Getting to know you: Angus Elphinstone

What do you currently do?

I own and run the delivery auction website Anyvan.com, which saves people up to 75 per cent on removals and courier services by making use of empty space in lorries and vans travelling on UK and European roads. People post details of what they need moving on our site, and drivers already travelling in that direction bid for the work. It’s a reverse auction system, so the bids get lower and lower.

What is your inspiration in business?

My inspiration is knowing that my businesses is changing the way an industry works for better of both consumers and transport providers. We’re showing how an industry can be made more accessible to one and all through technology. And it’s hugely motivating to offer a system that makes business more efficient.

Who do you admire?

I’ve always looked up to entrepreneurs who started with nothing. Somebody like Duncan Bannatyne is a person I particularly admire. Throughout his career he’s made astute business decisions and taken advantage of the market in innovative ways. During the infamous Glasgow ice cream wars, he bought a fleet of ice cream vans, and built his first business, before selling it and moving into care homes and then healthclubs. There was no internet back then and things moved more slowly, so to succeed was arguably more difficult.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?

Many things. The internet and how it worked was totally alien to me when first starting out. I spent money marketing our product without knowing anything about marketing – and very little about metrics with regards to user retention and costs per acquisitions. Planning one, two, three years ahead was something that we spent little time doing, which I wouldn’t recommend!

What defines your way of doing business?

I’m a firm believer in calling a spade a spade. I loathe flannel and feel strongly that if a product’s good, it should speak for itself. There should be no need for waffle. If you’re anything less than upfront, you’re doing your customer a disservice. I’d like to think I’m open-minded about business and not afraid to try new things. Starting an online business was a fairly risky move, particularly as the technology was expensive to build, and my only prior experience was setting up a removals firm called White Van Gentlemen.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Don’t expect anything to happen for a very long time! Starting a business takes time, energy and money, so be prepared not to see much of your family or friends. Dedicating so much of your time to a fledgling business will really test your mettle, and your commitment to making it work.

You’ll have setbacks which might be to do with cash flow, or taking on staff, but don’t be disheartened. Have some cash set aside for a rainy day and don’t be afraid to ask for advice, particularly from other business owners. In some cases, it might be an idea to look at having an investor on board who can offer valuable expertise as well as a cash injection.

Finally, take advantage of any funds or schemes designed to help start-ups, such as the Accelerator scheme or the Regional Growth Fund.

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