Alex Fielding Interview: How to Identify a Need and Launch a New Business
If you're looking to launch a new business, one of the most important things you can do to ensure its success is to first make sure there is a need for it.
For instance, if there are four Mexican restaurants on the block, it's probably not a great idea to open a fifth. However, if you live somewhere where there's no computer or cell phone repair shop, that is a business from which you could profit.
Seeing a need for something and fulfilling that need is exactly how Alex Fielding created his very successful company, Ripcord. Recently, we sat down and talked with him about it. Interestingly enough, Fielding told us he got the idea for Ripcord after making a bet with a friend and losing.
Alex Fielding has talked about this bet in interviews before, so we won't go into great detail about it. We will give a brief overview, though, for those who haven't already heard the story.
In short, one of Fielding's friends worked for a company that was going through some big changes. Fielding and the friend were having lunch and the friend was stressed due to having to gather up and review years of records and files. Furthermore, some of those files had been misplaced.
Fielding inquired of the friend as to why the company hadn't sent the records off to be digitized for efficiency's sake. When the friend told him that there were no companies out there that did that, Fielding laughed and bet him that there were.
In short - he was wrong.
After finding out that there wasn't, in fact, a company providing this much-needed service, he began brainstorming. Then the idea for Ripcord - a fully automated service that used robots to sort, digitize, and move a company's records into the cloud, organizing and making them easily searchable - began to form.
"My company was born out of a need," Alex tells us. "When you create a product or service that is the only thing out there to fulfill a very desperate need, you can pretty much ensure your company will be successful."
The world had never seen anything like Ripcord. Companies had, of course, begun digitizing their own records already, but it was a slow, tedious process subject to human error. Until this point, the digitization of records was limited to hiring someone to manually input all information into a computer.
Some results were also being seen with scanning in documents and converting them to PDFs, but even so, this required hiring a person to perform this function. Furthermore, once the documents were scanned, there was little that could be done with them. The technology just wasn't quite there to make them searchable or able to be cross-referenced and editable.
Then, of course, there was the matter of companies that had been in business for decades. New companies coming in could start off with an electronic record-keeping service, but companies that had been in business since before the digital age had storage rooms and even buildings full of boxes of files that no one had the time to digitize.
Ripcord changed all of that. Alex Fielding used his company to satisfy a demand for something many companies didn't even know they needed. However, once the idea was pitched to them, they jumped at the chance to use it.
With Ripcord, companies were able to box up all their files, send them off and let someone else deal with them. Once received, Ripcord's robots would sort and scan all the files, upload them to the cloud and organize them so they would be searchable, cross-referenceable, editable and more.
It was the perfect solution for companies who didn't have the technology or the manpower available to try to sort through boxes of files and do something with them, and it paid off. Today, Alex Fielding's Ripcord now has a new worth approaching the 500 million dollar range.
If you ask Fielding how he created such an amazing, successful company, though, he will still tell you that he was simply fulfilling a need.
Because he has been so successful, we asked Fielding to give us some advice for people looking to start their own businesses. Fielding was kind enough to oblige us.
When you create a product or service that is the only thing out there to fulfill a very desperate need, you can pretty much ensure your company will be successful.— Alex Fielding
How To Launch A New Business
Identifying a Need
Fielding has several clear and concise steps on how someone wanting to start a new business should proceed. The first step, according to Fielding, is to study the area in which you hope to open your business. See what they have in abundance and what they are lacking.
Finding what is lacking in a community is where you'll find the most need. After that, determine what skills you currently have or can cultivate that will allow you to develop something to fill that need. According to Fielding, in today's world, filling needs is most often going to require technological skills.
"Today, everything is about convenience and speed," Fielding tells us. "For better or worse, the days are done when people are willing to have patience and wait for what they want."
Today's workforce is made up mainly of millennials, with most Generation X employees leaving or getting ready to leave and several Generation Z adults moving into or getting ready to move into the jobs Gen X is leaving behind. Older generations sometimes see the millennial and Gen Z workforce as lazy and unwilling to work hard.
That isn't exactly the case.
It isn't that millennials and Gen Z's aren't willing to work hard; they simply aren't willing to work slowly. These people grew up in a world with the internet, cell phones, tv shows on demand, lightning-fast video games and fast food made to order. These people don't mind working, but they do want to see immediate results.
What does this mean for someone who wants to start a new business?
"You have to give them something exciting, fast and instantly gratifying," Alex Fielding says. "If you're looking to fill a need, it's likely going to be technological in nature. That's just the way the world works now."
Doing the Research
After you've found a need you think you can accommodate, the next step is research, and it's a crucial step. Fielding encourages people to take their time and research their business ideas thoroughly.
"It isn't a sprint to the finish line," says Fielding. "Starting and maintaining a successful business is a marathon."
If you rush into opening a new company without first doing all your research, chances are your business will fail. At the very least, people who open up too soon are going to struggle. Take your time and study every aspect of the new business you want to open.
See what similar businesses in other locations are doing. How are they marketing their services? Is it successful? If you can get meetings with owners of other companies like the one you're hoping to build, that's even better. Ask them where their hardships were, what roadblocks they faced, etc.
You also need to research future trends in the business. Is the service you're providing a marketable idea that is also sustainable, or is it something catering to a passing fad in which people are likely to lose interest over the next few years?
Plan for future problems and outcomes. If your business becomes a success, someone else might want to open something similar. How will you handle the competition? What plans and policies can you put into place now that will help you survive, potentially against competition, in the future?
Researching all these things and more is a vital part of ensuring that your business will be successful and remain that way indefinitely.
Make a Plan for Your Company
Every company needs a vision and mission statement. You need to determine these things beforehand if your company is to be viable. There are all kinds of websites online that will help you create a detailed business plan. You need to sit down and put your plan on paper.
This plan will contain your company's policies, procedures, vision, mission statement and more. This plan needs to clearly state the company's purpose for existing and the need it's trying to fill. It also needs to list a target customer-base and any competition you may have.
Laying out how you plan to market and advertise your business is also an important part of any business plan. Future projections for your company should be included as well.
This is a comprehensive look at your company, something you can hand to investors and say, "This is my proposal." It's also a great thing to have for any future employees as it will give them an at-a-glance look at what your company's about and what's expected of them.
Gather a Great Team
Once you've established your idea, done your research and made a solid plan for your business, the next step is to gather your team. If you're starting a very small business, you don't have to assemble a huge group of people, but you'll still want a small team.
"What's that old saying?" Fielding muses. "No man is an island, and you're definitely going to want some help," he finishes.
Fielding insists that every good, solid business starts with a great team. "Even if you're only a team of two or three, you're still a team," he says. "You'll want someone there to bounce ideas off of and to help you break through when you get stuck on something."
Finding the perfect members of your team is a very personal, subjective process. No one can pick the people with whom you'll work best and thrive better than you can. However, there are some people that everyone needs on his or her team.
For instance, you'll want an accountant. Even if you've studied accounting yourself, it's best to have another set of eyes looking over the monetary side of things with you.
Fielding advises, "A lot of times when we start a business, we're too excited. You'll see something you want for your company, and you'll be starry-eyed and giddy about it," he says. "That's when you need someone to pull you back and say, 'It's too much, and you don't need it.'"
"An accountant is great at that," Fielding continues. "He's rooting for you and wants you to succeed, but he isn't as stupidly excited about your idea as you are; he can keep you grounded."
A new business can be just like a new child. You love it; you want the best for it. Sometimes you want to spoil it. Having an accountant on the team will make sure you don't buy anything too crazy that you don't really need.
There are a few other people you'll definitely want to include as part of your team, as well. These include a lawyer or attorney to advise you on all legal matters, an insurance agent to advise you on insurance- and damage-related matters and an assistant.
Don't Shirk the Paperwork
Once you've gotten this far, you've moved into the realm of paperwork. You cannot forsake the paperwork. There'll be all types of paperwork that must be filled out prior to opening your business. There are licenses you'll need, government documents to sign, state and local documents that need to be completed and more.
If your business falls into certain categories, such as woman- or minority-owned, there will be even more paperwork to complete. These will be optional, but you'll want to do them because they could qualify you for some great assistance with start-up costs.
Getting the proper insurances you'll need and completing that paperwork is also crucially important. You can't just have insurance; it requires completing some forms, as do leasing a building, turning on utilities, etc.
Double- and then triple-check you've completed all your paperwork before your grand opening. You do not want to open up shop just to find out you're in violation of something because you didn't complete and file the proper paperwork.
These are Alex Fielding's step-by-step instructions on getting started with a new business. However, he also stresses the importance of advertising and marketing. No matter what type of business you're opening, people have to know about it.
"You have to get out there and market and advertise your company. People can't buy what they don't know exists," Fielding says.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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