5 things I’ve learned running my own business: Alastair Campbell, Carsnip

Having founded a number of highly successful companies, Alastair Campbell is well placed to share this advice and experience.

His current ventures are Company Check, the UK’s most used source of business data, which receives more than three million visitors per month, and Carsnip, a new search engine for cars which has received investment from a number of high profile investors, including Google’s own head of special projects.

Here are Alastair’s five lessons from business.

Build the right team around you
I believe that few things are as important to a business as the team that runs it. Having founded and run a number of companies, I have learned that there’s a huge amount of value to be gained when you build a team of experts, who believe in the business and work hard to help it achieve its goals.

This includes internal staff, without whom the businesses simply wouldn’t exist, through to external agencies, investors and even family support. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to build a team you can trust, and to give them the opportunity to help your business excel.

Create the minimum viable product
As an entrepreneur, you’re very much bought into your own ideas. Seeking input from others is always a good idea though, to enable you to test your ideas and talk through different eventualities.

Often, these brainstorming sessions will lead to lots of new ideas – “what if” this and “could it do” that. Whilst important parts of the business growth, these additional ideas usually mean additional requirements and you’re in danger of getting caught in a loop of revisions and iterations, and never really launching anything.

Be clear, therefore, on the minimum viable product (MVP). What is the least your product/service/website requires to launch? I work with my teams to create lists if required functionality, and then those nice to haves which can wait until the next iteration.

Set clear KPIs. Test and refine
Your business exists for a purpose. By setting clear KPIs (key performance indicators), you help focus yourself and the wider team on delivering to that purpose and beyond.

These KPIs should be clearly communicated and easy to measure. For my businesses, both of which are focused online, my KPIs include metrics such as website traffic and user engagement statistics. They also include sign ups, purchases, features and more. By setting clear objectives and measuring against them, you are much better placed to test your efforts and make better informed decisions about how you build and promote your business in future.

Listen to your customers
Yes, you know your business well. But as entrepreneurs, we can become so close to our businesses that we can’t objectively recognise what’s good and bad about it.

We do extensive user tests on our websites to identify which areas are useful and easy to use, and which could do with refinement or even complete removal. The Company Check site was relaunched back in September 2015 after some extensive user testing derived from the plethora of data we track each day about visitor behaviour. If yours is an online business, you can use tools such as Google Analytics and Decibel Insights to understand how your users behave. If offline, use surveys or simply ask your customers when you’re with them what they like, dislike and would hope for in the future for your business.

Digital doesn’t stop
As the founder of two online businesses, I know the importance of digital in today’s world. This includes digital marketing, digital technologies, digital devices and so on.

Understanding how digital technologies and techniques are progressing and changing, you’re much better placed to position your business in an online world. My companies are based on the provision of services to an online audience, so it’s imperative we stay up to date on the latest tools and techniques. Whether yours is an online or offline business, recognising that digital is here to stay will set you up for a much healthier future.