The keys to getting a small business off the ground

The keys to getting a small business off the ground

Like most young people, when the end of high school loomed in 2003, I was uncertain as to what the future would hold for me.

Willing to explore my options, and with plenty of enthusiasm to boot, I began an electrical apprenticeship with Novolec Services the day after my final HSC exam.

I started in the security industry in 2009, where I originally gained a Security Guard licence to work for a family member who needed extra labour. It was a natural progression to security systems and CCTV, with my background as an electrician.

The more skills you have, the easier business becomes

Starting a business with a diverse skill set was a great advantage, and remains something that I often encourage others to strive for. Operating a small business is demanding and competitive; often you are performing the jobs of two or more people simultaneously.

If you can afford to hire that extra person, that’s great, but the reality is that most small businesses don’t have the cash flow to be taking on very many staff, so the owners are forced to wear multiple hats. Learn as much as you can about as many things as possible – you never know when it will be a source of competitive advantage for your business.

How to know when you are ready to start your own business

Ultimately, a lot of my business knowledge was gained from my time as an employee. Learning the different aspects of domestic, commercial and industrial electrical contracting led me to join the underground mining industry in 2011.

During my time underground I was exposed to the cyclic nature of the mining industry and realised that I needed a safety net. As I made a move to weekend shift, I was then able to start my own business while still being employed full-time. The mine I was employed at closed in 2014 and I then transitioned to making GKT Group a full time venture.

How does a small business grow?

We have also created growth in the business by targeting specific industry niches in the local area. For example, over the last 12 months in Newcastle we have seen a huge increase in the amount of small bars and restaurants opening, and aimed our service offering at these types of clients. By being reliable and cost-effective service electricians we have formed many relationships in this industry, which strengthens the position of a relatively young business.

Tips for budding entrepreneurs

The advice I would give to someone looking to start their own service-based company is to gain as many contacts as possible before you leave your current employment. Either look to sub contract to an established business or try and gain an ongoing contract to assist with cash flow from the beginning. Honesty is also a huge factor – Treat all clients as equal. Word of mouth is the best advertisement to grow your small business.

The success of GKT Group has been fairly simple. The main focus originally was getting the best service systems in place to reduce non-invoiced hours. We use a product called Servicem8, which allows the business to cut its overheads, as every electrician or security installer can complete their own quoting and invoicing on site. In theory, our technicians are all equipped to complete the basic administration and accounting tasks that are encountered daily.
Secondly, and even more important is the people we employ. We are lucky enough to have a small, hardworking, experienced and committed team. By gaining employees that don’t need direct supervision and can communicate with clients easily has driven the success of the business.

A final piece of advice for those about to start their own business
When I first started out my dad told me that, “the people that work with you and for you are your biggest investment”. The business wouldn’t be successful if we didn’t have the team that we do. Take care of your team and you will set your business up for success.

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