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***Guest Blog*** From ‘Zombie’ to Business Owner – My Story – Mark Milner, Owner and founder of TinyCV and Flipajob

So it’s official. I am now the proud owner of my very own business, well two businesses – a recruitment website called TinyCV (http://www.tinycv.net) and an online marketplace for buying and selling low cost services called Flipajob (http://www.flipajob.co.uk & http://www.flipajob.com.au) and I have to say, it feels wonderful! It’s always been an ambition of mine, so it’s nice to say that I have finally been able to achieve this.  

However, what I have learnt so far about running your own business, is, shall we say some-what different to
the rose tinted appeal of having an easy four day working week, making a lot of money, and throwing suave office parties!  The reality of owning your own business, is that it is hugely rewarding, but very long hours, not very much pay (well certainly not in the early stages) and a juggling act that requires you to wear lots of hats….marketing, finance and office admin to name but a few.

So why and how did I start my own business?  For most of my career I have worked in senior marketing roles for big businesses, both in the UK and across the world.  This has been challenging and fun, but some how just didn’t tick all the boxes for me in what I wanted to do with my life.  For many years while working for other people I spent a good portion of my spare time thinking stuff up – you name it I’ve thought about it.  On many occasions I would diligently prepare a business plan and say to myself now is the time to go it alone. Some how though, there was always something that got in the way and the business plan would eventually join the others on the bottom shelf of my filing cabinet!  So what changed?

In a nutshell my circumstances.  While working for a recruitment company in Sydney I was told that my long-term contract would not be renewed once it had reached its full-term.  Although this was disappointing news, it was the prod up the backside that I needed to finally take the leap and make the decision to go it alone.

Everyday I would hear friends and colleagues complaining about their jobs, and doing nothing about it. Many of them would act like extras from ‘Shaun of the Dead’, moving zombie-like from one job they didn’t like to another and then on to the next. For sure, working for an employer can be a much safer road to travel, and yes it has its benefits. But it can also be extremely stifling. Working according to someone else’s schedule, goals, morals, and demands, if they don’t match yours is not a good way to spend a third of your life, no matter how great the pay or benefits are. So my mind was set – I was going it alone, now just one problem…what was I going to do?

Having a career in marketing had, if nothing else, armed me with the skills and experience to be able to build and promote brands – one of the keys to the success of any business.  So, a marketing agency must be
the right path to follow, right?.  Wrong.  What I quickly found after doing some research was that small marketing agencies were ten-a-penny and creating a brand that appealed to customers in a unique way would either require bags of cash or a facebook like moment of genius.  This was the first real hurdle in my plan as I was hit by the realisation that my business would not only have to offer something that appealed to someone enough that they would hand over money for it, but that it would appeal to enough people to enable me to pay my bills.

With the end of my contract looming, I had to get serious and start looking for opportunities in the market that I could use my skills and experience to exploit.  My background was recruitment marketing – so connecting people was something I knew about, as was the internet.  After further research and a hard and honest look at what finances I had to self fund the business, I decided that I would need to start small, very small, one man band small!  Being one of one – it was clear I would need to develop a business that could have a greater scale and appearance than just being powered by me and this meant developing an internet business.

After a couple of months of planning I had in place two concepts that I decided to drive ahead with. Why
two?  For me, it was about balancing ‘risk’ – did I want to throw all my eggs in to one basket? And although I knew I was in the right wood with an internet business, I didn’t know if either idea would leave me barking up the wrong tree.  Once I had made the final decision to develop TinyCV and Flipajob I set about building the websites and getting ready to launch the business.

Five months on and it has been a real whirlwind.  I have worked very long hours, often 7 days a week to build strong foundations for the business.  One of the aspects I didn’t fully realise about running your own internet only business is that it’s a constant battle to keep your traffic levels up, convert visits to sales, manage pay per click campaigns and increase your website optimisation to name but a few of the daily challenges I face.  There are also all of the offline activities that need to be kept on top of. Whether this means that I’m wearing my finance hat to prepare a monthly P&L or my admin hat to ensure suppliers are paid on time – there is always plenty to do.

So, is it worth it?  In a nutshell, YES.  Running your own business is very rewarding indeed. Yes its long
hours, but they are flexible and you get out what you put in which is one of the key things I like.  I’m also able to respond quickly to changes in my marketplace without experiencing the drag of big business decision-making. You are the master of your own destiny, which is very satisfying.

My advice.  If you are looking to start your own business – do your homework – plan, plan and plan some more.  If you can, try and start the business before you leave your current employer to reduce your risk.  Always remain optimistic – it sounds simple, but this is a key factor to owning and running a successful business.  Lastly, remember to have fun along the way and make sure you get the support of your family and friends. Good luck!

Thank you Mark for your thoughts and we wish you all the best for the future and your business success! If you want to contact Mark, check out the links to his two sites above for details. 

Check out other guest blogs and info on startups via our home page…


2 Responses to “***Guest Blog*** From ‘Zombie’ to Business Owner – My Story – Mark Milner, Owner and founder of TinyCV and Flipajob”

  1. I have followed TinyCV and now aware of flipajob which I will be checking out this afternoon. Mark is absolutely right. It is amazing how much time a website takes to sustain. Everyone thinks you can build one and leave it – YOU CAN’T!!! It takes hours upon hours. I sleep 4 hrs a night during the week due to juggling several businesses and a good portion is due to marketing and keeping the hits high on websites.

    Interestingly, I approached several companies but only found one that could provide me what I wanted and help that I truly required. The rest were labelled as SEO experts but that isn’t what I need. Anyone can tweak, but not everyone has the ability to drive customers to a site with an extremely high portion of paying customers.

    Posted by Stuart Folley | November 25, 2011, 2:27 pm
  2. Saw this article enroute back to TinyCV site. Its a great idea and about to post my first vacancy there.

    It is great to see someone ‘from the inside’ trying to disrupt an established and to be honest quite ‘boring’ industry and bring it up to the needs of SMEs and sole-traders who can’t afford big percentages and being ignored by the usual suspects.

    Posted by Adrian Land | July 4, 2012, 11:07 am

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