One of the reasons for starting FTE was to learn as much as we could about various aspects of the business world that were outside of our comfort zone. We are predominantly product people and creating the timepiece has been the fun bit, the challenging aspect has been raising awareness and creating a brand and a business from scratch.
Along our journey, we have come across various resources that have become a core part of how we operate and how we manage the company. They allow for us to collaborate, to delegate, to share, to brainstorm and in one case even relax. For any wannabe entrepreneurs, the below list should become the foundation for your new project, having read through the list a number of times, the overriding and common theme amongst our selection is "control". This was not the intention when creating the list but after experimenting with various apps and ways of working, the ones that have become our standard are all ones that give us full control on our direction, to style, to efficiency, to clarity of thought...even to accounting and monitoring our numbers.
1 - Headspace
We felt that Headspace needed to be at the top as its now become an app that we use twice a day, and can really feel the difference if we do not use it.
When watching the recent Billions show, Axel mentions in passing that "the winner is the person that can store the most amount of information in their head at one time", and frequently in the show it cuts to the two leads meditating. When starting a business the amount of things you have to deal with will far outweigh even your most exaggerated prediction, especially if you're managing your new company on the side whilst having a fulltime job, or if you're looking after a new family. Reading back to our business plan, and notes from our first ever meetings in 2014, comparing them to where we are now, and the adventure we have been on, the unpredictability and managing that from a personal and also professional standpoint is something that Headspace can really help with. Whatever you plan and predict...probably only 25% of it will actually happen. Natural events, luck, bad luck, good fortune, arguments, fallings out, new team members, the vast majority of what you thought will happen probably wont, but the journey you are on needs an initial path just to get the ball rolling.
With Headspace it gave us the clarity of thought and relaxed state of mind that we were in desperate need of. Rather than dozens of tasks flying through our heads, we were able to step back, prioritise, and calm down and then focus. It was also very useful for sleeping, as lying in bed and allowing your mind race through tomorrows tasks is something that all entrepreneurs will struggle from.
2 - Tim Ferriss
The "4 Hour Work Week" is an excellent read, and his podcasts are always a treat. When we first discovered them I only listened to the ones with guests that we recognised, and then dipped back in to run through the ones I had missed out - more often than not, the most interesting ones and ones that have benefited us the most, have been guests I had been unaware of before.
3 - Google Apps
The FTE team feel fortunate that we are of an age and experience level that coincides with the birth and expanding opportunity that online commerce provides. The days of spending 50 years going from Market Stall > Shop > Chain of Shops > Shop on every high street - to some extent are still there, but brands are now able to launch and reach a massive audience straight away thanks to the likes of facebook, instagram and pinterest.
We do think the days of two friends starting something in a garage have now gone, as organic growth is next to impossible unless you have a cheap and novel product as the social giants now charge for everything. Facebook has become a spiraling mess as its trying to do too many things at one time (anyone with a personal and business account will have a similar experience of the mess the interface is increasingly becoming, and the number of different apps you need to manage everything) and it has become very cheeky that you now have to pay to advertise to your own fans.
Google Apps have become an everyday part of our working method. Being able to collaborate, managing our branded email accounts, sharing images, working with suppliers and stockists, the old days of excel and emailing files back and forth feel so outdated now.
4 - Shopify
This website has been a game changer for us. We had experimented with a few different platforms:
- Magento = Too Expensive and too complex for our current needs. We spent a lot of money on AWS hosting, before we had an audience that matched the ability of the platform. It also required a developer for any changes.
- Squarespace = A nice balance between functionality and design but ultimately not fit for purpose. Great for design portfolios, but does not give you the control and data needed to start your own business.
A feature within Shopify that we only discovered whilst using it, is the ability to work on theme and design updates before publishing them. This is an amazing feature, and allows you to work in the background on possible tweaks and customisations before unveiling them to the public. Squarespace only allows for live updates, meaning that any changes (or errors you cause) are immediately seen by the viewer.
5 - Xero
In a similar manner to Google Apps, its become an intrinsic part of the teams daily working method.
By being able to gather all financial information as we go (rather than last minute wade through a sainsburys carrier bag of old receipts when HMRC send a deadline - which we have seen many other small businesses do) we can keep on top of things and manage our budgets and finance accordingly as we go. The more you use it, the more it starts to recognise transactions and attributes the relevant details automatically. To ocmplete your tax return, your accountant runs a report that generates all the info you need, and youre good to go. We couldnt live without it, and its become the foundation of what we do.