One established fact about business is that there will always be challenges. Whether they are slow starts or dealing with unexpected roadblocks, expect to be set back now and again. In this regard, Justlogin, is no exception. Hear from Justlogin’s founder, the challenges he faced and the advice he has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
According to our founder and CEO, KC Kwa, “The first challenge was to deal with uncertainties and risks…I was doing something new…but was not sure how the market would respond and how long it would take us to break even.” To fund his startup, KC invested all of his savings, but still required a loan to recruit developers and build the software “from scratch.”
Getting off the ground didn’t just cost a great deal of money, but time as well. “Fundraising took up half of my time,” he explains. Further complicating matters was the unexpected and catastrophic dotcom crash of March, 2000. But in that respect, Justlogin dodged a bullet. Justlogin had “managed to raise our first round of VC investments at the end of 2000.”
Learning the Basics
Learning to run a business is a real challenge, especially to those without experience – in KC’s words, “the ‘A’ to ‘Z’ of running a business.” But this is even harder when the product is completely new to the industry. “Being a new business model that is alien to HR managers, not many people knew about us,” KC recounts. Budget constraints also made it difficult for him to market his product to potential clients, and it greatly limited the number of staff he could hire. “A lot of things, I had to do [them] myself.”
Considering his position, KC Kwa was forced to rely on self-training. One thing he knew was the power of search engines, so he made visibility his first priority. “I went to the library to borrow books and pick up [information about] SEO…and eventually, we managed to put our website on the first page [of Google].”
Managing Cash Flow
Getting off the ground in the face of uncertainty while learning the fundamentals of running a business are both difficult things to tackle, but “Managing cash flow is the third and biggest challenge,” according to KC. One particular obstacle is the income generated from SaaS software compared to the more immediately profitable “on-premise” option. According to KC, the Software as a Service (Saas) model his business offered did not generate a lot of revenue at the start. Although still lucrative, SaaS provides steady monthly income in the form of small subscription fees, while traditional on-premise software offers a more significant once-off lump sum payment. While this may not be a problem to an established organisation with a significant client base, SaaS makes it difficult to cover overhead in the beginning.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Making the decision to start a business is an admirable step, but the challenges mentioned above can be intimidating and off-putting. Frankly, there is no guarantee of success, so you have to establish a few things first.
Be Dedicated to Your Business
Some might say that you need to be passionately invested in your business’ goals. But hoping to succeed isn’t enough – everyone wants that. “If you’re pursuing a new business, you want to make sure that you like what you’re doing…” KC warns. “Entrepreneurship…could be tiring and lonely. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you could give it up easily.”
Have the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
KC Kwa has proven that you do not necessarily need the relevant skills in the beginning. As long as – like him – you eventually obtain them, you’ll reach the next step. Once you obtain the necessary skills, you must be confident in your abilities. Do not assume that the learning process ends, because this is simply false. Trends change; technology changes; demand changes – all of this requires adaptability through consistent learning.
Social media is a classic example of how entrepreneurs need to learn about new resources. Once tools like Facebook and Twitter became mainstream, businesses realised their potential as a way to stay in constant communication with their client base, promote products and respond to concerns. They provided instant feedback and helped indicate new trends. Entrepreneurs who do not capitalise on this today are at a huge disadvantage. When it comes to business, obtaining new knowledge is, and always will be, an ongoing process.
Ultimately, gaining new skills is a critical process in order to stay on top. The business world is fiercely – and mercilessly – competitive, especially when your product is completely new to the market. As KC explains, “If you’re not good at what you’re doing, you can’t take on your competitors.”
Justlogin had the advantage of breaking into an untapped market with a revolutionary idea. The key, however, was that there was demand for solutions in this domain, due to numerous HR regulations imposed by the government and that the SaaS model has potential to be very profitable in the long run, as the marginal costs of servicing each new customer is low. No matter how good your business idea is, you must understand the demands of your solution, your value against your competitors and how your solution can be monetised to drive sustainable profits.
If we have learnt anything, it is that offering something new and beneficial carries enormous potential for success. Just remember that “new” is not synonymous with “good.” Examine the market and think of something that is either innovative or desirable to your target clients.
This is the second part of a three-part series to commemorate Justlogin’s 17th Anniversary.
Part 1: Read here to find out how Justlogin was founded.
Part 3: Read here to learn about how the HR landscape has changed in the past 17 years.