Welcome to Saturday Business/Freelancer Chat with Mike Orchard from Skills Hive. Skills Hive is one of those sites that allows freelancers and other people with skills to offer to promote themselves and get hired by companies looking for people to work on their projects; it offers project management tools and also seems to try to be a bit friendlier and more approachable, with a blog about different aspects of networking and marketing as well as the main part of the site.
Mike’s is a slightly larger operation than some of the people’s we’ve featured recently, with an IT and web person already on board and working with a lot of partners from the outset, but of course the lessons he’s learning are still the same ones we all face, big or small. Let’s meet Mike!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Skills Hive is an online flexible resourcing system combining searchable profiles with task management tools. It enables businesses and individuals to hire and get hired to deliver short-term projects. I registered the company in January 2011, spent a few months on proof of concept and the summer building the system. We have started a controlled launch in August focusing on recruiting partners with whom to take the service to market.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I always wanted to be my own boss and have written a number of business plans that always got shelved due to a lack of experience, capital or just confidence. After 15 years progressing a corporate career I realised they had just been excuses, so I decided to commit wholeheartedly to the next viable opportunity and secure the creative freedom I have always craved as an ideas man.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
An ex-client had approached me about setting up a Social Media agency; the more I learned about the emerging trends in that area, the more it became clear to me that there was a more significant need. Businesses, including and particularly marketing agencies, must become more agile if they are going to survive and prosper. The current bid based freelancer marketplaces weren’t meeting demand successfully and an alternative virtual team management approach could help companies scale up their operations efficiently to respond to opportunities and problems.
Had you run your own business before?
No, but I had run major budget projects and assisted many business owners in a consultant role. I believe that the only qualification needed really is a willingness to learn fast and never stop learning!
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I started off using redundancy money to fund the start-up operation, also recruiting a business partner with a more technical IT and web background to co-fund the initial major investment in systems architecture and to oversee ongoing development going forward.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Everyone has an opinion, they can’t all be right!
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Be fearless in your commitment to meeting the need you have identified and flexible enough to incorporate new ones.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
So far not much, although I know that I always need to improve my focus and not get distracted by varying opinions.
What are you glad you did?
I am really glad that I have spent time developing my instincts to the point that I trust them now; that has really helped me to define the opportunity, and practise what I preach in terms of finding really talented, and affordable, freelancers to work with me on the business.
What’s your top business tip?
Learn to fail but don’t fail to learn.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
We have only just launched, but have already identified a number of opportunities to develop new services and commercial elements within the Skills Hive. Much of this has come from initiating relationships with partners, especially some of the more forward thinking UK Universities. The trick now is to scale the core proposition while testing and developing manageable layers of diversity around that primary focus.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
According to the forecasts we will be on track to reach our target turnover within 3 years and so next year will see us starting to court some serious investors to secure the investment needed to get us to our year 5 stretching target.
So, ambitious plans for Mike and the Skills Hive, and it’ll certainly be interesting to see how things go over the next year.