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THE BIG QUESTION WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR? FEATURING: NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS The winners are... ONE TO WATCH Rebecca Philipson, UR-IN THE PAPER TRUE POTENTIAL Interview with David Harrison HOW I MADE IT George Clarke

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

Welcome

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WELCOME TO OUR NEW LOOK MEMBER MAGAZINE, DESIGNED BY OUR LATEST CORPORATE PARTNER UNWRITTEN CREATIVE.

Nigel Mills As our members evolve and grow, we think the Forum should too, so over the past few months we’ve been working with Amy, Lisa and the team at Unwritten to review the way we share news and connect with entrepreneurs. This magazine is the first step in a series of changes we’re making to the way we communicate. Although it’s just a taste of things to come, we hope you like it, and I know Steve would appreciate any feedback you have, both good and bad: steven@entrepreneursforum.net.

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In terms of what we aim to do as an organisation, of course our goal will always be to make problem solving more fun for entrepreneurs. We’re a connector, linking business owners together to benefit from each other’s experience and learn along the way. Whether it’s through our inspirational events, dedicated scale-up programme or simply helping you to grab a coffee with someone who’s been there and done it before, we’re here to make a difference and support you as you achieve your dreams. We look forward to seeing you at one of our events soon. Best wishes,

Gillian Marshall, Chief Executive

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Rebecca Philipson

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Contents

CONTENTS 04. 06. 09.

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12

David Harrison pg.

36

George Clarke

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A WORD FROM THE CHAIRMAN THE BIG QUESTION NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS

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TRUE POTENTIAL AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID HARRISON

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SUPPORTING SMES

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ONE TO WATCH REBECCA PHILIPSON, UR-IN THE PAPER

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DON’T FORGET YOURSELF BY DR DAVID CLIFF

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ENTREPRENEWS

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TRENDS FOR 2018

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INSPIRATIONAL EVENTS

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HOW I MADE IT GEORGE CLARKE MY FAVOURITE BOOKS BY SIMON HARTLEY

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Simon Hartley 3


ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

A Word from the Chairman

ARE YOU A LEADER OR SOMEONE WHO LEADS? Nigel Mills, Chairman

AMERICAN AUTHOR REED MARKHAM ONCE WROTE, ‘SUCCESSFUL LEADERS SEE THE OPPORTUNITY IN EVERY DIFFICULTY, RATHER THAN THE DIFFICULTY IN EVERY OPPORTUNITY’.

Given the changing and often frustrating economic and political environment in which our businesses are currently operating, this is a trait that successful entrepreneurs must embody if they are to maintain growth and profitability. Of course defining what makes a good leader has been the object of decades of academic study and the focus of much commentary, as has the difference between leadership and management. In my view, the essential characteristic of a great leader is the ability to inspire. You must be able to set out a vision and galvanise those around you to come with you on your journey. People are the key to any successful business, so if you can light a fire in others to deliver your ambition, then you’re more than half way there. There’s also an important distinction to make between leaders and those who lead. In this sense, leaders are people in a position of power, whereas those who truly

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lead are able to inspire us, regardless of any official standing. Simon Sinek sums this up perfectly when he talks about the ‘Power of Why’:

“Whether they’re individuals or organisations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.” The Entrepreneurs’ Forum is a hive for just such people. Those that not only inspire the staff in their own organisation, but also other business owners in our broad network who can look to the achievements and leadership style of their peers, to deliver further success in their own enterprises.


#NEENTREPRENEURS

A Word from the Chairman

It is also worth noting that if you are to drive growth in your business in the current commercial climate, the ability to inspire must be matched by the ability to successfully oversee and make the big decisions. Leaders need to decide between what they need to do and what they want to do. That is always the toughest choice. Entrepreneurs often remark that it is vital to assemble a good team who can drive the business forward, but ultimately it is the role of the leader to set the right example. Even when there are some very good leaders within a business, having an ultimate decision maker can ensure success is delivered. During the Second World War the Allies had some of the most talented leaders and military strategists; however the ultimate responsibility for the war effort fell to the Supreme Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was surrounded by some of history’s greatest leaders, but took on the role that required him to make the decisive decisions. While most of us won’t feel like we are in a war-like situation in our businesses, the ability to oversee the activities across a business and support our people from a logistical position, as much as to inspire and promote a vision is vital to deliver success. Leadership is also essential in our collective ambition to eradicate the scale-up gap, which is the difference between what our businesses are achieving and what they can truly accomplish. Strong leadership can bridge this gap and unlock hundreds of millions of pounds worth of growth. Tackling the scale-up gap requires a holistic approach, with all the relevant stakeholders playing their part.

CHAIRMAN Leaders and those that lead; our politicians, business leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as key individuals from corporate organisations and the education sector, must all work together to develop ongoing and innovative solutions to the problems preventing so many businesses from scaling up.

Gaining an insight into their experiences and expertise will help any entrepreneur at the helm of a fast-growing business take the next strides on their scale-up journey.

But ultimately, entrepreneurs are the masters of their own destinies and, indeed, the destinies of those that follow their vision, which means they must try to adopt and exude the traits that not only make a good leader, but someone who has the ability to lead. At the Entrepreneurs’ Forum we provide the support, guidance and access to both natural leaders and those who have worked hard to acquire the skills to take their business forward. These individuals have proven that being a good leader and getting the culture right in their business helps deliver positive, sustainable results.

Leadership is the focus of our 2018 Chairman’s Dinner, where Nigel will be joined on 23rd January, by special guest speaker, Company Commander, Major Russell Lewis MC. entrepreneursforum.net/chairman

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

The Big Question

THE BIG QUESTION WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?

CHRIS MARCH, REMEMBER MEDIA. “Without doubt my biggest mistake as an entrepreneur was retaining a minority shareholding within a company I had sold. The intent and assumptions behind this decision were considered very carefully, I’d talked it through with my friends, family and colleagues and played out every scenario. Myself and the company’s acquirers had a shared goal and we were most certainly on the same wavelength. However, in reality I could not have predicted how stranded I would feel having a minority share. I fought with this for some time but ultimately losing control of the business I’d started didn’t sit well with me at all. Despite reassurance, I had lost my confidence and I was uncomfortable within my own skin at being unable to dictate the direction of a business I was so close to but no longer owned. Perhaps that’s just the way I’m built, but I can honestly say if I was asked for advice today I’d encourage any entrepreneur finding themselves in that position to sell everything!”

KAREN WEIR, WEIR INSURANCE. “Not being brave enough. Not facing the fear and doing it anyway. That is a lesson I have learned the hard way and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum helped reassure me that mistakes are healthy. I try to face fear every single day in some way, even just small things like not putting off that difficult conversation, or raising the height of the box jump in the gym – no one died from (literally) falling flat on their face right…?”

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#NEENTREPRENEURS

The Big Question

SARAT PEDIREDLA, HEDGEHOG LAB. “The biggest mistake I’ve made is hiring the wrong people and going against my gut feeling because data and statistics said otherwise. In the digital industry, it’s all about the people and making an incorrect leadership hire can have a deep impact on performance, morale and confidence, which can take a long while to fix.”

CHARLOTTE NICHOLS, HARVEY & HUGO. “I make mistakes all the time! One in particular that’s the biggest doesn’t come to mind, but often my mistakes come when I don’t listen to my gut! I’ve learned to trust my intuition more when it comes to making decisions.”

PAUL BLAKE, NEWCASTLE EAGLES BASKETBALL. “Making my business a sports team!!! Although seriously, it would have to be not having a strong enough understanding of finance and cash flow in the very early days. Having a marketing background I was very much of the mind set of speculate to accumulate, ‘build it and they will come’ – it doesn’t always work that way. If you speculate and it doesn’t work, it will affect cash flow. Poor cash flow leads to lack of strategic thinking and a rocky road.”

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ENTREPRENEURS’ CONFERENCE

10/05/2018 9am - 5pm Crowne Plaza, Newcastle

TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD THE BIGGEST EVENT IN THE NORTH EAST FOR ANYONE WANTING TO GROW THEIR BUSINESS, TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD BRINGS EXPERIENCED ENTREPRENEURS TO THE REGION TO SHARE THEIR STORIES AND INSPIRE YOU.

PAUL LINDLEY, ELLA’S KITCHEN

SIR JOHN TIMPSON, TIMPSON

JONATHAN WARBURTON, WARBURTON’S

An award-winning entrepreneur and children’s welfare campaigner, Paul left a hugely successful career in TV to build organic baby and children’s food brand Ella’s Kitchen in 2006, naming it after his daughter. Later he launched organic toddler toiletries brand Paddy’s Bathroom, named after his son, and education and entrepreneurship social enterprise The Key is E.

Knighted for his services to business, John is the chairman and owner of Timpson, a UK shoe repair chain that employs almost 4,000 colleagues and has over 1,850 stores. Running the business through kindness, he writes a weekly management column in The Daily Telegraph and has authored several books about his ‘upside-down’ management style.

Family values are key to the rise of the UK’s biggest food brand, and Jonathan will be sharing how he has created and maintains this hugely successful business; as well as how it was Alastair Cook who unconsciously led to Sylvester Stallone, Miss Piggy and Peter Kay joining their team!

£99 +VAT FOR ENTREPRENEUR MEMBERS. EARLY BIRD OFFER: BOOK NOW AND BRING A GUEST FOR ONLY £150 +VAT

Terms & Conditions apply.

For the latest line-up and to save your seat, visit: entrepreneursforum.net/conference

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#NEENTREPRENEURS

North East Entrepreneurial Awards

NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS In partnership with

FRIDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER, THE BOILER SHOP, NEWCASTLE.

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

North East Entrepreneurial Awards

AND THE WINNERS ARE... THE NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS HONOUR THE MANY BUSINESS SUCCESS STORIES IN THE REGION, RECOGNISING THOSE WHO ARE DRIVING GROWTH, CREATING JOBS AND, ULTIMATELY, MAKING THE NORTH EAST A PLACE OF PROSPERITY WHERE SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES ARE ESTABLISHED AND SCALED UP.

EMERGING TALENT Sponsored by O’Brien Waste Recycling Solutions

STEVEN RAWLINGSON, SAMUEL KNIGHT INTERNATIONAL. Spotting a gap in the market, Samuel Knight International was launched in May 2014 with the ambition to provide engineers on a project basis worldwide. Specialising in the rail and energy sectors, the first year proved difficult to break into the market, but rapid growth quickly followed.

“One man can’t create what we have achieved at Samuel Knight. It’s very much a team focus. We genuinely do work together as a team.”

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Year two saw a £2m turnover, year three £10m, and this year they are set to break £20m. Such accelerated growth has led to two new office openings, adding Bristol and London to their Newcastle HQ, with international expansion on the horizon in Germany and North America within the next 12 months.

MENTOR OF THE YEAR Sponsored by the Malhotra Group

DR. DAVID CLIFF, GEDANKEN. The German word for thoughts, Gedanken is David Cliff’s business consultancy and coaching company, helping people with the thought processes and strategies they need to find a clearer direction and to improve performance. David’s MBA and Doctorate in Business Administration are matched with over 35 years of management and personal development experience, making him a hugely experienced professional coach. A regular mentor for the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and the IoD, David’s moral belief that we all need to ensure the North East is a beacon in producing jobs and wealth drives his dedication of about 15% of his activities on a pro bono basis to emerging talent and young people.

“I am delighted to receive the award, but I would also want to thank those who nominated me and pay tribute to all of the members that contribute to the success of the EF mentoring scheme.”


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North East Entrepreneurial Awards

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Ward Hadaway

DAVID HARRISON, TRUE POTENTIAL.

Award collected by Earl Glasgow

SCALE-UP AWARD Sponsored by NBS

BEN RIDGWAY & JAMIE COOKE, INTELLIGENT SERVICES GROUP. Joint managing directors, Ben and Jamie provide auction, conveyancing and compliance services to property professionals. Launched in 2009 as a two-man auction provider, they’ve not only outgrown 8 or 9 offices, but have close to 150 staff offering a wide range of technology-led services and platforms. People are fundamental to their success and their company culture reflects this. They are acquisitive and always looking to grow their reach across the UK. They also have ambitious plans to double revenue and headcount within the next three years, increasing turnover by 25% year on year as they try to spearhead a change in the property industry’s mind-set.

“Jamie and I are both thrilled to win the award and receive recognition for the hard work put in over the years by everybody, we are not going to rest on our laurels, with plans for significant organic and acquisitive growth.”

“I am very humbled to have won this award, especially as the North East is home to some of the country’s most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs. The word entrepreneur means different things to different people, to me it’s about the ability to bring together teams of people who take the entrepreneurial journey with you.”

A market leading financial services and technology group, True Potential employ over 250 staff and is on track to achieve £21m EBITDA, with £100m forecast next year. They work closely with 20% of UK financial advisers and, as managing partner, David seeks to not compete with others, but instead find a way to deliver to the market in a manner that no one else is doing. And his vision to foster a nation of committed, interested savers is clearly working. True Potential recently reached 2m private clients with £52bn of assets under administration, helping people to ‘invest across the globe every time they click’.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Sponsored by Corporate Traveller

FRED HOULT, HOULTS.

“Thank you for this award. It is a privilege to be in such esteemed company as previous recipients Sir John Hall, Sir Peter Vardy, John Squires, Alan Reece and John Fenwick. The home audience is the hardest to please, so this award is very much top of my trophy cabinet.”

Acknowledged for his contribution to North East business, Fred was presented this award for the impact he has had on the community and the region’s economy. Having built up Hoults Removals to become one of the UK’s leading removals firms, before its sale to Pickfords in 1983, he is also recognised for his work developing the iconic 10-acre Hoults Yard in Byker which has supported many growing business. Proud to represent the queen as Vice Lord Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear, Fred has been governor of Newcastle Prep School and Mowden Park, as well as chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals, one of the most successful NHS teams in the country.

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

Entrepreneur Interview

The

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David Harrison

DAVID HARRISON TRUE POTENTIAL LLP.

“I began working as a life insurance salesman and progressed through to director level. It was in 1996 when I left and a year later started a company called Positive Solutions with an old colleague of mine, Maurice Cotter.”

RECENTLY CROWNED NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR, FROM LEAVING SCHOOL DAVID HARRISON WAS MOSTLY SELF-EMPLOYED, WORKING ON BUILDING SITES UNTIL IN HIS LATE 20S HE BEGAN TO EMPLOY BRICKLAYERS. Soon he picked up housebuilding contracts until, following a bad leg break playing football, he found it difficult to get about on the sites and was sold the idea of a career in sales; which worked out quite well. Positive Solutions went on to become the largest independent financial advice (IFA) business in the UK, at that time. A significant part of the business was their use of technology and, in particular, the internet to help them conduct business throughout the UK. This freed David and his partner up from having local sales offices and allowed them to recruit and expand quite quickly. The business was sold to Aegon in 2003, but there was an earn out period until the end of 2006, after which time David spent a couple of years as chairman. It was in 2007 that he formed True Potential, a much larger entity than Positive Solutions, bringing on board a number of the former partners.

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

Entrepreneur Interview

20s - they are enthusiastic, highly-motivated and well paid. The vast majority have been educated locally too, at some of the region’s leading universities. We also have a presence in Northern Ireland and a sales office in Belgravia, London, in addition to a strong network of 540 selfemployed financial advisors and 4,000 IFAs working in firms across the UK, with whom we share strong contractual relationships. How has the market changed since you started True Potential? The pace of acceleration of people needing to save has increased, so I think everyone now realises they need a good retirement, particularly those working in the private sector, to look after themselves. So, over the 10 years we have been able to service these people and provide them with the savings and investment tools necessary to support their plans. We did predict it and are clever enough to understand the demographics and changes which affect government – if they don’t have the money to provide these things, they won’t! What were your first business premises and how has this evolved over the last decade? We moved from Gosforth where Positive Solutions was based across to Newburn Business Park, which is an excellent place to do work because people can get here from the airport and train station easily, and those south of the River Tyne can get here pretty easily as well.

we’re riding a wave of people needing what we can provide. Our growth is about this. We understand the need to service these people and set them up for their futures. We are unique. We try and speak the clients’ language and simplify things; cutting out the jargon.

Having shared an office briefly, we now have our own offices on three floors at the entrance of the business park, and have remained here since True Potential was formed. Newcastle truly is a great place to do business.

True Potential provides innovative, but regulated products, and technology has dramatically reduced the cost to supply them. The key is to get people in the habit of saving. I know it’s difficult as people are largely in the habit of spending! We’re trying to break that mould through the use of technology.

How has True Potential grown and what do you attribute this to? Investments are just a posh name for saving money and

Our workforce has also grown stronger with over 250 excellent, trained staff based at Newburn, the majority of whom are in their

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One thing that has changed the way business is conducted is regulation. It has had a negative impact on the consumer, as all regulation costs money, which is ultimately paid for by them. Some of it is unnecessary and requires simplification, but we are all in the same situation and abide by it all the same. What would you say is True Potential’s unique selling point? When you put together an offering it often has several elements to it, none of which are unique, but by the time you have put it together, it becomes unique. We are unique as far as we can tell. There is only one of us! The way we have brought together the kind of people we have got and the fact we provide our own software, makes us unique.


#NEENTREPRENEURS

David Harrison

We write our own products – it is ours – our investment management is internal, the sales advisors are ours, our websites are ours – we don’t get someone else to produce them. It is a big part of why we are successful. We believe in a thing called ‘skin in the game’ – that we have invested in our own company – it’s our money. If our funds don’t do well, for argument’s sake, I do worse than any of our clients. You wouldn’t buy a Ford motor car from a salesman who is driving round in a Mercedes, if you had any brains, which shows a lack of integrity in the brand. Every captain goes down with his ship, which runs true with everything we do. How do you keep staff motivated? Money motivates people – which people don’t like to say – but it is a primary motivator in life. We make sure that our employees are getting the right rewards. Everything we do has a reward attached to it – whether it is through salaries or bonuses. We go as far as making people do better at what they do. They care for their clients, their clients pay them, so we don’t need to wake them up and send them off to work

each morning. Our staff work incredibly hard. A lot do rely on passing courses and professional exams, so we also allow them ample time to prepare and the use of our facilities to study. How does your motivation compare now with that when you started your business journey? Exactly the same. I’m as motivated today as I was 20 or 30 years ago. I have no problems with going to work, although I will retire at some point! How is the business structured? The Group structure is organised and regulated in a way where we have to have separate entities to comply. Heavy, yet fair, regulation has dictated the way the company is structured. For example, to run our own pension scheme it took us a year to get authorisation. Because of our size and the constant belief we have shown in the continual need and clear digital link between the end client and their investments, we have set out to achieve this through the products and services we offer – all of which are fully compliant with the relevant regulations.

If it was up to us we’d just have one firm that did everything from cradle to grave for the client, but it’s not allowed. Financial services in the UK is the world’s best and it is not just restricted to London; we have people here and fund managers in the region who are the envy of the world. What are the future plans of the business? We will continue to grow. The figures for this year will show further growth, with turnover close to £100m and profits and EBITDA also rising. There are no plans to distribute money, only to invest further in True Potential. We do have a number of private equity partners involved in the business, who can open doors in other international markets, such as Asia and the United States, but there are no concrete plans for this. The UK is a big economy, it’s a big country and there’s plenty here. That’s not to say if there was an opportunity to expand globally that we wouldn’t take it.

“Money motivates people – which people don’t like to say – but it is a primary motivator in life. We make sure that our employees are getting the right rewards.”

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

Stronger Together

SUPPORTING SMEs HOW OUR PARTNERS ARE HELPING ENTREPRENEURS.WE’RE PROUD TO WORK WITH A NUMBER OF CORPORATE AND BUSINESS SUPPORT COMPANIES, WHO ARE ALL EXPERTS IN THEIR OWN FIELD AND KEEN TO HELP ENTREPRENEURS TO GROW THEIR BUSINESSES.

BREWIN DOLPHIN

UNWRITTEN CREATIVE

WARD HADAWAY

Brewin Dolphin works hard to support the local business community and has a number of practical ways in which they help entrepreneurs.

The team at Unwritten strives to help businesses understand themselves and their customers, and this endeavour is never as prevalent as when working with entrepreneurs, people who have lived and breathed a brand since its conception.

As an entrepreneur you need to know how you’re going to fund your business, protect your IP, manage your team and ultimately, defend your business.It’s important to think about protecting IP early on as there could be value hidden in more areas than you think. This is important if it’s a key asset of your business, so make sure the business owns or controls that IP.

Financial planners and investment managers help business owners extract money from their business in a tax efficient way, aiming to build up assets outside the company to protect your hard-earned money in case your business encounters more difficult times, or you sell it for less than you had hoped.

The value of a brand isn’t determined by the visual assets that make it up, the value of a brand rests in how it resonates with its customer base. The benefits of a great brand can have a measurable impact on a business’s financial performance.

If you want to sell your business in the future then it pays to work out your ‘lifestyle number’. Their financial planners also help with formulating how much you would need to make from a sale in order to achieve the lifestyle you want. Their investment managers help to make your money work harder.

The better a company understands its customers’ preferences, hopes and fears, the better it can tailor the way its brand appeals to customers on a deeper level. If a business’s branding is on point, customers will choose it more readily, even in situations where competitors are a more cost-effective option.

Never forget that you are your business. If you were to die or suffer an illness that meant you couldn’t work, potentially the business is finished, so protection is important for entrepreneurs. You should consider whether you need key-man insurance, life insurance, critical illness cover or income protection cover.

Developing strong buyer personas, a process that involves detailed analysis of a company’s ideal customer type, is a fantastic way to build an understanding of what buyers need from a business on both a practical and emotive level.

You need to build a team of experts around you. This will include accountants and solicitors, but it should also include a financial planner who can help you check that you have the right protections in place and have correctly calculated how much money you need to fulfil your objectives – that vital ‘lifestyle number’. brewin.co.uk

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Adapting a brand to resonate on an emotional level with those who matter most is what sets market leaders apart from the rest. unwrittencreative.co.uk

Funding your business is fundamental to its success. Ward Hadaway offer fixed fee or contingency fee arrangements for all sorts of transactions, whether it’s taking VC or private equity investment, taking your company public, or refinancing with your banks. They also offer advice on crowdfunding and trade finance. There are decisions to be made on managing employees in terms of law. Think tax, employment entitlements, superannuation and claims under employment legislation. For a fixed monthly fee, their employment solicitors will guide you through all of your day-today employment law issues. They can also provide insurance which gives full protection against any Employment Tribunal claims. Ultimately, you need to defend your business. Well publicised changes to rules on litigation funding have reduced the funding options available to companies who wish to take others to court to defend their rights. Ward Hadaway offer innovative funding mechanisms including insurance and contingent fees which help you manage the cost of litigation. wardhadaway.co.uk


Could you or your business Whether you’re self-employed or a business looking to take things to the next level, you can update your own skills or those of your workforce for free.

This multi-million pound training fund is available until July 2018 to help businesses of all sizes in Tyne & Wear, Northumberland and Durham. leadership and management, health and safety, Lean, business improvement techniques, customer service, sales, digital marketing, welding, mental health awareness and more. intensive sessions or accredited programmes available. Whatever your skills needs, this funding is here to help you strengthen your business. Find out more gogrow.org.uk


ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

One to Watch

ONE TO WATCH ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM MEMBER REBECCA PHILIPSON FOUNDED INTHEPAPER.CO.UK WHEN SHE WAS ONLY 21, SUSPENDING HER STUDIES TO FOLLOW HER LIFETIME AMBITION OF MANAGING HER OWN COMPANY. TWO YEARS LATER, THE COMPANY WAS THE UK’S LARGEST RETAILER OF PERSONALISED NEWSPAPERS, CAPABLE OF PRODUCING MORE THAN 10,000 EVERY MONTH.

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#NEENTREPRENEURS

Rebecca Philipson

Spotting a trend for personalised football newspapers, PersonalisedFootballGifts.co.uk was born and since 2007 this business has driven change and innovation to become the leading supplier of personalised, licensed merchandise to the Premier League and beyond.

“When I started out I just wanted to do something different, now I have ambition and drive to achieve specific goals; I’m more focussed than ever.”

Reflecting on her decision to strike out on her own, Rebecca recalls how “My dad is in business, so I suppose it’s no surprise that I started my own company at a young age. “As much as I liked my studies I was looking for something more. I made a novelty newspaper as a birthday gift for my grandfather, making him the focus of the photos and stories, my dad suggested this was a good idea for a business and it all started from there.”

In 2007 Rebecca saw an opportunity to produce football themed newspapers and set about acquiring a license to create them. Approaching different licensing boards and Premier League football clubs, she introduced a whole new range of products including personalised dressing mugs, wallets, drinks bottles and engraved items, as well as the personalised newspapers. “This really was ground breaking stuff as there wasn’t much personalised merchandise around at the time and we continue to be leading innovators in our sector today.” “Our best-selling product is the personalised football dressing room mug, which shows the dressing room with all of the shirts hung up, so the recipient of the gift has their shirt with their name and chosen number next to those of footballers like Wayne Rooney.”

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

One to Watch

websites, so the more people that offer personalised goods, the more customers we have.” “There has been a massive boom in the reseller platforms, which we’ve been using for a few years. Amazon has been really significant for us, as has eBay, and Etsy is up and coming too.” One of the main unique selling points of the business is that all of their personalised gifts are fully licensed and only available through their websites: “There are more and more people that can put your name on a mug, but we have the value of the brands we’ve partnered with, it’s something different.”

“My motivation is higher than when we launched the company, it’s definitely grown. I’ve got children now, which changes your outlook, as you feel you’re building something for more than just yourself.”

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Growing organically throughout the historic building where they started up - the Weardale Business Centre in Stanhope - Rebecca has expanded the business year on year, receiving a number of entrepreneurship awards along the way and appearing on the BBC’s Beat the Boss and ITV’s This Morning. Following a recent merger with a personalisation software company based in Macclesfield, Custom Gateway Ltd now has over 55 staff, working over two sites, as well as operating a personalisation experience at the Old Trafford Museum and at the Emirates Stadium. “Personalisation has grown year on year, so the number of companies producing personalised goods is higher than ever. This is good for us, our merger means that we facilitate personalisation through

Manchester United was the first football club to partner with Rebecca, and is one of their most popular: “It took us a little while to get in front of the right person, but they are committed to finding new ways to enhance their fans’ experience, so it all came from there. “Everything about us is unique really. Personalisation is still emerging and many retailers are just adding it to their website, whereas we have been doing it for years. Our merger keeps us ahead of the game here too; our software is unique to us.” Since starting out in 2005, by her own admission, Rebecca’s mind-set has changed: “My motivation is higher than when we launched the company, it’s definitely grown. I’ve got children now, which changes your outlook, as you feel you’re building something for more than just yourself. “ “When I started out I just wanted to do something different, now I have ambition and drive to achieve specific goals; I’m more focussed than ever.”


GROW STRONGER TOGETHER

INSPIRE FRIENDS... WHEN YOU BRING SOMEONE INTO THE ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM, YOU’RE NOT ONLY INSPIRING THEM TO GROW THEIR BUSINESS FASTER, YOU’RE HELPING TO ENSURE THE FORUM CONTINUES TO GROW STRONGER TOO.

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Tell your entrepreneurial friends why you’re a member of the Forum

You or your friend give us a call 0191 500 7780

Your friend becomes a member and, as a thank you, we give you both a place at our next conference, saving you £99 (+VAT) each

WE ALL GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS!

Terms & Conditions: To join, your friend must run a North East based business which turns over at least £250,000 annually. Your free conference places are offered once your friend has joined the Forum.


ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

Mentoring

DON’T FORGET YOURSELF ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS By Dr David Cliff

The problem with being an entrepreneur is that everyone has a different understanding of what the word means. We build meaning around the term and associate it with things such as dynamism, robustness, flexibility, the ability to see opportunity and the like. However, the reality is even the greatest entrepreneurs are human beings like everyone else and they are prone to stress, uncertainty, physical and mental demands, and challenging life events. Staff have a right to a certain duty of care from their employers, however, many employers neglect this same duty of care to themselves, such is their sense of autonomy and perceived accountability within the organisation. So how do we address self-care for entrepreneurs? Do not neglect the physical. Long hours cultures, a significant amount of travelling, and individual entrepreneurs literally stepping into the breach in those times they work ‘in’ the business, rather than ‘on’ the business, can often lead them to neglect physical wellbeing. For every entrepreneur that has a healthy lifestyle and approach to getting to the gym, there is another one who finds it difficult to get a few brisk walks in a week.

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Add to that the number of people who skip meals or snacks, and success in the short term could come at the cost of longer-term health problems. Get some sleep. Whilst there are stories of entrepreneurs who get by on four hours sleep, we evolved a certain way and for most of us, such practices would constitute denial of vital rest. Research indicates that we maintain good physical and mental health if we have a good sleep pattern. Not infrequently, people complain about the inability to sleep when in fact they have been working into the early hours, and then somehow expect to sleep afterwards. Take opportunities to share. One of the great strengths of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum is that it brings people together, particularly in round table discussions where a good degree of sharing of experience unites people not only from the point of view of learning about entrepreneurship, but also how we respond to very real situations that occur in our businesses. In this respect, the power of group discussion is invaluable. Take the work-life balance seriously. We all know people who regret not seeing

their children grow up, or feel there was something in their personal life they never quite had the time to do. The worklife balance is often glibly referred to as something that is important for employees, but again it’s all too easy for entrepreneurs to neglect themselves in this respect. Seize opportunities to reflect. We live in a world of complexity. Those that love to keep it simple often miss vital opportunities or have to backtrack on decisions made in the chaos that comes from poorly thought out strategies. Good decision-making comes from a position of constant reflection, not snap decision. All too often we don’t make space to reflect. Failure to reflect, including subconsciously as we sleep, results in these processes being suppressed. The result is we could become more reactive in our style than proactive. Reflective processes can take many forms. Taking time out, keeping a journal, undertaking mindfulness practices are all good examples of this. For many however, interaction with another is important, so contact with a coach or mentor can be invaluable, bringing that reflective process alongside the reality checks that come with the wisdom of an


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Dr David Cliff

experienced third party. The Entrepreneurs’ Forum mentoring service gives people an opportunity to draw on experience they may not have access to elsewhere. Define what you mean by success. ‘Success’ is about as ill-defined a term as ‘entrepreneur,’ in that we all know what it means, but when we drill into it, it is uniquely subjective. Frequently, people struggle with how they see success in their lives. The absence of clear reference points around what we equate with success and the inability to select these in the first place, creates avoidable stresses and self-doubts on the entrepreneurial journey. It’s all too easy to start with simple success points, such as company turnover or profitability, but success is quintessentially so much more than that. It includes not only the objective domain of the company, in terms of its progress, size, market share and other factors, but it also includes the psychological parameters that we internally equate with success. It is those latter factors that can often result in success in the eyes of the world, but not in our own. This is because there’s that ‘internal stuff’ that asks how success equates with peace of mind, fulfilment, a sense that we not only have done well, but we have made the right choices for ourselves on our very unique journey.

r o t c Doknows best!

Entrepreneurs remain humans and need self-care, and an opportunity to reflect on what they do. Entrepreneurs are their own key resource, but often the very goals they seek can result in elements of self-neglect. Fortune favours the brave and the selfaware!

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

EntrepreNews

ENTREPRENEWS THE LATEST NEWS FROM THE NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITY.

CRAFTER’S COMPANION LAUNCH OF THIRD RETAIL STORE ENJOYS RECORD FOOTFALL. The North-East craft company is celebrating the success of a record-launch at its third retail store in Evesham.

ANDY RAMSEY

AR CONTROLS HIGH-GROWTH TECH FIRM INVESTS IN SUNDERLAND. Fast-growing technology business AR Controls has completed a £600,000 expansion to a new factory in Sunderland, consolidating its two sites in the city and enabling it to create jobs and win further contracts with global manufacturers.

The new store, which joins the company’s outlets in Newton Aycliffe and Chesterfield, brought in crowds of more than 3,000 people in the first fortnight and generated over 800 sales of crafting products during the launch weekend. The new Worcestershire outlet marks a £270k investment for the firm and has created 27 new jobs. As part of the launch activities visitors were treated to demonstrations by Crafter’s Companion founder Sara Davies MBE and crafting masterclasses with TV stars Leann Chivers, Sheena Douglass and Lizzy Curtis.

The company supplies control panels and electrical design, inspection and testing services to major manufacturers, including Nissan, Gestamp, Caterpillar, Mecaplast and Faltec. It was launched in 2013 and has since grown its annual turnover rapidly from scratch to an estimated £1.3m this financial year. The move will enable it to increase its headcount by a third to around 30 in the next two years. Founded by Andrew Ramsey, he said: “We offer robust competencies in highly complex solutions, which means our services are regularly in high demand.

“Our move will enable us to broaden our offering with more involvement in mechanical design. We are also installing a new robotic demonstration system in our workshop to test and implement new customer applications.”

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SARAH DAVIES MBE

“Nothing pleases me more than seeing our new ventures launch successfully. Our team are doing a tremendous job and have worked very hard to get everything up and running.”


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DURHAMLANE DURHAMLANE AND INSIDESALES.COM PARTNER FOR NEXT SALES REVOLUTION. Sales performance company durhamlane has joined the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sales revolution by partnering with global “sales acceleration platform provider” InsideSales.com.

RICHARD LANE

The AI software leader has developed an AI-based growth acceleration platform to help organisations sell more and sell faster. After raising venture capital, including from Salesforce and Microsoft, the company has announced its global expansion, adding to its proven success in North America.

“durhamlane works with fast-growing businesses, predominantly in the technology and software sector, to accelerate performance of their teams, processes and operations via our proven methodology ‘Selling at a Higher Level’” said durhamlane managing partner, Richard Lane. “Forward thinking businesses benefit from our ability to blend sales performance solutions into unique commercial growth packages.”

“It is exciting to work with such a forward-thinking business that can completely transform the way organisations across Europe approach sales. The relationship with the team at InsideSales.com also gives us an opportunity to learn from an incredible business in the rapidly growing AI space.”

FLAME HEATING SPARES DURHAM’S FIRST-EVER 4D BATHROOM SHOWROOM OPENS. Following a £100,000 investment, the North East’s fastest growing heating and plumbing merchant has opened Durham’s first-ever 4D bathroom design showroom. Flame Heating Spares’ branch on Dragonville Industrial Estate has expanded its offering after acquiring the adjoining property to extend its premises. The 1,500 sq.ft expansion is the first 4D bathroom design showroom in Durham, which offers customers the opportunity to view their tailored bathrooms complete with the products and features they have selected through a virtual reality headset.

“The development of the showroom is another major signal of intent as we look to extend our offering to customers. We have embraced new technology to create a customer-orientated experience with the 4D design capabilities and extensive product range available, featuring some of the industry’s well-renowned brands.” JOHN SAVAGE

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

EntrepreNews

MEDIAWORKS RECRUITMENT DRIVE FOLLOWS NATIONAL AWARD SUCCESS. North East digital marketing agency Mediaworks continues to expand its ever-growing team, welcoming seven new recruits across the business in the last month. Laura-Jane Todd and Louise Richardson have both joined the copywriting team, while Sophie Watson and Samantha Collins enter the business as client relationship managers. Business development manager, Alys Dunn, has strengthened the agency’s commercial team and Zoe Bell has taken up the role of executive assistant.

BRETT JACOBSON

Also new to the team is Tayla Reed-Hunting, who is the latest of five digital marketing apprentices to join Mediaworks in recent weeks.

The new recruits join during what has been an incredibly successful year for Mediaworks. The agency took home the Digital & Social Media award at the North East Business Awards, and the Best Use of Search award at Big Chip 2017.

As a result of this success, Mediaworks is celebrating its first decade by being on target to double its turnover in the next 12 months.

INTIMATION CREATIVE INTIMATION SHARES BEST PRACTICE ALONGSIDE PRIME MINISTER. Intimation features alongside the Prime Minister and a small number of outstanding organisations in the 2017 Parliamentary Review that looks back on the year in industry and Westminster. The aim of the Review is to showcase best practice as a learning tool for the public and private sector. Sent to over half a million leading policymakers, The Review’s articles act as both a blueprint for success and a template for reform. Parliamentary Review director Daniel Yossman said: “Intimation and other hardworking organisations from across the country have come together to make this year’s Review possible.” “Sharing knowledge and insight with peers and government is essential work and I am delighted that this year’s Review will reach every corner of the British economy.”

“It is our belief that innovation is contagious, if only it is given the platform to spread. It is the Review’s purpose to provide this platform.” STEVE SADLER & ANDY SMITH

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BRENDON HAYWARD

OSBIT OSBIT ENTERS THE CHINA OFFSHORE WIND MARKET. Osbit, the offshore engineering and technology company, has secured its first project in the China offshore wind market for the delivery of one of its innovative and reliable crew-transfer ‘walk-to-work’ access systems. The Northumberland-based company has produced an improved MaXccess T12 system to be installed on a 20 metre crew-transfer vessel, which is currently under construction by the Aurora Yachts shipyard in Dalian, China.

DR TONY TRAPP

The vessel will be deployed by the State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC), which is one of China’s top five power suppliers, as part of its Binhai wind farm projects.

This project follows on from Osbit’s previous activity in South East Asia’s offshore renewables market, which includes the deployment of one of its T18 MaXccess systems that has been successfully operating at the Fukushima offshore wind farm in Japan for the past three years.

PINK BOUTIQUE LOOKING CLASSY, PRETTY AND DRESSI. The increasingly popular prom or graduation ball may appear a long way off, but for Julie Blackie now is the perfect time to start a new fashion business to supply the ever-increasing demand for affordable, glamorous and feminine clothing for special occasions particularly proms, weddings and parties.

ALICE HALL & JULIE BLACKIE

Launching the new online store www.dressi.co.uk, Julie is confident that the same building blocks for success experienced by Pink Boutique can be applied: “The website gives the customer a personal choice about the size, colour, style and price of the clothing. Once a dress is chosen, the customer can then find matching handbags and shoes as well as a range of other accessories.

“Our clothing will make girls look fabulous without breaking the bank and being online takes the worry out of finding something to wear for that special occasion as you can visualise the product before you buy. For those in a hurry we have next day delivery too.”

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

EntrepreNews

RYDER ARCHITECTURE RYDER ACQUIRES PM DEVEREUX. Ryder Architecture is delighted to announce that PM Devereux has joined the company. Devereux Architects was acquired by PM Group, the international project delivery specialists, in 2007 and have been collaborating with Ryder over the past 12 months.

MARK THOMPSON

“We are delighted to welcome the Devereux team to Ryder which will strengthen our capability in key sectors and bring greater capacity to our London team which is enjoying a period of growth.”

Devereux has a strong track record in the healthcare and higher education sectors, primarily in the south which is complimentary to Ryder’s portfolio in these sectors. Nic Allen, director at Devereux said: “We have been working with Ryder for a while and have a number of mutual clients nationally so integrating the practices was a natural evolution of the relationship. We are extremely excited about this venture which brings benefits to both practices and will lead to great opportunities for our people and our clients.”

RAMARKETING RECORD YEAR SEES PHARMA SPECIALIST ATTRACT NEW INVESTMENT. Pharmaceutical and life sciences expert ramarketing is eyeing up a US base after attracting backing from high profile business figure Fiona Cruickshank OBE. The six-figure investment follows a record year for the business that has seen the creative agency grow by 70% and double staff numbers to over 20. The global market in which ramarketing operates is set to be worth $150-200bn by 2020, and the company’s client list now spans Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the USA.

d Richar Lane

RAMAN SEHGAL

Founded in 2009 by Raman Sehgal, the Newcastle-based agency specialises in design, digital and PR services for companies operating in the pharmaceutical sector, including those involved in research and development, manufacturing, packaging and technology.

Fiona said: “I am very pleased to be investing in a strong team whose track record, approach and knowledge of the life science space makes it so successful. Export sales now account for around 40% of the business, and there is real potential to increase that even further with a US presence.”

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JAMES GRAY

TAOPIX MEXICAN PHOTO GIFT RETAILER INVESTS IN TAOPIX ONLINE. Mexican photo gift retailer, Imprimart, has invested in Taopix Online to complement its existing Taopix Desktop version. The business, based in Naucalpan (North Mexico City), was founded eight years ago and specialised in the printing and binding of high quality coffee table-style books. It pioneered the sale and manufacturing of personalised photobooks in Mexico with the launch of its FotoSmile webstore in 2013. Imprimart is very active in the photographer community and is a major sponsor of the FOTOMÉXICO 2017 international photography festival, where 50 museums, 200 galleries and over 3,000 entrants will all participate in one of Mexico’s biggest photography exhibitions.

The decision to buy Taopix Online was fuelled by the rising popularity of online shopping in Mexico and the long-term solid partnership with the Taopix team. UNWRITTEN CREATIVE LEADING NORTH EAST MARKETING AGENCY APPOINTS NEW CREATIVE DIRECTOR. Unwritten Creative, the Newcastle-based strategic brand and digital agency, has strengthened its senior management team with the appointment of its first creative director. Jason Cochrane, formally co-founder and director of digital at Keltie Cochrane, brings with him more than 20 years’ industry experience, including working at The Sunday Times, the Observer and as a senior interactive designer at the BBC, where he led its digital coverage of the 9/11 attacks.

LISA EATON & AMY MOONEY

Working alongside Unwritten co-founders Lisa Eaton and Amy Mooney, Jason will be responsible for leading the agency’s creative thinking, adding weight to its strategic offering and delivering creative output across the breadth of its clients which include Northumbrian Water, Sage, Tech North, Visit England and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

Lisa said: “Jason’s appointment is an exciting phase in the agency’s development. His wealth of experience working on both national and international campaigns will give us a new and exciting perspective for all our clients.”

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

2018 Trends

SERVICE EXCELLENCE

THE INTERNET OF THINGS

SHOWING YOUR CHARITABLE SIDE

Word-of-mouth and online reviews are the best form of advertising, so if you can think like your customer and perfect your service, you’ll not only keep people coming back for more, they’ll find you new clients too.

The IoT is growing every day with devices that connect over the Internet impacting all aspects of our lives. In the business world we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what it can do to get things done faster and more reliably.

Being socially responsible appeals to a growing number of people who want to feel good about spending their money. With more ways than ever for customers to sing your praises and share how you’ve messed up, giving back should be a key part of your business plan.

BUSINESS TRENDS TO DRIVE SUCCESS YOUR BUSINESS COULD BE A LOT BETTER IF YOU KEEP ON TOP OF THE LATEST TRENDS.

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ROBOTIC AUTOMATION

REMOTE WORKING

No longer sci-fi, the rise of collaborative robots, online chat-bots, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles/drones is becoming an important business driver, automating processes and improving productivity in factories, businesses and online.

Increasing in popularity in almost every industry, more and more people are choosing to work at home or online, setting their own schedule to complement their home life. Benefits include hiring workers from all around the world, as well as making employees happier and more productive.


SCALE-UP LEADER’S ACADEMY

JOIN THE SCALE-UP LEADER’S ACADEMY GREAT ENTREPRENEURS ARE NOT GREAT BECAUSE THEY STARTED A COMPANY; THEY’RE GREAT BECAUSE THEY WERE ABLE TO SCALE IT. The Scale-up Leader’s Academy combines practical workshops, scale-up coaching, inspirational events and the opportunity to learn from those who have been there and done it before, helping you to build a blueprint that will accelerate your growth sustainably.

THE FACTS INTAKE

15 entrepreneurs

DATES

January to June 2018

LOCATION

Across North East England

PARTICIPANT PROFILE

Founders of fast-growing North East businesses, with at least 10 members of staff

COST

£2,000 +VAT for Entrepreneurs’ Forum members

FINANCIAL AID

Match funding to help with costs could be available (subject to conditions) thanks to the region’s Local Enterprise Partnerships and ERDF funding.

“The Scale-up Leader’s Academy came along at just the right time for me and has really opened my eyes. The group sharing has been hugely valuable, both receiving advice and offering help to others. The coaching sessions have given me a lot to think about and, although I haven’t used everything I’ve learnt yet, even the little tweaks I’ve already made are proving to be invaluable.” Raman Sehgal, ramarketing

Apply to join the Scale-up Leader’s Academy and find out more visit entrepreneursforum.net/scale-up 31


ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

Inspirational Events

ENTREPRENEURIAL EVENTS A CHANCE TO HEAR FROM THOSE WHO’VE DONE IT ALL BEFORE, OUR EVENTS ARE AN INVESTMENT IN YOURSELF WITH AMAZING SPEAKERS AND INSPIRATIONAL STORIES THAT WILL SPARK NEW IDEAS FOR YOUR BUSINESS; IN A ROOM FULL OF THE REGION’S MOST ASPIRATIONAL ENTREPRENEURS.

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Inspirational Events

SKYSCANNER

2018 JANUARY SKYSCANNER On-site visit 18/01/2018 Quartermile One, Edinburgh.

CHAIRMAN’S DINNER with Major Russell Lewis MC 23/01/2018 Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle.

MAJOR RUSSELL LEWIS MC

MARCH ENCOURAGING INTRAPRENEURSHIP Exchange event 08/03/2018

FEBRUARY

Durham County Cricket Club, Chester-le-Street.

CREATING A WORLD-CLASS CULTURE

DAVID HARRISON TRUE POTENTIAL LLP

Exchange event

Focus Dinner

08/02/2018

20/03/2018

CPED, Teesside University, Darlington.

Venue TBC.

SIMON HERRING, PIPERS CRISPS

ALICE HALL, PINK BOUTIQUE

Members event

Focus dinner

28/03/2018

22/02/2018 Café 21, Newcastle.

PINK BOUTIQUE

CPED, Teesside University, Darlington.

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

Entrepreneurial Events

LAKES DISTILLERY

APRIL RINGTONS On-site visit 18/04/2018 Ringtons, Newcastle.

NIGEL MILLS, THE LAKES DISTILLERY Focus dinner 26/04/2018 Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle.

JUNE

ENTREPRENEUR’S CONFERENCE

BUILDING A CUSTOMER CENTRIC BUSINESS Exchange event 07/06/2018 BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead.

MAY

PD PORTS On-site visit 28/06/2018

TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD

Queens Square, Middlesbrough.

Entrepreneur’s conference 10/05/2018 Crowne Plaza, Newcastle.

More events to be added soon. To keep up to date and save your seat, visit:

ANDY RUBIN, PENTLAND BRANDS Members event

entrepreneursforum.net/events

22/05/2018 Berghaus HQ Sunderland.

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

How I Made it

“We’re at a critical stage in Britain where we’ve got some massive decisions to make about how we build housing. On one hand, it’s quite frightening, but so exciting on the other.”

n a h t More

s k c i b&r orta

m

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George Clarke

HOW I MADE IT THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO GEORGE CLARKE THAN A TV PRESENTER. AS WE LISTEN TO HIM CHATTING ABOUT HIS CAREER, IT’S APPARENT THAT DESPITE HIS ONSCREEN CONFIDENCE AND SWAGGER, GEORGE IS NOT SOMEONE WHO LIKES TO TALK ABOUT HIS OWN SUCCESSES.

Hailing from Washington, he’s been a regular feature on our TV since 2004, when he “stumbled” into a job with Channel 5. Never in a million years was his ambition to work in the media, but a chance meeting and some fortunate timing meant that within a week of being approached about the opportunity, he’d been given the job and was the face of a new TV show called ‘Build a New Life in the Country’. Since then he’s been the main presenter of Property Dreams, Dream Home Abroad, The Home Show, The Restoration Man, The Great British Property Scandal, Ugly House to Lovely House and of course, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces; amongst many others. In truth, George is less a presenter and more a building industry in his own right. An innovative designer and architect, author, lecturer, government adviser and astute businessman, he shies away from what he calls the “grand status” of being an entrepreneur, but he is every inch one. George’s life-long passion is building. Inspired by his Grandfather, a self-confessed “muck-mover” who worked on the A66 and A69, he had decided by the age of

12 that he was going to be an architect. “One thing I’ll always remember from my childhood is to think about the next generation and the legacy that you leave behind.” “I had an amazing CDT teacher who one day asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I told him, he took the time to track down an old friend with an architects practice and convinced them to let me spend a few hours in their office after school. He even drove me there. But he didn’t have to do it, and that’s never left me. If you can make a real difference to someone that might change their lives for the better, then you absolutely should.”

After several months in Hong Kong, working on some incredible projects, George learnt how “with the tiniest team you can do the most incredible things if you work together with a clear and shared vision”. Soon the juggling act of running flat out in the commercial world and managing smaller projects for friends and family left him with the entrepreneur’s dilemma; should he jump ship and take the brave step of going it alone or focus on his corporate career? “I told Terry that I had to make a decision and handed his PA my letter. His answer was the classic thing that great men do; he took me to the pub to get me smashed on whisky and convince me not to leave.”

Leaving school at 16, George got his first job after writing to every architectural practice in the Washington, Sunderland and Newcastle Yellow Pages. Starting with very little confidence, he was inspired by day release to apply to Newcastle University.

“When he realised I had this buzz about having a go on my own, Terry was brilliant and wished me the very best of luck. He supported me and started giving me some of the smaller jobs his practice couldn’t take on, and the business began to grow.”

The top student automatically got a job offer from FaulknerBrowns Architects in Killingworth, which led to George spending a year out and working for another great north easterner, Sir Terry Farrell.

George Clarke + Partners now has over 30 staff, plus sub-contractors, and has been built as a group of smaller businesses that mesh together to deliver projects on their own and as part of a greater whole.

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ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM

How I Made it

With architects, designers, developers, researchers, builders and a publishing company, the company has been driven by George’s passion for building and design and covers every aspect of the industry: “I love it, as no day is ever the same. We get involved in everything.” “Ultimately business is all about people. Understanding people is more important than profit and loss, cash flow and everything else; especially in design. If you can’t connect with people you aren’t going to get the business. It’s as simple as that and we’re set up to be a collective of small businesses that are nimble and light on their feet, but keep everything very simple. It means the opportunities are genuinely endless.”

It’s then that the opportunity to write books came along - Home Bible being the one he is most proud of - followed by the TV. It’s clear to see that George loves this work, but it’s the history of the buildings, the story telling and, most of all, the ‘normal’ people that take these projects on that truly inspire him. “I’ve always been a dreamer and if I wasn’t obsessed by outer space as a kid, it was how the space of my bedroom worked.” “I don’t think my enthusiasm for architecture will ever go. I’m just one of those people who is always asking questions and trying to find out how we can make things better.

No matter how good you think you are, you can constantly push the boundaries of design to do great things; to change people’s lives.” George is passionate about using his position and access to help make a difference. He is a Prince’s Regeneration Trust ambassador, a patron of the design and architecture charity The Civic Trust and first Ambassador for housing and homelessness charity Shelter. George also works with Maggie’s the cancer charity and with Sunderland Association Football Club on its Beacon of Light and Foundation of Light projects: “Being Trustee of the Foundation of Light, the charity connected to Sunderland Football Club, is one of the proudest things I’m involved in. It’s not just about football, it’s about communities and community engagement and what a real difference that can make.” Working in an industry that is “a bit antiquated and behind the times compared to other industries”, George is now on a life-long mission to use his position and knowledge to create his own legacy.

“I’ve always been a dreamer and if I wasn’t obsessed by outer space as a kid, it was how the space of my bedroom worked.”

“We’re at a critical stage in Britain where we’ve got some massive decisions to make about how we build housing. On one hand, it’s quite frightening, but so exciting on the other.” “To keep up with demand, the UK needs to build about 300,000 houses every year, but where are we going to build them? What are they going to look like? And who decides where we build them and how we do it?” “If you look at all of the things I’ve done over the years, recycling old buildings, trying to make old houses work in a better way, restoration, using small spaces more effectively, and doing it all in a very affordable way, all of it is all linked together to try and tackle the housing crisis. It’s what I think I’ll be doing for the rest of my life really.”

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My Favourite Books

MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS BOOKS Simon Hartley, Be World-Class MY TOP 6 BOOKS 01.

BUILDING THE HAPPINESSCENTRED BUSINESS by Dr Paddi Lund

Sir Clive Woodward mentioned this book to me one day, because it’s one of his favourites. So, we did a swap. He sent me a copy of this book and I sent him one of mine. At face-value, it looks like a book on customer satisfaction. At its heart, this is about leadership, teamwork, culture and human relationships.

02. An international sport psychology consultant and performance coach, Simon helps athletes and business leaders to get their mental game right. For almost twenty years, Simon has worked with gold medallists, world-record holders, top five world-ranked professional athletes and championship-winning teams. He has worked at the highest level of sport, including spells in Premiership football, Premiership rugby union, First Class County Cricket, Super League, professional golf and tennis, as well as with international teams and Team GB Olympians.

SMALL GIANTS by Bo Burlingham

Through my work I help businesses to be better and stronger. Sometimes this also enables them to be bigger, but not always. I have come to realise that there are some truly world-class businesses that are not corporations, not listed in the FTSE 250 or global multi-nationals. This book inspires small businesses to become true greats.

03.

04.

THRIVING ON CHAOS by Tom Peters

When most people encounter the unknown, unexpected and unpredictable, performance nose dives. Tom Peters starts to explore ways to not only survive chaos, but thrive in it. In my opinion, this is an absolutely essential quality in the modern world. It’s the reason that my “World-Class Leadership 2018 Conference” is titled “Navigating Uncharted Territory”.

05.

TEAM SPIRIT by Brendan Hall

At first glance, you may not see how a book with an ocean racing yacht on the cover might help business people. Yes, it is a story of how team spirit won the Clipper Round the World race. However, it is fundamentally about teamwork and leadership. I particularly love the way that Brendan Hall openly shares his internal wrestles and personal challenges as a leader; his worries, doubts, failures and sleepless nights.

06.

ELITE! by Floyd Woodrow

In Elite!, Floyd gets right to the heart of leadership and identifies the little things that make a huge difference. He tells a story of two SAS units, operating behind enemy lines in Iraq. Both have very similar missions, with similar resources available. One succeeds, despite encountering some extreme and unexpected challenges. The other fails. What was the one defining difference? Leadership!

MAKING CHARACTER FIRST by Tom Hill & Walter Jenkins

There are very few books that help us understand not only the importance of recruiting and developing character in people, but also the process. In this book, Tom Hill describes how he turned around a failing culture in his own manufacturing business by systematically developing character in his team.

Simon Hartley is working with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum to develop our Exchange Programme, helping entrepreneurs to strengthen their senior team’s leadership. entrepreneursforum.net/exchange

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Find out the latest news and entrepreneurial updates from the Entrepreneur's Forum (published January 2018)

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