The Business Owner: Ed Lewis, Ali-Quantum
The founder explains why research is part of their main marketing technique and why keeping the team focused on one goal is essential
Founders: Ed Lewis and Will Morris
Proposition: A student-led recruitment firm which connects ambitious graduates to high-end clients
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
We operate in a unique fashion via our student partners that are located in various cities across the U.K. Traditional recruitment outfits will use job boards, LinkedIn and referrals.
We are able to work with university partners such as career departments, peer-to-peer networks, societies, sports teams, lecture shout-outs, internal email systems, and alumni networks to get the best access to the top talent on the university scene.
How did you finance your business?
I put in around £3,000 of my own capital and gained a further £5,000 from a local trust loan. As our business is serviced based, we had to dedicate more time than money. Since then, the business has grown organically and is set to finish this year on a strong financial note.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
I think staying focused on a clear objective and not straying away from that objective is important. It’s very easy to try and do one million things at once when starting out, but keeping an overall focus is key.
To retain such focus it is useful to have periodic revaluations of where you have come from and where you are heading and to make sure that everyone on the team has the same goal in mind.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
Good candidates dropping out. Our students and internal team spend lots of time with candidates and build strong relationships. When a good candidate decides not to go through with an interview or takes up another job offer elsewhere it can be demoralising.
With the current volume of great talent on the university scene, this is only ever a short-term set back so it is just a case of keeping everyone motivated.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
On the client side we use the traditional method of cold calling.
Firstly we will carry out research on whether they could benefit from our service and then target the potential ‘pain points’ that we could assist with. Once we explain our model, potential clients are usually interested in having a meeting so it is just a case of getting out there and being heard.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
It depends on what type of business you are operating. If there is a market in the U.K, I would advise learning the industry back to front and only exporting after you have a strong foothold in the UK.
However, if your research indicates far better opportunities in a foreign market, then it may be beneficial to start exporting from day one given the increased accessibility to this over recent years. Either way, solid research is invaluable.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
Being in recruitment, we couldn’t operate without our phones! We are in constant contact with partners and candidates. The whole Gmail set up is very important for the day-to-day aspect of our business. We have a lot of information stored with Google Drive, which makes it easy for anyone in the network to share, create and edit documents.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Young. Enthused. Revolutionary.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
I’d like the government to encourage more leaders to get into youth organisations such as schools, colleges, universities and even young offender institutes to inspire the next generation of business minds.
I believe there should be far more start-up classes that students can attend. Forget algebra, let’s talk about efficient tax measures!
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
I honestly don’t have one and rarely follow other leaders. Instead I have absorbed the best parts of various people and cherry pick aspects of their personality that I admire.
With this, I feel I can mould my own personality with a diverse range of qualities but put my own spin to it.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
By 2018 Ali-Quantum will be a leading brand on the university scene, and will place hundreds of graduates into top roles. We will also set up Ali-Quantum Ventures, an investment branch for university-based entrepreneurs.
I want to see students actively gain experience and earn some serious cash before they graduate.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Put in a lot of time and effort into creating a very focused business plan. Take out what you need to survive, and then reinvest the cash into the business to fuel growth. Having been students previously, living on a shoestring budget isn’t too hard.
Finding the right sales people and treating them well is always important in boosting company profits too.
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