Rupert Lee-Browne, CEO at Caxton FX looks at the seven things he has learned whilst running his business, with the benefit of hindsight.
Use your experience to build your business
Learning and gaining from my previous working experiences has been vital to the success of Caxton. Starting a dotcom back in 1999 and working briefly in foreign exchange meant I was able to identify a clear market opportunity. By using expertise, customer insight and intuition, I was able to create a compelling business strategy – the concept of making ‘send or spend’ overseas cheaper, simpler and easier for customers. My experience of working for other people and seeing the mistakes they made and the successes they had, has all helped shape the company into the business it is today.
Never, ever give up trying
Starting a new business is always daunting, but I truly believed that the concept behind Caxton was something that would work, and this was the driving force behind my decision to start the company. While I had I had fantastic support from friends and family, when it came to the industry it was a different story. Fifteen years ago the market was very unwelcoming, not like today. I tried to open accounts at 43 different banks, all of whom turned the business down. There was a great deal of negativity in the industry about the possible success of the business; I was told repeatedly that it would never work and that we would end up going under in a very short space of time. However, having others tell me that it would never happen inspired me to prove them wrong.
It’s all about the people
An ethos I have always integrated into my businesses is the importance of finding – and retaining – the right people for the job. It is essential that you employ only the very best people and invest time and money in managing, training and encouraging them. For a business to be amazing, you need to have amazing people working as part of the team. At Caxton we are very selective with who we hire, and this is a huge reason that the business has reached the place it is today.
Value your customers
Providing service to customers has always been a bedrock of what we do, and by doing it well we are able to distinguish ourselves from other businesses within the sector. The knock on effects of consistently providing amazing customer service are quite significant, and are rewarding on both a personal and financial level. Predominantly, customer service is essential for growth. We have found that when customers are satisfied, they will recommend our business to others, enabling us to grow organically by word of mouth. This not only considerably reduces our cost of acquiring new customers, but also promotes customer loyalty. People who come to us via recommendations from friends and family tend to be far more committed to the brand than if they came upon us through advertising or a website.
Think creatively when raising money
Once you have built a relationship with your customers, you can ask them for things in return. In the case of Caxton, four years ago we needed to raise funds – something which we wanted to do without borrowing from the banks or selling equity. Instead, we went directly to our customers and offered them a new retail bond; essentially they would lend us money and we would offer a fixed return for four years. At the end of that period they would receive their money back. We raised £6 million in just two weeks – purely from our customers. Because we made customer service a priority, our customers trusted us enough to lend us their money, which has helped the business to grow and profit.
Stay ahead of the game
In business, it’s vital to identify your main competition and always be one step ahead. In Caxton’s case, our main competitors are the big high street banks – they had been in control of foreign currency and international payments since the dawn of time. However, in the last 10 years there has been a wind of change and a disintermediation of their role. Staying ahead of them is very straightforward. We are extremely nimble and the technology behind what we do is state of the art and brand new. Where our technology is six months old, theirs is decades old – and this has been crucial to helping us provide better service and lower prices for our customers.
Never play by the rules
Legally you should always play by the rules, but when it comes to self-imposed rules, it’s a different story. When you’re starting a company you will no doubt find yourself extremely far outside your comfort zone, and this is something you need to embrace. You need to forget about any limits you’ve set yourself and do whatever it takes to get your business going.