Thursday, 24 November 2016
Before pitching a new business idea to someone, take an envelope (or a napkin) and refine the concept until you can write what your idea is and what problem/s it solves in a sentence or two.
Not only will this help you define your idea to others but it will allow you to find the essence of your new venture and what you should be focusing on.
I'm a big believer in coming up with a concept and getting it to market as quickly as possible - pretty soon you'll learn the ins and outs and develop your concept from the back of a beer coaster into something we can't live without
P.S The best business plans are often drafted on the back of a beer coaster, *ahem* @merlinskill
A bit of a background on me, I started out my business life organising dance parties. We were 16 at the time and didn’t have a lot of money to go out (or buy fake IDs) but we all loved a good party and I had been to enough schools to know who was who in the zoo. So I set up an events company and charged a flat rate for tickets to see a few DJs with the promise of as much free booze as you wanted, rented a warehouse and with that money paid the advance on the DJ, the rent and the alcohol and hopefully had a bit of money left over at the end. I did this because there was a need that wasn’t being filled and ended up hosting around 70 parties a year. The same is true for why I started Merlin.
The seed for Merlin was developed during the time when we were still running the media company I setup when I left school that offered vouchers from local businesses to visitors to our directory service for young people. We realised there was a need for a quick and easy way for young people to get jobs with little to no experience, so we setup a recruitment division of the business that offered our site’s users the ability to gain an internship/part time job with the businesses who advertised through our site.
Our idea was simple, have candidates apply to us with their resume and we would spruik them (for a fee) to businesses who advertised with us (free recruitment). So off we went, businesses started to advertise and we started to place people into part time jobs and internships.I was lucky enough to have my media company acquired in 2012, with money in the bank I setup a backpacker, a restaurant a bar and bought a farm, however on return to the small recruitment company I had started and given free reign to, I soon realised our service was actually turning into a disservice! Employers weren’t happy it took so long for the right candidate to arrive and applicants were frustrated it took so long (average time was 3.5 weeks) to have an employer interview them (we even got sued by one candidate because it took us so long to find him a job!) so I put a total stop to the service as I felt we were headed in the wrong direction. I had to make a tough decision and fire my best friend from school who I entrusted to run the business and axe all 12 staff (I find it so hard to fire people so this was super hard)
It was on a family skiing trip later that year that I had an epiphany - the managers of the ski resort where we were staying said they found it near-on impossible to find suitable staff for their peak season. I recalled a came up with a concept before selling called "Gone Staffing" whereby people could sign up to be part of the pool and employers could perform a search to find those people and ask them to come and work all via an app on your phone. I decided we had to have another go at the concept. So we setup Merlin (www.merlin.global)
Merlin was started to deliver the right people to shifts, on-demand. Our vision is where our system knows enough about the person and enough about the duties required to match the best person in the shortest amount of time without the need for interviews and paperwork. We also envisage being able to pull people from overseas in the event a shift can’t be filled by someone local (imagine being able to travel the world on a permanent working holiday via Merlin, where you’re guaranteed work where ever you go).
We are currently working to perfect our system. We have all our software team in-house and we have hired some terrific migration experts who are working out how we can get people from overseas a visa within 48 hrs so when our app launches we are be able to offer our employers the worlds largest talent pool all accessible with a maximum of 48hrs from requesting the shift be filled.
Once a shift is finished, the shifter is rated (as is the Boss!) and so the shifters attractiveness for future shifts grows. If we start to notice a trend in below par performance in certain duties, a shifter can elevate these scores by completing some training through the revolutionary training business I have setup called Ad Astra (To the Stars!) www.adastrainstitute.com.au.
Merlin isn't the only jewel in our crown however, Karma³ (www.karma3.com) another baby I setup that is, at the time of blogging this piece, in the R&D phase. The concept revolves around up-cycling waste and innovative waste collection programmes that provide rewards to users. This space is prime for a shake up and I think we have the concept and in-house smarts to make it happen and shift (pardon the Merlin pun) the current "waste" paradigm.
I am also involved in a business I setup with my best friend called MyFarm (www.myfarmaustralia.com.au). We hope to give farmers the opportunity to sell their produce around the world and via our chain of fast and fresh farm restaurants. We own a cattle station called Blue Lake Station where we breed black angus cattle of our own.
Stay tuned, as I will be updating this blog from time to time with my experiences, advice and success (and of course my failures and lessons learned).
You can also catch me on twitter https://twitter.com/JamesSackl