Navigating The Startup Waters: CarSwitch.Com Founders On How They Get Most Out Of Each Year
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For startup founders, time matters -every hour, every day, every month they need to make sure to get the most out of every year. As the founders of CarSwitch.com, a UAE-based marketplace for inspected and warrantied cars that has raised over US$2 million in the last 16 months in order to transform the car buying and selling experience, we wanted to share how we have thought about getting the most out of our time.
1. Three layers of planning
As a startup, our life cycle is naturally more turbulent with less history than enterprises to build off of. Nonetheless, we put quite a bit of effort in making a plan and we work off of three layers to make it work for us. The first layer builds off our near-term aspiration which we have translated into a three year target that includes a series A fundraising and regional expansion. We worked backwards from there to set an end of year total volume of cars sold, revenue and partnership targets, accounting for seasonality we expect across some months of the year. We then get quite specific about the next six months and flesh that out as a full P&L (Profit and Loss statement) accounting for the revenue we target by product line, the number of staff by role we’ll need, and advertising and other support spend by channel required.
2. Get specific with a roadmap
With concrete targets in mind we paint the product lines, platform features and partnerships we believe we’ll need in order to deliver our end of year aspiration. This year, we ended up with two whiteboards worth of initiatives spanning every major aspect of CarSwitch.com. It was quite an overwhelming wish list, as you can imagine, and the stark reality is that it is unlikely possible to get all of it done. So, we involved various members of our teams to put in time, staff and spend estimates for each initiative, and super imposed that with what our P&L for the year would allow. As expected, it didn’t tie up.
3. Trade off and prioritize
The toughest exercise of all, we need to cut things to keep our plan realistic and achievable. It’s never easy to take things off a wish list, and at CarSwitch.com we’ve learned to let our KPIs (cars sold and revenue) do the prioritization for us. It’s naturally difficult to predict the tangible impact of each initiative, but we’ve fortunately gotten quite good at distilling the essence of each macro initiative and rapid prototyping of it to test things quickly in the field to measure impact. With that lens, we have determined what we will specifically launch in the first four to five months and leave a few placeholders for the second half of the year that we will fill in after we see the results.
Things rarely go precisely as planned, and for better or worse we’ve embraced it. We accept that it will take longer than you thought to recruit, that less revenue than we hoped from a product line will materialize, and new opportunities may present themselves that we haven’t thought of. We have a fairly structured monthly review against our business plan in which we are open to making changes and adapting the plan. If revenue is faster, or slower, in certain areas we double down, or cut and move on. It keeps us all tightly aligned and agile to take on what Dubai throws at us.
As entrepreneurs in a fast growth environment, it is incredibly challenging to keep the ship steered steadily on route, and so we try to keep the full team involved in navigating the waters. Whether our next big aha is the launch of our new cars product, supporting our banking and insurance partners with an ever growing repository of leads, launching our soon to air ‘make an offer’ online feature, or keeping the customer experience in buying and selling cars a breeze, is unclear. But we’re sure to make some headway across the board and double down where need be.