Failing forward: how I realised that I should’ve gone it alone

Starting up a business on your own may be daunting but Cathy Hayward learned the hard way when launching Magenta Associates that going solo is not always a bad thing

Failing forward: how I realised that I should’ve gone it alone

When I launched Magenta Associates, I knew that I could make a difference. Having spent 13 years working as a business journalist, I’d experienced the best and worst the world of public relations has to offer. The industry is absolutely littered with massive agencies that charge huge fees to their clients while their junior people – who lack any in-depth knowledge – do all the heavy lifting and freelance PRs who do a brilliant job but who have a very limited capacity. Recognising the gap in the market, I founded my own agency in 2011.

However, I didn’t go it alone, which is something I would come to regret. Instead, I found myself joining forces with a serial entrepreneur who was also a senior individual in the facilities-management industry. When we launched the agency, he ended up owning 51% of the business and I owned 49%. And his vast startup experience certainly came to good use in the beginning. Both he and his PA did a lot of work setting up and growing the business by injecting funding into it and introducing good systems and processes.

But after a while he became very busy with his own businesses and, as he was largely based overseas, I had little interaction with him. Despite initially discussing targeting companies together, all the new business we won was as a result of my contacts and networking.

Over the course of the following three years, I increasingly became more disillusioned about the way things were heading. So we talked through the situation and eventually agreed that I would buy him out because without me there really wasn’t a business. We had the business valued by an independent third party and I paid him slightly over what was recommended. We still remain on good terms and I keep him informed about our progress. In fact, we’ve recently started talking about doing another joint project together.

Nevertheless, the experience taught me that I should have been bolder and more confident from the start. I could have easily gone it alone and didn’t need a business partner to help me. To support me through the business set-up phase, I could have approached my network of contacts and asked for an accountant recommendation or a business coach. I could have also asked my network for advice or simply gone online to find help. There are always people willing to help and provide advice. To cover any shortfall in my own income when the business was ramping up, I could have taken a small loan. Instead it cost me a great deal more in the long-term to buy out my former business partner.

Therefore, my advice for any budding entrepreneur is to carefully consider if you can launch your startup by yourself. The fact is that unless you need serious investment to fund a manufacturing process or materials, then going solo is always the best way forward. Be bold and seize the day.

Cathy Hayward
Cathy Hayward

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