“Don't try to be all things to all people. Have the courage to know what it is that you do well and focus on that.” These are words from Matthew Beesley, Founder and Director at Premier Technology Solutions. It all started in his garage at home, where he began fixing home personal computers (PCs). Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined himself to own and run a company someday.
At the time Matt was working for someone else, he wasn’t happy with how his former boss treated their clients. It was at that point that he decided to go out on his own.
“When I left, I had no ambition to build a company any bigger than just myself. I planned to be a sole trader forever. There was no grand plan to get to a certain size, and there was no ambition to be a large company. I was only trying to solve a problem, and things just snowballed from there,” he disclosed.
His initial clients, mostly composed of private PC users, introduced him to several businesses, which led to his organic growth from a sole trader to a company that engages with other businesses.
“The company grew very quickly once we started engaging with businesses rather than homes. I moved from an engineering role into a management role and had to learn the business skills without much help. I had nowhere really to turn for help, and I'd had no training or educational background on how to run a business. I had to figure it out for myself and make it up as I went,” explained Matt.
But one thing Matt learned about the entrepreneurial journey is that there are several crossroads encountered along the way. Decision-making is something that every entrepreneur does, and most of the decisions are difficult ones. Here are some hard decisions he had to face as a business owner, where he learned a lot of lessons about running a business.
Going into entrepreneurship
Taking the first step is the most crucial decision you will make. Starting a business entails a lot of risks. Often people only see the success that business owners enjoy, but what they fail to notice are the risks entrepreneurs have taken as they invest their resources and time into a new business.
The stakes were even higher for Matt as he had a family to take care of when he launched the venture. “It took a lot of time away from my family. The time investment was enormous, working days and nights. Even when I wasn’t working, I was always thinking about it. The monetary risk was another issue because, with a young child and a mortgage, it was very difficult to take that risk. If things had not worked out, we wouldn't have been able to survive financially. That was my motivation to keep working hard. I couldn't afford for it to fail,” he shared.
Committing 100% to the business
“Unless you're putting everything on the line, then you never commit fully. I see a lot of people start businesses, but they'll do it with spare cash or work part-time outside of another job. They spread their risk rather than investing 100% into the thing they're chasing. The problem with this is that the moment things get hard, you have the option of taking the easy way out. Whereas if it’s something that will make or break, then you have no choice but to see it through,” Matt reasoned.
Part of that commitment is being able to be hands-on in every aspect of the business and learning skills that could help in decision-making and growing the business. Because he wants his business to prosper, Matt joined EO Melbourne to continue improving himself. With EO, Matt remarked, “The speaking events that they organise are very motivational. They tend to encourage you to be more ambitious, aim higher, to challenge yourself more, and to prove that bigger and better things are achievable. I also value my forum. The forum is our peer-group where we share experiences and seek advice on difficult situations. I have always found it difficult to find people I can talk to intelligently about business, people who understand the view from where I’m coming. So it’s nice to find that in EO.”
Scaling up the business
Matt admits that the crucial part of running a business is ensuring that it can scale. For the first 18 months, he worked alone until he hired his first employee, who was a huge asset and worked for the business for more than 13 years. When the business got to around 15 staff, Matt struggled a bit as he was no longer in a customer facing role. He didn't feel he was valued because he wasn't getting the recognition he once had directly from his clients.
From being a sole trader, Matt had to make some changes and adjustments into the business to make it fit into its new structure. “It wasn't until about four years ago that I had an investor buy into the business. He had more commercial focus than I had and taught me a lot about business and myself. Part of that journey was that 12 months ago, we appointed a commercial business coach from Gazelles. It has transformed our business, and we have become a more commercial outfit since then.”
In 2016, Matt made a bold decision to change strategies for his business. They were trying to provide multiple service delivery types to about 320 customers and failing to maintain a high service quality across a diverse product range. They made a courageous move to focus on a single service type.
“We made a lot of research and preparation. It took us about three years to build up the courage to pull the trigger. At the start of January 2016, we had around 320 customers. We gave notice to two-thirds of them. By the end of the month, we had only 90. We knew that if we wanted to grow, we couldn't be everything to everyone. What we needed to do was decide on what we did well and then be better at that. We approached our customers, told them of the shift and asked if they wanted to stay. We didn’t know who was going to stay and who was going to leave. It was so rewarding because it paid off even if it was such a big risk. We ended up with a smaller number of happier customers because they knew what they were getting, and the outcomes were consistent. The quality of our service has improved significantly because that's all we do now.” Matt revealed.
There were several other crossroads he had to face, but he was firm in the decisions he made. He found that for entrepreneurs to last long on the journey, they need to have resilience, passion, a willingness to work hard and good communication skills. Matt meditates, exercises regularly, and makes time for friendships outside of work as he takes on more challenges as an entrepreneur.
Matt hopes for his business to last, continuing to serve and help their customers be happy. “The big lesson is to concentrate on what you do well. If you can focus on the thing that you do better than everybody else, then you will be judged by only that. You can't be excellent at everything,” the committed entrepreneur imparts.