My Cardiff Life column from April or May of 2013. Full PDF here.

April and May have been the month of “making tough decisions”. To be honest I’d known that I needed to make changes for at least a few months, but it had taken weeks and weeks for the circumstances to align themselves to make it possible for me to make the changes I needed to.

It’s been a really challenging few months, but I’ve come through the other side feeling like I now run a startup that is much better placed to grow and scale in the way it needs to.

I think I’m probably guilty of being seduced by the romance of having a big office, with a large team, and the buzz of walking into an environment that is throbbing with people, activity, and excitement. But the reality is that the maintenance of that, emotionally, temporally and financially, takes a huge toll on your ability to devote time and energy to developing a business that needs to scale above all else.

I found myself spending 80% of my day just dealing with the office, the staff, associated admin, and getting involved with the ordering and production of the merchandise that provides us with our revenue. We’re an ecommerce platform first and foremost, but we’d taken on the production of the items that were being sold through our site, which inevitably resulted in a relatively labour-intensive process.

Add all this to the almost full-time process of seeking investment, and it’s no real wonder that I found myself not having any spare time at all.  I’d come home tired from a 12 hour day in the office and realise I’d spent almost every second servicing the business, rather than growing it; doing anything that had improved our chances of being a more profitable company tomorrow, or the next day. I’d made the classic mistake of working “in the company”, rather than “on the company”.

So, what’s the future for us? Since day one our growth has been steady, and consistent, in the worst economic climate in decades. Month on month we’ve added new users, and generated more revenue. We export nearly a third of everything that comes out of our HQ,  we’ve had worldwide press, and we very rarely receive anything but glowing reviews and feedback. But we haven’t been the explosive, exponential growth we’re seeking.

By making the changes, we now have a leaner company and massively reduced overheads, which free up a relatively large amount of cash to spend solely in areas that will help us grow, something that is absolutely vital for a company like ours, whose success is partially predicated on scale. But more than anything I now have time to concentrate on the strategy, growing the business, and thinking about the future. It’s difficult to do any of these things when you’re emptying the bins and waist-deep in t-shirt printing.
Hello! Do introduce yourself…

  • Hi, I’m Simon Hodgkinson, Managing Director of Cardiff Start-up PayZip.

What does PayZip do?

  • We provide a free payment tracking web app for clubs, societies and not-for-profits, enabling them to keep track of all member payments so they know who has paid, and more importantly who hasn’t.  Our PRO version adds online payments and a sophisticated reports suite.

What makes it special?

  • Our killer feature is the reports suite, which instantly provides a wide range of information to help reconcile payments into the club from their members.  Most other payment services must be reconciled manually which creates additional work.

What was the eureka moment that made you realise you had to build PayZip?

  • I used to be a Trustee of a charity, and saw daily challenges in collecting money from our members.  I soon realised this was as widespread issue, and subsequently had the opportunity to do something about it when I joined up with a talented bunch of developers in Penarth.

How’s business at the moment?

  • We went live in mid-April so it’s very early stages.  The signs are very encouraging though as we sign up new clubs on a daily basis, and look to sustain that growth throughout the rest of 2013 and beyond.

Where would you like your startup to be in five years’ time?

  • The potential of PayZip is massive.  In five years time we want PayZip to be the go-to app for tracking payments for clubs and societies, and in the process reduce the amount of cash being handled by these clubs.

Where can we find out more?