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  • John Hardiman

What No One Tells You About Starting a Business

It’s something many of us have thought, dreamed or fantasised about – leaving the highly structured world of corporate life and going out to start up something new. I’m proud to say that’s exactly what happened for me in early 2021 when Marc Hershman and I started Insurely.

Marc’s got a history of starting successful businesses but in my case, it was a whole new world. I thought it would be good to look back and share some of my experiences and learnings, after the first 100 days since we launched Insurely.

What No One Tells You About Starting a Business by John Hardiman Insurely
From Corporate Life to Start Up Freedom

My God, the world of tech is amazing

There’s an unbelievable world of cool software and technology out there, seriously.

I must admit – I thought that I had a fairly decent understanding of business software tools but to be honest, I had no idea about the breadth and scope that exists in 2021. For me, it’s definitely one of the biggest eye-openers, to see the amazing SaaS technology that’s available to support the running of a business. The number of times I’ve literally been wowed by seeing how the right software can supercharge results has been incredible. Choosing software from the plethora of options can be a serious challenge, though; making sure it all clicks together and delivers what we need is much easier said than done. But having seen what happens when you get it right – it’s an absolute game-changer.

My puppy won’t be winning employee of the month

My wife and I decided to get a puppy at about the same time we launched Insurely. Our little bundle of poop and barks is called Bailey and she’s pretty awesome. It’s nice to have her around the home office at times, however for some reason she doesn’t seem particularly concerned with the success of the business. Thank the insurance gods for doggy daycare – maintaining focus is super important for me to power through the work, so a regular break from puppy really helps with that. Would I recommend a puppy alongside a new business start-up? Logic says perhaps not, but who could so ‘no’ to this face?

Insurely dog Bailey - An Office Dog is  Good Idea...sometimes
Her typing is 'average', insurance knowledge improving.

Zapier? What the !#%k is that?

Having always worked at large corporates before Insurely, I hadn’t needed to consider things like call scheduling software and process automation. Also, I can honestly say that I'd not heard of amazing tools like Zapier. Zapier connects different software systems so they can talk to each other. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound like huge news but consider how many systems you use every day that work independently, then consider how much easier your life would be if they all worked in concert!

Corporate organisations usually operate some of their own tech solutions, sometimes with mixed success. It doesn’t have to be like that for us – the agility of start-ups means that the world is our oyster. At Insurely, we’re committed to using technology to make our clients’ experience better and we’ve already had some amazing feedback from our clients to prove this is happening.

Customers usually aren’t looking for a broker. They’re looking for good partners to work with

Clients come in all varieties but there are definitely a few common traits across our great clients. I like to remember that clients are just as invested in their business as we are in ours. They’re living and breathing their business every day and they want a partner who gets this. If we do our job well, it’s one less thing for the client to worry about and they can get back to what really matters – focusing 100% on running their company.

Admin doesn’t take care of itself

After many years spent in a corporate office, it’s easy to forget about the amount of work it takes to support a business with the back office. In my old life, there was always toner in the printer, subscriptions got paid and the dishwasher magically emptied itself. There was always someone around to help with general bits and pieces, so I didn’t have to. Not anymore! The reality of start-ups is that one minute you’re making a big pitch to a potential new client, which can be followed directly by a trip to the supermarket to replenish the home coffee supplies. Nothing is off the table - you’ve got to suck it up and do what’s needed.

Check your ego at the door

Clients (rightly) don’t usually give a stuff about your career highlights and what accounts you’ve managed in the past. They need to know how you’re going to use that experience to provide a great service, to make their world better. For me, it’s been fantastic to be closer to the clients’ businesses. Underwriting is typically more arms-length but now in my role, there’s a direct and functional relationship with the businesses we work with every day.

The evolution of ideas is very cool but a little scary

Before we officially launched Insurely, we had lots of plans and ideas for how the business would operate. I love looking back at these and seeing how things have evolved – we’ve managed to maintain flexibility to take the business in different directions, adapting to the environment but still challenging the status quo. The scary part comes when you consider how big the wider picture can be – but learning to break it down into manageable chunks has been really positive and productive.

Colour & branding decisions can be like going down a rabbit hole

I thought that picking colours for the business logos and branding would be easy. I was very wrong. It turns out that it’s pretty easy to fall into an abyss of colours and fonts. The more you look at it, the harder it becomes! At some point you just have to step back and pull the trigger and I’m really happy with the final result. So much of the choice is around how it feels and what you want to portray, that it becomes quite personal.

Overall it's been an amazing experience so far - a real challenge but one that comes with great rewards. If you're reading this and thinking of pulling the trigger to start something new yourself - I'd definitely encourage it, 100%. Get out of that comfort zone and take a shot!

Insurely - A Few More Reasons to Love Insurance

The Insurely team are on a mission to make insurance better. We combine market-leading insurance broking and risk management advice with a personalised service, built on integrity and trust. Get in touch with us via our website, LinkedIn or Facebook.

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