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Guest Blog – ‘Founders 101’ ANDchat meetup with AND Digital CEO Paramjit Uppal

15 November 2016 | About a 4 minute read
Tags: active learning, andchat, BHAG, Founders 101, Learning, Paramjit Uppal, Personal Theory, professional services, relationships


At the end of October I attended the #ANDchat meetup in central London to listen, learn and discuss with around 100 other digital professionals on the subject of ‘Founders 101 – How to build a digital professional services company from scratch‘. Below is my summary of the key points presented by AND Digital founder and CEO Paramjit Uppal for creating and growing a successful digital services business.

Having started, grown and sold a previous consulting business and now founder and CEO of AND Digital, Paramjit shared his experience as to the key ingredients any entrepreneur needs to make the leap towards either working for themselves or extending that into a fully staffed professional services business.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

As his first piece of advice, Paramjit recommended starting with something big. A fan of the goal-setting approach Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG), he explained that you’re going to need this to drive you forward on the tough days as well as to get other people to follow you. Ultimately, it’s got to be big enough to be worth giving this up for, whether that’s personally or for the first few brave employees willing to join you for the adventure.

The 4 key ingredients

Paramjit outlined 4 key ingredients that have been central to his success in both businesses.

  1. Active Learning – Pay attention to what your customers tell you; listen, learn, adapt. And most of all do it quickly. In the early days, you should be able to take feedback on board and do something about it relatively easily.
  2. Relationships – In a professional services business you’re effectively selling people, meaning that relationships are critical to finding opportunities. Paramjit recommends nurturing your professional network so that you’re front of mind when someone has a problem you might be able to help with.
  3. Known Capabilities – Know what you’re really good at and do that. Conversely, admit what you’re not good at and be honest about both with customers. They will respect you more for being honest and this, in turn, will help build trust.
  4. Personal Theory – I found this one particularly interesting; Paramjit talked about the importance of following your gut. Rather than spend precious time on overly complicated frameworks or decisions making matrices, trust the years of experience you’ve already built up. Luckily if you’re doing the active learning then you should spot if you’re going off track and resolve.

 

Confidence and self-belief

Possibly the hardest one to adopt for many considering making that leap, confidence was both the input and the output relating to these four ingredients. You have to have a certain amount to get started but also by working in this way, seeing your successes manifest you will gain confidence helping you to continue to grow your business.

What you don’t always need

  • Genius or USP – This was another surprising one to me; Paramjit suggested that spending too long working out your USP or trying to establish yourself as a genius is essentially a waste of time. Whilst being unique is great, being really good at something should still be a good enough foundation from which to build a digital professional services business.
  • Fancy office – Paramjit advises that in the first 3 years the chances are that your clients will expect you to go to them, so don’t waste money on a fancy office.
  • Money – Unlike most product businesses, in professionals services you can get started with very little in the way of investment. Paramjit advises that all you really need to get started is a first client.

Conclusion

One of the most notable things about Paramjit’s talk was his style of delivery; he was human, informal, funny and genuine. In a world of polished online personas and regulars on the speaker circuit, it was totally refreshing to hear from someone that spoke to a room of 100 people like he was just chatting to a friend in the pub.

Finally, Paramjit didn’t offer any groundbreaking ideas or indeed any guarantees but what he did offer was simple, sensible and comprehensive advice – and perhaps it’s this that made it all the more inspiring.

 

 

Our next #ANDchat is on Wednesday November 30th at Makers Academy on Commercial Street. More details here!

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