For Sam Zawadzki, starting online letting agent AdvancetoGO in his twenties was the “perfect” time: “if you’re going to lose your life’s savings, the best time to do it is while you’re young,” he jokes. On a more serious note, he believes that passion and enthusiasm to learn can really shine through and be of benefit when securing funding opportunities: “There is a huge amount of help open to young entrepreneurs.”
Sam has been gaining recognition for his pioneering business idea, and his passionate and enthusiastic approach to enterprise has certainly helped him overcome initial inexperience – and reap the rewards. We first met him through our partnership with The Pitch 2012 – a search for Britain’s top entrepreneurs – in which, having successfully pitched against 80 other shortlisted entrepreneurs to a panel of experts and live audience, Sam was crowned overall winner.
We caught up with him recently to learn more about the perks and demands of being your own boss:
What is your company all about?
AdvancetoGO is Scotland's first online letting agent. Founded in 2010, we offer free online property management software, a tenant searching service, and a full management service. If you are a DIY landlord wanting to stay organised and find tenants, or in need of a full managed service, we can help! Legislation in property law is ever-changing, so we work very closely with a large legal firm to stay ahead of the game.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
While at university I worked part time for a property management company. There was a lot of work to do, and I realised that most of it could be done by a computer, but there was no smart property management software available – so we decided to build some!
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting your business and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in starting your business is doubt – you have to believe in yourself. Even if your business idea has to change, never doubt that you have the ability to build a successful business.
My company was founded two years ago, and we worked out of coffee shops and university classrooms. We now have our own office and a team of five, full-time. My biggest tip would be to outsource your accounting to a good accountant as it will save you a huge amount of time and money!
If you had to do it all again, what (if anything) would you have done differently in building the business?
I would have focused on sales from the word go. Many entrepreneurs want to change the world – they forget being in business is about making money, and you make money through SALES!
For a business to survive you need to have lots of customers/users. Online businesses are all about growth and volume. To sell well you need to understand you customers and not be shy about reaching them!
What was your ‘Plan B’ if your business venture didn’t work out?
The 'Plan B' was to keep building on 'Plan A' until it worked – even if the plan had to be changed!
What key business advice would you give to entrepreneurs or start-up businesses?
Running your own business is hard. Really analyse your driving forces for doing it. If you can't commit completely to your business then it might well fail. Be clear of your business and what you are trying to do.
What technology could your business not live without?
Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and cloud-based software such as Asana and Zendesk.
What’s the best perk of being your own boss?
Deciding at 3pm on a Friday afternoon that you are ready for the weekend and telling everyone: "Right team, let's call it a day!"
You can find AdvancetoGO on Twitter @dvancetogo