When your business launch doesn't quite go to plan

When your business launch doesn't quite go to plan

Ian Pollard's new insurance company stumbled at the last hurdle before launch. So what should you do when your plan to start up doesn't pan out as you thought?

What was involved in getting Delta Insurance off the ground?

We're a Kiwi owned specialist liability insurance underwriter. It was a 24 month process from conception of the idea and development of the business plan through to launch. My business partner Craig Kirk and I spent 18 months working on it and it was scheduled to launch in early May this year. All the elements were in place; finance secured, brokers lined up to sell policies, employees hired, insurance capacity partners on board, website ready, PR team ready to go, offices acquired, accountants and solicitors all appointed and the lights turned on. Craig and I were mentally ready to launch, but there was a hurdle that tested our belief in our vision.

What was holding up your launch?

That final piece was the go ahead from Lloyd's of London for us to act as an approved cover holder in New Zealand, and it was that approval that was unexpectedly delayed, through no fault of our own. Lloyd’s approval was critical, especially as they were our marketplace and regulator, so we were left in an awkward limbo period where we were chomping at the bit to get started, but didn't know fully when that would be.

What have you learned about a launch that doesn't quite stay on track?

One of the biggest lessons from building our business was understanding that things don't happen as fast as you would like, or according to your own timeframe, no matter how much you prepare and account for buffer time. When faced with delays and periods of waiting, it's important to keep up a positive frame of mind and believe in the end game. There are always facets of the business that you can turn your attention to, to fine tune or add to, to keep yourself and the team focused.

How did you deal with the delay?

It was a lesson in patience and belief in the vision we had for the business. Patience is something I had to develop during my seven years living and working in Asia, where it is an essential trait for being successful in business. Delays can affect your confidence in what you're doing and where you're going. We'd been moving so fast over 24 months, putting the elements of the business in place, making a multitude of decisions everyday on a thousand different areas of operations, and suddenly it all came to a grinding halt and everyone was waiting on this one seemingly trivial thing to come through. It was completely out of our hands and a very frustrating time for us, but you have to keep a positive attitude and mindset.

At times it felt like a marathon, and having trained and competed in marathons I can say from experience that you have to stay the course and not let those mind games play their part. Just focus on getting to the finish line. We chose to use this unexpected additional time as effectively as possible. Craig, myself and our team (there are now five of us and soon to be six) continued to meet with brokers to encourage them to buy into our value proposition and refreshing approach, and used the time to visit Wellington and Christchurch to build those relationships in person. We also used the time to polish and streamline back of house services and operations, to help ensure that they would operate seamlessly when launch time did arrive – a full six weeks later. As we found, there is always more than enough to do and we certainly weren’t twiddling our thumbs.

Any final words of wisdom for others going through similar circumstances?

We've now launched Delta Insurance, but I know there are going to be more challenges along the way, more things that don't go according to plan, but we've had a taste of how to deal with it and the key is keeping the end goal at the top of your thoughts. My words of wisdom are actually those of Winston Churchill and seemed fitting to quote to the team once we got our Lloyd’s green light: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”