GRAND DESIGNS AUGUST 2014
After a management buyout attempt turned sour, Clive Lucking and two colleagues started their own office interiors company. Fourteen years later, Fourfront Group turns over £116m. And that’s just the beginning
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The Elite interview
Clive Lucking is building an office interiors empire
Contents August.indd 1
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 08 / 2014
54 Ahead of the game
A good dose of market research can make all the difference
58 The hard sell
How to convince a sales team to come on board with your start-up
64 Clean break
A holiday needn’t be a headache for an entrepreneur
11 12 14 17 18 98
Editor’s letter Contributors News & events Talking point Book reviews Start-up diaries
26 One to watch
68 A flexible future
30 Word on the street
74 A constant force
36 Delivering the goods
77 Tech for start-ups
Rubies in the Rubble: the chutney business turning surplus into sales Street trading is creating a new wave of food innovation Taking on investment brings a whole new set of challenges
42 Crowd pleasers
We reveal the secrets to crowdfunding success
44 Help from above
Change is inevitable in any business but everyone has to buy into it The latest must-have gadgets, hardware and apps for forwardthinking small businesses
81 Rising above
ServicePower CEO Marne Martin is flying the flag for women in tech
Clive Lewis lays down the law on the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill
86 Hitting the off switch
49 The right note
91 Sharing the load
Music has the potential to make or break an advertising campaign
Contents August.indd 2
The 9-to-5 working day is slowly becoming a thing of the fast
Believe it or not, there’s such a thing as too much tech How can start-ups expect to cope with shared parental leave?
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EDITOR’S letter VOLUME 03 ISSUE 08 / 2014
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We need a trial and error approach to careers
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A career doesn’t necessarily have to be a calling or a vocation
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At 19, cover star Clive lucking’s future was anything but certain. He’d dropped out of a leading grammar school at 16 and then ditched his accountancy training at 19 in favour of a summer of partying in the south of Spain. On his return, he needed a job – and fast –so as not to be tied to his mother’s apron strings. He opted for a telesales job in office interiors, not because it spoke to an underlying passion for filing cabinets or canteen layout; he chose the job because a 1.1litre Ford Fiesta came as part of the package. And so a 25-year love affair with office interiors commenced. Lucking’s story is testament to the fact that a career doesn’t necessarily have to be a calling or a vocation. He isn’t alone. I was lucky enough to know I always wanted to be a writer but understand now I am the exception rather than the rule. There is an untold amount of pressure heaped on young people to choose a career. Even the selection of GCSE subjects at the age of 14 or A levels at 16 seems unnecessarily premature. For me, Lucking’s tale demonstrates the importance of real life work experience. Until he started in the world of work he didn’t have a clue office interiors was the gig for him. He grafted, he became an expert in his field and then he saw an opportunity and seized it. We need to become more accepting of a more creative, trial and error approach to careers and business. Not only will it breed a happier, more satisfied generation of workers, but it could just create a swathe of booming businesses like Fourfront Group. Who can argue with that?
HANNAH PREVETT EDITOR
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CONTRIBUTORS James Dyble
After being assigned his market research feature this month, Dyble took a quick jaunt to Rome before knuckling down to it. Fulfilling a lifelong dream to see the Colosseum, he also managed to catch a glimpse of the Pope and eat his body weight in mozzarella. He had such a good time, however, that the first draft of his feature had more mentions of Italian meats than SMEs and start-ups, forcing the editor to give him a pizza her mind.
You could say we had Sandy in mind when picking this month’s cover star, Clive Lucking. Fourfront Group’s headquarters are a photographer’s dream and Sandy certainly made the most of the studio with her fantastic shoot. In other news, the website for Sandy’s new wedding photography venture Paper & Primrose – which she set up with a mate – has finally gone live. Check it out at www.paperandprimrose.com. She’s also working on a new family portraits business called Little Butterfly. Watch this space.
Fresh off the back of completing his triathlon in an impressive 1h52, Kirby took to the roads of Yorkshire as a Tour de France spectator. Carrying daughter Nell on his shoulders wasn’t too tall an order for the exhausted Kirby who also hosted his inaugural Tech Off competition in London last month – essentially a rap battle for geeks. Designing the winner’s belt ignited a passion for arts and crafts, allowing Kirby to take his eye off the computer screen for once. For more on switching off, we refer you to Kirby’s brilliant August column.
It’s been a busy month for Jeffrey, as the summer season is in full effect and that must mean one thing: Pimms. Well, two things: Pimms and ice-cold Spanish beer. When not thinking about SMEs and selling the start-up dream to a sales team – as per his feature this month – Jeffrey has found time to settle into a new writing position in Wapping, London, and has also been helping a friend with a brand new start-up. After all, sleeping is for wimps.
Contributors August.indd 1
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NEWS & EVENTS
While Lewis Hamilton is toiling against German teammate Nico Rosberg in Formula 1, the UK economy is managing to fly out of the pits and leave all other nations in its slip stream. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said it expects the UK economy to grow by 3.2% this year, significantly more than other developed nations. We have a clear view of Germany and the US in our rear view mirror, as they are predicting growth of just 1.9% and 1.7% respectively. Sporting achievements are good but creating a healthy environment for foreign investment is better.
Sukharevskyy Dmytro (nevodka) / Shutterstock.com
Research from Penna, the HR services firm, has revealed that one in five resignations is due to a lack of opportunities within a company. The improving economy has seen resignations rise by 33% in the past year, as employees seek better career options with other organisations. With 51% of respondents saying they only discuss their future with bosses once a year, it seems many businesses are failing to recognise the correlation between career progression and staff retention.
Now for some news that will make CFOs up and down the country crunch numbers with glee. Paypal has announced the launch of a new working capital product in the UK that offers repayments levied against new sales. Only charging one fixed fee, the model is based on a successful scheme from the US last year. It means firms won’t be overburdened if they are hit with falling sales and enables SMEs access to credit used for growth. If you listen carefully you may hear the sound of champagne corks popping in the finance department.
News August.indd 1
Dragon without having to enter the Den. The co-CEO of IT firm Outsourcery, who has been on Dragon’s Den since 2013, has signed up to help cut red tape for tech SMEs and enable them to win more government contracts. We can only assume the government made him an offer that was too good to refuse.
NEWS & EVENTS
With the economy now back to pre-downturn levels, insolvency figures released this week show that things really are improving for businesses of all size. The Insolvency Service announced that, compared to the same period last year, the number of firms entering liquidation in England and Wales was down 18% in the three months up to June. This being the lowest figure since early 2008 proves that the weather isn’t the only thing to smile about this summer. It turns out that we are not as scared of Big Brother as it seems, with 58% of us taking a relaxed attitude when sharing our data with big brands. Research from Webtrends Marketing has revealed that it’s the 18-24 year-olds who are least worried about sharing personal information, having grown up in a connected, data-centric world. Unsurprisingly it is the over-55s who share opposite views to the nation’s youth, with over half objecting to sharing their information completely.
Businesses and UK cities are being encouraged to put forward joint proposals to test driverless cars. With the government setting aside £10m to fund trials in up to three cities, it shows they are keen to embrace this future technology and implement it as soon as possible. The new proposal, which will also see a review of current road regulations, will explore cars with a qualified driver who can take the wheel if necessary, as well as completely autonomous cars from January 2015. If driverless cars can improve the M25 during rush hour, it can only be a good thing. Boris Johnson has given his support to a national competition which aims to reward the best self-employed people in the UK. Providing business support, financial advice
UPCOMING EVENTS Business Junction – Networking Breakfast August 13 MWB Business Exchange, 60 Cannon Street, London, EC4N 6NP
and a £5,000 grant to the winner, the 15 for 2015 competition wants to reward some of the 4.58m self-employed professionals in the UK. The Mayor of London applauded those who shunned the 9-5 and took the risk of going it alone and we think it’s great to see the self-employed finally getting the recognition they deserve. Despite the economy’s revival and great weather, not everything is rosy in the SME garden this summer. According to insurer Zurich, 12% of SMEs considered hanging up their profit and loss accounts and shutting down for good during the last three months. Whilst it’s still below the winter 2012/13 figure of 15%, this still shows a degree of uncertainty remains for small businesses.
Business Scene – London Breakfast with MetroBank August 14
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Business Junction – Networking Lunch August 20
National Entrepreneur’s Convention September 21-22
Midlands Business Expo September 27
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News August.indd 2
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A completely inaccurate measure of the economy
Measuring up How useful are economic indicators like GDP to small businesses?
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
he government was rejoicing last month as GDP returned to above pre-recession levels. As far as the powers-that-be were concerned, this signified that the economy is now well and truly in recovery mode, with things only set to get better from here on out. However, it remains to be seen whether the impact has been as keenly felt by the nation’s SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses in the UK. A study of 1,000 SMEs from Bibby Financial Services found 34% saying that GDP wasn’t a relevant measure of the country’s economic health. Moreover, it was suggested that it wasn’t an altogether helpful indicator for small businesses whose initial focus is generally on ramping up traction in local markets, before turning their attention to national growth. For this reason, respondents to the Bibby survey suggested GVA (Gross Value Added) – which measures regional output – provides a more relevant and helpful economic indicator for SMEs. But is this a view shared by the wider start-up and SME community? Are there other indicators that are even more useful than GDP and GVA – or do all efforts at assessing the state of the economy simply pale into insignificance for an individual trying to build a business?
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GDP is a completely inaccurate measure of the economy or prosperity and is sadly just used as a propaganda weapon. The new set of GDP statistics fail to point out that national debts Brandon have never been higher, household debts are Ackroyd founder, increasing and real wages haven’t gone up in TigerMobiles.com years. The amount of debt we have as a nation is frightening but all the government say is ‘let’s think of new ways to calculate GDP to make the ratio of debt to GDP appear not so bad’. There is no single number or statistic than can possibly reflect the true state of the economy, regardless of inputs or outputs. Whether it’s GDP, GVA, CPI or productivity, all these statistics are fungible on an almost daily basis so that the government, along with the bankers, can do two things: keep interest rates near zero or make it appear as though there is 17 little to no inflation. We are now in a bubble artificially created by quantitative easing and this celebration of GDP being back on track and the economy improving is a mirage. The distribution of wealth will only widen and I think things are going to get far worse in the UK before they get better.
Real wage changes would be a better metric Arbitrary measures such as GDP or GVA provide little insight into the health of an economy or market sector and, at the level of an SME, become meaningless. China, for Chris Wood general manager, example, has a GDP many times larger than Incorporatewear that of Spain, Switzerland or Singapore but judging its economy as inherently healthier than these nations would seem a remarkable deduction from this one fact. The growth of markets and their value generation is clearly an indicator of economic progress but whether this indicated economic wellbeing is a different matter. As such, GDP is an unsustainable measure unsuitable for projecting market progress. Perhaps there are more relevant metrics to measure economic wellbeing. One alternative would be to measure real wage changes, since GDP does not account for any wage variation in demographic groups. However, although income distribution metrics focus on fairness, there are concerns about the relationship between income inequality and economic growth. It may be worthwhile to consider the availability of technological business drivers, such as high-speed web access, when it comes to measuring economic wellbeing.
The Spark: How to ignite and lead business creativity Greg Orme
The Customer-Funded Business: Start, finance, or grow your company with your customers’ cash
n the modern start-up, there are few subjects that simultaneously attract both fascination and fear as innovation and creativity. Creativity is seen as something ineffable; something that most businesses desire but few believe can be effectively stimulated and harnessed. Greg Orme’s The Spark challenges this notion, providing an excellent business case for creativity. Central to Orme’s ideas is that, whilst you can’t force people to be creative, there are plenty of things an effective leader can do to stimulate an environment in which creativity can thrive. Whether it is killing the rule of ‘one way best’ management or clearing out the cobwebs of old bureaucratic rules that have come to clutter and block the path of creativity, The Spark contains a whole host of insight into how to devise business practices that naturally foster and facilitate innovation. Supporting this, Orme’s book features a whole host of original interviews, ranging from Stuart Murphy, director of Sky Entertainment Channels, on demystifying the creative process, to Sir John Hegarty, co-founder of BBH, on leadership philosophies in a creative industry, giving a real handle on creativity at work in some of the world’s most important businesses. All in all, this is an excellent primer on how to stimulate and support creativity and innovation. Pick up a copy and see what creative conversations it sparks. JR
uelled by the appearance of Dragons' Den on our screens in early 2005, many entrepreneurs believe the key to forging a successful business is to secure angel investment. The Customer-Funded Business, however, dispels this theory by highlighting the benefits of slow, but sustainable, expansion by diving into five different models of customer-funded growth. While we hope a few aesthetic issues are ironed out before its publication, we cannot fault the research gone into this comprehensive account of the various customer-funded models. Boasting a plethora of real-life case studies – from corporate giants Dell and Coca Cola to new radicals Air BnB – there’s inspiration aplenty for entrepreneurs looking to do things their own way. The straight-talking style and lack of complex terminology makes for an easy read and a book that can be picked up at any point and flicked through. As a lecturer at the London Business School you get a strong sense of John Mullins’ teaching style – the text is peppered with colourful quips to help bring the topic to life. With the collection of business bios woven together with analysis, comment and advice, it offers plenty for entrepreneurs to take off the page and apply to their own endeavours. Summarising each customer-funded model with the pros, cons and some questions you may not have considered, it definitely provides food for thought for those taking their first steps into the business world. JD
Publisher: FT Publishing Out: Now RRP: £14.99
Publisher: Wiley Out: September 2014 RRP: £20.99
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BUILT TO LAST 20
By his own admission, Clive Lucking fell into a career in office interiors. It was a happy accident: Fourfront Group, the company he founded with Nigel Hudson and James Cornwell, now turns over £116m and employs more than 200 people
WORDS: HANNAH PREVETT PHOTOGRAPHY: EMILIE SANDY
live Lucking isn’t a designer, nor does he pretend to be. He leaves the artistic flourish to the teams of talented designers within the Fourfront Group, the company he co-created in 2000. But what Lucking does have is the gift of the gab. Quickwitted and with bags of charisma, it’s little wonder he climbed the ranks from a telesales rep on just £4,000 a year to running his own multi-million pound business. Lucking had no intention of following the herd through the education system. Having passed his 11-plus he was accepted to the prestigious Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe, an Oxbridge conveyor belt. But at 16 he dropped out. “It was absolutely frowned upon by my parents and the teachers – you’re deemed a failure if you leave at 16,” says Lucking. “But I just knew I didn’t want to do A-levels and I didn’t want to go to university.” Instead he plumped for a business and finance course at the nearby Buxton College, now Buxton & Leek College – an altogether different environment to the one he’d found so stifling at grammar school. “I loved the flexibility of not being sat in uniform and the fact that if you didn’t turn up there was no hassle. Obviously it would show in your results at the end of the year if you hadn’t worked though,” he adds.
Lucking was seduced by the prospect of earning a salary rather than pursuing his education further. He drew inspiration from his parents, who’d worked tirelessly to provide a comfortable upbringing for him and his sister. “My dad was born into a working class family in the east end of London and he worked really hard to move to Buckinghamshire in the 60s and become middle class,” explains Lucking. He began to contemplate a career in accounting. “I always liked numbers, statistics and analysis. During my business and finance course, those were the modules I enjoyed the most,” he recalls. His first task as a trainee accountant was to go out on audit. “If ever there is a job that is more mind-numbingly boring than going out on audit, I’m yet to find it,” laughs Lucking. Four months into the job, aged 19, he went on an 18-30s holiday with a friend to Fuengirola,
THE ELITE INTERVIEW
You’re deemed a failure if you leave school at 16
Spain. As the reality of returning to the monotony of bean-counting dawned, Lucking decided to stay put. “I handed in my notice by postcard and phoned my mum to say I was not coming back.” Back in Blighty, his mother was unimpressed with her son’s decision to abandon his career. “She had a grammar school-educated son who dropped out of school at 16 who then became a trainee accountant only to drop out at 19,” explains Lucking. “She was pretty pissed off, to be honest.” Nevertheless, Lucking says the decision to stay in Spain for four months was one of the best he ever made. “I learnt to fend for myself. We had no money and we did everything from gardening and working in bars, to selling timeshares and ice creams – whatever we needed to do to make enough money to live and drink and party.” When the party was over, Lucking retreated to the family home in High Wycombe. “Going from living in Spain doing whatever I liked to living back at home made me realise I needed to move out very quickly,” he says. He was offered two roles in telemarketing: one at an IT firm and one at an office interiors company. “The IT company was offering a base salary of £6,000 a year and the
office interiors company was offering £4,000 and a 1.1litre Ford Fiesta,” explains Lucking. Seduced by the offer of a company car, Lucking plumped for the role at the office interiors company – little did he know this decision would shape his entire future. Being chatty and amiable meant Lucking took to telemarketing quickly. “I found I could use my personality on the phone and I was able to book appointments easily,” he says. After six months Lucking was going to the appointments and became part of the negotiating teams that were selling office interiors to clients. His sales target for his first year was £250,000: he sold £600,000. “I blasted it.” After eight months in the role he bought a flat with a friend and moved out. Lucking eventually wound up at Maris, an office interiors company. He started there as a junior sales advisor and left six years later when running the Thames Valley region for the business. In 1997, he was recruited as the MD of a company called Redd Projects. Lucking poached two of his colleagues from Maris to join him and together they transformed the fortunes of an ailing business. “We took it from a loss-making business to a profit-making business within 18 months,” says Lucking. Redd was owned by an Irish parent company, which, according to Lucking, “didn’t understand fit-out at all” so he and his two colleagues, Nigel Hudson and James Cornwell, tried to buy the business towards the end of 1999. “The parent company decided that they weren’t going to sell it to us and then they sacked me for trying to engineer a management buyout,” explains Lucking.
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Fortuitously, Lucking and his partners-to-be had a plan B: they had decided they would set up their own business if their management buyout attempt was unsuccessful. The day after Lucking was fired, Hudson and Cornwell handed in their resignations. Once notice periods were duly served, Area Sq was launched on January 10 2000. “There were us three plus three employees on day one in a very small We thought office in Egham, which is equidistant if we could from our three homes,” says Lucking. The founders had a clear vision for the get to £10m office interiors start-up: “we wanted to or £15m be one of the design and build experts in the Thames Valley and we thought turnover then if we could get to £10m or £15m that would be turnover then that would be amazing,” he recalls. just amazing In reality, the business grew far more quickly than the partners had envisioned. Their target in the first year was to reach £3.5m turnover – they achieved £6m and secured their first £1m project within just eight months of trading. One of the company’s selling points in the early days was that its management team had skin in the game, claims Lucking. Though the bank was supportive, the houses of the three founders were put against the business as security. “From a sales point of view, we would go in to clients and say, ‘our houses are on the
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line here, we cannot afford to do a bad job for you,’” he says. Business boomed until the tragic events of 9/11 abruptly halted the firm’s meteoric growth. “The phones stopped ringing. American corporations stopped spending money. Their ex-pats retreated back to the homeland. People stopped investing overseas, the markets became very jittery and there was a knock-on effect on property,” explains Lucking. The company directors took the decision to sit tight and ride out the storm. As cash reserves dwindled, they had to face the very real possibility of scaling back and making some of the team redundant. But they held their nerve and when Lucking landed in Barcelona on a sunny day in March 2002 for his stag do, the fog suddenly lifted. “I had two voicemail messages from clients who put two projects on hold the previous year to say they’re back on,” he says. Crisis had been averted. There has been only one other time of impeded growth in the company’s history – the global economic crisis of 2008. “Everything in the world went absolutely belly up again – albeit for very different reasons,” says Lucking. “We were close to a £40m business by then and we did actually have to make people redundant; we probably let go about 10-15% of our workforce at that point. It was difficult but it meant we could go backwards to go forwards at a much stronger and faster rate than we had ever
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previously thought possible.” Now turning over a whopping £116m, the company that begun life as Area Sq in 2000 is now a group of four firms, with the addition of 360, Cube and Sketch, a boutique design house, a contracting business and a furniture company respectively. “I think to be a one-stop solution 24 under one branded name is a mistake,” says Lucking. “We’re actually a collection of different businesses, so why not formalise that, give each MD responsibility for their own P&L and create incentives for them to be rewarded by the success of their business and also by the group of companies?” he explains. The trio of founders welcomed a fourth partner into the fold in 2006, Aki Stamatis, whose brief was to create the Fourfront Group. “His mandate was to look at the structure of the business going forward, which he has absolutely done,” comments Lucking. With four experienced, opinionated men around the table, discussions can sometimes get a little heated, admits Lucking. “We work on the basis that we agree on eight things out of ten, we reach an agreement on nine things out of ten and we just fundamentally disagree on one thing out of ten,” he laughs. “It works because there are not just two of us where it’s a yes or no debate. There are three or four of us debating things and that creates a healthy environment where you get the wisdom of the crowd.” Lucking’s personal focus is on long-term strategy: what will continue to give Fourfront the edge over its competitors? Whilst he grapples with this from 9 till 5, the entrepreneur says he knows when to switch off. “It’s so important that you have no regrets, that you don’t look back in life and think: I wish I hadn’t worked all those hours or I wish I’d spent more time with my children,” he says. He and wife Lindsey have two children: James, seven, and Ria, three. But he says work/life balance isn’t just for those at the uppermost echelons of the company. “It should be for every single person who works for
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There are three or four of us debating things and that creates a healthy environment where you get the wisdom of the crowd
us.” he says. “If people are flogging themselves to death in the office they will burn out and they will leave because it won’t be a difficult sell for a competitor to come along and persuade somebody that they can earn just as much money and not have to work as hard,” says Lucking. There are other ways to cling on to talented people, he advises. “A competitive salary and benefits package is a given,” he starts. But people also want to be stretched, Lucking adds. “We challenge our employees. If someone doesn’t want to be challenged, to be honest, I probably don’t want them working here anyway,” says Lucking. “I want people who want to add something to our business.”
Still smiling: Lucking with James Cornwell and Nigel Hudson
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ONE TO WATCH
Hidden gems Jenny Dawson is tackling global food waste in the tastiest way possible with her scrumptious social enterprise, Rubies in the Rubble
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
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acking in a hedge fund job in the city may sound ludicrous to some. But it was a no-brainer for Jenny Dawson, founder of Rubies in the Rubble, the chutney company that’s tackling the food waste epidemic head-on. “One thing my parents instilled in me is a lack of fear,” says the 28-year-old entrepreneur. “It doesn’t really matter if you fail; you are going to learn so much by trialling something and giving it your best shot.” Despite securing a degree in maths – and subsequently moving into finance – Dawson would probably be the first to admit that she bleeds green. Growing up on a farm in Scotland made her view the world as something that’s worth saving. “As a family, being very close to production made us quite sustainable,” says Dawson. “Being brought up that way means I have always been very conscious about those sorts of things.” This green streak was accompanied by a flair for entrepreneurialism: a sign of things to come. “Before Rubies in the Rubble I’d bought a lot of website domains for 3D glasses and other various ideas,” says Dawson. “I’d always played around with ideas and liked the idea of having your own product and trying to sell something you’re really excited and passionate about.” Whilst her initial business ideas may have fallen flat, a newspaper article on food waste reignited Dawson’s passion for all things green – and sparked something else in the process. “People were getting arrested for bin-diving in the back of supermarkets and it made me realise there are these unpredictable human desires when it comes to deciding what we want to eat at night,”
she says. “It’s impossible to get that perfect balance whereby supply and demand matches. Supermarkets want to provide everything in great condition for everybody and it just made me start thinking ‘gosh, there must be a lot of surplus’. The more I researched the scale of it, I discovered there was surplus throughout the supply chain from the farm to the fork. I just thought ‘how can we afford to be this wasteful?’ The injustice of that didn’t seem quite right.” In March 2011, Dawson quit her job at Odey Asset Management. “I knew I wasn’t going to stay there forever even though it was great fun.” She’d already been putting in the groundwork for Rubies in the Rubble. Four months earlier Dawson had gotten herself up at the crack of dawn on a chilly November morning for a cycle down to New Covent Garden Market. “I saw the scale of surplus products coming into the country and being shipped out to different shops,” she explains. “Because it was perishable, you couldn’t really blame anybody for it. It had often come a long way to get to a place where consumers could buy it.” Dawson recognised the twisted reality of so much perfectly edible food going to waste whilst millions of people worldwide were suffering as a result of food poverty. And closer to home, Dawson’s involvement with Crisis, the homeless charity, made her even more keen to do something that made a difference. “I was dealing with people who were struggling to get back into work,” she says. “The more time I spent with them, the more I saw that they had great potential and value but because of past circumstances or a lack of selfpride or self-value, they were struggling to get into work. I wanted to get them back and give
I just thought ‘how can we afford to be this wasteful?’ The injustice didn’t seem quite right them purpose again.” Dawson employed a small team of disadvantaged women to work with her in a charity kitchen in King’s Cross. The chutneymaking had begun in earnest and, with her first batch having sold out at Cabbage & Frocks Market in Marylebone, she soon found herself with a stall at the prestigious Borough Market – where Rubies in the Rubble has traded ever since. “That was a great place to trial our flavours and see what people liked,” says Dawson. “Our flavours initially came from my mother’s old chutney collection. We then built up a core range based on customer demand but we were also trying to make sure we were creating a range based on fruit and veg that there was a surplus in.” As Dawson explains, the name Rubies in the Rubble is a play on ‘diamonds in the rough’, reflecting the company’s commitment to utilising that which is usually overlooked or undervalued. “I wanted Rubies in the Rubble to represent more than just food waste,” she says. “The ethos behind the brand was to raise awareness and make people think.”
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But the company’s ethos extended far beyond the ingredients it was sourcing and the people it was employing. “Our jam jars were all recycled from cafes and restaurants around London and the packaging was mainly made of scrap materials from a lovely kilt-making shop in my local town,” says Dawson. “Everything was taken from things that would otherwise just have been thrown away. Every jar was different and unique.” It was at Borough Market where Rubies in the Rubble started to attract the attention of foodies, media types and some big name retailers. Dawson may have been producing some delicious preserves but the story behind them made them even more appealing. The company’s ethical credentials didn’t go unnoticed by major players in the food industry and in August 2012, Ben & Jerry’s named Rubies in the Rubble the UK winners of its inaugural Join our Core competition, which sought to find the best, young sustainable business minds across Europe. With the final held in Uganda, it opened Dawson’s eyes even more to the impact of global food wastage.
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This was also the moment that kicked off a period of rapid growth for the brand. “They [Ben & Jerry’s] wrote a great article and it got picked up by Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges,” says Dawson. Her chutneys, jams and pickles are now stocked by all three retailers and are proving popular with top chefs, including Jamie Oliver who commissioned Rubies in the Rubble to produce London Piccalilli for the house hotdog at Diner, his new American-style restaurant in Piccadilly. However, like any business, expansion often comes with some sacrifice. With demand for her product growing and growing, Dawson was eventually left with little choice but to outsource the production side of the business to Somerset, which she did earlier this year. Having established a commercial kitchen in Spitalfields Market in the summer of 2012, she had to let go of the four-strong team of chefs she’d employed from Crisis. “It was really hard but we just felt that we’d got to the stage where we were limiting our capacity to grow,” says Dawson. “We had a lot farmers asking if we could take surplus and we were struggling because our kitchen is quite small. We ended up thinking ‘let’s try and raise proper awareness and do one thing well’ and that was food waste, food injustice and growing that side of things.” She adds: “Hopefully we’ll be able to come back to the employment angle further down the line. We had a fun two years, a really lovely team and we still keep in touch with them.” At the end of the day, a social enterprise
still has to make a profit in order to keep itself afloat and meet its wider ethical aims. Whilst Dawson was advised to set up as a charity prior to launching the business, she says it wouldn’t have been a feasible way of tackling the societal issue that was at stake. “I think charities do incredible work but I felt the identity of Rubies in the Rubble was a business,” she explains. “We wanted to address a problem but at the same time be a sustainable solution to that. We really believed that the business could stand on its own two feet and solve some serious problems in society.” The awards have kept coming for Rubies in the Rubble – and for Dawson herself. She picked up the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award earlier this year. “For us and everybody involved in the business, it is really amazing to have the recognition,” she says. “The awards have been an incredible help in building the brand and getting more credibility for what we are doing.” Dawson’s new business partner Alicia Lawson – previously an intern at the company – is helping her keep on top of the ever-increasing demand for her treats, which look set to include some new product lines. “We have always wanted to be a first-class sustainable brand that’s known for great products made out of fresh fruit and veg from surplus,” she says. “We are looking into healthy snack ranges, crisps and juices. As we grow, we will really be seen as an umbrella brand.” The entrepreneur is now earning money for herself again too. “It’s exciting and almost rewarding being able to take out a small salary,” says Dawson. “It feels like the business is actually starting to grow.”
I wanted Rubies in the Rubble to represent more than just food waste
Company CV Name: Rubies in the Rubble Founded by: Jenny Dawson Founded in: February 2012 Team: 4
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STREET SPIRIT 30
As a testing ground for the latest innovations amongst food start-ups, street food has become the leading force in bringing inspired cuisine to the masses
f you spend much time in cities these days tradition of street food but a lot of the food is – or, for the more reclusive of you, much really traditional; everything is really stuck,” time on Twitter – you’ll already be aware explains Italian-born Cristiano Meneghin, that street food is experiencing something founder of Tongue ‘n Cheek, the street food of a renaissance in the UK. It seems you can outlet making use of underrated cuts of hardly go anywhere these days without hearing meat. One city might specialise in providing someone discussing the newest dessert fusion traditional seafood and another in flatbreads or raving about the latest in Peruvian cuisine. and cheese but beyond this there is little Without a doubt, street food has exploded to experimentation. “What’s happening in the become the grande dame of dining. And, for UK is unique,” he says. budding food entrepreneurs, it is offering a Given the UK’s unparalleled multicultural golden opportunity to bring their products to nature, it is hardly surprising that it has an eager audience at a fraction of the cost. become a melting pot of distinct gastronomic Whilst getting involved in the food industry identities. “Given the dynamics of the markets may once have seemed prohibitively expensive, where we’ve traded, we will have anything thanks to the street food movement this is no from Asian, South American, African and longer the case. “It’s a way of people getting European cuisine all sitting amongst each involved who’ve had dreams of working within other,” Milton remarks. the restaurant business but don’t have the The sheer wealth of international palates start-up capital,” says Jack Brabant, founder of represented means that British street food has Digbeth Dining Club, the Birmingham-based become the perfect place for food cultures to street food event. For just a few thousand interact. “It is a celebration of different cultures pounds, budding food entrepreneurs can get a and cuisines, often with people putting their stall or van and take to the own spin on it,” explains streets to sell their wares. Ian Dodds, general “It’s a way to start off to see manager of KERB, the if it works for them.” London-based street food However, the growing venue. And this is perhaps popularity of street food is what makes the street food about more than just the movement in the UK so economics – the industry exciting, as it encourages has caught the public’s entrepreneurs to look imagination. “We’ve beyond just presenting Atholl Milton, bunnychow become increasingly traditional cuisine to foodie, partially inspired uncover new ways of by cookery programmes on the television approaching food. “A lot of people are tired and a very literate food media,” says Richard of things just being authentic,” he continues. Johnson, journalist and founder of the British “Creativity seems to be valued higher.” Street Food Awards. He feels that the boom This creativity has made street food the ideal can be explained by the fact that the UK has crucible for food-based innovation. “That never had much of a popular food movement creative edge is the most exciting thing in outside of the restaurant industry. “Gordon street food right now – people are pushing the Ramsay has always talked about how in France boundaries,” Milton says. He draws on a recent good food started from the bottom – it trickled example he came across of a trader making upwards,” he says. “That never happened in Caribbean-style arancini balls that have this country but now it is, in part because of proven to be a huge hit with his customers. “At street food.” a Caribbean restaurant, that probably wouldn’t Britain has embraced the culture of street be considered authentic,” Milton continues. in a way scarcely seen elsewhere, even in “But street food gives him the opportunity to countries with a long history of street food try it out, test it and move things forward.” trading. “A poor man in South America selling And the innovations coming out of street an empanada [a stuffed bread or pastry] on food are helping to set what’s on the menu the street is doing it to survive and make some in other culinary sectors. “These guys are money,” says Atholl Milton, founder and CEO bringing a break from the norm but six months of bunnychow, the street food outlet serving down the line Marks & Spencers or Pret will hollowed bread with fillings. “Whereas over come along and make that the new norm,” here we glamourise it, we take those foods and says Dodds. From pulled pork to Americanpush it a step further.” style Korean food, street food mainstays have Even closer to home, many countries have a gradually begun to infiltrate the mainstream, rich street food heritage. “In Italy, there’s a big meaning that street food innovations have
WORDS AND ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSH RUSSELL
That creative edge is the most exciting thing in street food
become the leading edge, drawing the rest of the sector forward. However, innovations alone don’t make a successful food entrepreneur. When bringing any product to market, the litmus test will always be how it fares with consumers. “Even if you’re convinced that it’s an amazing product, if people haven’t tried it there’s no way to know for sure,” says Cesar Roden, co-founder of Ice Kitchen, the gourmet ice lolly street food enterprise. Fortunately, street vending offers direct access to the target audience without the significant overheads that come with a bricks and mortar store. “It’s very easy to test it on a small level,” he explains. Because of this, rather than needing to have everything worked out ahead of time, street trading allows people to test their products in a live environment and hone them as they go. “Nobody has nailed it in their first week or two and just stuck with that dish,” says Dodds. “There are so many little tweaks: finding the best bread, the best sauce, the best thickness, the best ratios.” Being able to test and grow a concept before having to commit to it financially is invaluable for street food entrepreneurs. “It’s a proving ground that allows them to see what works, to see if they can build up a brand,” Brabant says. Not only this but, from the off, street trading helps food brands build up a loyal and engaged following before stumping up huge sums for marketing reach. “Especially with the advent of social media, for small businesses street trading offers a fantastic way to interact with your customers.” Certainly, beyond its sous-vide machine and wood-burning stove, there are few tools a street food start-up loves more than social media. “These food entrepreneurs are all about Twitter accounts, Instagram, Facebook,” says Johnson. Not only can it serve the purpose of reaching
It is a celebration of different cultures and cuisines, with people putting their own spin on it Ian Dodds, KERB
Tip of the tongue Tongue ‘n Cheek’s journey began in Italy, when founder Cristiano Meneghin was working in communications, product development and marketing for the food industry. “Part of my job was looking at new trends in food,” he says. “One of the trends I found out about was street food.” Acting as an advocate for the increasingly popular sector, it was hardly surprising that before long Meneghin decided to get involved himself and, given the explosion in London’s street food movement, he felt there was nowhere better to launch his new start-up. Having studied for a master’s degree at the University of Gastronomic Science conducted in collaboration with Slow Food, the international movement dedicated to responsible food production, the angle for his
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outlet was a no-brainer. “Sustainability is really important so when I came here I decided to used underrated cuts of meats for my business.” The start-up’s playful name came from a chat with a friend and his father whilst Meneghin was touring UK markets. “My first menu was actually tongue and cheek so it made sense,” he says. The menu only grew from there; not only has Tongue ‘n Cheek sold its eponymous pork cheek and ox tongue but it has expanded, experimenting with oxtail and bringing its Heartbreaker burger – a 50% ox heart, 50% dry-aged beef patty – to market. “These underrated cuts are really nice, they’re actually much more tasty than other cuts,” he says. “And in the UK we have amazing beef, as long as you know how to source it.”
customers and getting the word out about location but it often is the making of bona fide street food stars. “It’s exciting that our food culture is producing people that have that kind of status in society.” Proper utilisation of social media can mean the difference between street food that’s the talk of the town and the victuals that scarcely secure a second mention. “The most successful of our traders are the ones who are constantly building up a bit of excitement and putting out images of food,” says Brabant. Given that pictures of food are probably second only to grumpy cats in most people’s Facebook feeds, it’s hardly surprising a mouthwatering snap of a hot new food trend tends to go the distance. “Who doesn’t like the sight of something very juicy up close cooking on the grill?” But even in this switched-on age, a street food start-up’s digital community comes second to its immediate neighbourhood. “That’s the main thing about the street food movement at the moment,” says Meneghin. “Right now it’s a really big community.” Not only are many vendors willing to help out newbies with a spatula or a spot of advice but the real edge that street trading has over setting up a restaurant is being surrounded by many others who are going through the same things. “You need someone sometimes, just a shoulder to cry on or a good laugh with someone if you have a bad day,” he explains.
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Digbeth Dining Club images by Tom Horton
It’s a proving ground that allows them to see what works, to see if they can build up a brand Jack Brabant, Digbeth
“You share the moment.” Friendly faces certainly make a difference, particularly given the hard work that goes into running a street food outlet. Whilst the industry has a rather glamorous reputation, it’s important to remember that street food is far from being easy money, with many entrepreneurs having to trade by day and prepare food by night. “Most of your days will start early, finish late and you won’t earn much money, at least to start with,” says Brabant. And whilst street food is one of the most popular food phenomena right now, standing out from the crowd takes guile and gumption. “It takes a lot of individuality and creativity to make a stand in this,” he adds. With all this hard work, however, can come a great deal of success. But what form does this success usually take? Is every street food vendor simply a restaurateur in the making or are most committed to a life on the road? “Most go into it thinking neither of those things,” Roden says. “They just go into it to test a product or because they think they do an awesome chilli.” However, with time, vendors tend to settle on the goal that best suits them and for many this means a profitable existence serving sliders in Shoreditch or giving out grub at Glasto. “Definitely with some traders it’s a lifestyle,” he continues. “It’s just what they do:
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they do the festivals and they can make really good money.” For others, the street is just a training ground for bricks and mortar. “They want to get into owning their own property and running a restaurant,” comments Brabant. “For small businesses, it’s a great way to interact with your customers and see if there is a potential for that.” Cutting their teeth in street food allows them to trial their concept, build up a following and put together a rock-solid case for investment, something that has helped many a great street food trader gain a permanent foothold on the high street. But setting up shop in a permanent location doesn’t mean leaving the street behind entirely. “We’re always very careful to advise people not to lose those roots and not to forget where they came from,” says Johnson. Maintaining a presence on the street not only gives them an immediate connection with consumers and allows them to trial new menu items but it also means they have identity that will give them the edge over their high street contemporaries. “Each one of those traders has been excited by the prospect because they have dreams, they have the desire to try something different,” he concludes. “The hardship that they’ve endured to build that brand is an important part of who they are.”
Having worked for big corporates in the service industry like Burger King, Starbucks and Gondola and being headhunted by Jamie Oliver to help with the early stages of the launch of his food emporium Recipease, Atholl Milton, the founder and CEO of bunnychow, is much more than just an enthusiastic amateur. His journey with the street food start-up began when someone introduced him to the bunny chow, a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry introduced to South Africa by Indian migrants. But he was keen for bunnychow to be seen as more than just a curry product struggling to be heard amongst mainstream Indian cuisine and, after extensive research in South Africa, he reinvented the product. “I looked at what a bunny chow could be and took the idea of hollowed out shapes with interesting fillings,” Milton explains. “We anglicised some and with others utilised some global flavours.” However, whilst bunnychow was born on the streets, its popularity has since seen it expand to other locations. “That’s where BOXPARK came into play,” says Milton. “It meant we could refine our menu and have a permanent kitchen base.” Since moving into Shoreditch’s shipping container pop-up mall, bunnychow has also secured investment for its first bricks and mortar store in Soho, made much easier by its trading history and clear proof of concept. “You’ve just got to demonstrate that you’ve got something that can really change the marketplace,” he explains. “And the truck and pop-up we did is evidence of that.”
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disruption, it can be hard to guarantee any fledgling enterprise’s trajectory. “There are so many different types of start-ups these days and a lot of things which have never been done before,” he says. “It’s impossible to even look at that and go ‘here’s what this thing’s going to be worth’.” business currency exchange service. But whilst cast-iron guarantees are Being able to show that a start-up is inherently problematic, the stage more than a flash in the pan and has an enterprise is at will effect how the potential to offer a meaningful confidently it can gauge its future return on investment is vital for any trajectory. “There are always some entrepreneur seeking investment. “It things that are proven and then there’s is important to show that you have always a question mark over others,” thought clearly about where your says Richard Marsh, partner at DFJ business is heading,” he continues. Esprit, the venture capital firm. Early However, an entrepreneur should be stage enterprises might have a proven wary about throwing too technology or concept many promises around but lack the real litmus about the exits they think test of market experience. they can deliver. “To Conversely, later-stage focus solely on exit at enterprises that are the beginning is a recipe seeking series B or C for disaster,” says Steve funding and have healthy Jillings, CEO of TeleSign, growth then should be the mobile identity a lot more able to be authentication company. confident to guarantee Richard Marsh, In an age dominated by more of the same. DFJ Esprit
Learning to meet the requirements of shareholders can be difficult for enterprises used to setting their own course. But the growth of a start-up depends on a healthy relationship with its investors
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
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he beauty of running a start-up is that an entrepreneur is in charge of their own destiny, offering a degree of self-determination that is simply unavailable in a standard executive role. However, once an enterprise takes on investment, it can be a significant adjustment to begin to deliver on external expectations. Making sure a relationship with an investor doesn’t sour once the cheque clears requires a clear understanding of the goals both parties are agreeing to. Ironically, to begin a healthy investment journey, one often needs to give at least some consideration to the exit they are promising to investors. “When taking on VC funding, investors need to know that the founder has strong foresight,” says Philippe Gelis, CEO and co-founder of Kantox, the
As an investor you have to be very clear: you are not running the business
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Whilst a huge amount of attention is paid in entrepreneurial circles to the process of gaining investment, the awarding of funding really is only just the beginning of a long-term relationship. While an investor might be quite closely involved with an enterprise during this relationship, it is important to understand there is a clear delineation of territory. “When you’re a board member as a VC or investor you have to be very clear: you are not running the business,” Marsh says. “You are not an executive.” The actual level of involvement of an investor can vary wildly however, with one of the most significant factors being the experience level of the entrepreneurs involved. “It’s different for the company where the team is doing things first time versus a team where there’s already experience of growing and exiting businesses,” comments Marsh. “You’re talking first-
time versus serial entrepreneurs.” Whilst an investor won’t step in and manage things for an inexperienced entrepreneur, they will ensure there is a much more comprehensive framework in place so the start-up has a structure upon which it can rely. “With a junior management team, it’s not uncommon for there to be at least weekly interactions,” says Jillings. This can range from a quick call, just to check how the start-up is managing things, right up to weekly meetings to run through progress with the enterprise’s KPIs and weekly goals. “It can be a really hands-on approach.” This can be a tricky transition for some however. For start-ups that are used to setting their own agendas, suddenly having to deliver on external expectations can be a shock to the system. “Adjusting to the level of reporting expected from VCs can be a challenge,” Gelis explains. Often
investors will want to be kept abreast of all the details affecting a start-up and will expect regular reporting to back this up. “It is important that founders seeking funding are prepared for this level of precision.” Inevitably this means managing the expectations of investors will require an accurate handle on the metrics and KPIs that govern the business. “The simplest and clearest metric will generally be growth,” Marsh says. Year-on year top-line revenue growth will be one of the clearest indicators of an enterprise’s progress but different industries will also have other metrics that offer a more detailed measure. “If it’s an online business, they will be very focused on customer acquisition cost,” he explains. “They will also be very focused on the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer.”
Don’t hide details, hoping you might find a solution before the investors notice Philippe Gelis, Kantox
When using this to guide future targets it’s important to be realistic – letting this over-inflate expectations will definitely lead to upset in the long run. “It is infinitely better to underpromise and over-deliver,” Jillings says. The biggest fallouts between investors and start-ups often come when those enterprises begin to believe their own hype and over-value what they can deliver. “At the end of the day, that’s not doing anybody any favours,” he says. “Put forward the most conservative, acceptable forecast possible so you’re not setting yourself up for failure.”
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It is infinitely better to under-promise and over-deliver Steve Jillings, TeleSign
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But the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry and occasional poor performance can undermine even the most conservative targets. “Not every day’s a good day, not every week’s a good week, not every month’s a good month and not every quarter is a good quarter,” says Jillings. The important thing is to be upfront when things aren’t going to plan. “VCs expect that things won’t always go to plan and issues will arise, but they hate bad surprises,” comments Gelis. “Don’t hide details, hoping you might find a solution before the investors notice.” However it is worth ensuring that you have a plan to deal with issues before you return to investors. “They will expect you to highlight the problem, along with a list of solutions you are already working on,” he says. “Be transparent and prove that you are tackling problems proactively.” However, there are occasionally scenarios where the desires of investors and those of a start-up aren’t always well aligned, with an investor’s agenda not agreeing with the ends an enterprise is trying to achieve. This
becomes a particular problem in later stage enterprises where they may have multiple investors, all with wildly different expectations. “If you’ve got four different investors with funds that are aged all over the map, you can potentially have big problems,” says Jillings. The example he gives is if an enterprise is courted for acquisition; whilst there might be a much higher potential return obtainable in the long run by holding onto the company, seeking a quick return is a much greater priority for the holder of an older fund than it is for all of the other stakeholders. “It just creates all this tension and issues on the board because they want to sell now to boost the returns on their old fund.” For this reason, it is essential that every party involved is committed to the same plan. “It’s vital that everyone is bought into where the company is,” says Marsh. “It’s important to know what the plan is and whether it’s realistic.” Scenarios where stakeholders enter a meeting post-investment to find things are nowhere near on track often result from a failure to carefully align expectations. “If that’s happening, all parties are culpable because they haven’t levelled expectations and they haven’t been realistic,” adds Marsh. Ultimately, ensuring a start-up avoids friction with its investors comes down to making sure they’re always on the same page. “You have to make sure that you’re aligned,” says Jillings. For this reason, he feels it’s vital that enterprises spend time with their investors, meeting for drinks and making sure they’re aligned personally as well as professionally. Meanwhile, taking the time to give regular updates can also ensure that everybody knows where they stand. “Just shoot out a little quick update email with the highs and lows of the week,” he says. “It takes 15 minutes and then everyone feels like they’re in the loop.”
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Elite Business 41.indd 1
How to please the crowd
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
The rise of crowdfunding in recent years has been nothing short of staggering. With the banks still seen as public enemy number one by many start-ups, new forms of fundraising are jumping into the breach with crowdfunding close to the top of the pile. However, despite its ability to help start-ups raise money fast, entrepreneurs shouldn’t treat crowdfunding as a guarantor of capital. Their business still needs to tick all of the necessary boxes. With a little help from the experts, here are some useful tips for getting the crowd on board with your big idea
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Perfect your pitch Given that many members of the ‘crowd’ aren’t going to be seasoned business investors, keeping things simple will put you in a strong position to reach that funding target. And nowhere is this more important than in your pitch. “You need to make your pitch stand out from the rest,” says Luke Lang, co-founder of CrowdCube, the equity crowdfunding platform. “It has to be compelling. This doesn’t mean writing lots of flowery words; it should be clear and simple, with no jargon, because potential investors need to understand quickly and easily what and who they’ll be investing in.” These thoughts are echoed by Corrado Accardi, co-founder of Pizza Rossa, a pizza start-up that has just surpassed its crowdfunding target. “The pitch video is just as important as the numbers in the business plan,” he says. “My advice would be not to exceed two minutes and if you can, tell your message in less than 90 seconds. A message that is direct, clear, concise and straight to the point can give your proposition much more credibility.”
Don’t ask for too much Whilst it may seem a far cry from standing in front of a panel of VCs or angel investors, going down the crowdfunding route doesn’t lessen the need for a fool-proof business plan. “To convince investors that your idea has market potential, you’ll need a well-written business plan with financial forecasts that add up,” says Lang. The same is true of the magic figure that you post on a crowdfunding website: the investment target. This will also serve as a marker of an entrepreneur’s credibility in the eyes of the crowd. “Don’t be over-ambitious with the investment target you set because people will see you as unrealistic and a risky prospect, and you’ll probably fail to achieve it,” adds Lang. “And don’t put investors off by overvaluing your business, either. It’s worth remembering the negative reactions that inflated valuations get on Dragons’ Den.”
The art of promoting a crowdfunding campaign is really just the art of promoting the company itself Carlos Silva, Seedrs
Promote your campaign It would be naive to think that sticking your business idea and pitch video on a crowdfunding site is all that’s required. Only by promoting your campaign far and wide can you hope to raise the funds you need to get your enterprise off the ground. “Turning customers into loyal investors is the new frontier of crowdfunding and requires a more marketing led approach to fundraising,” says Carlos Silva, chief operating officer at Seedrs, the crowdfunding platform. “The crowd isn’t an amorphous, anonymous blob on the internet. It’s made up of people with webs of influence, relationships and connections based on shared interests. You need to fish where the fish are.” As Silva goes on to explain, there’s isn’t much difference in terms of the sorts of marketing activity required. “The art of promoting a crowdfunding campaign is really just the art of promoting the company itself. It requires all the same planning, discipline and execution as a great IPO, restaurant opening or product launch.”
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Engage with investors As crowdfunding has woven its way into the public consciousness, people have been calling out for brands that they can connect with on a more personal level. Taking this trend into account can significantly boost a crowdfunding campaign’s chances of success. “The way that companies raise capital online has evolved from being simply a source of cash into a great chance to raise the profile of a company and to deepen its engagement with their customers,” says Silva. Lang believes regular engagement with potential investors is essential. “Ultimately, the success of your pitch will come down to how well you can engage with the people who will become your investors,” he says. “They’re interested in crowdfunding because they want to invest in businesses that excite them, that they have a closer relationship with and where there’s the possibility of a more active involvement in the business than they’d get by going down other routes. You need to keep your investors and the people following your pitch abreast of developments by publishing regular updates. This can be a hugely powerful way of converting interest into investment.”
Give a little extra Whilst a share of the profits is incentive enough for some investors, others may wish for further rewards from their investment or fund-giving. Offering additional benefits can certainly help swing a crowdfunding campaign in an entrepreneur’s favour. “By pledging on a crowdfunding campaign, supporters are buying into your business and so will want to feel a part of what is being created,” says Graeme Roy, head of marketing at Crowdfunder. “Great rewards will provide the crowd with unique experiences, products or great value for money opportunities – giving everyone a great reason to pledge and support the campaign. The business may also offer great community benefits or a service that the crowd believes in, creating a lasting legacy for their community or social good.” Roy cites Snact – a social enterprise that converts food waste into fruit ‘jerky’ – as a solid example of this. “Snact got it right when it offered great rewards at the same time as being on a mission to change the world with its idea: tackling food waste,” he says. “That was an important issue for its supporters and delivered real social impact.”
Corrado Accardi, cofounder, Pizza Rossa
Carlos Silva, cofounder and COO, Seedrs
Graeme Roy, head of
Luke Lang, co-
Small is the new big
Clive Lewis, head of enterprise at the ICAEW, explains what the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill means for Britain’s SMEs
he government announced in June the details of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which has some interesting provisions. The overall objective is to put small businesses at the heart of long-term sustainable growth. Two key aspects are the measures to improve SMEs’ access to finance and the measures to improve the burden on business created by regulation. There are a number of access to finance measures. First, there are steps to remove clauses in business contracts that prohibit a business from selling its invoices to a third party finance provider. This is a bit legalistic but should better enable businesses to raise finance from their sales invoices. Second, there are a number of measures to tackle late payment – a particular problem for smaller businesses. There are also a couple of measures to improve businesses’ credit rating information. These will involve the big banks having to share data on their SME customers with other lenders through credit reference agencies, which must share the information with all lenders. Another part of this measure is aimed at improving small business access to credit by sharing nonfinancial VAT registration information. This extends only as far as the name and contact details of VAT-registered businesses. No financial data will be shared. The other area of interest in the bill is around the regulation of business. There are three main aspects to this. The government believes that
businesses covered by a regulator should have a right of appeal if the regulator makes a decision which has a negative impact on their business. Legislation will require government ministers to appoint a reviewer (or champion) for each regulator and the reviewer must check the effectiveness of the complaint-handling by the regulator and publish its findings. A voluntary system already exists for UK banks – and the appeals process for credit application refusals has already resulted in an extra £40m being lent in the first three years of its existence. Perhaps the most interesting of the better regulation measures is the requirement for future governments to publish a deregulation target in their first year in power. The target has to measure the economic impact of new regulation on businesses. The draft legislation sets out plans for an independent body to verify the figures in much the same way as the Office of Budget Responsibility subjects the varioud government draft costings of tax and spending measures to detailed challenge and scrutiny. Other noteworthy parts of the bill include measures to track students from education to the workplace, as well as reforming whistleblowing and employment tribunals. The government also wants to introduce a register
of meaningful ownership for companies and simplify the current filing requirement for firms. Directors who have been guilty of wrongdoing in the past will also be barred. Streamlining insolvency law to remove unnecessary cost and ensure effective oversight of insolvency practices was another measure announced in the bill along with a Pubs Code and Adjudicator to govern the relationship between pubowning companies and their tied tenants. This will bring fairness to the sole traders and small businesses that run approximately 20,000 tied pubs across England and Wales. Summarising the bill, Vince Cable, the business secretary, said: “The Government is working hard to improve the environment for small businesses. Better access to finance for SMEs, measures to boost trust and transparency in British business and increasing fairness in the workplace are key issues that this bill aims to address.” The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill was presented to Parliament in July and is scheduled to complete its passage through Parliament in March 2015, shortly before the next election. I would recommend keeping a close eye on its progress between now and then.
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03/08/2012 15:21 14:31 19/07/2012
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joins 1,500 UK business owners at last ever National Entrepreneur’s Convention “Most influential” business event ready to bow out in style with two days of groundbreaking content next month
t the end of next month, 1,500 switched-on entrepreneurs and their high-level employees will attend the last ever National Entrepreneur’s Convention. Hosted by the multi-awardwinning serial entrepreneur Nigel Botterill, the Convention will take place at the ICC in Birmingham on September 21 – 22 and promises to be a two-day event jam-packed with advanced business advice and strategy. The keynote speaker at the Convention is none other than the Apple co-founder and billionaire Steve Wozniak; and delegates will no doubt be hotly anticipating what Wozniak has to say in what is his only DylisGuyan scheduled European appearance this year. In addition to wisdom from Wozniak, Botterill himself will be hosting the Convention and will be sharing the techniques and strategies that have helped him and his team build no fewer than eight £1m+ businesses in the last few years. As
well as the insight and experience that Botterill brings to the table, he will also be calling on his trusted team of direct marketing experts to share the secrets behind their success. Since 2010, Botterill’s Entrepreneur’s Circle has helped thousands of businesses to grow and become more profitable. The motto behind the brand is ‘helping business owners escape mediocrity and live the life they want to lead’ and this emphasis on transformative business advice is sure to have a massive impact on everyone who attends the Convention. One of the things that sets this event apart is the strong emphasis on practical, real-world advice - not the business theory, ‘advanced thinking’ or strategy that is so often on offer at business events. With a theme of ‘what’s working now’, Botterill and his team promise to focus on business strategy that is proven to work right now for successful businesses in the UK.
Inspirational, well organised and full of valuable content
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This means that everything the delegates learn from the event will be relevant for today’s marketplace; enabling attendees to extract significant value from the event. Sandwiched between two days of cuttingedge content is the National Entrepreneur Awards, where 40 or so of the UK’s most impressive entrepreneurs will have their achievements recognised and ten will walk away as award winners. Due to take place on the Sunday evening of the convention and hosted by the brilliant TV impressionist Alistair McGowan, the awards evening promises to be a fantastic occasion, where several unsung entrepreneurs are given some rare recognition. Unfortunately for business owners all over the UK, this year’s convention is scheduled to be the last; with Botterill and his team simply too busy running their own
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businesses to continue to manage an annual event of this scale. With that in mind, the team are determined to make sure this year’s event goes out with a bang, and with Steve Wozniak and Alistair McGowan in tow – as well as highly distinguished mystery guest Mrs X (MBE) – the last ever National Entrepreneur’s Convention promises to live up to its billing. Commenting on last year’s event, Paul Rhodes said: “It was a truly amazing and inspirational couple of days and not only did it deliver, you changed people’s lives - can’t get better than that.” For further information about The National Entrepreneur’s Convention visit www.enco2014.co.uk
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Striking a chord
T WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
Music has an awesome power to create shared experiences and emotional common ground. Which is why it’s an invaluable tool for bringing brands and consumers together
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o pinch a line from electronic music act Faithless: music matters. There are few art forms that hold such a consistent and ubiquitous presence as the melodies and rhythms that have accompanied our lives. Which is why for start-ups looking for ways to communicate with their target market, there are few tools that can rival the power of music for forging an immediate connection between a brand and consumers. There’s little doubting that, in a lot of people’s eyes, music reigns supreme. Even in the world of digital video, music demands more attention than anything else; it’s not without coincidence the most closely followed YouTube channel is its curated music channel, with over 86 million subscribers. “That puts into context how much consumer appetite there is to engage with music content,” says Warren Johnson, founder of W, the PR agency, and partner of WVA, W’s
music and brands division. “If can you wrap brands around that, you’ll be pushing at an open door.” Any brand wanting to be a success needs to make its mark on the consumer. “John Hegarty [the advertising mogul] talks about the fact that good marketing rents a space in people’s minds,” says Helen Gammons, programme director of the MBA for music & creative industries at Henley Business School. And certainly the marketing campaigns that stick in mind are those that have used music to relate to consumers, from the iconic Guiness ad Surfer – accompanied by the Leftfield’s Phat Planet – to commercials like Sony Bravia’s Balls, which featured José González’ cover of The Knife’s song Heartbeats. For this reason, plenty of marketers have explored the impact that music can have on consumers. Universal Music and WPP, the ad
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agency, conducted joint research on the subject for Bands & Brands, a book that looked at the relationship between music, advertising, brands and consumers. “They found that 61% of their sample audience said music made them feel physically different, while 85% said music changes their moods,” says Gammons. “There’s usually something to each piece of music that touches someone.” One reason that music has such a pronounced impact upon us is that it carries with it the associations of an entire lifetime. “Music provides a soundtrack to people’s lives, whether it’s their first date, their wedding – it accompanies every important moment throughout their lives,” Johnson explains. “It’s something that consumers have a fundamental emotional connection with.” But it has also been theorised that our relationship with music is much more fundamental and may actually be hardwired. Simon White, chief strategy officer at FCB Inferno, the creative agency, makes reference to a lecture held by Daniel Barenboim, the renowned pianist and conductor, that explained, in part, why music affects us so deeply. “Of all the senses, sound is actually very close to where we process emotions, which might be the reason music evokes things so strongly,” White relays. Understanding why emotion carries quite so much weight in marketing circles requires a little knowledge of how people make decisions. Whilst most of us would like to believe our loyalties and purchasing decisions are made based on conscious reasoning, nothing could be further from the truth. “We now
programme director of the MBA for music and creative industries, Henley Business School
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Simon White, chief strategy officer, FCB Inferno
Warren Johnson, founder, W
Music provides a soundtrack to people’s lives; it’s something that consumers have a fundamental emotional connection with Warren Johnson, WVA
understand that between 80% and 95% of our decision making is subconscious and that is totally driven by our emotions,” says White. “Using music can help us trigger those emotions much more powerfully.” This means that when devising a campaign, the music a brand chooses can have powerful ramifications. And there are several approaches marketers can take. “The classic route is an agency will find an appropriate record that they like, license it from the record label and stick it on their ad,” explains Johnson. There are two options for marketers looking to license something for their brand. Songs that are familiar to audiences come with a rich heritage of associations, allowing a brand to tap into an identity that is already well-established. “If you choose a particular rock and roll track known for rebellion, you can immediately pick up values which you want to apply to your brand,” says White. Conversely, brands can break new ground and create a new set of associations. “You might choose something that is very cool and unknown,” White says. Working with a breaking artist, whilst much more of a gamble, can also accelerate an ad’s profile massively as both the ad and the chosen piece of music trigger recollections of each other. “At the same time that your ad’s out there, the actual track is going up the charts,” he continues. “You’re constantly triggering memories of your ad because of the fact they are also hearing that track on the radio at the same time.”
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As strategies go this can have incredibly powerful results. “Levis and [agency] Bartle Bogle Hegarty pioneered that in the 1980s; they were literally picking hits ahead of the time and getting them to number one,” says Johnson. However, unilaterally deciding that an artist is going to be the next big thing is a risk and potentially might not go to plan. “Picking the stars of tomorrow is something that, even by their own admission, record labels struggle to do,” he says. “So it’s a dangerous strategy because, as a brand, you effectively have to set yourselves up as being better at A&R than record labels.” But there are other options for brands wanting to position themselves as part of the conversation around music. Johnson makes reference to the work of the Martin Agency which, for its Chipotle ads, moved away from licensing and toward creating unique musical content. “It would pick one record that it loved and then have another artist cover it in a really unique way,” he says. “Its engagement on that was through the roof.” This means that, rather than simply dressing their brand in some borrowed credibility, enterprises can actually help deliver musical experiences their consumers will love.
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Marketers forget you can’t just take eight bars out of a song, stick it in and expect the emotion and engagement to remain Helen Gammons, Henley Business School
Regardless of whether brands go down a licensing route or get involved as musical content creators in their own right, it’s hard to overstate the impact the right music can have on a campaign. “It can truly make or break an ad,” says White. He points to some research conducted by BrainJuicer, the market research company, that demonstrated the same ad with two different pieces of music could go from scoring top scores with consumers to bottom. “The interesting thing is that every single thing changes,” he explains. “Not just how much you liked the music or whether the ad stuck in your mind; the actual brand message itself is considered more positively.” Musical missteps can be costly indeed but they often come about because an enterprise hasn’t fully understood the nature of the connection between the artist and their fans. Gammons believes the biggest mistake is when a marketer doesn’t look beyond the size of an artist’s fan base. “Brand marketeers sometimes misunderstand the psychological and emotional side of the engagement of the music,” she says. “They forget that you can’t just take eight bars out of context of the song, stick it in and expect that emotion and engagement to remain.” Whilst it may seem difficult to quantify what makes a certain piece of music chime so strongly with a consumer base, as in any marketing effort, failing to target and track spend can result in rather misguided investments. “You need to map audiences, understand how the artist motivates your audience and assess what kinds of metrics you need to use,” Johnson says. “It’s absolutely vital that the planning of music up front and the evaluation at the back end is treated very seriously and that we move away from acting on gut instinct.” It is tempting to view something as creative as music as being somehow ineffable and beyond rational analysis but there is plenty that can be done to monitor the success of music in campaigns, as long as one is clear on the objectives it aims to achieve. “Right from the outset, you need to be clear as to what is it that you want to get from the campaign,” explains Gammons. “You can then decide whether the campaign has met those targets or not and actually measure it against what you’re hoping to set up.” But if a brand is clear on its campaign objectives and understands the audience it wants to reach, there are few better ways to ensure its message is music to consumers’ ears.
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Under the Microscope
Far from being cast out, market research is as important as ever for start-ups, with technology delivering more sophisticated and costeffective ways of testing the water
very entrepreneur’s journey to success starts in the same way. Regardless of where they were or what they were doing, at some point they had a moment of creative clarity in which their product, concept or service appeared in their mind. But after the blueprints are drawn up, recipes perfected, patents lodged and business plans formulated, there is another all-important step left before launching: market research. While most organisations will have a rough idea of their target market, others will invest time and money into pinpointing their key demographics. Some businesses, however, know theirs from the outset. When starting her wedding dress company Motasem, Sabina Ali knew exactly who her client base was: brides. But during the process of market research, she learnt that while consumers thought all the dresses in the market looked the same, they also had a firm budget in mind. “I did start off as a bespoke dress company but I carried out a survey on Survey Monkey and I asked about what kind of dresses people were looking for,” Ali says. “From that research I realised Sabina Ali, Motasem people felt that everything looked the same and there is not much choice but they wanted to spend around £1,500 to £2,000, a lot less than I thought. So I went back to the drawing board and thought how can I offer more choice at a better price? “ This research altered the fundamentals of her company. Changing her business model, she
WORDS: James Dyble
Gathering feedback from customers is the best research that you can do
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designed her first set of dresses and went back out to the market in the quest for sales. Her research did not stop there though. “I didn’t take too much time to develop the dresses,” Ali says. “I got some dresses together and took them straight out to get some feedback. I then went back to the drawing board, tweaked the formula, and back to customers for more feedback. I have been through that cycle about five times now.” Ali knew she had found the right designs when she started receiving calls from Australia and the US. Her dresses may be different from her original plans but listening to her customers has proved invaluable. “The collection has now evolved to the point that each of the dresses has various designer details and optional extras that brides can ask for,” she says. “There are different necklines and sleeves that they can add so they get the feeling of something they designed themselves but at an off the peg price.” Keeping a competitive edge
While market research gives you a great insight into your customers, it also proves a useful tool when sussing out the competition. Diving into a fiercely competitive market with an under-cooked product is a sure-fire way to see your business fail. Through research, however, you can spot opportunities and seize them. “Market research told us that our competitors hadn’t been doing a very good job PR wise,” said Paul Makepeace, co-founder of LED Supply&Fit, the energy-saving lighting company. “They also focused on trade persons rather than the consumers. We supply and fit the goods directly, which gives us our USP.”
Sabina Ali, founder, Motasem
Paul Makepeace, co-founder, LED Supply&Fit
Louise Maddy, founder, The Avocado Cafe
SALES & MARKETING
As the winner of the 2014 Outstanding Trader Award for her Avocado Café market stall, Louise Maddy is fully aware of the benefits of keeping your friends close but enemies closer. “Being in the marketplace I was able to notice what my competitors were doing: their branding, how they presented things and how they incorporated different flavours. It gives you loads of think about.” This opinion is mirrored by Carol Deeney, whose Scottish food stall has proven popular at several locations around London. “When I first joined the markets my business was still quite young,” she says. “I hadn’t quite sculpted the menu and it wasn’t defined in anyway. I came along to one market and figured out all of the pricing people were doing, the offers and what was proving popular. Straight away I was able to alter what I was offering.” Quite simply, market research is a step that cannot be avoided. But if your start-up is struggling for funds, is there away round this potentially expensive endeavor?
The digital revolution
In this digital age there are numerous services available for entrepreneurs. One quick internet search will return a host of companies offering surveys, email marketing and research data at a reasonable cost. However, with no interviewer to clarify and probe for accurate answers, the possibility that your key market is not internet-savvy or the issues surrounding the precision of second-hand data, the results might not be as helpful as you wished.
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With my online skills and the methods we used, we most probably saved £1,000 Paul Makepeace, LED Supply&Fit
Unfortunately, as Makepeace explains, arranging a focus group is very expensive. “We looked into focus groups and found the price to organise an actual location and everything else would have been costly,” he says. “It would have been good to do if we had the money but we needed to minimise expenses at the start.” Makepeace and his partner decided to utilise their professional skills to do their research. Coming from an online marketing background, Makepeace was able to do a variety of research for minimal cost. “As well as three Google surveys that cost £45 each, I got an email list of 10,000 subscribers from Mail Chimp. The list was free so the only cost was setting up the website and the landing page. As a web designer it only cost my time.” All that was left to do was print off some fliers and walk into shops to explain the savings that could be made. “With my online skills and the methods we used, we most probably saved £1,000,” he continues. Deeney, who also boasts a business degree, tapped into her advertising knowledge and contacts from her previous career to help her business get off the ground. “When you’re starting a business you’ve got to start with a brief and bring that to life,” she explains. “I had to put myself in the shoes of both the client
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and the client services rep and fulfill the brief that I had set myself. In advertising, if you go through that process it helps makeit quite comprehensive for you. I had contacts who helped me, which kept costs down.” It’s important to clarify the difference between personal skills and individual knowledge. Ali has years of experience within the fashion industry but she was often surprised by which of her designs got the most sales. “It’s funny: the dresses that I think will be the top sellers tend not to be, while the designs that I think won’t be as popular are the ones that sell.” It’s this sort of insight that’s crucial for everyone considering starting up a business. “Gathering feedback from customers is the best research that you can do.” Maddy also championed the customer feedback research which has seen her product range improve and expand since she launched in 2013. “It’s been a nice way to evolve the product, rather than doing a few focus groups and launching like that,” she says. “It has been a gradual process and you wouldn’t get that if you have just been doing research and development. You really start to build up a great understanding of who your customer is.” And, at the end of the day, isn’t that the entire point of market research?
Carol Deeney underwent extensive market research before she started her Scottish-style food stall. “I would go out looking at prices, menus, which markets were busier and the various stalls’ offerings. Did people like things hand-held or packaged to take back to the office? You find what’s the best but also the differences between the locations.” After launching Deeney’s and her range of haggis toasties and soups in the summer of 2012, she discovered Shepherds Markets, which enabled her access to locations across the capital. Relishing her new surroundings, Deeney found her food began to get a reputation. “I whittled the menu down to just a few things that people wanted. You have Our main sandwich is The to listen Macbeth, a haggis, cheddar, and react caramelised red onion and to demand rocket toastie. People would look forward to it once or twice a month. They liked the routine.” She also stated that at times she had to swallow her pride in order to get people to swallow her sandwiches. “I’ve been quite stubborn about things. It’s very easy not to listen if you have a clear idea in your mind and if you’re set in your ways. But if that’s what you’re doing then you won’t be successful. You have to listen and react to demand. Keep asking the customers. Don’t be shy because they’re the ones you should care about.”
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Elite Business 57.indd 1
SALES & MARKETING
Selling the dream Entrepreneurs can only get so far on their own â&#x20AC;&#x201C; hiring a dedicated team of salespeople will eventually become a necessity. However, selling them the start-up is just as important as getting them to sell themselves
Selling the dream.indd 1
SALES & MARKETING
“Joining a smaller team brings more individual responsibility for driving the success of the company and the opportunity to sharpen entrepreneurial skills,” Castley continues. “Further rewards for getting on board early can include better returns on share options and more attractive promotion opportunities while actively growing a company – a real badge of honour on anyone’s CV.” The buck, euro, yen or – more likely – pound doesn’t stop there though. You may have enlisted the help of the best sales team in the world but motivation and keeping your team incentivised is something that doesn’t just happen overnight. According to a recent survey of sales professionals conducted by YouGov and Xactly, 68% of respondents suggested they prefer to be rewarded based upon their individual and personal needs. Whilst this might appear to be quite a challenge for entrepreneurs and start-ups with small sales teams, it is ultimately what it will take for people to see, understand and follow their vision. Getting to know your team well is therefore indispensable, as Castley attests. “Working in a small tightly-knit team as part of a start-up can be great fun but takes effort and time to make the relationships work for all involved,” he says.
t’s not just the bank manager who needs convincing that an entrepreneur’s big idea is ripe for commercial success – you also need to convince those who will be selling it on your behalf. Scarily enough, putting together a sales team can ultimately make or break your product and with it, your entrepreneurial success; choose the wrong set of salespeople and it’s more a case of being held to ransom, rather than being the next Richard Branson. With tight start-up budgets usually leading to lower salaries, salespeople, ironically enough, need to be sold something themselves. That thing is vision – your vision. Particularly if you’re looking to attract talent from the corporate world, this can provide one of the most telling challenges for a start-up. “Inspiring your sales team starts at interview and needs to be built on with a strong induction process, explaining who you are and where you are going,” starts Ian Baxter, Tom Castley, Ian Baxter, founder founder and chairman of Baxter managing director, and chairman, Baxter Freight, the freight company. Xactly EMEA Freight “We normally spend three full Tom Castley, Xactly EMEA days ‘in the classroom’, inducting new joiners,” Baxter continues. “In The above being said, it can be tempting with a small team to assign this time they will be engaged in interactive additional roles and responsibilities that can ultimately distract from training, explaining the corporate vision and the end game. values and will have to sell them back to the “Salespeople with too many responsibilities won’t be able to meet the team to demonstrate that they’ve been received goals initially set in the first place. It’s important to focus on, and work and understood. to their strengths to help them attain their quota,” continues Castley. “It’s really important that staff not only learn “One option is to create specialist roles for your sales team, which your mantra, but also understand why it’s makes it easier to break out different steps in your processes, driving good and will benefit customers, suppliers and better metrics, and more effective rewards. What’s more, when ultimately your sales team itself. As Baxter things aren’t working and you inevitably hit a few hurdles, lumped Freight is still in its first year of business it responsibilities can obscure the view of what’s happening within is particularly important that all our team an organisation, making it difficult to isolate and fix issues with believe in what we do.” accountable follow through.” But what about finding those bums to fill Attempting to mould every member of a sales team into a mirror seats on your sales team? image of yourself can be a dangerous game indeed. After all, what’s good “It can be a challenge for start-ups to attract for the goose may not always necessarily be good for the gander. talented salespeople to join their team, “Refrain from rushing to drill your dream into your colleagues’ especially when they have previously worked heads, forcing them to subscribe to it and expecting them to be inspired with larger, more established companies,” to achieve your goals,” says Castley. “Take the time to sit down and explains Tom Castley, managing director pinpoint the motivators for each individual employee, talk about their of Xactly EMEA, the sales performance dreams, and then align what motivates them against the overall goals. management software provider. “It is “Taking this time to find out what drives them will demonstrate you important to ensure they understand that can help them achieve success in their professional and personal lives,” working with a smaller company does not he concludes. necessarily equate to a lower return.”
WORDS: JOE JEFFREY
It’s important to ensure they understand that working with a smaller company doesn’t necessarily equate to a lower return
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An entrepreneur abroad Planning a holiday can be stressful enough but, when you have your own company, it’s even more important to make sure you’re prepared for your time out of office
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
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hen you run your own business getting time away isn’t always easy. No matter how much an entrepreneur might want to unwind with some mojitos or grab some meze beside the Mediterranean, worrying whether their start-up can cope in their absence can make holidays a huge source of anxiety. But, in actuality, getting away can be essential for entrepreneurs looking to stay happy and productive long-term. This is something Mark Mason, founder & CEO of Mubaloo, the enterprise mobile app developer, knows first hand. Having spent almost five years growing the enterprise from the ground up, earlier this year he decided to have three months out, taking his wife and three-year-old daughter to visit family in New Zealand. “I decided to actually take a break and to recharge the batteries,” he says. “It’s rare in life that you get the opportunity to go and do something like that.” But there are other good reasons to get away from it all. “If you’re completely focused on the business all the time, you can get caught up very heavily in it,” explains Paul Spiers, founder of Wave Native, the surf-wear brand. Taking time away can help refresh an entrepreneur’s perspective and stimulates the sort of expansive thinking that perhaps may be more difficult during the day-to-day running of an enterprise. “A natural entrepreneur will see a whole lot of opportunity on holiday,” he continues. “It opens your eyes to the world.” However, whilst few of us would need much arm-twisting to flit off to Bali or spend some time kicking up our feet in Berlin, taking time away from your start-up is always going to seem like a logistical headache. Perhaps the first concern is ensuring there is a firm hand on the tiller in your absence. If there’s an appropriate second-in-command who can take over, then it’s important to trust in their ability to cope whilst you’re away and not attempt to micromanage from two continents away.
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A hundred hours off
Emi Gal, the CEO and founder of Brainient, tells us why long weekends can be the perfect option for time-poor entrepreneurs Being an entrepreneur and running a start-up is very stressful: it’s really good for entrepreneurs to take some time off to really reflect and think about things. But if you have to wait years before you can take two weeks off then you may burn out before you even get to that point. Instead it’s better to take smaller holidays more often. I stopped taking long holidays because they very quickly just became emails with a view. I would be on holiday but actually my mind was at the office, just because there were things to solve, problems to address, fires to put out. So my favourite way to disconnect, reflect and take some time off is actually long weekends; you have enough time to disconnect and reflect but when you’re back the workload isn’t so big that you immediately go back into that space of stress and anxiousness. If you take less time, ironically enough, it’s easier to relax and actually disconnect because you know you’re going to be back very soon.
Paul Spiers, founder,
Emi Gal, CEO and founder, Brainient
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“You have to give wholehearted responsibility during peak holiday seasons, such as August and December, when to the people you’ve left in charge, otherwise the majority of businesses have staff out on holiday. “During these you just keep meddling from a distance,” months people expect that people are going to be away so there’s less of Mason says. “People only take responsibility an urgency to resolve things,” says Emi Gal, the CEO and founder of when they’re completely given it.” Brainient, the ad-tech firm. “This means it’s less likely you’re going to get Sometimes, however, there might not be such any fires to put out.” a clear candidate and it can be tricky to know But just because someone has no fires to fight doesn’t remove the whether a member of a team is going to be able temptation to regularly check in. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with to rise to the challenge. In these circumstances, checking your emails from Ecuador or tweeting whilst in Thailand, it’s Spiers recommends providing these important to keep some boundaries in place. employees prior opportunities Spiers recommends setting fixed times for to prove themselves. “Give them picking up messages and handling emails. smaller projects in advance so you “Just allocate that time and try to be rigid and can test their mettle,” he explains. stick to it.” “It is really about putting the trust This can be a major sticking point for any out there.” entrepreneur abroad. For business owners used It’s not all about what happens to always being on, going from 60 to 0 and inside a company though. Managing trading boardroom for beach isn’t the easiest the expectations of clients and transition to make. “It’s difficult, particularly stakeholders, particularly those if you’re a driven individual,” says Mason. But used to dealing with the big kahuna he feels that entrepreneurs owe it to their loved Paul Spiers, Wave themselves, is essential to prevent ones to pay them their full attention. “When Native any frantic poolside phone calls you go away like that, you’ve got to respect when a major customer demands to speak their time and not constantly be on your mobile phone.” to the CEO. “They need to know in advance However, for those still struggling to switch off, Spiers stresses that what the plans are and that the person who it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. “It doesn’t have to be an on-off is managing the bulk of the day-to-day in switch; it can be halfway,” he says. If someone has a few ideas buzzing your absence is competent and effective,” round their heads, getting them down on a pad can help them unwind. says Spiers. “There needs to be a continuity of Alternatively, catching up on some reading, even if it happens to be confidence between you and your stand-in.” Flotation for Dummies, can help a busy mind settle into a holiday. “Even One way an entrepreneur can help manage if you are reading a business book, as long as it’s by the pool or on the expectations is choosing to take their holiday beach then I think you’re halfway there,” he concludes.
A natural entrepreneur will see a whole lot of opportunity on holiday
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02/05/2014 15:54 00:53 22/04/2014
RIP 9-to-5 Now that almost every employee in the UK has a right to request flexible working hours, should start-ups be fearing the worst? The answer, it seems, is absolutely not
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
RIP 9-to-5.indd 1
olly Parton once sang “workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’”. Little could America’s country music queen have known that 34 years later, she’d be performing her most famous song on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. Perhaps even more of a surprise was that her stint in the Somerset sunshine would be followed two days later by the rollout of a right to request flexible working to almost all employees in the UK. Whilst many would rightly regard this as a massive coincidence, we certainly couldn’t help but be struck by the timing of these two significant events. Pop culture references aside, the legislation that came into force on June 30 is an important milestone for UK plc and the working population. A right that was previously only afforded to working parents and carers has been extended to the whole of the British workforce, with some very minor caveats. One thing’s for sure: it could well mark the end of the 9-to-5 day as we know it. Of course, flexible working is hardly a new thing. Many companies have been enabling their employees to work in a way that fits their lifestyle for years. Syd Nadim, founder and executive chairman of Clock, the digital agency, implemented flexible working from the outset. “When I had a proper job, I just realised I wanted flexibility for myself and one of the reasons I called the company Clock is because the 9-to-5 approach to life is just breeding a culture where people are clock-watching,” explains Nadim. Employees at Clock are free to arrive at 11am every day for a full day’s work and leave at 2pm on a Friday. Nadim admits he barely gave the latter policy a second thought. “To be honest, I just did it because it’s a good thing to do,” he says. “It turns out it’s good for business as well, which is great. Happy and fulfilled individuals perform much better and we’re able to recruit and retain the very best staff as a result.” Nadim goes on to explain that a Clock employee takes on average 1.7 sick days a year – well below the national average. “That is the result of us giving people that space,” he says.
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are open to them,” says Kate Cleminson, HR manager at Healix. “As the business grew and we moved into some new sectors, it became very obvious that we would be able to attract a wider audience and skill set if we could offer some more flexibility.” The impact it’s had on recruitment and retention at Healix is plain to see as far as Cleminson is concerned. “We have valued and committed individuals who have been with the company a long time,” she adds. “I am always impressed that people are often aware of the flexible working policy before they join us.” Even the stats appear to support the positive impact that flexible working is Nadim firmly believes that a flexible working perceived to have on organisations and their employees. A recent survey from Croner, the policy can work for any company where there’s a sufficient level of trust among staff. “With employment and HR arm of Wolters Kluwer, the information services company, assessed flexibility comes responsibility,” he says. “It’s not just a free-for-all but you should treat over 2,000 British workers’ views on flexible people as grown-ups and let them work it out working. It revealed that – of the 60% of respondents who have or between themselves.” had worked flexibly – 63% In an age where a decent believe they experienced salary is a bare minimum requirement, it’s hard to a better work/life balance working under such overstate the difference that a policy. Higher staff flexible working can make morale (42%), reduced to a company’s ability to both attract and hold on to sickness absence (28%) talented workers. Healix, and increased productivity the global healthcare and (27%) were also noted as risk management company, significant upsides. has reaped the rewards of its However, whilst flexible Syd Nadim, Clock flexible working policy that working may make was implemented from the perfect business sense for very start by founders Peter Mason and Paul companies of a certain size – or from a certain Beven. The firm offers eight different work sector – it won’t be a feasible option for some patterns to its staff across the world and allows enterprises. These businesses can probably more than a third (37%) of its employees the take some solace in further findings from ability to work from home. This lets people the Croner report. It revealed that, of those balance work with other responsibilities and employees who were already eligible for flexible activities like childcare, further education, job working prior to June 30, 69% said they had sharing, sporting interests and volunteering. never made a flexible working request. And of “The founders were very strong in their those who were ineligible prior to June 30 but belief that people should not have unnecessary now are, 60% said they were unlikely to submit work restrictions placed on opportunities that a request.
It’s not just a free-for-all but you should treat people as grown-ups
Syd Nadim, founder
and executive chairman, Clock
Kate Cleminson, HR
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That’s not to say small business owners shouldn’t prepare themselves for requests from employees. Fortunately, for those who aren’t able to offer flexible working, there are a number of reasons that can legitimately be given for turning down a request, all of which are listed in the legislation. It then becomes a question of letting workers down gently. “It’s worth recognising that if you say no, even if you’re entitled to say no, and even if you had really good reasons to say no, you’ve got an employee who is somewhat crestfallen, disappointed and maybe demotivated,” says Richard Smith, head of employment law at Croner. “If there’s really nothing that can be done, there has to be some careful explanation as to why it is that you can’t do it.” Some business bodies including the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have raised concerns that the legislation may give rise to employee tensions and discrimination claims in companies that already offer a degree of flexibility to their workers. However, Will Burrows, head of employment law at Lewis Hymanson Small, the law firm, believes such concerns are unfounded. “Because of the wide scope for refusal, there are always going to be reasons upon which an employer can legitimately refuse,” he says. “But if it weighs the application in balance with the needs of the business in each individual case, the chances of indirect discrimination are very low.” With modern technology meaning that workforces can now function from almost anywhere, flexible working is very much here to stay. And as far as start-ups are concerned, the opportunities that this presents should not be overlooked. “Start-ups in particular need to be able to attract talent and this is one of the strongest ways they can do so,” says Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute. “It’s a better deal for people of all sexes and ages to have flexible working hours. If you give people something that meets their needs and helps create a positive culture, you are going to get more productive employees, and in the end everybody will win.”
Take a break
Jenny Biggam, founder of the7stars, the media agency, explains why she lets her staff take as much holiday as they need People always said to us ‘you can only do that when you’re a certain size of business’. We have now grown the business to 100 people and have kept that policy exactly the same. Even with 100 people, it works. What we’ve done is take away the necessity, the paperwork and the red tape of filling in a form or registering on an HR system how much time you want to take off. Everyone knows as a working professional roughly how much time you should be spending in the office versus how much time you should be spending on the beach. You don’t really need your boss to tell you how many days to take off and how it works. In a big corporation, if you had a policy like that, certain people may think ‘how much time I take off will have no bearing on how much profit the company makes’. However, in an ownermanaged business like ours, it’s easier because people realise that their contribution has a direct effect on the company’s future.
It’s a better deal for people of all sexes and ages to have flexible working hours Ann Francke, Chartered Management Institute
Richard Smith, head of employment law, Croner
RIP 9-to-5.indd 3
Will Burrows, head of employment law, Lewis Hymanson Small
Ann Francke, CEO,
Chartered Management Institute
Elite Business 73.indd 1
There’s no I in change 74
Change is an inevitable part of business growth but its success depends on the support of all stakeholders, says Lyndsey Simpson, co-founder of The Curve Group
n business as in life, change is at some point inevitable. Be it small or large, affecting solely us or others too, change can have a massive impact on many different aspects of our lives. We all develop our own way of doing things, our own way of getting the job done, and even the slightest change can have a significant impact on this, frequently leaving people feeling uncomfortable that their previous way of doing things has been affected. We are often hugely excited by change in our businesses, especially when they are associated with positive outcomes such as growth. As we have been part of the process, we can often only see the positives and it is easy to become frustrated when others just don’t seem to ‘get it’. However, rather than simply becoming frustrated, in order to deal with such problems it is crucial for us to try and understand others’ opinions and put ourselves in their shoes to understand their concerns or objections. More than likely, those who are seen to be resisting the change will actually have a valid reason that is worth discussing and addressing. Resistance to change can happen for a number of reasons but to make things simpler I am going to break it down into two areas: passive resistance and active resistance. Passive resistors are those people whose general opinion is that they were quite happy working in the way that they were before. They will accept changes but do not fully understand the reasons for them and therefore struggle to apply them to their daily working lives or change their old routines. Active resistors are those who are more visible in their dissatisfaction with change. These individuals openly don’t accept the changes and as a result will, if left alone, become dissatisfied with what you are asking them to do, which will in turn negatively impact their morale and performance.
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So how do you deal with these people? As in any aspect of life, if changes are made without sufficient communication accompanying them, people are naturally going to feel uncomfortable and confused. It is crucial that you share why the changes are taking place. Whilst something may seem obvious to you, that doesn’t automatically make it the case for everyone else. In our busy working lives this can often be forgotten and we just communicate ‘what’ needs to change. Don’t be afraid of the detail and the story around the ‘why’, as it is this that will bring your people on the journey.
Change in practice
Let’s look at an example. You would like to introduce a new element to your process whereby everyone asks for referrals at the end of each client call. This is a classic request whereby the business leader will think ‘why on earth would we not want to do that?’ and
Change is essential for business survival so it is vital that everyone is ready to deal with it
Curve Group.indd 2
your team may think ‘I don’t want to do that; it’s embarrassing, they may not want to refer and I will be putting them on the spot and facing an awkward conversation.’ The ‘what’ here is to introduce a formal process and perhaps scripted question to ask for referrals. The short ‘why’ is to help business growth. If you simply announce the change like this, I would bet on you receiving resistance. The detailed story behind ‘why’ you are making the change could be: “it’s really important that we understand what our customers think of us but I don’t think that they would want to complete a long questionnaire online, nor would we like you to stop what you’re doing to make outbound calls to ask customers a load of questions. Therefore, we thought if we asked one simple question at the end of every interaction over the next six weeks, that killer question could be ‘would you refer us?’ If they wouldn’t, we really need to understand why so we can adapt and change the way we serve them so that we don’t lose them as a customer. This would also give us the chance to develop innovations from their ideas that we can roll-out to other customers to help us grow.” With that explanation, even if you have the odd naysayer, the majority of the team is likely to get it and
understand why this is a good thing to do. On occasions where larger scale changes are being made, you may be presented with more active resistors and it is important to try and address this instead of becoming frustrated. In such cases, a deeper level of education is required. Here at The Curve Group, we run an informal business book club for our employees. One of the recent short reads was a book called Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. “The book is great at addressing all possible issues related to change and highlights the importance of a positive approach in managing change,” says Amy Cookson, a talent executive on our HR consulting team who ran our most recent session. “Informal sessions like this are invaluable as the company continues to grow.” With the right communication and education on change – and your reasons for it – those who were initially concerned will come around. It’s far better to see their challenges as a positive rather than a negative; as an opportunity to look at things from a different point of view and a way to test the decisions that you have made. Change is not only inevitable, it is essential for business survival, so it is vital that everyone in your business is ready to deal with it.
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Business Growth Strategy FP July.indd 1
The Elite Business tech heads are a sucker for a sci-fi story. We were therefore rather taken with the news last month that This Place has launched an app that uses an EEG sensor to allow individuals to control Google Glass with thoughts alone. Aimed at helping those with debilitating conditions interact with the world, MindRDR still has a long way to go. However, for those that want a taste of the future a little sooner, we have plenty more exciting gadgets and top apps to get those neurons firing
LazerBlade The impact that affordable 3D printers are having on artisan-style start-ups has received a lot of attention over the last couple of years but it’s not the only technology that is coming into the home. Darkly Labs’ LazerBlade brings affordable laser-engraving and -cutting into the hands of aspiring makers, allowing artists and creatives to precision cut or engrave various materials. If they’re looking for a way to cut out creations en-masse or emblazon leather and wooden goods with their own distinctive detailing, the LazerBlade offers an affordable way for the amateur to mass-produce crafts.
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
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Oculus Rift is unarguably cool. But not everybody will necessarily have the $300 it is rumoured it will cost on release. For those who fancy a little taste of virtual reality for a smaller outlay, Google has come up with a charming – albeit significantly more lo-fi – alternative. Using free plans and some scrap cardboard, Android users can turn their phones into makeshift VR headsets. The associated Cardboard app then allows users to explore locations, navigate YouTube videos or engage with interactive stories in immersive 3D. Certainly the most futuristic use of a pizza box we’ve ever found – the good old Starship Dominos just looks childish by comparison.
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Vessyl Vessyl is one of those innovations that you can’t help but love purely for the mindblowing ingenuity behind it. This smart cup knows precisely what you’re drinking. Carrying out some absurdly clever molecular analysis on the fly, Vessyl can track the sugar, caffeine, protein, calories and fat inside drinks, tracking how much of each you’ve consumed sip by sip. Proving quite how insanely clever it is, Vessyl can even track what kinds of beverages you’ve consumed, deftly identifying everything from a Starbucks Frappuccino to a splash of Sprite. All in all, Vessyl shows the quantified self movement is getting some pretty serious firepower.
OnePlus One The OnePlus One is an impressive enough phone: a 5.5in 401ppi screen, a massively customiseable operating system in the Android-based CyanogenMod and a quad-core 2.5GHz processor that comes with an impressive 3GB RAM. But it is its price that makes it truly stand out: all the above comes at a wallet-friendly £229. Sadly, getting your hands on one is extremely difficult: after an exceedingly painful invite-based system, OnePlus has confirmed it is switching to a pre-order system for a renewed release date of Q3. Whether the One remains such a standout deal until then remains to be seen.
La Metric Metrics are awesome but they lack the physicality you’d get from electronic tickers, making it hard to shout about your successes. La Metric is an appealing and practical way to keep track of your metrics: its dinky dot matrix display can be programmed to track potentially any data you set your mind to, whether it’s your number of mentions on Twitter or the number of reps recorded by your fitness tracker. The beauty of this self-ascribed ‘smart ticker’ is its huge hackability: its customisable nature and broad number of applications seems set only to increase as start-ups get their hands on its API.
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Bright spark As the female CEO of an AIM-listed tech firm, Marne Martin is in limited company. However, the ServicePower boss doesn’t see a reason – aside from a lack of ambition – why other women can’t follow in her footsteps
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
A rare breed.indd 1
aybe it’s the association of technology with ‘geekdom’ or the fact that tech behemoths Facebook, Apple and Microsoft were founded by men. Either way, it’s difficult not to conclude that technology is currently a male-dominated industry. Marne Martin, CEO of ServicePower, the field management software company, can therefore count herself as something of a rarity. The British tech firm she has headed since September 2013 is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has had a secondary base of operations in the USA since 1999. Martin, herself an American, has been tasked with helping the company maximise commercial returns from its innovative business software products. She is already making her presence felt, helping ServicePower secure lucrative deals with the likes of Electrolux and BestBuy. “The culture I’m trying to manifest in this company is that of a start-up,” says Martin. “I want it to be very entrepreneurial:
driving things based on returns on investment and making product development decisions based on commercial return. You aren’t able to do this overnight but we have already had a lot of success over the last year and I’m certain we’ll have more over the next year.” Martin’s story carries more than a hint of triumphing in the face of adversity. She spent most of her childhood on cattle ranches in Montana, Wyoming, which she describes as “a very male-dominated environment” and one in which “you had to be very independent”. It was evident that she was on the course for business stardom from a very young age. “My grandfather used to tease me that my first words were ‘me can do it’,” Martin laughs. “If somebody said I couldn’t do something, I wanted to find a way to do it. It didn’t necessarily mean that I would be the best at it but I would find a way to at least be reasonably successful at whatever it was I did.” This attitude stood Martin in good stead as she went on to attain a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. followed by a dual MBA and master’s degree in management from ESCP Europe and Krannert School of Management. And at the age of 27 she was managing her first company, Digicel Holdings, the Central American telecom firm. Martin admits it was a bit of an eye-opener but firmly believes that grabbing a chance with both hands as early as possible in your career is
essential for any woman who is hoping to go far in business. “It was quite an interesting experience managing a company in Latin America at 27,” she says. “But if your first priority is to work close to home and not make any sacrifices, by default you are not going to get the same professional opportunities. I think a lot of women have to be flexible to doing overseas assignments and take risks earlier in their career so that they start to build that repertoire and hopefully build relationships with the people who will give them the opportunity.” As far as Martin is concerned, women who aren’t willing to stand up and be counted for are unlikely to reach the top. “It’s a sad reality but you just have to accept as a woman you are going to have to work harder to earn the respect of all those around you,” says Martin. “Even when you get to the level of manager, director, VP or CEO, you are still going to have to prove every day that you are the right person for the job, that you have value to add and that you manage your team in a way that makes them perform better.” Martin has significant experience to draw upon in this regard. However, whilst she admits to the existence of certain prejudices in the workplace, she reiterates the need for women to rise above these if they’re to really
Did I ever feel discriminated against? No, because I felt it was my job to prove myself
A rare breed.indd 2
make a mark. “Gender-specific biases exist but did I ever feel discriminated against? No, because I felt it was my job to prove myself,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of harassment protections because I know women who have had truly horrific experiences. But I also think that if you’re going to be a woman in a predominantly male environment, you need to understand male humour.” Whilst the female tech star is on the rise in the UK – recent stats revealed there are now more women in tech leadership positions here in Blighty than in the US – there’s still work to be done when it comes to closing the gender gap. Martin believes that there are plenty of females who possess the necessary skill set to succeed in technology, adding that the key is getting their foot in the door as early as possible. “I was always interested in problemsolving and engineering skills,” she says. “To do well in tech skills, you have to have that kind of mindset and there are actually a lot of women who have that aptitude now.” She continues: “To be developing more female technology CEOs, technology companies firstly need to make sure that
they’re bringing them in when they come out of university. They then need to be coaching women to put their hand up for the key assignments and key projects. During the course of my career, whenever I was presented with a hard project, I wanted to lead it.” And in terms of the types of tech firms to be targeting, starting small is often the best approach, according to Martin. “For women to be moving up the ladder, they really need to be taking the cross-functional roles and they need to be willing to go to a small company,” she says. “If you only want to build a CEO path in a very large company, that is going to be a lot harder.” Despite her openness to the idea of government-set quotas for women at management and board level, Martin firmly believes there’s as much of an onus on the individuals themselves. “I do think that government has a role, as do senior leaders, but I also think that women and, in fact, any minority has a responsibility to be the type of person that they would themselves hire,” she concludes. “The reality is that women really need to want it.”
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There’s no questioning that technology has fundamentally changed the way we work – but there’s a strong business case for stepping away from the screen now and again, says Dan Kirby
DAN KIRBY TECHDEPT
s I write this, immediately in front of me I have three digital screens running. I am typing this on my laptop, researching on my tablet and answering messages and taking calls on my smartphone. And I’m not alone: according to a report by Forrester, the research firm, over 52% of workers in IT, digital and marketing use three or more devices at any one time during working hours. There’s no doubt technology is meshed into every aspect of our lives – whether at work or play. Most business apps promise more, faster, better. Perhaps tech really is the facilitator of a more efficient workplace but it can simultaneously make us feel overwhelmed and under pressure. Technology is a fantastic enabler – but is too much tech impacting our performance during the hours that we are working? Should we be turning it off? Even just asking this question may seem counterintuitive for a company like mine – one that is immersed in tech. Yet being more productive at work is critical for all of us, whatever business we are in.
Leaving work at work
We can all admit to taking work home with us and checking emails as we’re eating our dinner. We’ve blurred the lines between work and home and clearly become more connected. Google’s Dublin office has instituted a policy called Google Goes Dark. All of the employees are required to leave their work devices at work and switch them off. This is a clear effort to widen the boundary that exists between home and work. A massive 81% of us admit to interrupting a conversation, a meal or a playtime to check our social media, text messages or emails. There are a range of issues with the amount of notifications and alerts we get from our smartphones and devices. Firstly it’s an interruption that you can’t control. Trying to think deeply while receiving tweets is a quick way to failure. Writing an article, planning a meeting or creating a report are all pretty ineffective when
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your thought process is constantly broken. Multi-tasking can often be hugely ineffective – yet makes you feel like you are busy (and therefore satisfied). I’ve been very influenced by a book called The Power Of Less, which advocates that you should focus on less to achieve more. One of the big themes of this book is trying to ringfence dedicated time to focus on a task, and helping that by checking email only once or twice a day. Yet over and above your personal focus, there is the other question of etiquette: should we be checking our devices at all when in a meeting or work lunch? It can come across as disrespectful if you’re engaging with your phone more than your lunch companion. There is a now-infamous game – The Phone Game – which I may suggest as a policy for all Techdept meetings. The game was designed for people out for dinner with friends. You stack all your phones on the table, and the first one to pick theirs up pays for dinner. This may sound frivolous but it makes a serious point – when with people (for work or play) you should be focused on the present, on the moment between people. Great ideas come from collaboration between individuals and if focus is continually lost, you lose the impact of that group interaction. The challenge is that social media is such an integrated aspect of our lives that the inevitable
Technology is proximity of our smartphones means that the temptation to answer any ring, ping or ding so integrated entails some serious self-discipline. into our lives Pressing the off switch that we have According to recent research, one in three British workers suffers from poor sleep as we to find ways are consuming all this information – mostly for it to from devices held in front of our faces. It enable, not has been found that the blue element of light emitted by screens could be linked to increased interrupt, risk of sleep disorders. Exposure to the light our days from the screens may reduce the production of melatonin, the hormone the brain produces in response to the dark that helps us to regulate the internal clock; thus making it more difficult to sleep. “If you regularly get less than seven hours of sleep, you’re not at your best,” says Thomas Balkin, PhD, director of behavioural biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. “The less sleep you get, the worse you do.”
Is the answer to a tech problem more tech?
F.lux is a program that automatically adjusts the hues on computer screens to help combat the ‘blue light’ problem. As the company puts it, “f.lux fixes this: it makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day: warm during the night and like sunlight throughout the day.” The other option is to go analogue and invest in a pair of Uvex S1933X Skyper safety eyewear SCT-Orange UV Lens, available on Amazon for only £9. They block the blue light emitted by screens irrespective of its source so may be an interesting experiment in reducing light problems from your devices. But to be honest, do you want to lay in bed reading your iPad wearing a pair of Ali G glasses? No I don’t either. I’d prefer to turn off the device and talk to my missus instead.
When you’re at work – work
Technology is so integrated into our lives that we have to find ways for it to enable, not interrupt, our days – whether writing a report or talking to friends over a coffee. Remember you have the ultimate power to control your working day: the off switch. It’s time to rebalance our relationship with our devices, social networks and messaging apps. They should be working for us – not us working for them.
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WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
With shared parental leave coming into force next year, it remains to be seen how big an impact it will have on SMEs and pay inequality
Fair share?.indd 1
aternity leave has been a staple of business for decades now. Providing women the opportunity to take a year’s paid leave following the birth of a child inarguably has a valid and rightful place in the commercial world. However, to say that the system is perfect may be a little naïve. Many believe that problems of wage inequality stem from the very policy that, at its heart, is intended to ease the burden on working women. In that sense, recent and forthcoming changes to parental leave legislation in the UK should only be welcomed. It’s worth noting first of all that working fathers have been entitled to additional paternity leave (APL) since April 2011, allowing them to take up to 26 weeks of paid leave depending on when their partner returns to work. But things have now been taken one step further. The Children and Families Bill, published in February 2013, has paved the way
for the introduction of shared parental leave, which is set to come into force on April 5 next year. The new regulations state that, following a mother’s two weeks’ obligatory leave postchildbirth, parents can share the remaining 50 weeks, with an option to each take 25 weeks at the same time, as opposed to back-to-back. Alternatively, they can take shorter periods of shared leave within the 50 weeks, with the remaining weeks taken by either parent. As far as the intention of the legislation is concerned, one would struggle to find a fault. “It certainly shows that the government is moving in the right direction,” says Aaron Hayward, solicitor at Douglas-Jones Mercer, the law firm. “It has recognised the vital importance of women to businesses in the UK and the need to offer them flexibility in order to return to work if they so wish. It will enable both parents to retain a link with the labour market and really allow more fathers to play a greater caring role.” But the implications of shared paternity leave for businesses are quite telling, especially given that APL has been relatively unpopular up until now. “To-date, additional paternity leave has been relatively small in take-up,”
says Hayward. “Businesses have therefore not had to cope with both their female and male workers potentially taking long absences. Planning-wise, they’ve only looked at the mothers but going forward they’re going to have keep in mind the fact that both the fathers and the mothers can take long absences.” Even more telling is the effect the changes could have on start-ups. “Obviously having a number of staff – male or female – off work for an extended period is going to have far more impact on a small business of five employees than one that has 500 employees where the cover is going to be far more readily available,” says Hayward. “Especially in small businesses and start-ups you see a lot of partners working together as employees. So if partners can take their time off together, a small business could find itself without two key workers for a fairly significant time.” Whilst it may sound as though the legislation is weighed in that it’s not coming in until April 5, this is favour of employees, there based on the expected week of childbirth remains plenty of protection for or adoption,” says Hayward. “If a child is employers. First and foremost, born prematurely, parents could potentially in order to qualify for leave, qualify for shared parental leave earlier. an employee must have had 26 Employers therefore shouldn’t just think weeks’ continuous employment ‘we’ve got until April’ because potentially it at the 15th week before the could be far sooner.” expected week of childbirth With the guidance still to be issued on (EWC). Moreover, within the the regulations, Hayward hopes that a bit 52-week period, employees will more clarity will be forthcoming in the Aaron Hayward, Douglas-Jones Mercer need to give at least eight weeks’ next few months. “The common consensus, notice of any leave that they’ll be taking, which especially among small businesses and start-ups, is that employment should allow employers sufficient time to plan legislation seems to be changing on a fairly frequent basis at the for that period of absence. moment,” he says. “This particular piece of legislation is viewed by many And as with any maternity and paternity as over complicated so hopefully the guidance will offer them some help leave, notice must also be given at end of and bring a bit of stability to businesses.” the 15th week before childbirth. Should an It remains to be seen how much of a difference shared parental leave employee change their mind about when will make to the pay equality situation in the UK. The government they wish to take a period of shared parental has said there will be a new statutory payment for parents on shared leave, they can give notice on no more than parental leave with the same qualifying requirements that currently three occasions. Employers also have the right apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay. A number of surveys to refuse an employee’s request for separate have found a large proportion of men saying they probably wouldn’t periods of leave; a right that they don’t possess consider shared parental leave, with many citing pay as the principal in regards to one continuous stretch of leave. reason. “Basically, if a business pays over the statutory minimum for Hayward sounds a note of caution here though. maternity leave, they are not going to be required to match that by “Whilst this can be refused by the employer, way of shared parental leave,” says Hayward. “As such, it may still be if it appears the business has a policy for more financially beneficial for the mother to take maternity leave. The refusing such requests, there could be potential question therefore remains as to whether this is really going to have the discrimination issues.” effect that is intended”. He also warns employers against This isn’t to say SMEs shouldn’t be preparing ahead of time though. complacency when it comes to planning for “They’d be well advised to begin organising their workforce and April 5 next year “Whilst it is commonly stated planning for absences as soon as possible,” Hayward concludes.
Employers shouldn’t just think ‘we’ve got until April’ because potentially it could be far sooner
Fair share?.indd 2
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Top names to attend UK’s biggest entrepreneur event A line-up of top speakers will appear at the UK’s biggest event for entrepreneurs and small business leaders this autumn.
ore than 3,000 delegates are expected to attend ‘MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival 2014’ in Sheffield, Yorkshire, on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 September. They will gather to hear a range of success stories and business wisdom from some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs of recent years, including: • Levi Roots, the colourful musician and food entrepreneur who famously won Dragons’ Den investment in his Reggae Reggae Sauce products and has since become a multi-millionaire. • Michelle Mone OBE, the Scottish model turned lingerie entrepreneur who launched and owns the successful Ultimo bra range. • Jamal Edwards, whose youth broadcasting channel SB.TV has Alastair MacColl, BE Group grown into a global brand with more than 150 million YouTube views, documenting a new breed of video stars. • Doug Richard, successful software businessman, former Dragon from Dragons’ Den, and founder of SchoolForStartups, teaching entrepreneurs across the world. • Shaa Wasmund, best-selling business author, entrepreneur and founder of the Smarta, the social enterprise company that offers business support. • Rekha Mehr, founder of posh London baker Pistachio Rose, and now Start up Entrepreneur in Residence for the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills. • Wayne Hemingway MBE, fashion designer and co-founder of Red or Dead brand. MADE delegates will also enjoy a new presentation from self-improvement expert Paul McKenna, who will share practical, easy to implement success strategies with the audience. And Mark Easton, the BBC’s home editor, will chair a panel of business leaders and
MADE is one of the UK’s most important business events
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entrepreneurs to discuss ‘What makes a great entrepreneur and how do we make more of them?’ All these speakers will be appearing at the MADE for Success Conference held at Sheffield City Hall on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 September, with guidance on building a brand, managing growth and leadership management. Brendan Moffett, director of Marketing Sheffield, said: “MADE is the UK’s biggest and best celebration of entrepreneurship and this line up of top speakers will make it a valuable, must-attend event for new businesses. “We hope to attract more than 3,000 entrepreneurs, business owners and managers to Sheffield for a host of engaging conference sessions, events and exhibitions, providing the best advice, knowledge and support to accelerate business growth. “Since it was established in 2010, MADE has become a major event for entrepreneurs, attracting leaders from business, government and the media. It puts a real focus on educating young entrepreneurs and we’re working with local schools, Sheffield College, Sheffield Hallam University, and the University of Sheffield to attract high numbers of young people.” As well as the MADE for Success Conference, the wider MADE festival includes numerous specialist fringe events during the week of 22-26 September, including an exhibition and Gala Dinner. The week-long series of events is being organised by business services provider BE Group, under licence from Sheffield City Council, with Irwin Mitchell, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield College all on board as key festival partners. Alastair MacColl, BE Group chief executive, said: “MADE is one of the UK’s most important business events and we’re really pleased to have attracted so many high-profile business men and women to share their success stories. MADE 2014 promises to be the best yet.’’
The Entrepreneur Festival: Sheffield
24 - 25 September 2014
Paul McKenna Success and happiness are not accidents that happen to some people and not others. They are created by certain ways of thinking and acting. I will share with you some amazing success strategies. The Sheffield College
JOIN US FOR THE UK’S MOST INSPIRING FESTIVAL OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP MADE brings together the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, business owners, incredible inventors and magnificent makers. Be inspired, share insider tips, gain practical support, network, meet funders and investors and promote your business.
• PAUL MCKENNA • LEVI ROOTS • DOUG RICHARD
• SHAA WASMUND • JAMAL EDWARDS • NIGEL RISNER
A major event to inspire, motivate and share business success Partner Sponsors:
SHEFFIELD CITY HALL Wednesday 24 September 5.00pm – 7.00pm Thursday 25 September 9.30am – 5.15pm Tickets £48 / £24 Concessions
(price includes VAT)
Book your place online: www.madefestival.com 0191 426 6333 @MADEfestival #MADE2014
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the START-UP DIARies
Patience is a virtue Sarah McVittie, co-founder, Dressipi
Whilst most start-ups are used to rapid iteration, when it comes to clients you need to be prepared to take it slower
ne of the brilliant things about working in a start-up environment is you can move very quickly. If you’re one of those companies that follows the start-up mantra of ‘fail fast, fail often’, you can make huge strides in weeks or months that larger companies would take years to accomplish. The truth is, however, that when you’re a company that, like Dressipi, depends on selling to other companies to grow, you can only progress as quickly as your customers. Even if you might be able to create a whole new product or refine an existing service in a matter of days or weeks, your customers probably can’t. It’s a challenge we’ve come up against time and again when working with big retail partners. Large companies have to move more slowly than start-ups – they have existing customer bases to keep happy and complex IT systems, that have been assembled over the years, to unpick. It’s very easy to find this frustrating if you’re someone with an entrepreneurial frame of mind. By inclination, we are the kind of people who like to overcome obstacles – give us a problem and we’ll want to plough right through it in the minimum time possible. This could include finding neat solutions for applying metadata tags to every garment, collecting customer data in a way that makes them want to volunteer it or using data to help retailers predict purchasing and returns behaviour. Unfortunately, what a start-up thinks is just part of their cando attitude can come across to their customers as being pushy and impatient. If, like us, you’re selling a service that needs to be integrated into an established business, you will need to learn to be patient. Sales cycles in the retail sector can be incredibly long. For Dressipi, it’s not unheard of for there to be a 12-18 month gap between starting talks with a new partner and going live with the service.
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Showing patience means learning when to push and when to leave things alone During this period, there can be an incredible amount of back and forth. You need to establish what is and isn’t possible with the customer’s systems and build relationships with the various bits of the business that will be using your product or service. And it is really important to find a champion for your service within each partner. It’s vital to build a partnership that truly works for both parties: that is much easier if there is someone on the other side who cares about its success as much as you do. Showing patience also means learning
when is the right time to push and when to leave things alone. You could, for example, make a hot lead go cold if you’re constantly on at them to move things forward when they need time to sell your idea to the various decisionmakers in their company. If you make working with you seem like too much too soon, then they’ll back away, even if what you’re offering promises to benefit them in the longer term. What we’ve learned is that good things do happen but they take their time to happen. We’ve often been in situations where our pipeline looks amazing – but none of those customers have been in a position to move forward for three or maybe six months. And then, like buses, three come along at once. At times like these it’s a question of sitting tight and finding the right balance in between being pushy and being keen.
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