Marshall King, 34, worked as a consultant before doing an MBA at Insead. He joined Dun & Bradstreet, becoming its sales and marketing director before leaving in early 1999 to found the business Improveline, a service which sources builders and decorators

My biggest mistake stemmed from not realising that a high-growth company will need senior people in position from day one.

My biggest mistake stemmed from not realising that a high-growth company will need senior people in position from day one.

In my last job, I had the entrepreneurial itch and was looking to start my own thing up, and came up with this idea of using a combination of the internet and business information to help people to source reliable home improvement professionals.

I spent the first half of 1999 developing the idea, then took it out to venture capitalists in May and June. I wasn't an internet expert but I recognised customer need and a huge market. However, I had no idea how big the business would become and how rapidly it would grow.

I think it typifies the first-time entrepreneur, that you don't recognise in advance the sorts of needs you are going to have, and you try to get by without the necessary resources - until finally you realise that you needed them three months ago.

I hired my first person in July 1999. Shortly after that we grew to four, and by January we were a company of 35 people. Today we are a business of about 160 people. That's the kind of growth curve we have been experiencing.

In the early days I had a marketing person and a technology person in place but what I didn't understand was that at the same time, I had to be out there personally promoting the business because it was a new concept. I also had to talk to investors and raise additional funding, and hadn't recognised that this would swallow vast amounts of my time. I was missing opportunities to promote the business by not looking outward into the market.

I had also put off the need to appoint a financial controller and a general manager, because I wanted to be prudent with the £1m we had already raised. Last September, it seemed we didn't need these extra people. Suddenly we did need them and then of course it was several months before we could get them in place.

If I had my time again in starting a hyper-growth business, I would probably at the outset recruit a chief financial officer and a human resources director, because these people will really help to direct growth.

Spending time on recruiting people seems like time away from what you should be doing, but it's the most important thing you can do. The tendency for most entrepreneurs is to do everything themselves, but you have to undergo that change in mindset and realise that finding the right people will take you from A to B much more quickly. Since January, we have continued to grow at a very fast rate, but we're now in a much better position to take and manage the growth in a more profitable way.