My lessons from working with Happiest Limited

by Justin Souter on August 30, 2012

Introduction

HappiestI wanted to take the opportunity to distil some of my learnings from working with Happiest for over a year. Most of my previous work has been with larger organisations, and the experience of working with a start-up, and now growing business has been rich with lessons.

I’m conscious that my awareness will mature over time, however if I let it do so, then I imagine the post will never see the light of day! I’m going to publish more detail on some of these points in the near future.

A Startup isn’t a large business, only smaller

One of the key lessons I’ve drawn is that, just like the laws of physics, there is a different set of laws for startups as opposed to more-established businesses.

We’re also very fortunate that these laws have recently been distilled, and are in the process of being tested to destruction by both startups, and also entrepreneurs within businesses.

Lean Startup, Customer Development, and Business Model Generation will be the topic of a future post.

Data-driven decision making versus vanity metrics

Google Analytics, and the related ecosystem of tools Google offers, are truly awesome. Google give away Analytics for free for a reason – which broadly is to support their own business model.

The downside of this is the assumption that because one can measure things, they are actually meaningful to one’s particular business. The information conveyed by a car dashboard is there (mainly) for good reason.

All businesses need a dashboard which matches what makes a difference to their particular ‘engine of growth’. More on this asap.

Benefits of an effective Board

I posted about this over at Happiest’s blog – Interview with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum – the importance of great mentors. Having taken the Board minutes for six months, I gained a fascinating insight to how top-quality advice and support can really make a difference.

Process for the business plan

It has been a fantastic experience not only to work with Bobby, Happiest’s CEO, but also Ross Golightly of Sphera Consulting and Stephen Slater of RMT Accountants. It’s also been fascinating to work on two rounds of the business plan, watch it take shape, and compile market research that went straight into the plan – great stuff!

Startup competitions and ecosystem health

Part of the ‘sharpening the saw’ activity to distil the concepts underpinning Happiest has been entering a number of business competitions. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility to write the responses to most of them, culminating in winning a spot on UKTI’s Digital Mission. A useful discipline to keep focusing the mind!

Shift from start-up to growing business – step change

What was noticeable in moving offices / locations from Newcastle to Sunderland was how Happiest grew to fill out its new surroundings, and become a young and growing business, rather than being held back by a glass ceiling of its own making.

Shifting gears from the ‘cool’ start-up phase into the serious activity of building enduring success is a tricky transition for any business.

Innovation is always possible

Spending time watching how the Happiest product has developed, and experiencing the way Bobby and Alexander Horré have deepened their ideas, has been fascinating.

Sometimes folk assume that, because there are dominant players in a market, the game is over and all new ideas have been created. Watching how the ideas driving Happiest have matured, and the possibilities created by Cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service, and Mobile etc. has been absorbing.

Summing up

I wrote this recommendation for Bobby on his LinkedIn profile:

“Working for and with Bobby has pushed beyond what I thought were my limits and caused me to discover an amazing amount of learning and empowerment. He has coached me through situations where previously I have struggled, and helped me find greater clarity and confidence in my own abilities. Working in a start-up environment has been an eye-opening contrast to my previous experience in large organisations, and I have learned so much with Bobby I’ve come to take it for granted.”

There were definitely challenging times at Happiest, and I had to dig deep to stay focused and continue to deliver. However, I’ve grown a great deal as a result, and have much to be grateful for. Bring on the next challenge!

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