FOUNDER OF KING OF SHAVES
When you start a business in any field, the first question you have to ask yourself is what are you doing that is different. Go back 22 years, when I founded King of Shaves, and there were only two shaving preparations on the market: Gillette and Colgate. Our product, a shaving oil designed for people who suffered from razor-burn, was so radically different that people loved it immediately.
We got Harrods as our first retailer, and the following year broke into the mass market with Boots. Here are some of the things I learned along the way.
As a product business, there is a huge level of complexity. You have to put in place a supply chain and work out who’s going to supply the bottle, the cap, the oil, the outer packaging; where it’s going to be stored; who’s going to ship it; and who’s going to make sure it gets to the right place.
You have to allow yourself time to build momentum and get the scale needed to make a profit: typically, an effective business sales plan will take six to ten times longer than you bargain for.
Careful planning and management is one piece of the picture; another is looking for new opportunities. At King of Shaves we got onto the Internet trend ahead of the curve, and buying www.shave.com in 1995 was one of the best things I did.
It meant we were able to reach a much wider base of customers as the internet took off in the mid-nineties.
A mistake to avoid is underestimating the power of marketing. Typically, a business might spend 95% of the money it raises on making products and meeting costs, but it’s crazy to only leave 5% to promote your brand.
Today, the competition is that much fiercer, but the basic truths of business are the same: if you can differentiate yourself, manage costs and keep alive to opportunities, you stand the best possible chance of success.