We caught up with Joe Bush, Director of Client Success, Co-Founder of The Chat Shop based out of Q-West. Joe will be joining Informed Funding for the seminar’s evening session of drinks, canapes and networking that will include a live “share all” interview session.
Informed Funding is sponsored by Workspace Group, so the event is completely free for Workspace customers and Club Workspace members.
Joe and his business partner Jonny founded The Chat Shop back in 2012 with a couple of MacBooks, some ambition, and enough caffeine to down a race horse. They saw the rift between excellent customer experience and the actual experience of buying from a website (or worse, asking for help on a website). So, they decided to turn an underutilised format into a business driven by changing the way online communication is delivered. The Chat Shop's focus is live chat, offered as a managed service, and Joe specialises in consulting for companies who might prefer to do their customer engagement channels in-house. Five years, two awards, and approximately 8,000 cups of coffee later, Joe's still happy to chat. Pun intended.
Tell us something interesting about you, your team or the business?
“When Joe's not too busy harnessing the power of chat for lead generation and customer support, he's flying and has two more tests before he gets his pilot wings. And The Chat Shop's up in the air too; we've doubled in size each year for the past five years.”
To date you have financed the business through your own resources. Has that been a risk worth taking, and do you think you might look for external equity at some point?
“I think the biggest risk we took was investing in our MacBooks - because we all know you can’t start a Start-Up without MacBooks. Spending half of our starting capital on a couple of computers was a risk we’ve made work. Launching on our own finances has meant being creative (and cagey) when it comes to growing the business. But it also gives us a lot of opportunities that most people in business don’t have; we get to reinvest our revenue each month toward growing and improving the product that we have without having to answer to investors, which is awesome.
We’ve taken a £120k loan and are always considering external equity (because who isn’t?) to help us take leaps instead of baby steps.”
Have you considered what tax and other incentives might be available, and have you found it straightforward to get advice?
“The big one for us over the last few years has been R&D tax credits. Those are the sweet ones. They’ve let us invest in R&D to improve all of our back-end systems (that means a better experience for our customers) while reducing our tax liabilities (that means a better experience for us). Other tax and incentives have been harder to come by, but that doesn’t keep us from trying.”
You are still a young company, but do you spend any time considering possible exit strategies?
“Of course, that’s the nature of the beast. When we incorporated the business we had planned an exit in three years (which was a little naive given the journey to come). We are now once again considering our exit strategy, although this won’t be for a while. The good news is we’ve plenty of opportunities to be making the most of with The Chat Shop and a partial exit through private equity could be a good route for us.”
Want to hear more? Why not join Informed Funding here on 21st September for this unique event at Grand Union Studios where they bring together experts to work with small groups of business owners for the afternoon?
It’s a chance to do a health-check on whether your business and personal objectives are actually aligned. Is your business on track for delivering what you want, and what do you need to change?