Now Managing Director for shopper marketing company This Is BD – which earlier this year was bought by global creative group Havas to enhance its consumer sales and marketing credentials – Porter says his latest business success is a reflection of his readiness to scale.
“There is no question that start-ups are the life blood of Australia. And it never ceases to amaze me how so many survive in what is a very competitive marketplace,” says Porter.
However, in a world where everything is instantaneous, what’s really important is not to rush the way you scale. The key is being agile enough to embrace growth yet not burden your bottom line with it in the process, Porter says.
“It feels like there’s urgency amongst most start-ups to scale immediately. But with one in 10 start-ups not even getting out of the starting blocks, it’s so important to remember that size and agility are their most powerful tools; something that even the largest of agencies are desperate to achieve.”
Porter believes that the first step to success is establishing some founding principles which the business or entrepreneur adhere to – ones that translate from a business of five or one of 50.
BE CLEAR ON YOUR GOALS:
Always have clear goals and recognised there is only so much you can do as an independent. At some point you may need to partner with a bigger entity with a broader range of capability to access – but this will only come if you’ve done your ground work and your business is attractive to them.
POSITIVITY BREEDS SUCCESS:
There is a positive to be found in every situation. No matter how many set-backs you face there is always a positive spin to be found. If you have a tendency to dwell on set-backs or get too introspective then a start-up probably isn’t for you.
CASH IS KING:
The first thing any budding entrepreneur should do is learn how to read a cash-flow statement.
SET YOUR GOALPOSTS AND START KICKING THE BALL AROUND:
Always be clear on your goals and make them meaningful, like focusing on delivery quality not growth targets.
LOVE THY ACCOUNTANT, AS YOU WOULD THYSELF!
The most useful advice I got was not to scrimp on legal or accounting advice. Getting the right advice on the way is much cheaper than on the way out if something goes wrong. And, along the way, your accountant will be your best friend, your biggest sound check, and your support for helping you to scale.
THE LIGHTS SHOULD BE THE ONLY THING HANGING OVER YOUR HEAD
Don’t take on too much overhead. Being flexible and nimble is the future for agencies. Don’t get weighed down by stressing your P&L. Instead, find like-minded partners and technology solutions to scale.
Being prepared to take calculated risks has been important to Porter’s success as well as surrounding himself with the right team.“Over my career I’ve always focused on creating ideas to help brands and retailers sell more because retail and shopper marketing are growth areas that we think can be done better.
“We were once a start-up, and we have invested in technology start-ups along the way – but with a clear vision that they had relevance to our business. To that end we’ve invested in tech start-ups that help brands understand and sell more to consumers.
Today, we’ve become that investment for Havas – and so the cycle continues,” Porter says. At the end of the day, whether it’s a business of 20 or 200, Porter believes success for the industry is going to be driven by the most flexible agencies and the most creative.
“Because I truly believe, despite technology advances, agility and great creative is the bottom line.”