Tag: StartUps

How To Run Meetings That Build A Winning Start-up Culture

Meetings. They often feel like the bane of your workday – black holes that suck up your productivity and focus, frustrating any chance you’ll get through your to-do list and growing stack of emails.

Getting around the conference table, real or virtual, is nevertheless a necessity for most companies, especially during the early years, when growth requires extensive communication.

When building a company poised for fast growth, it’s imperative that employees are motivated, productive, and working on tasks with a high degree of efficiency. The only way to keep things running smoothly is for team members to routinely communicate what’s working, what’s not, and what might be done instead. It’s in this capacity that meetings come into their own.

Regularly meeting provides a great opportunity to keep team members abreast of new developments, reinforce company culture, and provide a sounding board for employee ideas. So, how can you approach holding meetings so that they are time efficient and yield value?

Here are a few thoughts on how to take your start-up’s meetings from time-sucks to super productive:

How long?

When it comes to planning meetings, duration is the first thing that comes to mind. The average meeting length is, unsurprisingly, an hour. But though this is the standard, there’s no actual evidence to show that this is the right amount of time for a productive meeting.

But this is where Parkinson’s Law creeps in – if you give yourself an hour, then (psychologically speaking) the agenda will increase in complexity to fill that hour, whether you need to take that time or not.

What’s the optimal meeting time? Well, there’s no such thing – every meeting is different. But a good rule of thumb is to set the meeting timeslot to how much time you think it needs and then subtract 5 minutes. This places some pressure in time and forces you to stay on topic.

And if you really want to make an impact, try keeping sessions under 18 minutes. Research shows it’s the maximum amount of time for focused listening.

Who’s coming?

Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered ‘Why am I here?’.  With virtual meetings, online calendars, and scheduling tools, it’s easier than ever to invite people to join your meetings. So, how do you ensure the right people are at the right meeting and reduce wasted team time?

One approach is the tier meeting system. For example, you hold a full team meeting, which all colleagues join and report their status. However, in the second half of the meeting, only those with an ongoing issue stay on. The rest of the attendees can leave and go back to work. This introduces a level of adaptability and efficiency to an otherwise rigid meeting culture.

Make it count

Purpose and content are, of course, essential to meeting productivity. But while agendas are important, merely having an agenda is not enough. 50% of agendas are reused.

So, instead of focusing on the agenda, instead communicate and focus on the purpose of the meeting.

A ‘weekly staff meeting’ is not a purpose – it’s a meeting category.

A purpose is, for example, to decide which marketing channels to invest in the next quarter.

Try a ‘one purpose per meeting’ approach, inviting only those who have a connection to that purpose or work area. These super-focused meetings have a much better chance of a productive outcome.

Keep meetings on topic with a ‘No Rehash’ rule. If someone drifts back to a topic that has been discussed, another employee may signal a warning by raising a ‘No Rehash’ sign. It’s a visual reminder, but more importantly it empowers everyone in the company to call out counterproductive rehashing whenever they see it. No one needs to justify invoking the rule, and the meeting can proceed with earlier decisions intact, saving time and keeping things on track.

If these approaches feel like a poor fit for your team, keep meetings focused by emailing agendas in advance and following a standard meeting format each time.

It’s a whole team thing!

Resist the temptation for the meeting to start with the boss making announcements. Yes, that’s the convention and what we think a good leader should do.

Instead, use this time to build connections. When running your weekly staff meeting, encourage each of your teammates to share one positive and one negative story from the previous week. It doesn’t even have to be about work. The point is to let your team talk first and share. This creates a more inclusive meeting environment for everyone, and you’ll have a group of more engaged attendees.

Who’s leading?

Every meeting needs a pre-determined leader to keep things running along. But why not rotate departments? With this approach, each department has the opportunity to lead the meeting really delve into their unique goals, challenges, and how they fit into the business as a whole. It also allows the presenting department to gather insights from others that could improve the workflows of all areas of the company.

Eliminate the ‘Unhealthy Peace’

According to Priya Parker, the author of The Art of Gathering, “Unhealthy peace can be as threatening to (the) human connection as unhealthy conflict. And most of our gatherings suffer from unhealthy peace, not unhealthy conflict”.

In other words, at meetings, your team are more concerned with pleasing you and saying what they think you want to hear than solving problems.

Though most founders commendably try to have ‘open-door policies’, not every team member will take advantage of them. But savvy meeting organisers make sure to involve every attendee because they know the best ideas often come from unexpected places.

That’s why successful companies have a passionate meeting culture. You want people attending meetings to feel able to share their ideas and be critical. After all, the reason we hold meetings is because issues exist that single individuals can’t solve on their own. Collective effort and input is required to reach the solution.

So how do you break an unhealthy peace in your company’s meeting culture?

First, create a safe space. Then actively encourage each attendee to take sides on an issue. They now have to defend their stand and attack the other side. Beyond basic ideation, team members are pushed to defend their statements, strategies, and opinions.

This exercise can be done more than once on multiple topics and before long you’ll benefit from healthy conflicts within your start-up’s meeting culture.

A change of scene

If you’re holding meetings right now, you are your team are probably virtually linking from your respective living rooms/kitchens/spare rooms.

Before too long though, it’ll be the company conference room again. And let’s face it, these spaces can sap energy and creativity.

So, why not hold meeting in unexpected places? New environments can generate fresh ideas that your employees might not have otherwise had.

But if you’re not meeting in the conference room, where should you meet?

Parks and coffee shops are great options. But if you’re hesitant to leave the office, consider meeting in a less frequented room like the kitchen.

If you’re growing your start-up in a coworking space, you have a slight advantage, as coworking facilities generally have a variety of diversely styled rooms for the choosing.

No Tech!

Consider enforcing a ‘no technology’ policy during meetings. The benefits of this are twofold: Improved health and better cognition.

Chances are most of your team are locked to a screen for more than 95 percent of the workday already. By making your meetings a mandatory ‘power-off zone’, your team will come to see them as a relaxing reprieve that allows for free thought, without distraction.

End your meeting with meaning

Just as the start of a meeting is crucial, so is how it ends.

And while giving everyone a to-do list sounds like a good idea, it only serves the meeting host, not the team.

Instead, hold a ‘last-call’ before you end the meeting, giving everyone a chance to contribute before you adjourn. And instead of reading off a to-do list, remind each participant of the purpose of the meeting. State clearly the one thing you want them to remember. When your team understands the purpose and their impact, they figure out the details and the steps without a list.

Final thoughts

Now that you have a range of ideas to facilitate more productive start-up meetings, call everyone together for a quick meeting to tell them how you are going to improve your meetings (just kidding!).

While there’s no silver bullet for making all meetings successful, implementing any one of these suggestions will yield improvements.

So, don’t accept bad meetings as a cost of doing business. Use these ideas to turn all your meetings into opportunities to improve your bottom line and build a stronger winning culture.

Special thanks to Greenborough Management who created this blog for the Northern Max Accelerator, delivered for AD:VENTURE and Bradford Council.

How To Select A Target Market For Your Start-Up


Not everyone wants to buy what you’re selling. But while this sounds obvious, a worryingly high percentage of start-ups fail because they don’t find and connect with a market that actively wants what they offer.

Without a clear target audience, your marketing campaigns are going to cost you a fortune, you’ll have low conversion rates, and your customer acquisition costs will be through the roof.

Cash in the bank is, of course, important for every business, but for start-ups it’s your lifeline. If you’re marketing to everyone and anyone, your new business is going to bleed money.

It’s no surprise then that the top two reasons start-ups fail are:

  • 42% of start-up businesses fail because there’s no market need for their services or products.

Identifying your target market therefore needs to be one of your first steps when thinking about creating your business. If you discover there isn’t a market for what you have to offer, head back to the drawing board and try something else before you invest too much time and money.

  • 29% of start-ups fail because they run out of cash.

Spending your valuable start-up budget on the wrong target audience could be financially crippling. With limited cash in the bank, you may not be able to recover from this.

So, whether you’re B2B or B2C, this basic rule always applies: if you want to connect with your prospects and succeed at selling, start by identifying and gaining a deep understanding of your market segments and select those that give you the very best chance of generating customers and revenue.

As you set a goal to engage with a specific group, you’ll adjust your value proposition, marketing messages, and channels according to the market segment you target.

Through this customer-centric approach you’ll engage meaningfully with your chosen segment, which will kickstart your early momentum. Awareness and word of mouth builds faster across like-minded groups, and success stories resonate well across a segment of similar prospects.

But how do you select your target market?

A key element of your business’s positioning is “Who are we selling to?”. That’s an easy question to answer, right? Yet often for start-ups, poorly considered and underdeveloped market segmentation is the root of a lot of marketing – and ultimately sales – problems.

When we ask businesses “What’s your target market?” we often get an answer like, “SMEs”. But that’s just too big to be a practical target market for a start-up. You aren’t going to close business with every single SME, are you? Of course not.

You are, though, going to close business with a certain, magical kind of SME – the kind of SME that gets what you do, loves what you do, and will pay good money for it. And they’re also willing to ignore the fact that you’re new, small, resource poor and have never really done this before.

What makes those customers so strange and awesome? The answer to that question is the key to your segmentation.

So, how do you find your magic market? Here are some ideas to get you moving in the right direction:

Can you meet the needs of a target market?

You need to be fully aware of the needs of the target – their desire to find a solution. And more importantly, you should be in a position to offer features or a solution that is superior to the solutions commonly available.

What are your key differentiators?

Your prospects have a range of alternatives to choose from. What makes your offering uniquely different? What can you do that none of your competitors can?

What value does your differentiators bring to your target customers?

You have features that make you different — so what? What’s the benefit that users get from those features? How do you measure the value that you deliver? Why do people care about the things that make your offering unique?

Which prospective customers care about your differentiators the most?

Look across the broader market and ask yourself, ‘Who cares about our value more than the average prospect?” Some prospects will say “Yeah, your product is great”, but others will jump out of their chair and yell “It’s AMAZING! I need it now!”. You’re going for that second group. Put a different way — these are the people that are the easiest to sell to right now.

Which prospects have a high affinity for your offering?

Are they in a certain size of company, in a certain vertical market, in a certain geography? Maybe they’re consumers that already own certain products or have particular hobbies. This is where you need to get super specific.

If you are targeting SMEs, for example, start asking questions: What’s the smallest business that really loves what we offer? What’s the largest? Do product businesses love it more that services businesses? Are there locations (urban vs rural) that love it more? Is there a certain type of small business owner that loves it more? Why?

Your segmentation relies on you being able to identify the characteristics of ideal, easy to close prospects.

What market can you dominate?

Like all start-ups, you dream of making a splash and securing a healthy market share. The secret to this kind of impact is therefore not to launch into a very large market that’s dominated by others with similar products. Successful start-ups find and drop into niche markets that have either no or few solutions, with space and demand for better options.

Is the segment big enough – or small enough?

Keeping in mind that you aren’t going to close everyone in your target segment, can you realistically meet your sales goals with just this segment?

On the other hand, is the target so massive you’ll be lucky to get noticed?

The smaller and tighter you can get on your segmentation, the easier it is to get early traction. You can always go broader later.

Can the target prospects buy from you?

Can your target prospects afford what you are charging? Are you trying to sell Champagne to prospects who are on a beer budget? When you’re identifying your target markets, it’s crucial to choose markets who will have the means to pay you what you’re worth.

If the people you are attracting genuinely cannot afford to pay what you’re worth and what you need to charge in order to be profitable, you need to identify niche markets who can.

Or Is it time to re-evaluate your price point?

Many young businesses charge less than they should because they think that “saving their clients money” is going to be the thing that wins the game, and because the people they are calling on can’t afford to spend any more.

If you selling to other businesses, does your target persona have budget authority and if not, who do they have to go to for approval? Can they champion your solution inside their business and make a deal happen?

What are the factors that influence decision-making among customers?

Be aware of the factors that will front of mind for your target market when they’re arriving at purchase decision. If the target market is looking at the features of a product, then focus on creating superior products and make the right pitch. If your target market is only looking at the price point, be prepared for the cut and thrust of a highly competitive market.

To wrap up

By focusing your efforts on a specific market segment, you automatically counter the risk and costs of expanding across the entire market. More importantly, when you specifically cater to the needs of one market segment, your prospective customers are very likely to notice you.

Does a focused market segmentation approach mean that your business must change its strategy and direction? Not at all! This targeted approach based on market segmentation must always remain aligned with your business goals.

Your business can benefit from the better use of time and team efforts, besides an enhanced customer experience and an increase in profitability. And remember, the decision whether to focus on one market segment or another must always be based on data.

Businesses that focus their efforts in niche market segments can experience the following advantages:

  • They can dominate a market that is overlooked by other competitors.
  • They have better chances to become the go-to expert.
  • Niche markets are less sensitive to pricing.

The key? Identify the market segments that give you the very best chance of generating customers and revenue and focus your attention and efforts there. They may be a niches – but they’re niches you can own.


Special thanks to Greenborough Management who created this blog for the Northern Max Accelerator, delivered for AD:VENTURE and Bradford Council.

How To Save Money As A Start-Up

As a start-up business, you’ll face many challenges in the early stages of operations while you familiarise yourself with your business landscape and explore your new business venture. With so many different areas of business to focus on, budget can often be neglected. One of the most important things to consider though when growing your start-up is how to save money and reduce costs.

If you’re driven to save money early in your business, you’ll learn how to hustle and fight for the best resources as your business grows. Your investors will be impressed by your rigour and discipline and you’ll create a business culture that will fuel your growth moving forward.

We’ve compiled a list of questions that you need to be asking yourself if you want to build an efficient and profitable business that will not only keep current investors satisfied but also improve your chances of getting subsequent rounds of funding.

Do you need to use expensive software right now?

When you’re looking to save on initial purchases, known as the initial outlay, open source can help you get off the ground. You don’t need to buy that expensive office software and servers when you can switch to a cloud vendor at a fraction of the cost.

For most things you need to run your business – bookkeeping and accounting, word processing, design, or presentations – you can find an open source and/or cloud version of it that is free or much less expensive than similar commercial software.

Is there a tech solution?

Along similar lines to the open software, look for tech solutions to different business problems. Chances are that another start-up out there has a product that’s cheaper and better than the big brands on the market.

Do you have to buy new?

Buying new equipment can be a huge initial expense and paying for it over time may also put a strain on your future profits. So, where kit really doesn’t have to be new, buy functional but used.

Do you need it in the first place?

Do you really need that piece of equipment? Or do you need to replace or upgrade it? Think it through instead of just going for something larger or newer. Use what you have until you are certain you need something else.

Have you reviewed your operating expenses?

If you buy stationery for the office, is there a different supplier that will give your business a bulk or loyal customer discount? Day to day expenditures on simple things—coffee, maintenance, and supplies – all add up. Putting aside some time to go through your existing operating expenses to see where you could make savings could make a significant impact as your business progresses.

Get into the habit of comparing vendors and getting quotes at least once a year to make sure you’re getting the best rates. This includes your merchant card services – the more you grow and the more money you process, the more clout you’ll have to negotiate a more favourable contract.

Are you asking for discounts?

This is so simple, yet often very effective – and there’s no shame in trying to secure the best price for goods or services. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Whatever you’re purchasing, whether it’s software, furniture, or office space, always ask, “Is this the best price you can do?”. Ask if they have a promotional offer or rate and what that might entail. It won’t always work, but when it does, you’ll save.

Are you looking for discounts?

It’s usually cheaper to buy in bulk than individually. When you talk to your suppliers, see if they offer discounts for bulk buys. Generally, suppliers are willing to work with and negotiate terms with their customers. If your supplier isn’t willing to offer discounts, find one that does.

Don’t limit yourself to local suppliers. Yes, it’s good for the local economy if you do, but you may be able to find suppliers further afield that offer discounts on shipping and bulk purchase that cost less than local options.

Ready to barter?  

Bartering, especially with other businesses, might seem old-school but can still definitely be an effective way to reduce costs. You may have to wait until you have assets you can barter with, but before long you’ll be ready to swap services or unused equipment with a similar business in the area that needs it.

It’s important to approach these types of arrangements in a spirit of generosity. Make sure you know the value of what you have to offer, as well as what you’re asking from the other business to avoid insulting or embarrassing anyone.

Can you reduce your discretionary expenses?

Discretionary expenses are those you don’t necessarily have to pay at a particular moment. You may not even need the expenses at all. Work through your expenses list and determine the expenses you can reduce or remove altogether.

Can you outsource or contract some work?

For those moments when you have smaller tasks that don’t warrant a new hire but that you just can’t add to your packed task list, outsource or ‘micro-contract’. Use sites like Upwork to source support for those tasks that you just need to delegate.

It might also make for sense for your business to use independent contractors instead of regular full-time employees. This will give you much more flexibility in your hiring practices and save you serious cash on employment taxes and other costs associated with full-time workers.

Would you consider employing someone early in their career?

People at the start of their careers have little work experience but are looking for entry-level positions and salaries – and this can save you money. Yes, there may be times when a more experienced candidate makes business sense, but you’ll find that solid employees with little work experience are competent and eager to do well.

If you go down this route, good training is key. If you do bring in employees with less experience, set them up for success by training them well and addressing gaps in their knowledge and experience as you move forward.

Could you cut your employee hours?

Are there employees at your company who would transition to part-time if given the opportunity?

If you make it known that you’re open to shorter work weeks for those who might want or need them, this can save you from paying those full-time wages without having to lose a good team member completely.

Do you know the value of your best employees?

A high performing employee that enhances your company culture is a real asset. Not only that, it’s also a valuable relationship and support as you continue your journey.

The costs associated with hiring new staff can be significant, so if you have a solid team member, do what you can to keep them. Look after them, listen to them, understand what they’re looking for in terms of career trajectory and opportunities for growth. It’ll save you a lot of money and energy the long run.

Can you cut down on meetings?

The next time you’re in a meeting, do some rough calculations based on the number of people in the room, and the average hourly salary you’re paying them. Sometimes the results can be staggering.

Review both your own and your employee’s calendars—how many hours per week are spent in meetings? Evaluate the cost and benefits to the company. Most probably, you can cut back on meetings and free up time for getting actual work done.

Could you virtualise your office?

The current pandemic has forced companies to go virtual, but moving forward, do you need to be tethered to one location if your business allows for it? Start your business from your home and use technology to connect to your employees, target audience and customers. Once you have established your customer base and can spare the cash, you can move your business to an office if you need to.

Have you considered sharing an office or using a co-working option?

If you do absolutely need have a physical office for your business, why not share the costs on leasing a space with another business? This carries inherent risks, of course, but could be a viable option if you have a close business connection, especially if you don’t need lots of space.

Another way to approach this, if your team is small, is to look for co-working spaces in your area.

Could you do your own marketing and PR?

Hiring a marketing or PR agency can be very costly, but if you’re passionate and knowledgeable you could be your own spokesperson. So, learn everything you can about marketing and public relations for your industry, and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward when you promote and talk about your business.

It’s also a good idea to be as creative as you can with your PR – think outside the box, take a guerrilla approach, and cut through the noise. And if that doesn’t work, just ask. Call up media channels and simply ask them if they’d be interested in featuring your business. It’s often the case that journalists and producers are actively looking for a story – and you’ve just made their life a lot easier. Be subtle yet persistent and you’ll get that valuable media coverage.

Have you considered social media to promote your business?

Promoting your business through social media is much more affordable than investing in traditional media and print. Best of all, it provides two-way engagement between you and your market on a round-the-clock basis.

However, tackling social media on your own may help you to save money to start out with, but to do it effectively, especially over several platforms, you must devote a serious time and energy to it. So, eventually you’re going to need some assistance.

Have you tested your paid marketing?

This is a simple tip but one that will save you money in the long run. Too often, after you get a little funding, the urge to pour it into a Google or Facebook ad campaign can distract you from testing your marketing first. So, run a few small campaigns and ensure that your targeting and keywords look solid before increasing the spend.

Are you growing incrementally?

Incremental increases in your business growth give you an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of each step of the change before investing more money in the following steps. Smaller steps will also limit the losses should a change not go as planned.

So, start your business small and establish slowly increasing goals to grow your customer base. Once you’ve established your business and are operating well, you may find that you are able to spend a little more. This may be the time for you to address equipment upgrades or new hires. You may also want to explore changes like new products or services or expansion.

Are you tracking your cash flow?

Track your cash flow to avoid late payment fees or missing bill payments. Cash flow is critical and most small businesses that fail do so because they run out of cash.

Cash pays your expenses before you generate revenues. It also covers unforeseen expenses that crop up. Follow your cash through your statement of cash flows and use this statement both monthly and annually. All you need is your monthly financial data to determine where your business’ cash is and if you have enough.

Have you established a budget and sales forecast?

To really understand where you can reduce costs, establish an expense budget, then create a sales forecast.

Don’t stop there though. Make time each month to compare your actual spending and sales to your forecasts. This regular financial review will give you a better insight into where your cash is going, and where there are opportunities to increase your income.

Are you prepared for the unexpected?

Do you have a solid business insurance plan that is appropriate to your industry and all the related risks? If you invest in a bad policy you end up incurring heavy costs if something disastrous happens, such as theft, fire, or flood damage. Do the right thing and contact your local insurance agency to find out how to protect your business from potential risk.

Can you stick to your mission?

If you have a clear mission – and you stick to it – you’ll be better placed to keep a lean and savvy company structure and operation. Try to stay as focused as you can on your critical activities and assess every task that deviates from your ‘core’ in terms of whether it generates revenue or prevents losses.

Can you say ‘no’?

One of the hardest lessons to learn in a start-up is saying ‘no’ to tempting possibilities that are not in your short and mid-term scenarios and that will demand a lot of time and resources from you and your team. This is especially the case when the invitations come from business partners, but stay firm!

As a start-up, you cannot afford to spend money unnecessarily. These tips are small changes that reduce costs and go a long way toward saving money and improving profit.



Special thanks to Greenborough Management who created this blog for the Northern Max Accelerator, delivered for AD:VENTURE and Bradford Council.

12 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of A Start-Up Accelerator Programme

We’ve already completed week three of our Spring 2021 Northern Max Accelerator programme, where we’re providing 11 weeks of intensive mentoring, support and investment to 18 young digital and technology focused businesses.

With just seven weeks left until pitch day, here are 12 quick tips to help any start-up get the most out of an accelerator programme.

  1. Make the most of the accelerator’s network

A strong business network is key to the success of your company – and an accelerator program offers you an unrivalled opportunity to quickly grow this essential professional asset.

Accelerators bring together the best minds from across many different industries, so connect with as many of these key people as possible.

The network you grow will help accelerate your company after the program. It will support you with your current business and all your subsequent businesses. It’s your resource and your set of shortcuts around the business world.

So, don’t be shy, become a networking machine – and start as early in the programme as you can. Connect directly or ask for introductions. The other cohort members, mentors, investors and stakeholders – all of them should become nodes in your network.

But remember, good networking is driven by giving, not taking, so always think about how you can help those you connect with.

  1. Help your cohort and ask your cohort for help

The great thing about being on an accelerator programme is that your fellow cohort businesses are often very different and have their own challenges to solve. So, if you’ve experienced some of these challenges before, offer your insight.

Likewise, if you need help, ask. Someone in your cohort may be an expert in an area where you need advice or have been through a problem you’re facing.

  1. Be open to mentorship

Tune in to everything the experts and mentors running the programme say. Challenge them and ask as many questions as you can. Be open to their advice, even if this means pivoting your business or making significant changes to your model.

After all, these experts are investing their time and energy in you – and their goal is in line with yours. Plus, they’ve been through it all before and have the knowledge and experience to help your idea becomes a sustainable business

  1. Be engaged and stay engaged

Take full advantage of the meetings, events, and life at the accelerator. You might just meet a pivotal individual or discover an idea that transforms your business.

Try to participate fully in the accelerator’s program — even the activities that don’t seem relevant to your business. You’re there to try new approaches and push the envelope. If you’re not doing that, you’re not making the most of this opportunity.

  1. Be proactive and take full advantage of this experience

Your accelerator will fly by, and you’ll only have a brief period to make the most of the resources available to you. So, throw yourself into the entire experience and squeeze as much out of it as you can. Attend all the sessions and workshops and proactively engage with the mentors. And don’t wait for the programme’s team to chase you – you should be chasing them!

  1. Take it seriously

With accelerator programs, you’ll likely be working in an environment where the rules are relaxed. Remember though that the programme team are focused on results, and you should be too.

As with any mentorship, it’s important to dedicate yourself fully to the experience. If your program gives you assignments, do the work and do it well. Attend any meetings fully prepared to ask targeted questions. Take coaching calls seriously by having a goal set for each session. Don’t over-invest yourself in anything else while enrolled in the program. Make the time to make it work.

  1. Make it your own

Remember, there is no road map for entrepreneurship so aim to get from the accelerator what you need to progress and grow. The experts will respond well when you think outside the box and ask for things that aren’t part of the standard program.

  1. Be prepared to pivot

Don’t let your enthusiasm for your business idea overshadow the facts. Don’t be afraid to adjust your solution on the fly as the market’s real pain becomes apparent. Your accelerator is a supportive environment to do this.

  1. Test, test and test your idea

Don’t be afraid to experiment and ask big questions of your business. You’re surrounded by people who are actively supporting you and want your business to succeed.  Your mantra should be ‘test, test, test’ – and that applies to all aspects of your company.

  1. Give feedback

If you want things in your accelerator to work better, feedback your ideas or concerns to the programme team. It’s better to do this during the course of the program than simply complain at the end. It’s also a way for you to help the next batch of start-ups. Previous cohorts probably helped make your program better too.

  1. Check your ego

When participating in the programme, check your ego at the door and switch to a full growth mindset. You may be sceptical of what you will learn but you’ll soak up so much more if you’re fully open to what the programme has to offer. So actively listen, participate as often as possible, and take notes!

  1. Enjoy yourself!

Entrepreneurs go through plenty of ups and downs. That’s true of the accelerator period as well, but a good accelerator is there to help make the difficult days less terrible and the good days even better. Much like sixth form or university, you’ll look back at this period as one of your start-up’s golden ages. So, work hard, progress quickly, but enjoy it while it lasts.


Special thanks to Greenborough Management who created this blog for the Northern Max Accelerator, delivered for AD:VENTURE and Bradford Council.

Northern Max Accelerator – Meet the Spring 2021 Cohort!

We’re delighted to introduce the Spring 2021 Northern Max 10×10 Accelerator cohort.

These young digital and technology focused businesses joined the Accelerator programme from more than 23 applicants and we wish them a warm welcome to the Northern Max community.

At this time of COVID-19 we’re doubling down in our efforts to deliver Accelerator programmes that are both valuable and timely. The current pandemic has presented a whole new set of challenges for early-stage founders, so we’re excited to help our cohort businesses launch and scale and provide them with an online space to come together in a peer-support driven environment.

Over the ten weeks of the programme, the cohort will be offered a range of practical support, specialist workshops and expert mentoring as well as opportunities to access grants and the chance to pitch for potential investment.

They will also benefit from the support and expertise of Rav Panesar, Digital Enterprise Advisor at Bradford Council.

Northern Max Accelerator is being delivered virtually by Greenborough Business Management’s 10×10 accelerator programme in partnership with Bradford Council and AD:VENTURE, a business support programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Our new cohort’s details can be viewed below – take a look to see the wide range of businesses we’re supporting this Spring:

Beanie Media are a web design agency designing eCommerce solutions for businesses and retail brands who wish to sell their products online. They also provide online promotional services to support their clients.

Co-founder Melissa Roberts says:

“Beanie Media is a young digital agency, experienced in generating business growth through technology.

Youth is our point of difference in terms of the experiences we create. We bring together the brightest minds in digital marketing to keep brands at the forefront of what is possible. We use modern practices to craft experiences that are intuitive, engaging, impactful and enlightening.”

Brio Digital deliver IT solutions to businesses via staff or an associate model offering. An ethical brand, Brio works with specialist sectors, such as health technology, with three main areas of service – leadership, engineering and delivery.

Core Prescribing Solutions are a dynamic healthcare organization providing tailor-made primary care packages through a fully managed pharmacist or technician-led model suited to the needs of GP practices, primary care networks, GP federations and Clinical Commissioning Groups, reducing NHS reduce workload pressures and improving efficiencies.

Director of Business Development & Strategy, Adeem Azhar says: “Core Prescribing Solutions (CPS) is a dynamic healthcare organization that has amassed over 20 years worth of combined experience within the NHS, primary care, health informatics and pharmacy sector. CPS provides tailor-made primary care packages through a fully managed pharmacist or technician-led model suited to the needs of GP practices and clients in order to reduce workload pressures and streamlining inefficiencies. CPS can support with real life data driven solutions to improve patient outcomes and digitize healthcare”

Grapepedia is an interactive e-commerce site providing customers with detailed information about their wine of choice and local stock availability. There is also the option to buy wine directly from the site as well as membership of the Grapepedia wine club.

INC 360 is a community interest company tackling youth loneliness and promoting positive mental health through community events using immersive video.

Founder Steph Varley says “INC360 is a Community Interest Company looking to support young people experiencing loneliness and isolation, by connecting them to community events using immersive video. Currently funded by money raised through a successful Crowdfunder in summer of 2020, we are focussing on developing our research to enable a service for children and young people in a variety of situations, bringing the Yorkshire community closer to them and their families in a safe and accessible way.

We support our service users by promoting open conversations with family and friends, building their confidence and relieving the anxiety felt around getting back involved in social gatherings. We combine discussion, hands-on activities and immersive technology to develop young people’s resilience, all whilst letting them have some fun.”

Intentionally Left produce sound art on a large scale for publicly funded projects. They are currently developing a subscription model app to deliver music and video for people live streaming in their homes, creating the kind of immersive experience that has disappeared due to the current pandemic.

iStreetShop is an e-commerce company born of a drive to support local shops and keep people shopping locally rather than through purely online retailers. Though providing a solution similar to Amazon, iStreetShop only sells products from retailers with a bricks and mortar shop.

Toby Butcher, founder, says “iStreetShop allows Bricks and Mortar Stores to put themselves easily online and helps to increase the sales conversion rate and footfall in their Shop.

With the help of iStreetShops unique built-in geolocating software, iStreetShop helps Shoppers find Products and Shops near to them, and allows Shoppers to either buy via Click and Collect or to add Products to their Shopping List for when they are next in town.

By creating a single online marketplace for Bricks and Mortar Shops, iStreetShop provides a platform for Shops to compete and fight back against Online Retailers, without having to turn themselves into Online Retailers. iStreetShop deals with the Online site maintenance and advertising (Google, Bing, Instagram, Facebook, etc), while allowing Shop Owners to add or remove Products from their Online Shop, initiate Sales and update Product availability in real time from their Phone or Computer.”

JB Digital specialises in Digital Transformation and Technology Modernisation programmes for businesses but looking to grow to deliver to both the public and private sectors.

Digital agency Jublo provide a full range of digital services from digital strategy to website design and build. They are also a certified translation agency, helping clients take products to market both in the UK and internationally.

Founder and MD Joshua Atkins says

“Jublo is a certified UK translation and digital agency and we work with a team of over 160 people across 39 countries from developers to linguists to project managers which allows us to work with experts in their fields. We’re an incredibly agile and scalable company which allows us to adapt to the needs of our clients and this approach has seen us work with social media giants such as Facebook, leading online retailers as well as smaller automation and IT companies based in Leeds. We develop long-term relationships with all our clients and our team are empowered to work flexibly around their commitments and lives.”

Legend Communications are an internet services and telecoms provider, that also provide data centre services. They launched an Internet Exchange in Bradford in November 2020 and there are plans to build a new data core network to deliver even faster connectivity for business.

Leuly PR are a PR and marketing consultancy, working predominantly with clients in the digital and technology B2B sectors. Expanding rapidly, they offer a range of services including strategic public relations, creative social media campaigns and photography.

MobiFuel is the first on demand fuel delivery service in the North, delivering to private and corporate clients through an app.

Director Murad Mirza said “MobiFuel is the first on-demand fuel delivery service in the North. Just think, the Uber of fuel. Simply put, we bring the petrol station to our customers, saving them time and money. For businesses this means no more hidden costs typically associated with fuel cards, better productivity, increased revenues and a greener way of refueling their fleet. For residential customers, no more waiting around in petrol station queues! Whether at work, gym or at home, just tap on our app and have us fill up your car”

Navant Lighting develops bespoke lighting and lighting components for RVs, motorhomes and boats.

Orcula provide event technology, registrant and delegate management and event websites. They have developed a new onsite badge printing and registration system, and they are now developing that to facilitate contactless events, through facial recognition and other technologies.

Out of Place Studio are a full-service digital design agency specialising in the cultural sector. Due to COVID-19, they had to pivot their market and are now aiming to develop more digital products and services.

Sched Ltd have developed a B2B booking and membership platform aimed at the fitness sector, but with broader applications.

Joel at Sched says “Sched (as in schedule) is a booking and payments platform – features include recurring scheduled events, one off events, pre-recorded video content as well as live broadcast events, monthly memberships and payments – built by industry experts to support fitness and wellness businesses, using cutting edge technologies and securely hosted in the Amazon Web Services cloud. The platform provides all the tools necessary for a small or large business to succeed – to acquire, engage and retain your end customers. As a team we are highly customer led with a published product roadmap, taking suggestions and votes on new features. We can also help out with bespoke marketing websites or implementation services to truly embed our platform within your business and give you the best chances of succeeding.”

Tribus IT deliver project management in software, particularly around agile software, as well as software testing.

James Clark, director says: “TribusIT is an IT services company. We have two main areas of specialisation;

  • Atlassian Software configuration, support and licensing, including the popular Jira, Confluence and Service Desk products – we’re Atlassian’s only solutions partner in Yorkshire
  • Non-Functional Testing services, including Performance, Resilience, Monitoring, IT Ops procedures and Security

We’re based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and serve clients all over the UK.”

And that’s the 2021 Cohort.

We’ll be sharing the progress of the businesses and the programme, so watch this space for updates!

Five Agency Trade Secrets for Building Brilliant Small Business Websites

Picture of the Other Things Agency

If you’re reading this then you’re probably thinking about building a website for your business. That’s a great start, because if you don’t have a website then you could be missing out on a ton of business that might not come your way otherwise.

Having a well-made website can help with the perception of your brand and help to build trust with your potential customers.

But where to begin? The team at my creative agency, Other Things, has built successful websites for some of the world’s biggest brands. We also work with start-ups that want a shortcut to website excellence.

When we did the brilliant AD:VENTURE Northern Max accelerator program last year, we met a lot of start-up founders who were looking for varying degrees of help with building their own websites. Should they make it themselves or get help from the professionals?

There’s no silver bullet to it, and every business is different, but there are a few bits of advice that apply to many if not most small business website builds.

I’m going to list some of them for you:

1) You CAN Build It Yourself

If you’ve got a social media profile and you know your way around the internet, you can build yourself a website. There are some well-established services out there (such as Wix, or Shopify if you’re looking for an online store) that will hold your hand through the process.

That said, it might be awful and do more harm than good for your brand. I mean, you could tailor yourself a cocktail dress if you really wanted to. Doesn’t mean it will be any good.

Still, if you stick to the pre-defined templates, have a decent eye for design and can string a meaningful sentence together then you should be able to create a simple website that meets your business’ needs.

2) You Don’t Have to Figure It All Out From Scratch

Take a look at your competitors and other businesses that you admire. What are they doing on their websites? What are they doing badly, and what are they doing well?

What ideas can you draw inspiration from that would work with your website and brand?

That’s not to say that you should create a carbon copy of a competitor’s website, or plagiarise their copy and messaging, but you will likely identify some things that you think they do well and then you can put your own spin on them.

3) .co.uk Might Not Be the Way

If the .com domain name that you want is not available, but the .co.uk one is, it still might not be the best option.

People searching for your brand will probably find you either way, but you will inevitably and inadvertently be sending traffic to the .com version of the website domain. Not great, especially if it’s a competitor or a brand that could be mistaken for yours.

It’s still worth buying the .co.uk domain if it’s going cheap, and if you only ever plan to trade in the UK, but better to rack your brains for that .com domain name. Common ways around this are to add ‘we are’ or ‘this is’ in front of a brand name e.g. weareyourbrandname.com

We experienced this at Other Things, and we opted to go for otherthingsagency.com (we also grabbed otherthings.xyz to be what’s known as a ‘vanity URL’, but that’s another story…)

4) Cut to the Chase

When people visit your website, what action do you want them to take or what opinion of your brand do you want them to leave with? Make the fulfilment of these things the filter for all of your website-related decisions.

But don’t beat around the bush. Keep your choice of words and messages short and to the point. Challenge yourself to say what you need to say in as few words as possible, right up front on the home page, so that visitors know exactly what your business offers straight away.

This is your website content, and visitors to your site will form an impression of your brand based upon it.

It’s an area where professional help might be worth investing in if you’ve no experience in writing or producing content for the web. But if you want to DIY then keep it simple. Avoid using crappy Word art or DIY sketches. Stock photography can be great, but some of it is very cheesy. If you don’t think you can tell the difference then rope in someone who can.

And make sure you proofread it ad nauseum. If you’re not confident in that area, have somebody who knows how to properly use an apostrophe take a look at it.

5) Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel

Usability is essentially how well people can use your product to achieve their goal, and websites more often than not are built to a format that is familiar to the average visitor so that they can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

At Other Things we love to see experimentation in this area, but if you’re looking to DIY build yourself a website for your business and you have little experience of doing such things then sticking to the ‘norms’ is your best bet. No need to reinvent the wheel. It will probably just confuse your visitors.

If you use a website building platform (such as Wix, Gator or Squarespace) there are templates and ‘themes’ that are put together with usability in mind. You won’t be winning awards for website innovation, but visitors to your site will have a better chance of navigating around your website nice and easily and developing a positive impression of your brand.

These platforms can also take care of some of the basic nuts and bolts stuff around hosting your website on the internet, and help you avoid pitfalls with potentially baffling things such as optimising it for mobile, SSL certificates, SEO and other acronyms.

So there you have it. The above is by no means comprehensive or universally true, but it might help set you on the right path if you’re considering how to build your small business website.

If you’re going DIY then keep things simple, utilise the templates and simplifying tools available to you and don’t go too left-field with your creative ideas. You’ll learn something and maybe even enjoy it.

And if it’s terrible, at least you tried. Give a good agency or freelancer a call and they’ll see you right.

Matt Hitchcock is the co-founder and Managing Director of Other Things, an alternative creative agency that specialises in producing disruptive advertising and marketing solutions for the gaming and entertainment industries.


Photo credit: Jodie Beardmore (www.jodiebeardmorephotography.co.uk)

Northern Max backing Bradford startups for 2021

Young digital and technology focussed firms in Bradford are being encouraged to sign up for a free business support programme to help them accelerate their growth.

The popular Northern Max Accelerator, launching early 2021, will be delivered online and is for businesses that are pre-start or less than three years old with growth ambitions.

The programme will offer a range of practical support and provides opportunities to access grants, specialist workshops, and expert mentoring over ten weeks, as well as the chance to pitch for potential investment at the end of the programme. Delegates will also benefit from the support and expertise of Rav Panesar, Digital Enterprise Advisor at Bradford Council.

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “This programme has already proved itself with some tangible success stories, so we are delighted it is being offered to businesses again.

“Times are really hard for small businesses right now and we are determined to give them the support they need to survive and grow. A buoyant economy is so important to the city and to the region, and never more so than in these times of Covid.”

Twenty one companies took part in the Northern Max programme when it was run earlier this year. Seven of the businesses were supported to bring a product to market; four were successful in applying for AD:VENTURE grant funding of more than £14,000, and one was supported to apply for a £50,000 Bounceback loan. In total the cohort created 13 new jobs.

Many of the companies also forged formal and informal collaborations, such as sharing best practice, sharing contacts and making plans to bid collaboratively for tenders.

Among those who have benefited from the Northern Max programme is Rachel Mather, who launched her bid consultancy firm &Mather early in 2020 and had this to say about her experience

Rachel said: “This is such a brilliant programme for any digital tech business owner seeking to become stronger, scale up and continue to grow. It’s immersive, experiential, thought provoking, and delivered by an incredible range of leaders, mentors and peers”

Masterclasses and one to one mentoring will be available using a host of business experts including Sharon Jandu of The Northern Asian power list and Jag Panesar of Xpand Marketing. In addition there will be weekly workshops on key topics including developing your business model; business goal setting; partnerships and collaborations; business finance, and funding and growth strategies.

Northern Max Accelerator will be delivered virtually by Greenborough Business Management’s 10×10 accelerator programme in partnership with Bradford Council and AD:VENTURE, a business support programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Since AD:VENTURE started at the end of 2016 it has helped more than 3,500 businesses and individuals in the Leeds City Region, and approved more than 160 grants.

To register your interest or for more details on the Northern Max Accelerator, visit https://ad-venture.org.uk/northernmaxaccelerator/

For more details about AD:VENTUIRE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/


Riverside Coatings, the Castleford based professional paint powder coating business, has secured more than £18,000 thanks to the AD:VENTURE start-up and growth grants, which provides businesses with the opportunity to reach their potential within the first three years of trading.

Having launched the business in April 2017, Managing Director of Riverside Coatings, James Wilson, quickly realised that he would need to invest significantly in machinery with orders coming in for larger pieces of steel and architectural frameworks to be coated.

With no previous experience of running a business, James turned to AD:VENTURE for support and guidance. A dedicated Business Advisor was on hand to provide him with the insight that he needed and to help to put together a detailed plan and necessary budget forecasts.

As well as having someone to sit down and go through the business plan with him, James also applied for a grant for £18,523.39 that would allow him to invest in an auto-wash, a large piece of machinery that would allow him to take on larger commissions.

Further contributions were also made towards maintaining and repairing older machinery including a compressor and spray equipment that he knew would be vital to his future success.

In addition to delivering a professional service, the business can now take on larger pieces of work; plans which wouldn’t have come to fruition this soon had it not been for AD:VENTURE support. As a result, the company now employs a team of four operatives to support in the workshop.

James comments: “When you start a business you don’t always have the time to sit down and go through your plans in any great detail and putting pen to paper can be a struggle – you simply feel you have bigger priorities, like getting the work through the door. Looking back, if I hadn’t have gone through this process with AD:VENTURE, there’s no way I could have invested in the industrial sized machinery I needed.

“Having the funds to purchase the auto-wash was a real game-changer for us. It meant that we could take on larger commissions and really establish the business by delivering the professional service we are now known for. As a result, we are working with huge steel structures and I now have a team in the workshop to help me.”

Riverside Coatings is looking to extend its services further with more demanding work. As a result, the company is considering making additional appointments to the team.

The Leader of Wakefield Council, Cllr Peter Box CBE, said: “It is great to see a local business grow and develop, and this shows just how useful support and funding from the AD:VENTURE programme can be, and the real benefits it can bring to our local economy.”

For further details about Riverside Coatings please visit www.riversidecoatings.co.uk and for information about the support, advice and funding that is available, visit AD:VENTURE.