So how did Swirral come about?
Eventually after the France Telecom transition my time at Orange came to an end and I decided to leave.
I recognised that my core strength – after all – was finance, but wanted a broader scope than the traditional financial focus. I setup by myself offering interim FD services to clients and offered marketing advice as part of the package. This scope evolved over time by working with a couple of big businesses as virtual FD. With the rise of cloud-based accounting, it was obvious to me that I should offer a larger services portfolio with accounting services being only the entry point – as opposed to the end-point – for my clients.
Then, one day, I sat in a conference and listened to a discussion between FinTech founders about trying to connect Xero (an accounting application) to their new systems. By targeting the business owners who used Xero, it dawned on me that their accountants needed to become the guardians of their clients’ data, yet all they were focusing on was the processing of the data itself.
I quickly realised that this was my calling. I had already been the “data guardian” at Orange years earlier, but I could now see it had become an even more important aspect and companies needed help with this. I was able to draw from 25 years’ experience and there is a gap in the market for a commercially focused advisor with deep expertise in finance. The closest role is a generalist “business advisor”, but often they lack the deep financial focus, while most accountants won’t look at the commercial aspects and will only consider the final year end numbers – as opposed to the underlying business drivers & the raw data.
I setup Swirral on the basis that I had to outsource the services that I can’t (or don’t want to) offer myself. It was a big step, especially if you’re not busy and you’d prefer to have the money yourself. But it allowed me to grow.
My previous company was called “Organic Business Growth” and I offered my services as part-time FD to clients, but its direction and strategy for growth was never fully defined. Several contracts came to a natural end and that triggered the move over to Swirral. I started Swirral in 2016 with a new business model in mind, which is to offer a wide portfolio of marketing and commercial business services, as well as the accounting and financial advisory side. These services are integrated for customers to gain a deeper insight into opportunities of what enables, drives, and grows their business.
What is more difficult: winning your first 5 paying customers or the next 20? And why?
It’s fairly easy to pick up the first few customers, as they come from friends and warm contacts. The next 20 are harder because they require going out to connect with people you don’t know and asking for their business, generally through several channels. For that early second tranche of new customers, it’s too early to be picking up work through referrals from the initial clients.
What enabled you to grow your business?
At the core were two things. One was being part of AVN, a proactive group of accountants who share best practice, tools, systems to avoid having to recreate the wheel. The second was finding out how to generate high numbers of leads through LinkedIn.
As I mentioned earlier, it was also important to let go of – and outsource – areas of the business that Swirral offers, but that I didn’t want to deliver in-house.
But ultimately it comes back to that moment I had the Eureka moment when I sat in that FinTech conference. That’s what triggered the focused approach, which now allows me to work towards a defined and future-proof goal.
Which is more important for sustainable revenue growth: Marketing or Sales? Why?
I’m never sure what falls into each heading. I’m not into selling, preferring to use smart analytics to find the right prospects then open dialogue with them. So, I guess the answer is marketing.
What is the best business advice you have ever been given?
Spend 80% of time listening and 20% of time talking
What is your favourite business book, and why?
Flash Foresight by Daniel Burrus. It has added structure to my thinking and improved my ability to accurately predict likely outcomes over the next 5 years for clients
What is next for Swirral?
By December 2018 be generating enough income to enable my wife to quit the NHS. She deserves a break after 25 years.
Thanks for sharing your experience and story with us Martyn.
It was entirely my pleasure.
For more information about Swirral, go to www.swirral.co.uk. If you’d like to connect with Martyn, you can find him on Linkedin (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/martynhodgson)
About INBND Growth Marketing:
INBND provides Growth Marketing Consultancy Services to B2B organisations.
Lev Cribb started INBND to address one big problem: the disconnect between lead generation and sustainable revenue growth. Or in other words, between marketing and sales. He saw too many companies grow inspite of their lead generation efforts, not because of them. INBND brings the passion, expertise and focus to drive change in your organisation. Get in touch today and find out how a modern approach to revenue generation can help accelerate your growth.