Why I always expect the unexpected in my start-up

Being young and ambitious is all well and good but, as Sam Keats found out, determination can only get you so far in business, particularly a business with significant capital requirements.


Keats is the founder of Living Environs, a WA outdoor design, renovations and construction company, which offers complete external solutions via one professional point of contact.


“The niche I identified was to provide a complete one-stop-shop outdoor living solution that was not only professional but delivered high quality design and workmanship, all from one point of contact,” says Keats.


With eight staff and revenue of $1.2 million, Living Environs is in good shape. But when Keats started the business at 26, he did so without having run a business before.


“I would like to think this lack of experience was somewhat hedged by my background in business development, coupled with pure hard word, determination and drive for success,” Keats says.


“My focus was on marketing and getting in front of people to sell our services… From a two-line advertisement in the Western Suburbs Weekly, I secured my first contract and employee.


“However, even determination can only go so far in a business that had significant capital requirements for office space, furniture, vehicles, insurance, website development, ongoing costs for marketing and advertising, and cash to pay suppliers and contractors in the shortfall.”


Keats realised he would need additional capital in order to grow the business, having already invested seed capital.


After receiving additonal funds, Living Environs was able to gain a bit of momentum. However, the business faced challenges when it came to consistent workflow.


“I responded by accelerating my marketing campaign and efforts, and pushing the business’ profile through the likes of Facebook and other social media platforms,” Keats says.


“Within two weeks of losing a key client, I was able to sign a larger client.


“Although this signing justified my marketing campaign and expenditure, the situation taught myself and my staff not to sit still, not to take anything for granted or as a given, and to always expect the unexpected.”


Keats now stays in constant contact with existing key clients to develop relationships. But unlike before, he has a good understanding of how to handle change.


“Setbacks will occur regardless of the amount of work you put in and how many different scenarios you can try to plan for,” he says.


“The key is trying to plan for and plan against the ones you can foresee, and reacting swiftly to the ones you don’t.”


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