The monthly posts on building up a business as a software testing start-up continues with Gordon discussing getting the right help for your business.
Last month I discussed ways to prioritise your time. This month, I’ll be talking through some of the different ways to get help for your business.
Whatever the problem, there is a way to get help. Most people starting out for the first time will need advice. It’s highly unlikely that one person possesses the complete skillset or time they need to do everything and need extra resource. A helping hand with your bank balance is an obvious one!
Most people’s first point of call will be the people they know. They could be friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances from clubs or organisations that you are a part of. One of the very handy things in setting up your own business is that people often create ideas in areas where they have been working or socialising – so you may well have a host of good advice, or prospective customers already!
Furthermore you can re-visit sites like LinkedIn and re-acquaint yourself with people you have lost touch with who may now find themselves in a similar situation.
Cold Calls (Emails)
I found it very surprising how many people wanted to help strangers. At the start of CodeFuse’s journey I contacted many people directly through InMail on LinkedIn. Some of these were business advisors and some related to investing. I’d say that a third responded and were willing to at least meet up, have a coffee and a chat. Some were very useful in the long term.
Another route I found was to get advice and further contacts by getting back in touch with my old universities. I have an association with both Imperial and Sussex. I’ve had a lot of good business advice from people associated with Imperial and got involved with their business pitch programme. Sussex on the other hand I am currently starting up a conversation with about using AI in software testing.
While I had let these relationships dwindle, it was easy to get back in touch.
I distinctly remember writing a blog entry about the poor support that the UK Government gives start-up businesses. Then literally a week later someone let me know about Research and Development Relief. This is a highly useful, accessible and straightforward rebate you can get against money you have put into tech or scientific research. This has been very helpful.
Other schemes include the start-up loans programme and the New Enterprise Allowance but there are hundreds of schemes, almost all of which have some sort of eligibility criteria. A full list can be found here. This guide to small business loans might also help. There are also other ways to get funding for your start-up.
Paying for Help
There are a few things that I think are important to note when using these services:
- In general, as with most things, you get what you pay for.
- Make sure you have it really clear in your own head what you want done.
- Make sure you communicate what’s in your head clearly to the freelancer.
- Make sure you set regular goals – an ‘agile’ approach with regular delivery of value is ideal. You do not want to be trapped in a position where everything is 95% done.
- Accept that there will be a management overhead – sometimes things need an answer, end user testing is needed or some feedback is required for example.
- If that management overhead becomes too much stop the project – too many questions and you may as well do it yourself, basic testing should be done by the developer otherwise your time is being siphoned off, or a lack of common sense will waste your time.
- Look into feedback before starting a project, but don’t rely entirely on it. It’s much easier to give someone 5* than it is 1* and risk a dispute. So the ratings systems are a little lop-sided. Come up with a list of vetting questions, an interview and/or just look at the way they conduct themselves in the project proposal phase, that’s a dead giveaway.
- Give new freelancers a chance – often they are looking to build up a good reputation and you’ll get good service for a decent price.
- Try and build a pool of trusted freelancers who you can work with. It’s bad to get stuck with only one option.
The Government operates an apprenticeship scheme. While I don’t have any experience yet with the scheme I have heard good things.
Hopefully that has been a useful overview of different ways that you can find help for your business. Of course there are many, many avenues out there but hopefully this has been an interesting start to your own research.
Next month we’ll look at the difference between marketing and sales.
About The Author
Gordon is the founder of CodeFuse Technology. CodeFuse reduces software development time by making regression testing faster, better and easier. Gordon graduated with a 1st class degree in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at Sussex University and also holds an MBA from Imperial College with a specialisation in Entrepreneurship. He has worked successfully for blue-chip, SME and start-up companies. His passion is software quality and making sure that continuous improvement is used to enhance quality efforts across the entire development lifecycle.