Why 2011 is the year of the start-up
We are currently living during a fabulous time. It's the ‘Start-up Age’. Thanks to the power of technology and the internet, the barriers to entry in nearly every industry have been significantly reduced.
This has resulted in more start-ups than ever before and the competition is fierce. I love fierce competition - it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. But fierce competition also means you have to be on the ball 24/7.
Here are some tips I think start-ups should keep in mind in order to flourish in 2011.
It's very important to use technology to run your business as efficiently as possible. This includes how you set up your computers and email, where you store all your files, what systems and processes you use and many more business functions.
We use cloud services at Kogan to run things more efficiently - this means that we can access any information about our business from anywhere in the world.
This also means we get to save money on IT administration costs, while offering all our staff the extra flexibility of working from any location in the world. We recently had a team member coding part of our innovative LivePrice algorithm while on a train to Berlin!
We also run a paperless office. While it’s nice to be green, the main advantage for our customers with the paperless office is that it helps us operate more efficiently and cut costs.
We can locate any piece of information in our business within seconds rather than sorting through physical records. This means our customers get better service and we get to save money from being more efficient, which means we can provide our customers with better prices.
We also run our telephone system through the internet. This saves us a lot of money and gives us the flexibility we need - for instance, any staff member can log into our phone system from their laptop no matter where in the world they are.
At Kogan we do a lot of video conferencing. This enables us to quickly meet with people around the world without the expense and hassles of travelling. When we recently announced LivePrice, we were able to announce it to journalists in Australia, the UK, Silicon Valley and New York all at the same time through a live streamed online press conference.
This was a fraction of the cost of holding a traditional press conference, and engaged journalists in the most convenient way for them.
As you can see, there are many things a business can do with technology to streamline their operation and create better value for their customers. Any business that does not use technology to innovate is punishing their customers with higher prices and will ultimately fail.
Enhance your web presence
These days, a company’s website is usually the first point of contact for any potential customers. This means your website has to be excellent.
It should clearly display all information a potential customer might want and it should be very easy to navigate. There have been so many times I have discounted working with a company because their website looked terrible.
You should also allow your customers to interact with your website as much as possible. This is the best way to find out exactly what your customers want so that you can give them exactly what they want. Your website should integrate with social networks like Facebook and Twitter to allow this sort of interaction.
More and more people are accessing the internet through their mobiles. In 2013, over 50% of the world’s search traffic will be from mobile devices. You should consider making a mobile version of your website that is suitable for someone that is on the move and looking at your site from a smaller screen.
Kogan recently implemented a mobile website after we saw a huge increase in users accessing our site from mobile devices. Our new mobile site makes it much easier to navigate and browse through our products while using a smaller screen.
The internet has enabled the age of global business. It has never been easier to expand a company internationally than today.
While you build your business, you should keep in mind that international expansion is a great way to grow. Ensure all your processes are in line with this aim to minimise headaches down the track.
If your business is making Aussies happy, chances are it could make a lot more people around the world happy.
Australia has 20 million people. If you expand globally, you can target a potential six billion people - that's a market 300 times bigger than Australia.
The best thing is, it will improve your economies of scale and all your customers around the world will benefit from such expansion - especially your Australian customers.
These days, recruiting agencies are more useless than travel agents. We've tried to use recruiters in the past and it was a terrible experience - we will never do it again.
At Kogan, we are happy to outsource any non-core functions such as accounting, legal, logistics and PR. We have very quickly realised that recruitment is a "core" part of our business.
I think that a company's real values lie in who it hires, fires and promotes. As such, we treat this process very carefully and devote a lot of time and effort to it.
These days, there are a lot of tools that help you find the right people to help you grow your business. These people must share the same passions and interests as what the business stands for.
Your future employees are easier to locate than ever and talk to through social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
With today's business environment, you have to embrace change. You have to constantly be looking around for a better way to do things and not be scared to change your current business.
The Kogan philosophy is, "There is always a better way". We love change. We love improving and challenging the status quo.
There are too many businesses out there that have been doing things the same way for the last 20 years. They will soon be out of business.
The Start-up Age is well and truly here. Embrace it by using technology, thinking big and innovating.
Ruslan Kogan is the founder and CEO of online technology retailer Kogan - www.kogan.com.au