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Mentor, Entrepreneur, Ex Professional footballer – meet Patrick Collins, who supports Volvero with his valuable advice. This month he shares with us his story of professional growth, mentorship philosophy, tips for customer acquisition, and his vision of Volvero.

Tell us about your entrepreneurial and coaching journey.

Then we go way back to when I was about 15. On the weekends I used to organize football tournaments and charge people to play, that time I already had a feeling for trying to start some sort of business to make a bit of extra money. 

I probably would have gone into the business world earlier, but I had a career from 16 to 24 as a professional footballer. When I was playing football, I was more into the property business. But it was only when I came out of football that I had to realize what I want to do in my life. 

I was at a crossroads of do I go and work for a traditional business in the property space or do I go try something else? And there was an advert of joining a startup on Gumtree, the equivalent of Craigslist in the UK.

At that time I had no idea what a startup even was. This team was in an acceleration program, they had a marketing person that was about 24 and I was about the same age, the founder was based in the UK and we were in the Northeast. So we were basically set for three months just to build a startup ourselves and figure it out, which was incredible. So my first ever job was working for a startup basically, and I stayed in that space ever since. I transitioned from being a salesperson to a digital marketer, then consulting, and then running my own agencies. In the past three years, I’ve had the chance to work with companies throughout Europe as part of Startup Wise Guys. But I would say my entrepreneurial background has always been “give me any sort of business, any industry, and I can come up with ways of trying to find customers“. I think that I’ve always had that sort of skill for which I later became a coach, a mentor.

“Give more than you take and you’ll get more than you’ve ever needed.”

What is your coaching philosophy?

People were slightly suspicious of me because of my philosophy: give more than you take and you’ll get more than you’ve ever needed. People were surprised to say, well, why are you giving out? Why are you helping people, supporting them without charge? And the point is that a lot of people don’t really have a budget to pay for something yet, they just need a push in the right direction. What I found is my skill or my philosophy is just to help everybody that deserves to be helped and the ones who are proactive, the ones who are grateful, then come back to me. We do a lot of things together and it has built this network where I’m constantly busy. So I never tend to look for new work, new customers, because I think this network that I’m growing seems to come back to me as well. But my philosophy certainly gives. Just keep giving and you’ll get way more back than you’ve ever needed.

A lot of startups look at the biggest businesses and think they’ve been the biggest businesses by the same model all the time which is not true.

What was your first business?

My first business was called Timely. I was working in a startup in sales and my wife, my girlfriend back at the time and I wanted to travel. So we said to the company, could we work online, go to Thailand, but still do some stuff for you? And they said, well, we need help with lead generation and some research. And we said, OK, we’ll figure it out. So we set up a business which is virtual assistant business and my first customer was my employer. And then we grew from there: I would get the customers and then my wife would do the work and we just grew the business that way for about two years.

And what happened is most people wanted help with data research, social media, lead generation, so what started as a virtual assistant transformed into a lead generation agency and rebranded as Prospect Labs. It is a mix between a growth hacking agency, but also software.

What are your plans for Prospect Labs?

We’ve just hit one hundred customers, which is great because that’s the core of the business. I always train people that things have to change. So our first hundred customers have been all about hustle, LinkedIn messaging, email messaging, calling network. After that, we’re now building all the processes to try and scale via automation and partner programs, that sort of thing. But the main goal is to try and be really happy whilst running this business, particularly this year. It’s been such a draining year for everybody. The main thing is I want to be happy every day doing what I do. It’s not a VC or invested back business so there is no pressure to really scale quickly. It’s to scale by helping people enjoying the journey as I go. That’s my plan.

What is your main advice for startups that have just been commercialized?

The main thing is to learn how to hustle. A lot of startups look at the biggest businesses and think they’ve been the biggest businesses by the same model all the time which is not true. If you look at Netflix, Airbnb, Pinterest – all these companies started by hustling, knowing every single one of their customers, knowing how to go and find people, speak to strangers. That’s how a business develops. The biggest problem people do is they build a startup based on automation. And that’s not the goal. So don’t be scalable with your first customers. Be ugly and not aggressive in terms of tone, but aggressive in terms of ambition, as in “I’m going to speak to one hundred people this week” instead of thinking “I’m going to make a beautiful website and hopefully people convert”. You have to be proactive and find customers with the logic of thinking. As you’re learning you can build automation to scale. But yet my biggest advice is don’t wait for customers. You have to go and find them, look after them, and do all the things that are scalable but will help get that initial traction.

“The world needs a better sharing econnomy, so I think Volvero is an amazing idea.” 

What do you think about Volvero?

I know you guys, so I think it’s an amazing idea. In my opinion, the challenge you have is education. With any industry that can disrupt people, you have the initial problem of educating them that what you’re doing is better than their traditional ways, it’s the hustle of educating people and starting this snowball effect. 

How do you educate somebody that the car is clean and safe? And I think what’s good for sharing economy is that Airbnb has already changed everybody’s thoughts of strangers using your personal items, staying in your home and not rubbing it, not setting it on fire, which sounded crazy a few years ago. Now it’s given that they’ll respect it because why wouldn’t they? And I think if you can use that logic for educating people on drive sharing, it’s the same sort of idea. But in terms of a sustainability impact, it’s crazy – I live in Lithuania and there are lots of blocks of flats where you can’t move around for the number of cars. Now, none of those people needs one car, two cars per household – the world needs a better sharing economy. So I think Volvero is an amazing idea. It just needs a lot of hard work that don’t be disheartened if you don’t see that hockey stick growth that everybody loves to see. Think of all of the unicorn companies who year by year hustle and churn until they grow and grow and grow. And then suddenly you got the explosion.

That’s all from Patrick, very insightful!