Did you know that in the UK, there are approximately 660,00 business start-ups registered every year? That’s equivalent to 70 new businesses being launched every single hour. Unfortunately, many of them fail in a relatively short space of time – in fact, 60% of these start-ups will go under in the first three years. 20% will fail within their first 12-months.
These failures are mostly down to one significant fault – not having a fundamentally sound business concept. Innovative thinking is really a prerequisite. That is precisely why co-founder Vasco de Castro and his partner Daniel Ernst have been so successful with their start-up Fruitful Office. Today we’re looking at what Vasco and Daniel did right to ensure their office fruit delivery company survived, thrived and beat the start-up odds.
Identify your niche and customer type
What began as just a two-person operation, Fruitful Office celebrated its tenth-anniversary last year. They now service over 5,000 customers in five different counties. Not bad for a fruit supplier. So, what makes it so special?
You can get fresh fruit from any one of the hundreds or thousands of greengrocers and supermarkets all across the UK. But Vasco didn’t plan on selling fresh fruit to the general public. His idea was to supply his product to companies that employed staff and who wanted to promote the wellness of their workforce.
The decision to go to corporate scale rather than domestic allowed the brand to operate at larger scales from the beginning and each new client ‘win’ from their marketing efforts was worth a lot more fruit baskets per week.
You don’t need to be Original, you need to be better
The concept of office fruit deliveries was not an original one. Most new business start-ups do not have original products or services to offer. Indeed with the break neck rate of new innovative businesses and crowd-funded ideas launching every day across the globe it’s becoming almost impossible to be truly original.
The Fruitful Office founders were very much aware of this, but believed they could compete with the existing options and offer a superior service than existing suppliers, and in the case of Fruitful Office that did, indeed, prove to be the case with innovations like an extremely convenient online ordering process, fluently smooth collection and delivery processes and high level Quality Assurance of their product.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, of course. They had to overcome several problems as they tried to establish their business. But their determination and perseverance can act as an inspiration for many wannabe entrepreneurs. The lessons they learned serve as good examples of the sort of things to watch out for and the actions that can be taken to get things back on track.
The importance of top-quality product.
The first thing any business must do is to ensure the products or services they sell are second to none. The fruit deliveries that Vasco and Daniel received during their previous employment was not as fresh as it could be. They quickly recognised that top quality, truly fresh products would make all the difference in this market.
So rather than buying from a central source, like many of their competitors, they sourced only from suppliers local to their sales areas. As they expanded the business, they developed trusted, localised sources of supply in all of the countries they operated. Nothing breeds continuing, growing demand than a satisfied customer base in love with the quality of your service and product, and word travels fast.
A workforce worth its weight in gold.
The other thing they came to quickly appreciate is the value of a good workforce. When they first began hiring staff, they took on anyone willing to work on the 04:30 to 08:30 early morning packing shift. Many were time-wasters, and many had little to no loyalty.
They needed staff who not only shared their ethic of delivering top quality fresh fruit, but that also wanted to be a part of something of value. So, they changed their recruiting strategy accordingly, and in addition, they ensured that their employees were properly trained and incorporated into the wider Fruitful Family. They also made sure that their workforce had room to move forward and develop in the business.
There are no shortcuts in this area unfortunately, and heavier investment of time and resources on an employer’s side into new staff can often be costly as there’s still no guarantee you’ll find the right staff as quickly as you hope, one way around this is to offer lower wages but a heavily incentivised and dynamic salary schedule that is reviewed every 4 weeks for the first 3 months. It offers new staff the opportunity for quick progression if they’re up to the challenge, and allows you to weed out those that fall short while minimising your expense early on.
This shift in thinking and Fruitful’s willingness to invest in staff paid off handsomely. Of course, it still took significant time to develop a committed, loyal, incentivised workforce. But, it was time well spent. Reaching this level of stability breeds easier expansion as your sound processes allow your business to scale and cope with the strain that comes with it.
Fruitful Office is a splendid example of how start-ups can become stable, successful businesses and I hope you can take away some golden nuggets to help ensure that your own start-ups make the cut.