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2010’s Hot 30 Under 30

2010’s Hot 30 Under 30It's the numbers that make the 2010 edition of SmartCompany's Hot 30 Under 30 so impressive.   The businesses run by this group of rising entrepreneurs aged 30 years and under have more than $100 million in combined revenue.

They employ well over 600 people.

On average, their start up costs were under $100,000 and in most cases their companies have been in operation for less than five years.

And after breezing through the GFC, this group of young guns is looking to really ramp up their growth as the economy heads back towards top speed.

There were two main criteria for this year’s list – entrepreneurs had to be 30 years or under and their business had to have at least $1 million in annual sales.

So how are they doing it? Here are 10 strategy secrets from the Hot 30:

Live to serve

As in the wider Australian economy, the clear trend from the list is the shift towards services – 18 of the 30 businesses on the list are service companies riding the outsourcing trend, typically in a very specific niche.

Leverage your tech edge

What sets these younger entrepreneurs apart is their ability to use technology in different ways to give themselves an edge.

At Skye Recruitment, Kye McDonald has two full-time software developers working on his IT and telecom systems to get an advantage. At luxury furniture retailer Firdarsi, Neil Singh and Candida Stephens have used technology to eliminate costs such as showrooms and warehouses and deliver better prices to customers. At 199BUDDY, Rupert Imhoff's SMS services business relies on a global network of staff, all connected online around the clock.

Your idea doesn't need to be revolutionary

Many entrepreneurs think they need a completely original idea or a brilliant new product to succeed. Not true – simply delivering a better product or service than currently exists is enough to build a strong business.

Michelle Hampton and Susan Wood started their PR firm with the idea that their bigger rivals were overpriced and delivering poor service. Now they work with international brand names such as Colgate, Red Bull and Quiksilver.

Look overseas for great ideas

Rupert Imhoff's 199Buddy was based on an idea he saw overseas, as was David Hancock's IT services business Geeks2U. Getting ahead of the local market by looking overseas is not a guarantee of success, but it can provide a strong building block.

The younger you are, the less you've got to lose

Starting a business when you are young can be tough, particularly when you're trying to scrape together start up funds. But a number of entrepreneurs on the Hot 30 say this is also an advantage – the less you've got, the less you've got to lose.

"I wanted to determine whether I could start and run a successful company," says Brendan Green of Western Australian occupational hygiene business Green Consulting Group. "The risk of failure was minimal as I would not be affected financially or from a personal perspective long-term."

Get advice – and plenty of it

Whether it is a mentor, a board or directors, an accountant, a legal adviser or an industry expert, soaking up as much advice as possible is crucial to success.

Hire well

Entrepreneurs of all ages will tell you that good staff are one of the most important ingredients for success. For young and less experienced business owners, this is especially true.

"Focus on making sure that you are working with like-minded, ambitious people," IF Telecom co-founder Andrew Branson says. "The people in the business are by far the most important factor."

Fight to persuade suppliers to work with you

One of the biggest challenges the Hot 30 talk about is convincing suppliers – be it suppliers of products or, more commonly, suppliers of funds such as banks and financiers – that young entrepreneurs should be taken seriously. The experience of the Hot 30 shows that it doesn't get any easier, although success has a funny way of opening doors.

Systemise it

The explosive growth of a young business can be difficult for an entrepreneur to manage and the implementation of strong financial, HR and administrative systems is crucial to coping with grow.

"Systems are critical for continuity and training of staff," says Brendan Green. "Have business processes on paper and continually review how well it all works."

Listen to the market

Perhaps it's their ability to tap into social networks or maybe it's just because they have grown up as big consumers of information. Whatever the case, the Hot 30 concentrate heavily on listening to customers and gathering market intelligence.

"The market will tell you what you should do, just make sure you're listening," says Hard Hat's Daniel Monheit. "If you're young and just getting started it's okay to not have 100% clarity on what or where you should be. As long as you're out there meeting the right people and not sitting behind a desk, opportunities will present themselves."

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