young entrepreneur

Rome may not have been built in a day, but that doesn’t mean a company can’t.  That’s exactly what I did with my team and new business partner. We set up and launched a business in just eleven hours.

At the beginning of the day, we had no brand name, no customers, no employees, no website and no marketing plan. All we had was an outline concept.  Eleven hours later we had a brand, phone numbers, email addresses a functioning website, someone to manage the business and our first two customers.

Yes, it is possible to take your business concept and make it happen, even when you think you don’t have the time.  Here’s how you can do it.

Getting things underway

Step 1 – Clear the diary

With enough warning, we can all dedicate a full day to something.  In our case we realised that the “extra day” of 29th February (leap day) was an opportunity to do something special.   So we teed-up the team, booked a web developer for the day and ordered lunch -vital for keeping morale high!  We were fortunate to have twelve support staff on the day, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t do this with just you – the visionary – a graphic designer, web developer and a couple of other versatile individuals.  You’ll also want a proactive IT company you can call on to deal with any tech teething problems.

Step 2 – Plan out the day

This was the bit I cheated on.  Whilst the rest of the team could not get started before 9am on the day – they didn’t even know what the business was until then – Charlie and I did take some time in advance to plan out who was going to do what and when. What was important was to create clear milestones and an output that was achievable by the end of the day. We created a good old gantt chart for this purpose:

Gantt Chart

A section of the gantt chart used on the day

You are also going to need a whiteboard, post-it notes and lots of paper to record progress and jot down ideas through the day.

Step 3 – Use the first 30 minutes to present the vision

On the day itself, your first job is to get the business idea across to your team.  It will need to be readily understandable for your day to be a success.  This is how we did it:

  1. I presented the concept using Simon Sinek’s “Start with why” approach

Simon Sinek Why

The initial elevator pitch presented to the team and printed out to remind the team of the vision throughout the day

  1. We showed a brief video of a customer situation taken in advance. It doesn’t have to be high-tech – as I’m a potential customer, I just got the iPhone out and got my daughter to record me demonstrating how the end product (i.e. wood pellets) are used to heat my house with a biomass boiler.
  2. I described the business model using what we call a “Business Mugshot”. We derived this from the “Business Model Canvas” which you may have heard of.


A written-up version of the “mugshot” scribbled on the whiteboard

  1. 10 minutes of questions to encourage feedback and deal with queries.

Step 4 – Get down to work!

Following the briefing we split into three teams initially:

  • Branding
  • Market research
  • Technology

As the day progressed, we rearranged and reassigned people and teams to different tasks as required.

* Tip – I tried to give myself as few tasks as possible so I could act as the link between teams and make decisions rapidly.

What needs doing

The nature of your business will dictate what you need to work on but here’s our task list. These can be applied to most businesses:

  • Come up with a brand name – 1 hr
  • Secure domain names – 15 mins
  • Secure names on social sites – 30 mins
  • Logo design – 1 hr
  • Brand look and feel – 1hr
  • Call suppliers/mystery shop – 4 hrs
  • Call potential customers (we probably spoke to 50 people over the day largely by asking “who else do you know in a similar situation”) – 4hrs
  • Website copy – 2 hrs
  • Website layout – 2 hrs
  • Website build – all day
  • Set-up Google apps (email) – ask IT company
  • Standard email copy – 3 hrs
  • Set-up phone number – ask IT company
  • Set-up email newsletter (Mailchimp)
  • Create and launch Google AdWords account
  • Create outline digital marketing plan – 3hrs
  • Populate “database” (spreadsheet) – 3hrs
  • Week one plan and write-up processes for “employee/s” – 3hrs

“Focus efforts on the customer “interface”, not the back office….and keep it simple”

You might have noticed I didn’t include “incorporate company” or “set-up bank account” in the above list. That’s because our focus was on the customer “interface”, not the back office.

Getting customers was a higher priority than being able to process a payment (indeed we processed our first payment manually through a third party bank account).  That meant focusing on getting a website up and running, and keeping things simple.

The “price comparison site” we launched was little more than a form, some persuasive wording and an about us page.

The back office system?  As soon as a form was filled, we literally picked up the phone to suppliers and emailed the collated information back to the customer. Very high tech!

Beyond the day

By only giving ourselves a day, we were forced to adopt an “agile” or “lean” mindset and how refreshing that has been!

One month in we are beginning to automate processes after discovering what is important to customers, some of which were unexpected. If we’d launched the company more traditionally, we would have wasted all that development budget automating things that the customer didn’t want.

If a day is all you can spare for a new business, then delegation is your only option. It’s also pretty refreshing for an entrepreneur like me who doesn’t like letting go.

I’m thriving on having another business, yet I’m still working full time at Attacat.  That’s only been possible by finding a partner who shares my vision. This has certainly been a different way of setting up a business, but for time poor entrepreneurs, I highly recommend it.


By Tim Barlow, co-founder