Heather Delaney is the Founder and MD of Gallium Ventures. She garnered a wealth of experience working across both sides of the Atlantic for global, local and international organisations. Having been integral to the growth of well-known European and Silicon Valley startups, Heather shares a few nuggets of wisdom on five things she has learnt building up a company as a solo founder.
When people ask why I founded Gallium Ventures, I have to admit that it was almost by accident.
I had just left my old agency and many of the clients wanted to follow me, some even wanted to hire me, and others were referring their peers to me. The workload was becoming more than one person could handle and so I had to hire people to help support the demand, and before I knew it, a tech PR and marketing consultancy was born. I’ve learnt many lessons on the journey so far, but there are five key points that are relevant to almost any solopreneurs looking to get off the ground.
- Create a foundation for sustainable growth
Business planning is crucial. It’s easy to put it on the back burner while working on paying work, but a solid business plan will make a big difference when it comes to measuring your growth. Setting realistic goals and laying out milestones helps you sustainably grow your business because you’ve forecasted not only what you want to achieve but how you’ll achieve it.
Infrastructure and culture are also an important aspect of a sustainable business. When it comes to creating the infrastructure of your business, be clear and realistic about how you deliver to your target audience to lay a strong foundation for your business operations. Culture is at the core of any business and should live at the heart of everything your business does, so invest time and energy into it as your company grows. How your employees, suppliers, clients/customers and industry contacts experience your business is a reflection of the culture you create. A positive experience means you’re fostering a good culture.
- Get the right advice
It might be tough, but the first step is to accept that you don’t know everything and you will have to gain insight and advice from others.
A mentoring board is a brilliant way to access the right expertise, and help you deal with unexpected situations. Build this by gathering a wide mixture of experts covering various aspects of business best practice alongside people you admire so that you can benefit from a wealth of advice that will help you navigate the complexities that come with being a solo founder.
- Build the right team
When your business is ready for it, build a team you can trust. When you have the right people around you and team trust is high, work can be more easily delegated, and it’s even possible for you to better manage your work / life balance.
Skills, experience and expertise are priorities when hiring, but when building a team for a small business you also need to think carefully about company culture, personality types and team roles. You won’t get it right 100% of the time, but when you do get it right it will be magical!
- The devil is in the (admin) details
No one goes into business for the admin, yet it’s a crucial (and unavoidable) element of your company’s operations.
Carve out time to do the admin required, no matter how tedious it might seem. You’ll avoid a lot of stress and frustration. And then you can then dedicate your time to the more exciting elements of running your business.
- Navigate toward your North Star
It’s typical for a solo founder to have many plates spinning in the air. Give yourself space for flexibility, as long as you don’t lose sight of your core mission.
The key goals you set as part of your business planning should become your North Star, setting the trajectory for the company. I advise regularly analysing your business performance with the KPIs you set. This helps you stay on the path to success or course correct as you need to get back on track. While it may feel like you’re navigating in choppy waters, as long as you are making progress toward your North Star, you’re doing well!
Food for thought
The life of a solo founder is not an easy one. But it is rewarding. There is something incredible about creating a business that thrives. The lessons I’ve learnt continue guiding me well. We practise what we preach, and advise many of the founders we work with to use these principles too. I’m sure these lessons will continue to steer our consultancy, our clients, and myself well into the long term. I hope they help you too.
About the Author
Heather Delaney, Founder of award-winning communications consultancy Gallium Ventures, is a world-leading expert in growing brands and launching products or services, creatively. Heather specialises in building and fixing global organisations and startups alike — from their communications strategy, to product development and everything in between.