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Even Google was once a startup.

20 years ago, the iconic brand was just starting out, and in 1999 they amassed only $220k in revenue. By 2017, their Global revenues were a reported $111.8billion. Like most successful startups, it took them 3 years to turn a profit.

Conversely, during this time there has been a slew of search engines who have tried and failed to make it in a market dominated by a brand that is now synonymous with searching the Internet.

Your business may not be the next Google (and there’s nothing wrong with not aiming quite that high!)  But what separates those who go the distance and those who become a statistic?

Where can it all go wrong?

In the UK, 58% of businesses don’t make it into their 5th year of trading. A far cry from the mythical “8 out of 10 startups fail within the first 18 months” anti-fact that began with an unsubstantiated claim by Bloomberg that was later published by Forbes.

Still, though the odds may not be quite as stacked against startups as popular culture would have you believe, the UK business landscape still sees less than half of all new enterprises succeed beyond 5 years.

According to,business post-mortem analysis shows that the top two reasons behind business failure are a lack of need within the market, and running out of cash.

So we know the reasons why startups may fail, but what is the magic formula for success?

There isn’t just one recipe to ensure your business makes it, but there are certainly a set of circumstances that will help boost the chances of success for any business in its infancy.

  1. Focus on your unique selling proposition– you need to be very clear what your USPs are and what makes you stand out from the crowd. This also means accepting and celebrating the areas where you are not as strong.

Are you the cheapest, or the best? Are you the fastest, or the best quality? Do you have the most traditional values, or are you the most dynamic and progressive?

It isn’t possible to be everything, at least not in the beginning. First, you need to be known for what you are great at, then you can build upon expanding and adding value.

Abraham Lincoln made famous these words by the poet John Lydgate: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

In business, this translates to not being able to be all things to all potential clients. Know what you do, know why you do it and know who you are. Sometimes only in admitting who you aren’t will you highlight who you are.

  1. Know your customer –to ensure you are meeting a market need, you must walk a mile in your customer’s shoes The concept of what makes people buy from you, but more importantly what makes them want to keep buying from you in preference to your competitors, comes down to value. Every customer has a unique perception of the value that your product or service brings to them, and a commitment to understanding and measuring your client’s value experience will help you to remain responsive to the needs of your market and your client base.

Without recording and understanding meaningful, actionable data surrounding customer value management your business cannot operate within the market at an optimal level. You may know your market inside out, but if you don’t know your clients then you don’t know how you fit into their world.

Actively seek and embrace feedback from your end user, whether that is through field value assessments, focus groups, surveys, or just a good old fashioned conversation.

  1. Know your numbers – If you’ve ever seen an episode of BBC2’s Dragon’s Den, you will know that nothing provokes a dragon’s fiery wrath like a business owner who fails to demonstrate their knowledge of the figures. With good reason.

The success of your business rests on you knowing and understanding a set of numbers that include your turnover, gross and net profits, and having a good handle on your projections. These numbers aren’t just important if you are looking for investment or business finance, they are essential for all business owners. You may have an accountant, or even an accounts department to handle the ins and outs for you, but it is up to you to have a comprehensive understanding of your business’ financials in order to make informed decisions about the direction you will be heading in.

  1. Never stop learning – the most successful business people are those who recognise that the world is constantly evolving, and to adapt they must also be constantly learning and expanding their expertise. Though it may feel like a cliched interview question, the ability to admit the limitations in your skills and knowledge is a strength: it gives you the opportunity to bridge those gaps either through employing or purchasing the expertise or through committing to ongoing training and personal development.


  1. Get paid – it seems so obvious, but credit control is an often overlooked key business function, particularly in small or young businesses. There aren’t many small businesses that are in the position to turn trade away, but startups can be so eager for sales that it could be their downfall.

It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the second most common reason cited for business failure in the survey we featured above was running out of cash.

Asking for money can be feel awkward. It is particularly awkward when your business and your client relationships are new, and when credit control isn’t your key business function. A robust credit control policy is a must, no matter the size of your business or how lucrative the potential deal may seem.

It isn’t rude to credit check a new client, nor should it seem impolite to chase an overdue payment. You deserve to be paid and you deserve to mitigate your risk. For the same reasons, you are entirely within your rights to impose credit limits on your clients and to stick to them. It is just sensible to insist that previous credit has been cleared before accepting new orders, after all a sale is not a sale until you have been paid

Invoice finance can also be a convenient way of improving matters, turning your outstanding invoices into immediately available cash; and if credit control is selected as part of the service then this can also free up your time and resources with the administration of your sales ledger in the hands of experts ensuring you get paid in full and on time, leaving you free to focus on your core business and the sales process.

Take control of your business’ success

At Partnership Invoice Finance we believe that all businesses deserve a shot at being one of the ones who make it. We appreciate that cash flow is the lifeblood of all businesses, but particularly when they are just starting out or going through periods of rapid growth. That is why we are proud to provide alternative finance solutions for SMEs, including startup businesses.

By helping businesses access the working capital tied up in their own sales ledger, and offering  credit control expertise and resources to  business owners whose time would be far better spent on growing their acorn into a great oak tree we help our clients be successful.

To find out more about how we might work together  to help your business achieve its potential, please get in touch.