Charles Cridland

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your business to be an overnight success. Instead, keep doing the right things – be relentless, push the boundaries, and keep making improvements.

Charles Cridland is the Co-founder and Technical Director of YourParkingSpace, the number one online parking marketplace in the UK.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

The idea originated when I was walking to the station one afternoon. I walked past a huge number of empty driveways and thought wouldn’t it have been nice if I could have parked in one of these spaces. I retained this thought for a few weeks before deciding that a driveway rental platform could be a viable business idea.

Since launching, the business has since evolved into a platform for matching up any type of parking space, including those owned by commercial businesses and operators, with drivers looking for a place to park.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

The most important part of my day is the 90-minute period from 6:30am until 8am. I use this time to work from home, clearing my inbox, completing any important tasks, and planning the day ahead. With no distractions during this time it’s by far the most productive time of the day.

Following this I head into the office, where my day predominantly involves emails and phone calls, along with the occasional meeting. Typically I’m ready to leave the office at 6:30pm, usually keeping the evenings clear of work to give me time to think strategically about the business and stay refreshed for the following day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’ll simply email the members of the team that the idea will impact – for example, the sales team for sales-related ideas, the marketers for website conversion-related changes or new advertising channels worth exploring, the customer service team for efficiency improvements that would affect them, and so on. I can then gauge their initial thoughts before we collectively decide if it’s an idea worth prioritising and pursuing.

This process also ensures that there’s buy-in for the ideas, making them far more likely to succeed. When you’re in a role there’s nothing more frustrating than having changes imposed on you from people who don’t actually do the work. I’m always conscious of this. If a team member doesn’t think an idea is worth pursuing, there’s usually a good reason why.

What’s one trend that excites you?

So many people still drive to a destination and then begin looking for somewhere to park. It’s because, traditionally, the parking industry has been very reluctant to embrace technology, but what excites me is how this is starting to change. The forward thinking companies in the industry are beginning to see the benefits that technology can bring. As the major operators within the industry begin to embrace technology over the next few years, it will be very exciting to see how this changes and improves the parking experience for motorists.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Task lists are crucial in making me productive. I keep both a daily and weekly task list, and have a rule that these tasks cannot be shifted out of their list. I never used to have a task list, and when I first started keeping lists I’d regularly put off completing the less enjoyable tasks. The result was that I’d have these unenjoyable, yet important, tasks hanging over me for days, sometimes weeks.

It wasn’t productive having these tasks cluttering up my mind. Now if a task is on my daily or weekly task list, there’s a deadline in place to complete it and I ensure it’s done.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be patient. The saying goes that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your business to be an overnight success. Instead, keep doing the right things – be relentless, push the boundaries, and keep making improvements. However, don’t over-worry about competitors or that your business hasn’t become a huge hit overnight. It takes time to build something of real value.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Your comfort zone is your enemy. If everything feels like it’s under control, if you’re working normal hours, nothing’s breaking, and your task list isn’t too long, then you’re going too slow. You’ve fallen into your comfort zone, it happens to everyone at different times, with certain people more prone to it than others. However, to really achieve something above and beyond the norm you need to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep learning and stay inquisitive. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you don’t have time to expand your knowledge, but it’s essential to take the time out to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your industry and beyond. Having blinkers on won’t help you to locate the best route. Keep learning and ensure you have the time to think. You’ll end up making better, more informed decisions, saving yourself a huge amount of time and money in the long run.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Internally we always have a huge focus on conversion rates. We’re always looking to tweak the customer journey, whether it’s providing reassurance cues on the checkout page, introducing additional payment options, or improving the content across the website.

The effectiveness of all our marketing efforts are ultimately determined by the conversion rate – when we improve the website’s conversion rate the ROI on all our marketing spend increases.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I used to fall into the trap that many entrepreneurs fall into – having an endless stream of business ideas, with the latest idea always seeming like the best idea. The result was a number of failures and they all had one thing in common – a lack of focus.

Focus on one business idea. It’s fine to experiment, to trial an idea before you fully commit, but once you find the idea you really believe in, focus everything on making it a success.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Our business model, matching up drivers with parking spaces, can be extended into many other industries. The one industry that stands out is the storage industry. There are huge numbers of private individuals that have empty rooms and attics, people who don’t wish to rent out their spare space to a person, but who would be very receptive to renting out the spare space for use as storage. Once traction has been built on the private side you’d then have the option to expand into the commercial storage space sector. Particularly over here in the UK, the storage market is very fragmented, with the opportunity there for a tech platform to shake things up.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I really like Fiverr, it’s fantastic value and there are a lot of talented service providers on there. We’d been quoted thousands to produce a home page explainer video. On Fiverr the cost was less than $100.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Zapier is a really clever platform, I love their line “we’re just some humans who think computers should do more work.” Zapier connects web applications to each other in any incredibly user-friendly way. Our sales leads are automatically pulled into Google Sheets, we have our Zendesk customer service software integrated with Slack, and a list of Twitter leads and connections are constantly being collected, all without requiring any input from our developers. Zapier automates tasks, and simply browsing through all their integrations always gives us ideas about how we could make our processes more efficient.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recently read Platform Revolution, a book very relevant to our business, looking at the platform business model. The book is packed full of real-world examples, not just relying on household names like Facebook and Uber that you would always expect to see. For anyone looking to create a marketplace business, this is a must-read book.

What is your favorite quote?

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill.

Particularly in the early days of the business, it often felt like we were banging our heads up against endless brick walls, lurching from one setback or another. This quote would always be in my mind, helping me embrace the setbacks, giving myself the mindset that I would only lose if I lost my enthusiasm.

Key Learnings:

  • Wake up early and complete the important tasks before others are awake. You’ll be fresh and ahead of the game for the rest of the day.
  • Focus on one business idea. You can’t give your best when you’re working on multiple businesses.
  • Involve your team in ideas. This creates buy-in and ensures that ideas are much more likely to be delivered successfully.
  • Keep learning. This will save you time over the long run by helping you make better decisions.
  • Be patient, but avoid falling into your comfort zone. Having the right mindset is key – having patience will ensure you stay level-headed and positive when the inevitable setbacks arrive, and consistently pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will ensure that you are always looking for improvements, embracing change, and pushing the boundaries.