Many businesses rely on data to make decisions. Data about customers, sales, leads, user behaviour, even competitors can make a big difference to your business. The importance of the right data for business growth cannot be overemphasised.

Sarah Hewitson, co-founder at Neatly.io shares how she and Jon (co-founder) started the company, challenges they faced, their success factors and lessons learned.

Introduce Neatly.io

Neatly.io is a reporting tool that allows you to connect multiple data sources and view all your business data from one dashboard. Once you have setup all your integrations you can set goals and KPI’s. Neatly.io will then track these for you and notify you of anything neatly thinks is important.

With over 45 integrations, neatly will display all of your data onto one beautiful dashboard. You can view pre-build dashboard for every integration or create your own custom dashboards and monitor the metrics important to the growth of your business.

Why and how was Neatly started?

We are a digital agency with a focus on eCommerce. About 4 years ago our customers made it clear that just building an eCommerce website was not enough; they wanted it to integrate with the multitude of new software solutions to assist in the daily operations. It included inventory, accounting, emailing etc.,the list is getting bigger all the time!

When commissioned by clients to do reports, or even just monthly reports, we found it a lengthy and time-consuming process and a lot of the information was out of date by the time it reached the client.

We looked for a solution out there but could not find anything that worked for us, so we decided to build our own reporting tool, which we called neatly!

This worked well and we stopped offering reports. Instead we spent time with our clients to enable them to use neatly. They were then able to view their business as and when required, making decisions accordingly.

So we decided to take the product to market….

What has been your biggest success factors?

We have had to pivot a couple of times throughout the last 2 years for many reasons; our user base was not the one we originally intended. A lot more agencies use neatly than we had first expected and so we changed our direction to meet our new target audience’s requirements.

This wasn’t too painful as it was more of a correction than a complete pivot. But the great thing about this is we identified it quickly and adapted accordingly.

Having a clear strategy that is communicated to everyone is crucial and it took me a while to learn this. While I like to think I communicate well, it is important that it is written down somewhere and shared with all the team.

Since I did this, (about 2 months ago – late I know!), it has become a reference point and decisions are made in line with our strategy. Ideas that are not are argued and often disregarded or placed in the ‘idea bin’ to revisit at a later time.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running Neatly?

The main challenges I have faced would include trying to run two types of businesses i.e. product and service. There were also the technical challenges of a growing user base.

Not having 100% focus on a new product or service is not ideal and can spell disaster. It is fair to say I underestimated the resources required to take neatly from an internal tool to a customer facing product. To address this, we had a little shuffle around and Sarah now take the helm of neatly to provide it with the attention it needs.

Dealing with a multitude of API’s has been challenging, particularly as our user base has grown. We didn’t plan to handle the deprecation of API’s well. As a result, new features and integrations slowed down while we made the relevant updates to maintain existing integrations.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

I would have to say having the right team is the key to success. Without it, you risk poor execution and poor communication of strategy, which is never going to lead anywhere good.

I have read how venture capitalists will invest in a company purely based on the team, particularly if they have past success stories, and only have an idea at this stage. (Note, it is almost certain that people from these teams have worked with the VC’s prior so there is a relationship already in place.)

The team really are behind everything.

They will find the right market, they will research this market to ensure the product is suitable and if not, present feedback in an actionable format to find a product-market fit.

That’s the plan anyway!

Final words for those chasing the startup dream

Just get out there and do it and persevere, nothing good ever came easy right?

Founding Editor @Alltopstartups, Contributor @Entrepreneur, Columnist @Inc. Magazine and Curator at Postanly (his free weekly digest of the best life and career improvement posts on the web. Subscribe for free.