Interview with: Andy Haywood, Joint Managing Director of officebroker.com
Where did the idea for officebroker.com come from?
Jim and I used to own a recruitment company which we initially set up working from home. We then decided after a few months that we needed our first office but realised how difficult it was to actually find one – there didn’t seem to be anything on the Internet that was a one-stop-shop to help us find and compare a number of offices. So that’s where the idea for officebroker.com came from.
What made you want to start your own business?
I wanted to be in control of my own destiny and make people proud of what I could do – I like the challenge of having to think of ideas and answers to questions myself, and build a team of people around me who can help create something special.
Andy Haywood, MD officebroker.com
What did you do before officebroker.com?
Prior to the recruitment company, I had my own car import business.
How did you know there was a market for officebroker.com?
When finding our first office space for the recruitment company, I couldn’t find anything to help me find what I was looking for, to make the difficult process of finding office space easier. So that’s when we knew there was a gap in the market.
How did you fund your new business?
Jim and I put the money we made from the recruitment business into officebroker.com, so it’s totally self-funded.
How did you first start to promote your business?
By using the Internet – a mixture of online advertising campaigns in strategic areas in the UK.
What were the most challenging parts of your start-up, how did you deal with these, and what have you learnt from the experience?
Dealing with cash flow – anyone can make money but cash flow is king! Also, finding the right people to come and work with us. There are some really good people around but there are also some really bad ones!
Cash flow wise, always look at the worst case scenario. Do not get fooled and excited and think you will always do what you want to do – we are risk takers BUT we always cover the down side by looking at what the worst case scenario will be. If you have that covered then you can take the risk.
When we recruit people we always get involved in the decision-making process, and always try to meet all candidates – it’s important that people can meet the actual owners of a business and it helps them to make a decision to join your company, no matter what level they’re at.
What are the main challenges you cope with today?
Finding the right people! Being able to keep the passion of the business alive when the business is growing and make sure everyone is involved and feels valued – without the right staff, you don’t have a business.
Have you felt any impact from the recession?
Average deal values have reduced, generally because people are being more cautious.
How have you adapted to cope with the recession?
To stay focused on our core business – understanding our customers needs and working as closely and effectively as possible with all of our suppliers.
What advice would you give to other start-ups and businesses who are trying to cope in a difficult economy?
Try and concentrate on your core business – what actually brings in the money – and make sure that it’s running as effectively as possible. Don’t get distracted by ambitious ideas – getting the basics right is essential.
What tips or words of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Go with your gut instinct. Figures can be manipulated to make a bad idea seem good – but trust your gut instinct and ideally try and have some fun along the way.
Anything else you want to add?
Yes, three things: 1) Do business ethically correct. 2) No one deal will make or break you. 3) Your reputation is the hardest thing to build and the easiest thing to lose.