Storm Consultancy may only be two years old but has already built a reputation as being one of the south west's fastest growing digital agencies, with 200 percent year-on-year growth. One of Storm's founders is Dave Kelly who,at just 24, is already contemplating recruiting new staff for his company. Here, he talks about his views on what makes a successful company.

Q: If you were advising a company with a fantastic product but no marketing skills, what would tell them?

A: This is often the starting point of a sales enquiry at Storm, you often have to start by going back to basics. For example, the product may be great, but is there a market for it? Is there a route to market? Are there legal / financial barriers? Is there any competition? Only once you have a clear picture of these elements can you identify how best to put your amazing product in-front of your target market. In essence, you form a narrow, sales focused business plan.

It’s most likely that once you have that clear plan, you’ll need to bring in outside skills to execute it. However, bootstrapped startups are often not in a position where they can afford this - so it's important to focus your finance and use favours where possible.

Q: Was there a “blueprint” or path of starting a business that you more or less followed with Storm? How did you know how to start?

A: No blueprint what so ever. I’m genuinely a believer that if you get enough smart people all with the same goal, then thats the best start you can get. Essentially the founders of Storm were all straight out of university, so there was a degree of ‘make it up as you go along’.

Q: What the single most important thing you can do to be successful in business?

A: On a personal level, being passionate about what you do and enjoying it are really important. From a business point of view, I think that surrounding yourself with the right people who you’re willing to delegate to is possibly the most important thing to a successful business.

There are far too many things that can tie you down and sap your time if you’re a small startup (finance, HR, legal). It’s great advice to off load as much as you can and focus on what you’re good at.

Q: When does an idea become a business?

A: For me, an idea becomes a business when it’s paying your bills. Even if that’s via initial venture capital. My personal opinion is that if you’re doing something part time, or your heart isn't fully in it - perhaps because you are uneasy about the financial risk, then you’ve not got a proper business.
Being in business does require you to take the plunge at some point - and until you’ve done that, your idea will likely remain so.

Q: What are the best and worst pieces of business advice you have received?

A: The best is most definitely: If you work in your business, you can’t work on your business.
If you end up being a resource for your business, you often never get the opportunity to abstract yourself enough to develop the business, network and eventually ‘manage’. This is the most common problem that freelancers face - and ultimately a problem that is only ever solved by employing.

Q: You founded Storm with your colleagues Steve Thorne and Adam Pope. When did you decide to take on your first employee?

A: I think we noticed that I, especially, was falling into the trap of working in Storm. So, rather than focusing on business development, sales and positioning, I was spending my early days coding websites. So we put a stop to that and hired in a developer and a designer to take the weight off the team and allow us to focus on growth.

I’m very much of the opinion that you should never hire on a spur - wait until you’re absolutely desperate for someone, then wait a couple of months, and then wait another month on top. When you’re literally at breaking point - then you know it’s the right time to hire.

I’m very much of the opinion that you should never hire on a spur - wait until you’re absolutely desperate for someone, then wait a couple of months, and then wait another month on top. When you’re literally at breaking point - then you know it’s the right time to hire.

Q: How important has it been for you to find the right premises? Stay within budget or room to expand?

A: For Storm, finding premises in the centre of the beautiful city of Bath has been paramount to our success as it’s allowed us to get involved in the thriving tech and digital community here.

As a general rule, you have to ask yourself what the benefits of a move would be. If you believe a move is going to positively influence your business then it’s a calculated risk. Keep in mind that if you don’t take risks to expand, then your business will stagnate.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake you made in starting Storm?

A: We took a little too long to nail down our billable hours / profit margins. It’s elementary, but we got a little carried away building cool stuff and let our eye slip from the figures. It didn't end up hurting us, but it’s definitely something that I’d pay more attention to over the first 12 months if I were to jump into another startup.

Living and breathing your numbers will definitely increase the stress in your company, but it’ll keep you on the pulse and give you time to work around any approaching cash-flow problems.

Q: Generally, does the UK like entrepreneurs or are we still in the mindset of 9 til 5 hierarchical employment?

A: My view is that it’s up to wannabe entrepreneurs to carve and shape an industry for themselves, regardless of public mindset. We should be less concerned with what people think - we’re here to change culture.

I do, however, feel that with the ever-increasing difficulty of the UK job market, we’re going to see a lot more young people trying their own thing as a University/Job alternative. Hopefully the UK Government, both local and national, will do everything in their power to encourage and support entrepreneurship over the next decade.

Q: Entrepreneurship – Skill, luck, or a bit of both?

A: That's a really good question - for me, you can’t really label yourself as ‘an entrepreneur’. In reality, other people see ‘entrepreneurial traits’ in you, thus you are branded an entrepreneur - and as such, I guess it is part of your makeup/personality.

So I’d say that having entrepreneurial characteristics will often be predefined by personality. However, the application of those skills in a business context - moreover to apply those skills successfully requires a combination of skill, luck, guts and experience.