Since he was 19, Shane Bradley has started around 10 businesses in 15 years, with varying degrees of success. From the collapse of his first company, to the roaring popularity of GrabOne, he’s seen it all.
While currently occupied with ShopHQ (pet.co.nz, baby.co.nz, play.co.nz) and New Zealand's free and private website Neighbourly, Shane has learnt many things over his entrepreneurial career that any up and comer could take to heart.
Train with the more experienced
In our family it wasn’t so much about finding a job, it was always about working for yourself and creating a business.
Both my parents have had their own businesses as long as I can remember, and I started helping in the holidays when I was really young, helping mum at her Childcare centre and then doing cashflow etc on spreadsheets as I was the only one who could use a computer!
Learn from mistakes
I had a business in Rotorua, where as with most small communities most people paid their bills on time. I then moved to Auckland and grew the business pretty fast and aggressively. Unfortunately I ended up doing work for companies that ended up going broke and over a six month period in 2001 I lost about $700,000 on bad debts. This took the business to the wall.
I learned some good things though: I learned that I wasn’t afraid of hard work!! I learned that I should get into a business where I enjoy the actual business as well, rather than start a business purely to make money, and also that profit isn’t profit until the invoices have been paid and the money is in your bank account.
Be ahead of the digital curve
I had always enjoyed computers and even in my first business way back in 1997 I used email for ordering stock when at the time fax was the norm. Before the business went into liquidation I had also just finished setting up a way for my customers to order windows online – that was a bit ahead of the time I reckon!
I suppose back then it was seen as being a bit different, but these days digital is such a key component of any business. It is simple things, like getting the right domain name for your business, a good looking and functional website.
As a country I always think we could be doing more in digital. I still find it impossible to believe that some businesses still don’t have a website. These days you can log onto a bunch of services and have a great looking website that sells stuff within an hour – all for less than $100 a month.
Add that to the simple and free ability to set up a Facebook or Google web page which allows you to interact with your customers and there is really no excuse for not having a digital presence.
The hardest thing these days is that when you start a website, you need to have it working on so many devices such as desktop, tablet, mobile plus having iOS & Android apps – so the costs of getting your idea off the ground have scaled dramatically over the years.
Digital and business strategies are one and the same
Some industries it is more important than others, but ultimately digital shouldn’t be a separate part of your thinking, it should be all part of just starting a business. Getting a website sorted is in my eyes the same as setting up a business bank account.
Just do it (and do it right)
The world is full of ideas, but short on people who just do it. On my wall above my desk I have a saying “Do shit, stuff happens” – and it’s really true. As long as you keep trying anything, stuff will happen.
Likewise I would say, be prepared to work hard. Starting a business is not a 9-to-5 job – if you’re doing it right, you’ll be thinking about your business 24/7 365 days a year.