The Business Owner: Darren Fell, Crunch
The serial entrepreneur tells us why being aware of your company's day-to-day running, and how your staff feel, is essential to success
Name: Darren Fell
Founders: Darren Fell and Steve Crouch
Location: Hove, East Sussex
Proposition: Online accountancy service for freelancers and micro-businesses
Size: 150 employees – and growing!
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
I think that because we’re an online accountancy firm we differ hugely from the traditional accountant. We offer small businesses a solution they can’t find anywhere else: a service with software and support all under one roof, tightly integrated.
As far as I know we’re still the only accountancy firm building their own software in-house.
How did you finance your business?
Crunch was funded with money from the sale of Pure 360, my first business, as well as small investments from my co-founders and two angel investors, Paul Birch and Michael Van Swaaij.
I had bad experiences with VCs in Pure, so I specifically wanted to avoid going down that route again.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
One of the most important things for me personally is being aware of how your business is running.
I like to think about how our are staff feeling, do they have any feedback about the business, what could we do better? Being in touch with the people in the day-to-day running of the business is really important.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
Managing priorities is really challenging. We have so many projects on the go at once and many things we want to build that funneling them all through our design and development teams is incredibly challenging.
We recently hired a few product owners to better wrangle things.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
We’ve invested heavily in content marketing. We have a full editorial team in-house and they produce hundreds of guides, articles and videos that our clients love – and which help attract new business.
We’ve always said our mission is to support business owners, not just do their books, and all the advice and support hosted on our site helps us get closer to that goal.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
I don’t think it’s important for every small business to export, it depends on your product or service. There’s a massive, massive market in the UK so there’s often no need to export. It can add a whole level of complexity that’s unnecessary.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
I couldn’t get through the day without Omnifocus. It’s essentially an organisation tool for your mind, it allows you to organise and filter thoughts, making tasks more actionable. When your head is constantly full of work, it’s a great app to help you process and filter ideas.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Collaborative, simple, fun.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
I think there’s a difference between small businesses and micro businesses. I would love an absolute understanding and focus on micro-businesses and freelancers, and I’m concerned that the current government is having a pop at these businesses.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
I have to admit that I don’t really have one.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
We want to be number one in the marketplace, but we also want to expand beyond just accountancy and tax. We purposely made our mission broad so that there are many different ways we can achieve it.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Top tip for profit? Sell, sell, sell.
Ensure you have a good cashflow. Before you get to profit, get the cashflow working and invoice on time!
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