Thomas Villeneuve, CEO of Weroom, looks at the seven things he has learned since starting his business, with the benefit of hindsight.
I founded Weroom – the social marketplace for flat sharing initially in Paris in 2013 while flat sharing I came up with the idea to launch a website to help match people to their ideal flat share. The launch was a success and we have grown rapidly and now have 300,000 users globally and properties in five countries.
It all starts with an idea
Before launching, you need to think about how your business will impact the market, particularly if it is already saturated with competition, and if it will significantly impact and change consumers’ lives. After hearing about other people’s varied experiences of flat sharing, I identified a place in the market for a platform where flat sharers could find a room on a secure website that they knew was being rented out by a trusted landlord. From that idea, Weroom was founded.
Another fundamental element of our business that differentiates us from competitors is our online booking platform. We are the only company in the UK that allows users to secure a room with a deposit but does not transfer these funds over to the landlord until 48hrs after the tenant has viewed the property and said it is how the flat appeared in the ad.
Knowing when to launch
Timing is critical when launching a business. We launched the service in London in 2014, when more people than ever before were renting in the UK, due to an increasing housing shortage. Our plan to bring consumers a flat sharing service with a difference allowed us to tap into an existing market but one which was growing rapidly and had demand. Our service was relevant to people’s lives and that made a huge impact on our growth.
Knowing when to change strategy
It’s important to outline your business strategy in the beginning and consider what needs to be done to grow your business within the marketplace. By conducting market research ahead of your launch, you may discover a need to tweak your strategy to ensure you are delivering to the specific needs of consumers. Research led us to discover that we needed to adopt a different strategy per country, for instance, in France were flat sharing was less established as a property solution than in the UK, we had to do more to persuade Landlords about the benefits of letting out their properties through flat sharing. The challenge was not as great in the UK where flat sharing as a concept was already well known by consumers and Landlords alike.
Anticipate the obstacles
Anticipating and preparing for potential obstacles can help prevent future challenges. Most businesses have deadlines to meet but there are often instances where things crop up and your plans can be interrupted. To stay ahead of potential obstacles we make sure that we are monitoring property news in each market, and plan our activity accordingly. For example we prepared comments for the media in the run up to the announcement of the UK budget last year to present Weroom as authority on the rental market in the UK.
Managing a team requires communication
Communication is imperative to supporting and motivating your team. To ensure the teams in France and the UK are on track, I stay in touch with both teams by facilitating video conferences, conducting weekly reports and visiting the London office. I’ve also found that setting the entire team business targets on a monthly basis allows the team to evaluate what has been achieved so that we can then create realistic short and long term goals moving forward.
Prioritise the workload
I have found that prioritising my workload helps to ensure all tasks are completed within their respective time frames. While everything you do on a daily basis is important not everything is urgent. I have learnt that if you set yourself deadlines for each action in order of urgency, you will find your workload more manageable. When possible, allow yourself more time to complete tasks in case urgent business needs crop up.
Take some personal time
Taking the time out to look after yourself is important for both you and the business because if your productivity slips, your work will be impacted. When launching a start-up, you will likely find that most of your time is taken up by your work – particularly if you are committed to making your business a big success. Yet, one thing I have found is that by taking a couple of breaks, away from emails can really help get me through the day and ensure targets are reached not only on time but to a good standard.