How to build a million dollar startup in 12 months


I had just $400 in my bank account when I started what is now WME. Back in 2008 during the early stages of the business, I ran the company from my modest one bedroom apartment.

After six months I had hired my first staff member and we rented a small office to accommodate us both. Within a few years we began our global expansion, setting up offices throughout Asia and the UAE.

Eight years later we have more than 450 employees worldwide and a turnover of $45 million. The journey has been a mixed bag of learning, challenges and big wins and throughout I’ve learnt that there are several essential practices to abide by in order to achieve this level of success.

Get back to basics

Cold calling still works. Sometimes an email just doesn’t feel personal enough and it’s hard to go past that human connection for forging valuable relationships. WME was founded on me cold calling clients as I attempted to sell my SEO services.

While we’ve come a long way since those days, it’s something I still make an effort to do each week to keep me on top of my game.

Bootstrap your business

It might take longer, but raising funds externally can also be extremely time-consuming and could serve to distract you from your overall goal of building a successful business.
You’ll incur little to no interest and will get more satisfaction once you’re established, as you’ll have 100% ownership of the end-result. Part of bootstrapping your business means keeping a very close eye on your cash. So cut back on unnecessary personal expenses, and if it means running your business from your bedroom for the first year then so be it.

Implement an edgy social media strategy

Prior to launching your business or product, a clever social media strategy can be extremely effective at generating intrigue and interest in your brand. Think outside of the box and don’t just stick to one medium. Explore the possibilities offered by video content and images, which have the power to go viral.
A good recent example of this is the startup Koala Mattress. Social media is not only affordable, but it’s a sure-fire way of building a solid brand identity in short amount of time.

Harness the power of the media

Social media might be good for generating online chatter, but public relations is even better for building long-term recognition of your expertise. There are plenty of industry websites out there who are happy to receive story pitches and media releases that provide a fresh perspective and are derived from real world experience.

Make use of off-the-shelf software

It’s often the case that you want to do things once and do them right but that doesn’t always mean you have to pay large sums of money for tools and services.

The most expensive products aren’t always the best, and often the cheaper options provide you with more flexibility, which means it’s easier to scale up when you bring in your first million.

My go-to products include Canva for professional-looking and affordable graphic design, and Trello, which allows me to track projects and effectively manage my time. It’s also hard to go past virtual assistants who can complete those more hands-on administrative tasks that you often struggle to find the time to complete. Virtual Helper 247’s assistants are skilled at blog posting, lead generation, social media posting and everything in between.

Best of all, they’re more affordable than full-time employees, which can often be impossible to afford when starting out.

Mix with people who are doing better than you

While many business owners and entrepreneurs will tell you that networking is crucial for making valuable business contacts, it’s important to keep the focus on mixing with those who are doing better than you. There’s no point meeting those who are behind you – what have you got to learn from them? Time is also a critical factor, especially in a startup when you’re multi-tasking and taking on more roles than one.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to those you admire, because many successful people enjoy sharing their knowledge and imparting their wisdom onto up-and-comers.

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