M AG A Z I N E ISSUE 1
NATURE OR NURTURE? THE GENETICS AND MASTERY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
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M AG A Z I N E CONTENTS In line with our ethos and values around entrepreneurship, the first magazine of the Real Entrepreneurs’ Club has been launched to showcase a selection of leading business talent, industry experts and thought leaders. all of whom have taken the time to share their stories, triumphs, failures, lessons learnt and of course, their opinions. The aim of this magazine is to empower, educate and encourage entrepreneurship. This is a platform to knowledge-share and pass on valuable information. Through sharing ideas we are all able to grow – for those sharing the story as they take time to reflect and for those reading the story by picking up on the lessons learnt of others who have been good enough to share.
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COVER STORY: COULD ENTREPRENEURSHIP BE GENETIC?
OPINION: ALEX MORGAN LCBS AND PAUL HARTSHORN MR H IT BUILDING A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE: THE STORY OF A REFUGEE THE COLLABORATOR OPINION: SCOTT CHARLISH BREWIN DOLPHIN AND JAZ KAUR FRASER STRETTON LAUNCHING A BUSINESS? THE IMPORTANCE OF METICULOUS PLANNING RESILIENCE, FACING UP TO YOUR FEARS AND TRUSTING YOUR INSTINCT OPINION: AIME ARMSTRONG NINJA HR AND EMMA WARD NELSONS WITH GRIT AND GRACE HOW ENTREPRENEURS CAN BUILD A MORE SECURE FINANCIAL FUTURE ONE DECISION CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE YOUR BUSINESS GROWTH JOURNEY BOOKS TO HELP YOU REACH YOUR GOALS
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SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS SUPPORT A WORKING-CLASS COMPANY DIRECTOR’S JOURNEY OPINION: JENNY CROSS CROSS PRODUCTIONS THE NEXT GENERATION OF BUSINESS BRAINS A LOOK BACK: “THINK AHEAD” THE LOGISTICAL TRUTH BEHIND ONE OF LEICESTERSHIRE’S MOST RECOGNISED BRANDS SHAPING A BRAND WHICH PATH TO CHOOSE? THE ENTREPRENEURIAL WINNERS OF THE ENTERPRISING WOMEN AWARDS 2021 BEST APPS FOR BUSINESSES LOOKING TO TAKE THINGS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
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F E AT U R E
COULD ENTREPRENEURSHIP BE GENETIC? REFUSING THE BANK OF MUM AND DAD, ASPIRING TO THEIR OWN DREAMS AND GOALS, THESE SIBLINGS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES
uccess breeds success, as they say, but could entrepreneurship really be passed on through genes? It depends on nature as well as nurture. Personality traits can be passed on through your parents’ DNA but the external world also plays a part in the kind of personality you develop. A Kings College London study investigated the behavioural and molecular genetics of entrepreneurship. In short, they found that 37-48% of the tendency to be an entrepreneur is genetic. They also found evidence that the tendency to have entrepreneurial personality traits such as extroversion and openness also has a genetic component. Speaking to the son and daughter of a successful food manufacturer in Leicester proved to me this could certainly be true. It’s also interesting to look at the two separate paths each sibling took in life and how those paths lead them to entrepreneurship – if entrepreneurship could ever be a destination or a never-ending journey. Privilege and money can be uncomfortable subjects when you’re talking to those who have it. It was refreshing to hear the owners of new sports, fitness, and leisure realm What A Goal in Hamilton admit that they didn’t need to work due to the wealth of their family. However, they’ve chosen to graft and make their own way in business. The recreation centre has been crafted by brother and sister Kavita (34) and Mehul Patel (31), along with Kavita’s husband Jay Patel (38), who founded X-Train which he runs with his three sisters and staff members who helped shape the business. The siblings also have a family of business
owners. Their dad, Arun Patel, and two uncles founded Cofresh Snack Foods in 1974, a Leicesterbased manufacturer of savoury nibbles, and were running the company until last year when they chose to sell it on, coincidentally just before the pandemic sent the UK into lockdown. Kavita and Mehul keep their dad’s figures to themselves as they’re not theirs to share but they do say that the three brothers had a target in mind when they set up the business before considering its sale. Buyers had been interested in Cofresh but when the right investor company came along with a matching ethos, the brothers decided it was time. Hitting their target and having spent 47 years
Words by Kerry Smith
He’s happy with what we’re doing and has always pushed us to work hard but he doesn’t want his grandchildren to miss out on family time with their parents
Mehul began looking for another job after the sale of Cofresh, and while Jay was already looking for opportunities to grow his fitness establishment, the two decided to join forces to start a new gym. And when an ideal unit of space became available, Kavita seized the opportunity to create her dream soft play venue in combination with Jay and Mehul’s gym. Their dreams, ambitions, and skillsets eventually aligned amalgamating into what became the original concept of What A Goal.
WHAT A GOAL
We wanted to do this by ourselves otherwise we’d never learn anything and would never be able to get anywhere
working in the business and missing out on precious time with their children, they decided to sell Cofresh in 2020 to Vibrant Foods, one of the largest South Asian food groups in Europe. Cofresh turned over £44.4m last year and now, under the Vibrant parent company, plans to turnover £100m in the next four years. The family now own a minority stake in Vibrant Foods. On top of the undisclosed figure that the family received for the sale, Arun owns numerous properties earning income streams. He has even asked his children himself why they work so hard when they could easily have help from their family. Both siblings have their own children now and it’s important to Arun that they are a strong family unit. Kavita commented: “Knowing how hard he’s worked himself, dad wouldn’t want us to lose out on family time. That’s my dad’s biggest hang-up. He’s happy with what we’re doing and has always pushed us to work hard but he doesn’t want his grandchildren to miss out on family time with their parents.” Kavita, Mehul and Jay this year opened the first completed section of the What A Goal leisure complex on October 4. Forming the business by themselves as much as possible was high on the agenda. Kavita, manifesting that those entrepreneurial traits of drive and determination that could have well been inherited from her father, explained: “We wanted to do this by ourselves otherwise we’d never learn anything and would never be able to get anywhere.” Kavita, eager to develop her own business from a young age, had been working on a business plan to open her own nursery and soft play area since before attending university, whilst Jay built his own personal training business and Mehul worked in a managerial role at Cofresh. Once
What A Goal will open fully in January 2022 in the old Flip Out trampoline park venue in the Troon Industrial Park. The venue will offer a soft play area, gym, two five-a-side football pitches, two indoor cricket pitches, a beaty bar, a hairdressing salon, physiotherapy practice, and a sports bar called What A Shot. There’s currently no other place like it in Leicestershire. The soft play area is already off to a flying start with a full house every weekend meaning Jay is working almost 24/7 while still running his fitness studio X-Train as well as the What A Goal soft play area. Parents can enjoy time out while their kids have fun too. Jay commented: “The most valuable thing these days is convenience. It’s massively important to be able to have your kids taken care of while you take care of yourself.” Rather than stand in the cold at the side of a football pitch, families can sit in the What A Shot sports bar with glass panelling to watch their child progress in football on 3G pitches approved by FIFA, or cricket with former first-class cricketer Anish Patel on standby as general manager. While there, they can also enjoy Indian style tapas, the more traditional sports bar food, and some more quirky offerings to be revealed. In the beauty bar, parents can enjoy treatments while safe in the knowledge their children are in close proximity and visible at all times. What A Goal will also provide a crèche service for parents while they work out in the onsite gym, play cricket, eat, visit the barbers, or use any other What A Goal service. It was important to the founders that local companies were used in the creation of What A Goal, and so they hired Scope Construction Ltd. Directors Maz and Paz Patel had heard of the venture through a friend and were keen to get on board. Once introduced, Kavita, Mehul and Jay were impressed with the company’s ethos of working locally and driving money back into the local economy. Maz, who is co-project manager for What A Goal, commented: “We designed and rebuilt the What A Goal unit to bring the idea to life. I’ve never heard of a development like this before and it has been a big challenge for us but very exciting and I wanted to be a part of it straight away. “We’ve worked with the owners to have the
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project completed within just nine months, whereas something like this would usually take around 18. We’ve been able to do this by using our trusted supply chain and very robust, meticulous planning. Plus, we’ve been focusing heavily on it as it’s our flagship project in a unit of 80,000sq ft. “We only employ local contractors apart from one specialist company from Newcastle that installed some of the play equipment. From a risk perspective as well as an ethical one, we keep our sub-contractors local and I think it definitely mattered to Kavita, Mehul and Jay that we support local employment. Scope has so far employed the help of 11 sub-contractors to bring What A Goal to life including Glenfield Electrical, Smyle Painting and Decorating, BP Plastering, Indigo Fitness, Climatise, Commercial Flooring, and NJR Electrical, and Durant Ltd and Fosse Contracts which provided the cricket and football fittings. The trio of founders have each worked tirelessly to see this unique project come into fruition. Mum and dad of two children, Jay and Kavita have their schedules worked out to a T. Kavita does school runs and activity club runs each day with business admin and legal work towards the business in between and through the nights, while Jay continues to be a personal trainer working unsociable hours but dedicating Friday afternoons off to pick the kids up from school to spend more time with them, whilst also working in the soft play area on the weekends. Meanwhile, Mehul is the construction guy, arranging all architectural and structural work and spending much of his own time in the unit to complete work and installations himself. They’ve been determined to do it all from scratch, all by themselves, where possible.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS
Outgoing, chatty, laid back yet visibly passionate, Kavita’s personality traits may well have been inherited as well as moulded on her journey through life as the rest of us. Mehul on the other hand is quieter, sits back and observes, but is no less motivated. Showing a real enjoyment in the family business since a young age, could Mehul’s story in particular prove that entrepreneurial traits also be adopted simply by being around other entrepreneurs? The brother and sister grew up watching not only their dad work hard, but also their mum who they say was practically single parenting while dad ran the business. They say it’s from her that they gained much of their work ethic. Their mum worked for Cofresh and Kavita recalls spending a lot of time with her on the job: “I would be in the car seat in the Transit van while she worked long hours. It was very tough on her working and doing the school runs too.” The parents, however hard-working in their
own ways, never put the burden of the family business on their children. “There was never any pressure for us to join Cofresh,” Mehul told me. “It was never a hand-me-down.” Instead, it was something he found himself passionate about. His first delivery job for the family business was just two weeks after gaining his driving license at age 18 before studying business management at university, which he completed whilst still working at Cofresh. Once graduated, Mehul couldn’t wait to get back to full time work in the factory. Four months later, he became the manager of his very own Eat Real factory under the Cofresh umbrella, which was in the unit that the business originally started life. Remembering her younger brother’s appetite to work for the family business, Kavita said: “Mehul was going on deliveries with dad since he was seven years old. He’d wake up at 4am on the summer holidays to go with dad and his brothers.” Meanwhile, Kavita was more interested in the study of children. With a degree in child psychology, she went on to run and manage children’s nurseries but after two years in the field, Kavita didn’t want to continue in a nursey unless she owned one. “I was always a proud daughter, but I was never interested in pursuing a career in the family business. I watched my dad and all these business people in my family and I knew that the business world was for me, I just leaned more towards child studies and education.” Kavita’s business plan for her own nursey and soft play business was in the making for 15 years before she came across the opportunity to utilise it. While she went about taking care of all the groundworks of setting up on her own, she took a job in a behavioural school which was linked to one of Leicester’s juvenile detention centres where she worked with police officers and social workers, gaining experience in a variety of childhood settings. Whilst Kavita was developing the skillset to someday develop her own business, her brother
Kavita and Mehul’s parents
I watched my dad and all these business people in my family and I knew that the business world was for me
Jay’s parents | 09
Good communication comes down to practicing talking to people – the more you do it the easier it gets
was working hard to develop the family business. Mehul worked at Cofresh for seven years progressing from the factory floor to running it, all the time knowing that it would one day come to an end when his dad and uncles sold the family business. On when his dad broke the news that the day had come, Mehul told me: “It was quite exciting knowing that he was going into retirement after having worked so hard all his life but at the same time I was thinking ‘what do I do now?’ I’d never worked for anyone else before and there were never enough hours in the day for me as it was in the family business so I didn’t know if I could do a 9-5 job. I grew up in that factory, it was hard to walk away from.” The pair eventually partnered up with Kavita’s husband Jay to form a new leisure concept.
HOW THE THREE CAME TOGETHER
The day Jay missed a university exam was the day that would alter the path for all three of the What A Goal founders. He was studying technology at Leicester University: “In second year, I found myself in the gym all the time and one day I missed one of my exams because I was still in the gym – that’s when I realised I was on the wrong path.” Before university, Jay was working as a sports
coach. But studying computing because his family encouraged him that ‘coaching was more of a hobby’ wasn’t sitting right with him. He quit the course, packed his bags and combined travelling with work becoming a football conditioning coach in America and Australia. Upon his return home, he set up as a personal trainer in his own home gym with standard equipment bought from a catalogue. He then took it outdoors running training classes in local parks until he was able to rent a space at Nuffield Health exposing him to a large number of new clientele. A few more years of doing 30-40 PT sessions a day meant Jay had the funds to hire five employees and set up in his own dedicated studio in 2014. His company, X-Train has now been running for 13 years. It was here that he met Kavita – she was a client of his sister’s who also worked as a personal trainer at X-Train. Jay and Kavita married in 2012. Wanting to expand X-Train during the same period that Mehul was deciding what to do with his future after leaving Cofresh, the pair joined forces and had their eye on the old Cofresh factory unit where their dad’s story began. Still owned by the family, the building was being leased to a franchisee of the popular Flip Out trampoline park brand, but the backspace of the building wasn’t being utilised. Kavita, Jay and Mehul were going to rent the space from the franchisee to create a combined gym and soft play centre, which was eventually put on hold due to the pandemic. During the subsequent lockdowns, the Flip Out branch unfortunately closed meaning that, while they were saddened by the loss, it was ‘luckily’ for Kavita, Jay and Mehul as the perfect opportunity presented itself to them. They could start an entirely new business on a whole new scale. Kavita’s business plan was all ready to go, she knew all the companies she wanted to work with and had done all her background research. But, being in a prime location, the building was sought after, and Arun wasn’t about to give it away. They were to pitch their business plan to Arun’s pension company that the property was managed under, and pay the rent just as any of the other contenders had to.
There were plenty of hurdles that could have thrown them off track. Jay said they’ve sought out the appropriate experts to support them along the way: “Just the health and safety side of the business alone would be enough to scare anyone away. Kavita already had a lot of experience in those areas when it came to children but if you make the right contacts to help you, all the formalities and insurances can be completed. And we’re still learning ourselves and getting people to assist us through it. Working as a personal trainer for so many years, I’ve made a lot of contacts, a lot who own their own businesses in all sorts of 10 |
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industries from construction to banking. “Networking is extremely important to any businessowner. I was so shy at school and came out of my shell by working in America. Good communication comes down to practising talking to people – the more you do it the easier it gets.” Despite the world returning to normal, What A Goal hasn’t been immune to the issues of Brexit and coronavirus. “With the way the country is at the moment,” Jay commented, “prices have gone up and there are lots of delays on materials, it’s all had an impact on our budget. We were worried if we’d still be able to start the business because we could see that we were going over budget. And when it’s come to maintenance and construction, it’s been difficult because if one person gets Covid and has to isolate, then others get it and it delays the project.” Snatching the opportunity to get into the former Flip Out and former Cofresh unit meant there was little time for a detailed inspection of the property. There were many maintenance issues to be taken care of which meant going over budget again. Kavita said: “We’ve had to sort a lot of things out that we could have done without. We knew there were some issues but didn’t know how extreme they were. For a business like this, people take months and months to bring together a financial forecast, but we didn’t have that time because from April 2020 when the unit was vacant, it was all go. We couldn’t afford to take three months out to decide if we were going to go ahead with the business or not because there was a battle for the property. We’re doing things as we go sometimes and have lost out on things because buying things last minute means they’re more expensive, but we also have a lot of great contacts which have meant we’ve managed to get more effective prices on certain things.” On top of logistical challenges, Jay is still also working full time at X-Train and working on What A Goal in the evenings and weekends. Kavita and Mehul have also spent all their time onsite. They say it’s a ‘temporary thing’ and that working onsite and behind the scenes seven days a week won’t always be their lifestyle. Their goal is to be able to franchise the business by 2023.
“One question I’m always asked is how I work with my brother and husband every day,” Kavita said before interrupted by Jay. “How do we work with you more like?” The three have an admirable relationship, they clearly all get on well and by the sounds of it, have been there for each other through thick and thin. Kavita answered: “We get along so well, and we all have our own individual areas that we deal with. We don’t step on each other’s toes; we trust each other and are there to support so there’s a little bit of each of us in each area of the business.
And Jay and I don’t take anything home with us. “My brother and I have always been close, and we argue as siblings do but when one of us is hurting it affects us massively and we all come together. We work out our personal issues together as well as the business.” The conversation moves quickly onto Mehul’s divorce three years ago – I get the impression this has been an ongoing, emotional battle for him but that he has come out the other side as stronger. He said: “The divorce helped me in a lot of ways. It can give you that push to do more, like a motivation. We separated three years ago and we have a four-year-old daughter so it has been hard work for me moving forwards with the business but when you put your heart and soul into something you can achieve success.” They tell me that this interview has only been possible due to the help of Kavita and Mehul’s parents as well as having employed general manager Anish from the outset. Kavita commented: “My parents have our kids every weekend and my mum picks them up from nursery on certain days. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them. Not everyone has parents to look after their kids but if you have some pillars in your family and friends, ask for the help! “We also put full management onsite from the beginning, which is why we’re able to sit here for a couple of hours because we know everything is being handled outside of these doors. Otherwise, we would be drawn into every single daily task. We’ve had to spend a little extra, but it saves in the long run because we’ve all grown together rather than hiring someone and having to train them up from scratch.” The next generation of the Patel family is eager to open the entire What A Goal leisure complex mid-January 2022, with a “huge opening party” to be confirmed.
Not everyone has parents to look after their kids but if you have some pillars in your family and friends, ask for the help!
WE ASKED BUSINESS INFLUENCERS FROM THE EAST MIDLANDS...
IS ENTREPRENEURSHIP SOMETHING THAT CAN BE TAUGHT?
To be a successful entrepreneur, skills are needed to grow a creative and self-reliant team. New ways of working arising from the pandemic, especially working from home, have resulted in positive opportunities for many team members, but even positive change doesn’t come without its challenges. Managing and leading remote and hybrid teams relies on generating trusting relationships, and giving colleagues autonomy and accountability. A coaching approach to leading teams is the ideal way to generate the behaviours and culture required for these new ways of working. Coaching is also a great way to collaboratively solve problems, work through tricky dilemmas and make decisions where lots of variables are at play. These new times are also ideal for mentoring. Mentors share specific technical or managerial expertise and in this current challenging economic context, mentors are often a much more cost effective learning solution than company-wide training programmes. Mentoring works well for colleagues where learning needs are individual and so group training programmes are an overinvestment. Unique needs require individualised attention. Enter the coach or the mentor. At DMU we have a number of coaching and mentoring solutions for entrepreneurs. Our team of highly skilled coaches and mentors work with clients who want to grow their business and help their teams reach their full potential. Our specialised team both provide coaching and mentoring for entrepreneurship and leadership. A range of training programmes and learning solutions help entrepreneurs generate a coaching and mentoring culture at their workplace, which in turn helps a team develops innovative thinking and a solutions oriented mindset across a team.
I believe that entrepreneurship cannot be taught – in the traditional sense of the word – by sitting in a classroom. Over the past few years, I’ve seen many courses and books that can help you and undoubtedly many more are around now than when I was younger. I studied business and finance at university. While it gave me some knowledge of what is needed to run a business, the actual learning experience only came when I took that leap of faith and started my own company. I have to say it was a steep learning curve for me. One of the lessons I learned early on is that you pretty much give up on your work-life balance to make your business successful, especially in the early years. I guess this is the reason why it is not for everyone. To become an entrepreneur, you need drive and ambition which cannot, in my opinion, be taught in a classroom. However, if you are willing to be an entrepreneur, there are plenty of courses you can now take to assist you in the process. I believe that becoming an entrepreneur is easier for some than it is for others. The word’s meaning is a person who sets up a business, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. I have come across many in my career so far. Some have always had a safety net to fall back on, while others haven’t. Some set up a business as a hobby and then get lucky and migrate into it. To set up in business, you might have to take a leap of faith, and this leap is more significant for some than it is for others. Maybe the better question to ask is: “What is the best way to teach and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs?” Because entrepreneurial ventures literally generate new wealth for everyone.
Senior Lecturer Leicester Castle Business School
Director Mr H IT
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BUILDING A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE: THE STORY OF A REFUGEE MORNINGSIDE PHARMACEUTICALS CHAIRMAN DR NIK KOTECHA OBE HAS BEEN WIDELY RECOGNISED FOR HIS ENTREPRENEURSHIP. HE SPOKE TO 1284 DIRECTOR GEORGE OLIVER ABOUT WHY HIS ATTENTION TURNED TO SOCIAL ENTERPRISE
he unprepared mind cannot see the outstretched hand of opportunity’. So said Sir Alexander Fleming at Harvard in 1945. It’s sometimes assumed that the Nobel prize winner was referring purely to the laboratory oversight from which he observed mould that had developed on a culture plate. But he was also making the point that, growing up in Scotland, he may have had the life of a farmer rather than that of the scientist who discovered penicillin. Decisions made by himself and others – coupled with chance and fortune – had placed him in that laboratory in 1928. What had gone before equipped him with the knowledge to act when opportunity presented itself. The quote features on the homepage of the Randal Charitable Foundation’s website as a reflection on both opportunity and innovation. For Fleming’s quote in full was: “I warn you of the danger of first sitting and waiting till chance offers something. We must work, and work hard. We must know our subject. We must master all the technicalities of our craft. “Pasteur’s often quoted dictum that Fortune favours the prepared mind is undoubtedly true, for the unprepared mind cannot see the outstretched hand of opportunity.”
The Foundation’s vision is to directly save a million lives in the UK and worldwide. In doing so, part of its purpose would be to create chances for people who may never have | 13
Enterprise comes when opportunity combines with will... Our goal is to provide people with the opportunity to act
had the hand of opportunity outstretched to them. Beneficiaries may have been disadvantaged because of poverty, education, disability or addiction. “Enterprise comes when opportunity combines with will,” said Dr Nik Kotecha OBE, who founded the foundation with his wife in 2017 and is now chair of trustees. “Our goal is to provide people with the opportunity to act.”
Dr Nik arrived in the UK as a young child, a refugee from Uganda under the regime of Idi Amin. Almost 40 years on, he still recalls what it is to be hungry and homeless. 14 |
He also remembers his family being separated for several months, ultimately to be reunited with the help of an international aid organisation. Dr Nik and his family ended up living in a deprived area of Leicester. And from there came his opportunity. “I was fortunate to receive a local county council grant, which enabled me to attend university, and from there to follow my passion and forge a career,” he recollects. After time as a researcher working in drug discovery for big pharma corporations, Dr Nik started Morningside Pharmaceuticals from the garage of his home in Hertfordshire in the 1990s. In the days before digital communications, he visited countries around the world to see firsthand where his company’s products were going. He began working with aid agencies three years after launch.
Today, almost 15 million tablets, capsules and bottles of medicine leave the Loughborough-based site to be delivered and distributed twice daily to
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pharmacies and hospitals throughout the UK. Morningside has exported to more than 120 countries and also supplies UNICEF, World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Red Cross. In 2016 it was cited by then Prime Minister Theresa May for being ‘the best of British’ as Dr Nik and other industry leaders joined her first trade mission to India. Four years earlier, the company had received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade. Morningside’s success has been built on an end-to-end process - with R&D, product development, clinical trials, registration, sales, marketing and export all managed within its own companies. Meanwhile, Dr Nik has various public roles, including chairing Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP’s) Innovation Board, acting as regional councillor for the CBI and cochairing the Loughborough Town Deal. “Business is about creating jobs and wealth and a strong economy,” said Dr Nik, who is also a board member of the Midlands Engine Council. “But business also has a responsibility to support community.”
We’re immensely proud to be on the way to achieving that - after three years of activity we have so far saved more than 145,000 lives
water, for example, as well as issuing the tools, skills and training for people to make their own money, an intervention can lift families out of an endless cycle of poverty. The selection of charities echoes the work of Caroline Fiennes, a leading authority of impactful charitable donations, who demonstrates how impact in tackling specific global problems does not necessarily come from the biggest charities and NGOs. “Our aspiration is to directly save a million lives globally,” said Dr Nik. “We’re immensely proud to be on the way to achieving that - after three years of activity we have so far saved more than 145,000 lives and significantly improved about 260,000 more.”
The story of the Foundation is both more recent and less widely known. Childhood experience instilled in Dr Nik a lifelong ambition to move the focus of his entrepreneurial knowledge and experience from business to sustainable philanthropy. “Real work on the ground had shaped my philosophy,” he said. “I can understand the challenges that people are facing.” It led to Dr Nik’s 2020 decision to move from CEO to chairman of Morningside Pharmaceuticals. In doing so, he might use more than three decades of experience of working in the developing world, and having seen challenges first hand, to support charities and NGOs in forging impact where it was needed most.
A look through the 86 grants made by the foundation so far reveals many unfamiliar charities and NGOs. Focus is on directly saving lives, with impact measured by calculating lives at serious and credible risk before provision of funding. The foundation aims for a 50:50 split between UK and global organisations. The common thread is enabling people to be self-sufficient. “You can provide fish or a fishing rod,” said Dr Nik. “We need to give the rod so people can do things for themselves. I’ve seen the difference this makes to people’s lives.” By providing communities with the infrastructure to grow crops or pump their own | 15
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PROVIDING OPPORTUNITY 1. FAMILIES IMPACTED BY COVID
RCF moved quickly at the outset of the lockdown to support vulnerable people in Leicestershire facing extreme hardship. In April 2020 it collaborated with LeicestershireLive with a start-up grant for the There With You Fund. The funding was distributed by Leicesterbased Charity Link, which specialises in finding small grants to deliver essential items that most people take for granted. The fund has so far raised almost £150,000, issuing more than £148,000 of it in emergency grants to support 2,458 people in Leicester and Leicestershire - of which 1,190 were children.
2. CLINICAL TRIALS FOR CANCER RESEARCH
Hope Against Cancer funds cutting-edge research and makes clinical trials available to people in Leicestershire and Rutland. It supports innovative research that leads to improved treatments and better outcomes, ensuring that Leicestershire is a hub of expertise in cancer research and treatment. Since 2003 it has funded more than 60 research projects, including the Clinical Trials Facility at Leicester Royal Infirmary. It offers local people with cancer the opportunity to take part in clinical trials. It is one of only a few outside of London to do so. Every year around 5,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Leicestershire.
3. EMERGENCY RELIEF FOR WORKERS
In 2020 the Foundation backed the British Asian Trust’s Covid-19 Emergency Appeal. It provided essential emergency relief kits to 137,000 people in 27,500 families across 15 states in India. The pandemic saw more than 400 million daily workers in India lose their livelihoods overnight. Mass migration from cities to villages ensued as workers returned, often walking hundreds of miles by foot, to try to find the next meal. A year later, a second grant provided an oxygen generator at the 550-bed St Martha’s Hospital in Bangalore to deliver life-saving oxygen to Covid-19 patients.
4. THE FLOATING HOSPITAL
RCF’s focus with the IMPACT Foundation in 2019 was an innovative floating hospital in Bangladesh, which specialises in providing eye, hearing and mobility operations. The boat is the first-ever onboard hospital facility, enabling it to support remote riverside communities which otherwise could not be accessed to provide simple medical procedures. In doing so, it prevents disability as a means of addressing poverty.
5. MICRO LOANS FOR START-UPS
Funding to the MicroLoan Foundation in 2019 provided women in southern Malawi with the initial loans and training to help start-up in business. The charity supports poor women living in remote areas with free financial literacy and business training alongside small affordable loans to start selling agricultural produce, trading fish or running a grocery store. In 2021 a further grant supported 1,408 women and 5,632 children by funding more female entrepreneurs.
So what’s next for the Foundation? There will be continuation of funding for selected charities and NGOs. Focus will continue to be on organisations that use funding to invest in becoming more entrepreneurial. But enterprise also means considering new markets, seizing the initiative and a willingness to undertake new ventures. Last year, the Foundation moved towards public affairs activity – essentially supporting the lobbying of Government – by funding research around the challenges of addiction in the UK. It provided a grant to the Centre for Social Justice – the think tank established by former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith in 2011 – to conduct research and formulate policy that tackles root causes of poverty. The result was an extra £80million of Government funding for drug treatment services in England. It meant more places for people released from prison and convicted criminals handed community sentences. It was the biggest increase in funding for drug treatment services in 15 years and was, in large part, made possible through research and lobbying partly funded by the Foundation. “We will continue to support other charities in the UK and around the world in their innovative solutions and programmes for increasing social opportunity,” said Dr Nik. “What our experience with the CSJ showed us is that, by thoughtful investment in certain strategic campaigns, we can leverage activity so it moves from charities and NGOs to Governments. “In doing so, our own social entrepreneurial activity can be amplified into creating opportunity on a national or even international scale. “Such direct action can give people a fresh opportunity to change the course of their lives. “This benefits, not just the individuals themselves, but their families, their communities and society as a whole.” Learn more about the Foundation’s work at randalfoundation.org.uk.
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F E AT U R E
THE COLLABORATOR DAVID HUNTER IS AN AWARD WINNING ENTREPRENEUR WHO HAS BUILT A NATIONAL TAXI FLEET OF MORE THAN 600 CARS. ACQUIRING FIRMS ACROSS THE UK AND DEVELOPING MARKET LEADING APP TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS TAKE ME AND EAT ME, HERE HE SHARES HIS INSPIRING STORY WITH JOURNALIST EMILY MILLER
orn and bred in a small village in Leicestershire, David Hunter’s steady upbringing was a happy one and his hardworking parents, a financier father and district nurse mother, instilled in him a work ethic led by example over pressure. “They encouraged me to follow my passions, to achieve but without pressure. It was a happy family home and one that was very supportive of who we are and what we wanted to do. It meant there was room to discover the things that I liked doing in life without fear of failure.” Watching his father in an office he knew it was the environment for him – “From as early as I can remember I know the feeling of sitting in my dad’s large office and knowing I wanted to be holding pens and making decisions like my dad was – I knew the business world was the environment for me.” Recalling his early foray into business a creative and artistic David found himself ‘setting up shop’ play at home, designing and creating businesses for play – one of which even going through a re-brand resulting in the company name of Amazon, before the Amazon. “I have always had a creative side and whilst it might not be considered a typical trait of a businessperson, I believe that side of me has influenced my journey in a hugely positive way.” His parents weren’t especially well off, but “they enjoyed their work and taught me that if I wanted things that were ever so slightly more than the basic in life, I needed to work for it to earn it.” And so, David ventured out to get work, starting out cleaning cars he soon earnt money to buy the branded trainers, but rather than feeling only the buzz of having something new and nice and slightly more upmarket, David recalls another feeling. “There was a real sense of achievement more than anything, I can see that that was where I got my enjoyment from.” Not a materialistic man, David shares that
sure, he likes nice things, has a nice home and admits to being seduced by fancy cars in the past but that, “I have dreamed of boats – but aside from being in the midlands and not near any sea, possessions just don’t really make me happy. My drive has always been to have comfort with my family, but also to achieve.” David’s working life continued from car washing to working his way up and through building experience in advertising and the marketing world, including for the Leicester Mercury and then further publications and roles in corporate and management. David worked up a fair few years’ worth of experience before spotting an opportunity which was to kick start the real entrepreneur in him. “I was working for Euro Disney and noticed the sheer volume of hotels that were empty during the off seasons. I suggested filling them with educational trips at cheap prices for schools and the concept took off. I decided I could do similar on my own and make money from it, so I quit my job, got a small office above a bakery in Market Harborough and started my own adventure school trip package company. “It was a success and I gathered team members and resources in a short amount of time. Overnight though things changed.” David’s talking about a fatal school coach trip which changed the way package school trips operated from the inside out with insurance companies putting the responsibility of the student’s safety at their feet. Of course, this changed the regularity and popularity of school trips – it became almost too complicated for schools to do them. David had to adapt and adapt quickly. “I had to look at the resources we had and change the business overnight. Buying the two mini-buses I got a contract with the local council to do school pickups, from here ADT Taxis was started.”
I had to look at the resources we had and change the business overnight. Buying the two mini-buses I got a contract with the local council to do school pickups, from here ADT Taxis was started
F E AT U R E
I would like to give back somehow with community and charity work, I know I would get fulfilment from that
The skill of being able to make these decisions on his feet is akin to the adaptability many entrepreneurs needed during the height of the pandemic. “It is easier if you have a small business of course to change direction overnight, the larger you get the more shareholders you have and board members that you have to convince to take risks, when it was just me back then I could change quickly with no consequence really other than my own risks and responsibilities.” Being humble enough to recognise where our strengths and weaknesses lie, working to our strengths and creating a network around the business of people who are better at your weaknesses. That’s the key to success for an entrepreneur according to David. “I don’t see myself as a boss as such, more as someone conducting the orchestra!” “At the start, you are firing off all cylinders and of course end up doing all the elements of your business, as you grow you can start delegating and building a team who support you in your goal: they support my vision.” Taking risks, gambles, is easier to do when you are younger with no responsibilities he adds, “As you get older the assumption is that you get more cautious, but I think more than that for me it’s that I don’t need to take as many risks. I am happy with what I have more, the drive isn’t necessarily about financial gambles, it’s about being secure in what I already have.” Then, the retirement question comes up and from our conversation I can tell the drivers for his entrepresneurship are more to do with giving back, a refreshing way of looking at his career and what it has done. Retirement won’t ever stop him completely. “I might finally find the time to play guitar!” he laughs. “But seriously I feel like I won’t stop, I will slow it all down of course but I would like to give back somehow with community and charity work, I know I would get fulfilment from that, and I certainly know that I won’t get any from sitting still.” “I bet, with my four children, and hopefully future grandchildren, I will end up being their tax driver!”. We laugh at that, but really, it’s an example of David’s world view, what’s important to him and what’s at the core of his entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a creative one, but also one with a conscience. It’s striking that none of his career goals or aspirations for his life have been at the expense of anything, or through climbing over others ruthlessly. David’s career so far has meant he’s got where he wants to go with the support of others but also through his support of those around him, recognising his strengths and being humble enough to admit when he needs support too. His aspirations for retirement speak volumes about the kind of man he is a collaborator and an inspiring one at that.
WE ASKED BUSINESS INFLUENCERS FROM THE EAST MIDLANDS...
IS ENTREPRENEURSHIP SOMETHING THAT CAN BE TAUGHT?
Divisional Director of Financial Planning Brewin Dolphin To answer this question we should clarify that there are stages in the growth of a business. Firstly, the seed of an idea that starts the process along with the foresight as to how the idea may be developed is the spark that all entrepreneurs have in common and I do not believe that this can be taught. However, the reluctance to speak openly without fear of criticism or ridicule can be addressed by confidence and presentation training. How many of us have at one time or other had to explain a complex issue and benefited from the comments of a friend or colleague in making the messaging clearer – a most valuable skill when approaching funding requests! Secondly, and irrespective of the brilliance of the idea and the vision for its growth, any entrepreneur will need some assistance in managing their fledgling business. Who relishes the joys of VAT registration or writing HR policies without any guidance? Mentors can also provide a very positive sounding board for any entrepreneur who is facing some challenges and, along with networking, can establish a support base in which difficulties can be addressed. So when looking at the growth of a business, it is helpful in seeing it as a series of modular elements working in tandem with one another, some of which will require some teaching but without the initial spark, neither will exist.
Director Fraser Stretton This is such a subjective question that in reality there is probably no right or wrong answer. There are many skillsets that make a good entrepreneur but it is not always obvious if these are taught or if someone is born with them. Intellect: Some entrepreneurs are naturally quite intelligent while others struggle with this. However, as much as intelligence goes a long way, it does not make them street smart. Visionary: Being able to visualise and introduce new innovative ways of working is certainly a trait that entrepreneurs display. This however, is not something that can be taught, rather you have it or you don’t. Passion and energy: Having energy and the desire to make a difference is very powerful and can have a massively positive impact on staff and clients alike - this is certainly a huge reason behind successful new businesses. Persistence and drive: Being able to keep going on bad days and through challenging moments is very much an entrepreneurial trait. You really can’t teach persistence! Good communication: An entrepreneur needs to be able to deliver their vison and ideas in a clear and transparent manner. These are basic business skills that are picked up with experience, so some would say this is a taught skill? The above points make a case for born and taught in equal measure. However, the traits that an entrepreneur displays as being born with leads me to feel that an entrepreneur will gather a lot of skills while working or running an enterprise, but the little things that will keep them motoring on are characteristics that can’t be taught but they are born with. | 21
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LAUNCHING A BUSINESS?
THE IMPORTANCE OF METICULOUS PLANNING ANSWERS TO ALL THE HOW’S AND WHY’S FOR THOSE PLANNING ON LAUNCHING A NEW BUSINESS, AND THOSE PLANNING THE GROWTH OF THEIR EXISTING BUSINESS
This entrepreneur had great passion and energy but found he should have directed some of that energy into the preparation
Words by Levitha Biji 22 |
he thrill of supporting people who are creating something that would otherwise not exist never gets old for the City of London’s Small Business Research & Enterprise Centre (SBREC). The startup support service provides data and resources for entrepreneurs to unlock their business potential. We asked for their advice on business planning and the bases that need to be covered. Wendy Foster, Business Adviser and Operational Manager at Small Business Research & Enterprise Centre shared the following.
WHY YOU SHOULD INVEST SOME TIME PRIOR TO LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS
The simple answer is that it gives you the best opportunities to make a great success of starting and growing your business. It is building a foundation, and the effort you can put in at the start, the stronger the foundation. That sounds simplistic, so let’s use an example of someone who bought an existing car-washing business but who had not done any research, to highlight some
key issues: ■ He very quickly discovered that the number of cars being washed did not cover the costs of the site rental, staff, and the materials. He had not worked out his budget. ■ He hadn’t thought about looking for other potential suppliers of materials and so felt tied in with the existing supplier who may have been overcharging him. ■ He didn’t know why there weren’t more customers. Having not researched the demographics he couldn’t know if the people living or working nearby were likely to have cars they would want hand washed. Were there competitors nearby taking away custom? ■ He wasn’t sure how to attract and retain customers. Researching consumers helps identify what marketing they respond to, whether it’s one or more social media platforms, printed flyers, word of mouth or adverts in magazines. Knowing this helps with marketing plans and campaigns, for example, if many of his consumers live nearby could he offer a loyalty discount, or a package
discount. Referral discounts are also very popular. These discounts would be factored into his pricing strategy and plan so that this would still generate enough income for a healthy budget and cashflow – this technique is called a loss leader. ■ Before starting out he hadn’t even thought about what might go wrong and so hadn’t worked on the risks and how to manage them. Spending time doing research and planning before launching your business helps you address these areas, stopping them from even becoming a problem. This entrepreneur had great passion and energy but found he should have directed some of that energy into the preparation. The second time round, he did exactly that and had a solid foundation and clear direction for his new business venture.
HOW YOU SHOULD INVEST SOME TIME PRIOR TO LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS
The great news is that there are many tools and support services to help you with this. Using tools like the Business Model Canvas and SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis are both good places to help you start brainstorming your ideas, whether you are at the very start or are looking to diversify or grow. As you start working on these you will find areas that you need to research for more information.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO BENEFIT YOUR BUSINESS?
A range of specialist business databases to help you with this are available at The Small Business Research & Enterprise Centre (SBREC) to help
This data will also give an idea of how easy it might be for entrepreneurs to enter that market, and what the running costs might be you. Having data on markets and industries both for the UK and worldwide which look at what is happening in an industry now and what is forecast to happen over the next five years as well as what might impact that industry is something you should look out for. The data also includes company profiles of how easy it might be for entrepreneurs to enter that market, and what the running costs might be. The company also offers company profiles, including SWOT analyses which can give you a few pointers when you start thinking about your own SWOT analysis. SBREC has company data for over six million active UK businesses, plus international directories. When you are looking for suppliers or companies to sell to, then being able to search by industry, location, and more, can help you identify potential contacts in companies that you won’t even have previously heard of. As well as the specialist data, seek out webinars, blogs, and networking events. SBREC is a forum of entrepreneurs and small businesses who thrive through networking and working together. Whether you are starting out or growing your business, then do reach out to SBREC. To find out more on what you can do to help launch your business, or to plan its growth, visit cityoflondon.gov.uk/sbrec. | 23
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RESILIENCE, FACING UP TO YOUR FEARS AND TRUSTING YOUR INSTINCT GLYNIS WRIGHT MBE DEMONSTRATES COURAGE, STRENGTH AND DRIVE IN REAL TIME WITH THE RECENTLY BROKERED SALE OF HER LAW FIRM GLYNIS WRIGHT & CO TO EAST MIDLANDS BASED NELSONS – AN £18.5 MILLION LAW FIRM. GLYNIS TALKS CANDIDLY ABOUT HER BUSINESS JOURNEY FROM INCEPTION TO SUCCESSFUL SALE
lynis Wright MBE is the name in family law. She has won multiple awards over the 12 years since the inception of her family law firm Glynis Wright & Co. In addition, Glynis is a well-known and respected figure in society having had leadership roles such as President of the Leicestershire Law Society, Chair of the Advisory Board of the Faculties of Business and Law at De Montfort University. Recently, she was given the honour of becoming an MBE in the New Year Honours List for her contribution to Female Entrepreneurship. You might be forgiven for assuming she is a tough, no-nonsense type with arms crossed in a power suit and you wouldn’t be far off, however, there is also a true warmth to Glynis. Where she undoubtedly can be a tough cookie and has a reputation for ferocity in action, what is perhaps more surprising is her genuine humility when being asked about her success as a lawyer and businesswoman. She told me that she “prefers to think about the success of her team” rather than her individual success. So, I asked her what the key skills of a successful leader are and she replied; “A leader should support rather than criticise when a team member messes up.” And “that it is crucial to reserve rash judgement wherever possible and that to share your own hard-won wisdom generously with others so you can watch
Words by Emily Miller 22 |
them blossom is one of the best things in the world.” Needless to say, she has a very loyal and committed lawyer team who, a year into the acquisition, have already gone above and beyond targets by bringing in a turnover of over a million. Given how complex acquisitions can be, and the level of fallout of staff that often follows an acquisition, this is an impressive feat.
RESILIENCE AND ADAPTABILITY
Glynis came to law relatively late in life at the age of 40. I asked her what influenced her to choose law and business. She recalled: “My father was raised in poverty in the North East of England and had no formal education. However, he worked his way up to become a Senior Police Officer. When he retired from the police, he decided to set up a business in Abu Dhabi in the field of forensic sciences which was hugely successful for a number of years. “I went to a comprehensive in Essex and was the first girl to get into University from that school in seven years. I was driven to achieve and I think that was hardwired into me by my father. He taught me not to let anyone or anything hold you back no matter where you came from and that you can reinvent yourself, as he had done. He started in law and then became a businessman. I started with law and became a businesswoman.”
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The first time I went up on a billboard, many in the legal sector were critical of the fact I had used a real image of me
Growing up as the child of a senior police officer meant that Glynis never had a secure homelife. She and her sister were forced to uproot and move homes constantly, often starting at new schools mid-term. “We learned to make new friends quickly. It taught us resilience and adaptability.” I asked Glynis if those lessons had carried into her work as a lawyer and businesswoman. “You could be right there Emily. I connect with people swiftly and enjoy human interaction very much and I think it was the human factor that attracted me to family law. “I do genuinely have a desire to support others and in order to help people going through marital breakups, you need to understand what they need from you as a lawyer to move forwards. You need to empathise and relate. It’s way more than lawyering.” She continued, “Business is the same. To be successful in business you need to understand the human dynamic, you need to be astute about why someone would choose to use your services. What it is about the brand that resonates, how you get your unique message across multiple media platforms about your core values and how you ensure your team replicates those values. Ultimately it is about how we tick as human beings
and what attracts us or repels us.” Glynis is keen to bust the myth that a lawyer should look and sound a certain way and told me about the time she put her face on a billboard in the city, “The first time I went up on a billboard, many in the legal sector were critical of the fact I had used a real image of me, well actually they were critical that a lawyer would go on a billboard at all – which still makes me chuckle. “But I didn’t want the public to see a stock photo, a bland corporate image of what a lawyer is supposed to be like. I wanted them to see the authentic me, I wanted to send the clear message that this is who I am and this is who you get if you are divorcing. The billboard went viral and brought in a vast amount of business to Glynis Wright & Co over the years which also included her team who soon joined her on the billboard. “They magnified the brand. This is who we are. We are not bland lawyers peering over our glasses at you from behind our desks. We are real, we are in your community and we are ready to serve you now.”
Glynis carries the same ethic of service and openness into her leadership approach. I asked her how she felt when she told her team that she had sold her law firm to Nelsons. “My team know that my style of leadership is based around honesty and transparency. However, when you start negotiations to sell your business, you have to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement at a very early stage. That means you cannot tell any of your staff what is going on. That was a hugely uncomfortable experience for me. It kicked against all of my instincts. “However, my message to all those in business is firm – be prepared to let go. It is ultimately why you set up the business. If you do not have internal succession, then go to market. Look for synergy with those who are buying you and your team. Look for shared values and approaches if possible. “Most important of all is to plan early. Any exit strategy should be contemplated and hewn at least five years in advance if not more. It takes resilience and acumen to bring in the right deal for you and for your team and that takes planning. You also need to bury the fear of the unknown to be able to sign that SPA.”
TRUSTING YOUR GUT INSTINCTS
Having seen Glynis delivering many speeches at various high-profile events across the city, I asked her if she feels any fear. “Oh I definitely do!” she exclaims. On a daily basis! I can safely say that there is rarely a day that passes where I do not feel fear or anxiety – whether it’s a case I really want to get right in court for my client, or a speech I don’t want to mess up in front of 200 people, or a business decision that will impact on my team and I am unsure how they will take it, the list is endless. “Women often attribute men with levels
of confidence in business that they do not feel themselves. However, my conversations with businessmen show that they have just as much fear, but they are better at covering it up. I have emulated this wonderful acting skill. I am great at covering it up, but I still feel the fear. “My message in life is… feel the fear and do it anyway! That is absolutely the path to growth and self-empowerment. You must not let fear prevent you from doing what you need to do. Fear is the excitement of pushing yourself out there and it is to be embraced, not run away from.” Glynis has told me before that so much of overcoming fear is trusting your intuition, trusting your instinct. She told me of a method she likes to use when she has a particular problem or fear to overcome; “Before I sleep at night I think of the ‘thing’ I have any fear or uncertainty about. Then, I sleep on it. I trust my unconscious will give me the answer and work it out whilst I am sleeping. When I wake in the morning the solution is there, and I have learnt to trust whatever solution my unconscious has given me and go for it!” I asked Glynis if she had been frightened of putting herself at risk financially when she threw in her previous safe career in local government to become a lawyer. She answered, “I have never been scared of poverty. When I decided to retrain as a lawyer, I had almost no money, certainly nothing spare anyway, but my need for greater fulfilment in my career was such a driving force I wanted to take the risk. “One of my biggest thrills in life has been to take risks. Whenever I feel my wings are clipped, I will do whatever it takes to move away from that situation into something that feels right. “When I felt promotion was too slow in my local government career, I threw it all in to retrain as a lawyer which cost me a staggering £150K or so all of which had to be found from a very empty bank account. When I felt progression was too slow after I had been made a salaried partner in a local law firm, I threw in my partnership to set up my own law firm with no financial backing but a loan of £10,000 from my dad, every penny of which I repaid.” And set up she did! Glynis’ drive for personal development resulted in Glynis growing her law firm from its humble beginnings in two rooms on Bowling Green Street to one of the leading boutique family law firms in the Midlands with a sustainable yearly turnover of just under £1.2million from a team of 8 specialist lawyers. I asked her why she decided to sell when she did. She explained that at first, she was simply acting on instinct and dipping her toe in the waters of possibility with regards to a sale without necessarily having an immediate intention. She said: “I had developed the restlessness I have come to know and trust from the previous life changing decisions I have made. At first, I was simply testing the appetite in the legal market for an acquisition. What surprised me was that the
appetite was there and very eager. “That was a clear message to me that the time was right for selling the business and moving into a new phase of my life once again. Nelsons were looking to establish a family law service at their Leicester office. They knew of Glynis Wright & Co and the quality of service provided along with the amazing lawyers making up the team. The negotiations took place over many months and were by their very nature, gruelling, but we got there to mutual satisfaction. “My advice to business owners who are planning an exit strategy is to get your numbers absolutely spot on. Know them inside out and have them prepared each year by your accountant as though you are about to sell. That way you will be ready when it comes to those complex negotiations for real.”
Nelsons is the right fit for me and my team. It’s been busy, demanding, and of course there has been a settling period
NO SLOWING DOWN
When I ask whether she now intends to slow down anytime soon Glynis reflects: “Nelsons is the right fit for me and my team. It’s been busy, demanding, and of course there has been a settling period which has posed its own challenges, but I am excited about what we have already achieved as a team and the possibilities for personal growth and development that is on offer to my team. “As for myself, I am in love with all aspects of business development and am intrigued to see how my skills as a lawyer/businesswoman could be put to use in an £18.5 million pound law firm. Intellectually, I find that very stimulating and exciting. But slowing down is not really an option for me. I am nowhere near ready for that…” Glynis is proof of what can happen when you are able to align with your belief in yourself, when you strive for growth and development and trust yourself to take that leap of faith to keep pushing for your own entrepreneurial vision. For me as the journalist interviewing her, I reflected that she is also proof that you can get to great levels of success without adopting a harmful ruthlessness, that real leadership comes from being authentic and humble and never forgetting that real success lies with the team and not the individual. | 27
WE ASKED BUSINESS INFLUENCERS FROM THE EAST MIDLANDS...
IS ENTREPRENEURSHIP SOMETHING THAT CAN BE TAUGHT?
The short answer is no. Entrepreneurship can’t be taught because it’s who you are, how you think and how you behave, not what you know. But that doesn’t mean that both budding and experienced entrepreneurs can’t learn or be taught anything. Learning can be split into two different types: knowledge and skills. Almost all entrepreneurs need a grounding in marketing, sales, tax, financial management and usually a specialist area or two as well (be that computing or fine art). This knowledge can certainly be taught, but you can also learn it yourself through reading and doing online courses. And you might already have some of this knowledge from previous roles and jobs. Then there are the skills. Entrepreneurs need to be able to manage their own time, talk to people, manage cashflow, hire and fire, market their products/services, network and outsource. These skills need to be practised and refined, and you can’t just learn them in a classroom. But you don’t have to do it alone, you can join a masterclass, or work with a coach to help you refine them. Entrepreneurs are a strange breed, we are excited by things that scare others witless (new challenges, total freedom, the opportunity to do something that has never been done before). Being an entrepreneur can be a risky and lonely business, so you need to enjoy being your own boss. No one is going to tell you what to do or not to do. We are always looking for opportunities and are prepared to take risks. We understand that we might need to make 100 mistakes to get to working solution, so you need a high tolerance for failure. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted, but the rewards can be phenomenal. Enjoy!
This is a question that polarises opinion; ask any group of people for their views and the chances are you’ll be met with a range of opinions, each of which will be informed by what is understood to be entrepreneurship. So what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? Are you an entrepreneur if you are creative, with a vision for a new product? Do you need to be able to innovate and problem solve? What if you are lacking in imagination but have the business savvy and presentation skills to pitch for funding? If you struggle with business plans but are prepared to work hard and take on personal financial risk, does your inexperience with cash forecasting prevent you from being an entrepreneur? In reality, no matter how you define what it means to be an entrepreneur (and it is likely that your list of entrepreneurial qualities will be different to mine), the chances are that your definition will include a large catalogue of ‘must haves’. Consequently, it would be unrealistic for any one individual to possess all of these qualities innately, without any input from third parties or life experience. In my view, this is how we answer the question: no matter how you define entrepreneurship, that definition will be a mix of both characteristics and skills. No one is perfect and skills, by their very nature, can be taught and honed – whether by mentors, educational institutes or even through good old fashioned experience. Contrast this with the type of characteristics that we associate with entrepreneurship – drive, motivation, strong work ethic etc – such characteristics are inherent. After all, there’s no training course in the world that can unlock the passion needed to be an entrepreneur.
Managing Director Ninja HR
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WITH GRIT AND GRACE FOR DAWN EDWARDS, SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNER AND IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT OF EAST MIDLANDS CHAMBER, IT WOULD BE EASY TO ASSUME THAT HER ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY HAS BEEN TYPICAL – A FEW BUMPS IN THE ROAD, A FEW CHALLENGES HERE AND THERE, BUT NO MORE THAN THE NEXT ENTREPRENEUR. HOWEVER, AFTER MY CHAT WITH DAWN I REALISED VERY QUICKLY THERE’S MORE TO HER STORY THAT MEETS THE EYE
t the tender age of 16 Dawn Edwards understood that if she wanted to do anything in life, she’d have to break the mould and direct herself against the tide. It seemed that what she could do and who she could be was limited in the eyes of those around her. Given that she was female, aspiration should be towards being a home maker and a job to fill time until then, seemed to be the message from those around her. No ill intent was meant by the important figures in her life who delivered these pearls of wisdom, it generally was a sign of the times - but the message was clear: there was little point in
continuing studying, and ideas of a career or being self-sufficient weren’t really up for discussion. She followed the expected path, met a boyfriend with good prospects and married at 18, however it quickly became clear to her that it was not for her. At 21 with two small children, she decided that these limitations were fencing her in and discussions about returning to work to build a career were dismissed by those around her. She is good friends with her ex-husband today, but at the time of divorcing at 21 she felt there were limits put on her to be a stay-at-home mother. “It was just what my own family and my then husband’s family had always known, and the
Words by Emily Miller | 29
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What I truly love about what I do is still the discovery stage. Finding the root of the areas that a business needs to address
suggestion then was that if you had children you should stay at home and look after them, so going to work for anything other than ‘pin money’ was not an option,” she tells me. “The world around me was telling me that I couldn’t have financial independence let alone a career of my own and I knew the only way was to get divorced and start to build my own path. If my husband and I had been in a more accepting society, I think things may have been different, however he felt his role was to be the ‘breadwinner’, which meant I couldn’t be. “I made the decision to stand on my own two feet. Overnight I went from the financial security of having a husband with a career to being by myself with two small children.” But she now had the freedom to go wherever she wanted to take herself and took work for a major local company, working her way up the ranks. “It wasn’t easy, I was studying to better my skill set and actually because I love to learn, but I also thrived on the prospect of working for myself and standing on my own two feet – I had a large mortgage to pay though and two small children to consider too!” It was certainly a challenge, which is somewhat of a ‘theme’ for the drive in her life - more on that later. Rising to the challenge and even relishing in it, Dawn began a career in finance and training all whilst continuously studying and working hard for her family. “I had a childminder who I trusted for school pick-ups and often worked through the night studying to achieve more.” And achieve more she has. After working hard to climb the ladder in financial services with roles at Scottish Life and Scottish & Newcastle, there came a point where she had to trust her instinct and take a leap of faith again. “The MD at Scottish & Newcastle was, I now realise, a form of mentor. He showed faith in my abilities and supported and challenged me in equal measure. “He agreed, against company policy at the
time, to half fund my MBA which made it possible, and so when a major merger was announced I was put into a small team of other managers to make recommendations for the strategy of the company going forward. “It whet my appetite for shaping futures, whilst also meant that the role I was currently working in would no longer exist. It no longer felt like the right fit to stay in employment, and I wanted to be able to help others with their own aspirations, so I took the plunge and decided to go self-employed.” The challenge word comes up numerous times in our conversation and without challenge, for Dawn at least, unfulfillment isn’t far behind. “I really enjoy pushing myself out of my comfort zone, as soon as I feel comfortable, I feel the need to change things up again – seeking out the challenge and working to rise to it is where I thrive.” In 1996 with three months’ equivalent salary in the bank, Dawn set up Challenge Consulting. To begin with she worked too one day each week as a college lecturer – honing her craft and learning all she could about businesses. “What I truly love about what I do is still the discovery stage. Finding the root of the areas that a business needs to address, and the knowledge and skills gaps to give their leaders and managers the confidence to bring about the changes needed in a confident and co-ordinated way. Delivering training courses, coaching and networking opportunities, as well as small business consultancy, Dawn’s award-winning business taps into the skills and enjoyment she gets from being an entrepreneur. “I’m told my enthusiasm is catching, and I love nothing more than seeing others thrive. My team share that ethos and desire to make a difference, and it’s what makes us good at what we do.” For Dawn her goals and aspirations in business aren’t about owning or acquiring more, they are about fulfilling the desire for challenge, and helping others with what she and her team
can do. After asking her when slowing down might occur she reflects; “My life so far has shown me what makes me tick, and I can’t see that slowing down would make me happy. I think I will always need to be doing something to contribute as I do now, whether it be in our local community or in the world of work.” She tells me about her work with the local parish council, for example, and the fulfilment she gets from working on projects within and for the people in her community. “It’s on a smaller scale perhaps, but the feeling is still the same. Working with other local volunteers is great, we’re all different, but complement each other and work to bring about positive changes for our community. Able to use these skills in other areas of her life too, Dawn is immediate past president of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce and a Federation of Small Business local representative. Furthermore, she has also designed and delivered a series of sell out webinars entitled ‘Grit & Grace’ aimed at women in business and female entrepreneurs delivered free to attendees via funding from the D2N2 growth hub. Other networking groups are important to her she tells me, but the female entrepreneurial ones speak directly from the heart. “Self-limiting beliefs shape who we are and what we do, and can squash aspiration irrespective of gender, identity or start point, however for women there is an extra dimension around historical roles. We really do need to support one another to move beyond the accepted norms and to reach our potential.” Dawn believes that the difficult times in life are often turning points from which we emerge stronger and in the longer term can be beneficial since they help us to recognise our capability and resilience. “Sometimes the biggest hurdles are the ones which teach us the most. At Challenge we have a saying ‘Problems are merely challenges to overcome’ and it’s true, I have learnt that as an entrepreneur you will hit bumps in the road – it’s how you view and take on those challenges that counts.” The ‘grit’ in the title of her latest project perhaps born from her own level of grit and determination at the start of her career and indeed throughout it, but also ‘grace’ in the way she has progressed in her business over the years. It’s a story full of grit and resilience, pushing against the grain, but balanced with the grace to be thankful for the support she has had along the way and to pay it forward– something that truly reflects her and her entrepreneurial journey so far.
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HOW ENTREPRENEURS CAN BUILD A MORE SECURE FINANCIAL FUTURE YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD IMPROVE YOUR PERSONAL FINANCES – IS IT? IAN COOPER FROM WEALTH MANAGEMENT COMPANY BREWIN DOLPHIN EXPLAINS HOW YOUR PLANS AND GOALS ARE THE CORNERSTONES OF LONG-TERM SUCCESS
Your focus may be on making your business the best it can be, but it’s important that you don’t keep all your eggs in one basket 32 |
ritain is a nation of entrepreneurs, with hundreds of thousands of us running small businesses and following our own dreams. The number of new startups surged during the pandemic, with a recordbreaking 772,000 new businesses registered at Companies House in 2020 – a 13% increase on the previous year, according to Centre for Entrepreneurs. While running your own business can be exhilarating, it can also be all-consuming. When you’re dealing with the nitty-gritty of invoices, marketing, regulation, and technology, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of why you are building and growing your business. Ultimately, your business should improve your personal finances, yet this is an area entrepreneurs tend
to neglect. Being clear about your personal goals and having a robust financial plan in place are two of the cornerstones to long-term success as a business owner. Understanding your goals Whether you are a new or seasoned entrepreneur, relating what you’re doing back to your business and personal goals acts as an important anchor when making decisions. Your goals aren’t just a destination, but should also influence everything you do as you build and grow your business. So, ask yourself, why did you decide to set out on your own? Was it for money, freedom, fame, retirement income, a sense of satisfaction, or something else? Moreover, think about what is important to you. Is it to become the next James Dyson? To enjoy more time with your family? To build a more secure future? Your business and personal finances may be woven together more tightly than you realise. If, say, you’re growing your business to create a more financially resilient retirement, then in addition to looking for business growth opportunities, you should also be thinking about pension planning. Concentrating on your business at the expense of your personal finances could have unintended long-term consequences. An adviser is best placed to offer support on structuring your finances as an entrepreneur but, to help you get started, here are some of the questions to ask yourself.
1. WHAT IS YOUR INVESTMENT STRATEGY?
Your focus may be on making your business the best it can be, but it’s important that you don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. Investing in other assets, such as equities and cash, helps to protect your finances in case your business fails, or you sell it for less than you had hoped. ISAs can be a great way of saving and investing for your future because income and gains are tax free. However, with interest rates on cash ISAs currently very low, and inflation set to rise above 4% next year, you could find that the ‘real’ value of your money is eroded over time. In contrast, an investment (‘stocks and shares’) ISA gives your money the chance to grow over the long term. Although the stock market goes down as well as up, history shows that over periods or ten or more years, it performs more strongly than cash and above the rate of inflation.
2. ARE YOU PREPARING FOR YOUR RETIREMENT?
Some entrepreneurs see their company as their pension, but this is a risky mentality to adopt. It is easy to assume you will sell your business when you want to retire, and it will be your pension. The problem is your company may not prosper as well as you had hoped. Your business might not be worth enough to fund your retirement or, worse, you could be left with no retirement savings at all. Making contributions into a pension will help you build a more secure retirement, and it is also a very tax-efficient way to save. As the owner of your company, you can make your own tax-efficient savings into your pension, and you can also make employer contributions which are then deductible against corporation tax.
3. HOW ARE YOU MANAGING RISKS?
Business owners tend to be well-versed in insurance for their premises and stock, but often neglect insurance for what is arguably their most valuable asset – their people. As a business owner, you are your business. If you were to die or suffer an illness that meant you couldn’t work, your business could be finished. Protection against death and illness is therefore crucial for entrepreneurs. You should also consider protection for the other key people in your business. Key person protection and shareholder protection are just some of the solutions that could help your business stay afloat should the worst happen to your staff.
4. HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT YOUR EXIT?
If you’re just starting out, your exit will seem a long way off and most likely be at the bottom of your priority list. But thinking about your exit early on can reap rewards in the future. For example, if you
are hoping to leave your business to your family you might qualify for Business Relief, which may mean there is no inheritance tax to pay on your company when you die. If you want to sell your business in the future, then it pays to work out your ‘lifestyle number’. That’s how much you would need to make from a sale in order to achieve the lifestyle you want. Consider who the buyers for the business might be, whether it could be a rival or a large player in the same area of business. Think about succession planning and whether you need to find good people to carry on, or whether the business would lose a lot of value without you running it. Also, remember an exit doesn’t need to be a sale. It could even be an IPO – a listing on the stock market which gives you liquidity and access to shares – although you would need to build up a sizeable company to make this viable.
Key person protection and shareholder protection are just some of the solutions that could help your business stay afloat should the worst happen to your staff
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH EXPERTS
There is a lot more to being a successful entrepreneur than just having a good idea. Your business needs to be built on solid financial foundations so it can grow to be a success. Financial planning for entrepreneurs can be a lot more complex than for other people, as you also need to think about how to achieve both your business and personal goals, how to compensate yourself, and what your exit strategy looks like. Given what is at stake, this is often best left to the experts. A financial adviser, for example, will look at your business and personal financial situation as a whole and then develop a comprehensive financial roadmap that sets out what you want to achieve and how to get there. | 33
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ONE DECISION CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE THE STORY OF ONE BUSINESSWOMAN’S DEDICATION TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, AND THE DECISIONS SHE FACED TO LEAD HER TO WHERE SHE IS TODAY
Words by Kerry Smith
ight years ago, Eileen Richards MBE made one of her greatest life choices to date. At 42 years old and sitting as Managing Director within a national recruitment firm, Eileen was in the position that most recruiters aspire to get to. But, like in any professional career, there are times when the personal side of life intervenes. For Eileen, this was a decision made years after losing loved ones. Eileen made the huge decision to resign from her job, and ER Recruitment was born. Staying in a people led business that she loves, and having the power to make a difference to our community and charities has always been important to her, notwithstanding having a great team that love coming to work with very loyal clients. With no security but a clear goal in sight, those first few months were scary and, for Eileen,
looking back and remembering that time is what has driven her to support other emerging professionals in business. Eileen is a Co-Chair for Enterprising Women – a networking group which supports and connects women in business. It is this incredible work supporting and connecting women in business alongside other initiatives which led to Eileen to be presented with an MBE for the Promotion of Female Entrepreneurship in 2018 from Prince Charles, something she describes as one of her “biggest career accomplishment to date.” “Everything I do in business is to make a difference,” she said. “Therefore, to be recognised in one of the highest regards through an MBE was an incredible honour and an experience that will live with me for a lifetime.” Eileen’s personal decisions then grew into business decisions, including the decision to take the position as President of the East Midlands Chamber throughout 2020-2021. In what was a turbulent time for businesses worldwide, Eileen has supported the Chamber to navigate local businesses through difficult decisions of their own regarding furlough, finance and people. Her work with Generation Next is also important to her and the impact she aimed to achieve as one of her Presidential aims: “It is fundamental that young people in business are receiving guidance and the resources they require to thrive as our future leaders. I can only wish that there were groups like this when I was starting out in business.” Leaving education in the 90s, Eileen feels fortunate to have finished school during a time when career options for young women were changing. She went from office junior into management roles and self-funded her Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) qualification before falling into recruitment. Growing up with six siblings may have
To be recognised in one of the highest regards through an MBE was an incredible honour and an experience that will live with me for a lifetime
been the starting point at which her work ethic developed. “With nine of us under one roof, our lives were hectic but incredibly fun. Both of our parents worked hard to provide us with the things we needed. This is a quality that has shaped my work ethic and has influenced my attitude of appreciating the important things in life. Like most people, family means everything to me and I am blessed to have such a big family, my husband Chris and daughter Amelia in my life.” Through the use of her business and supportive ER team, Eileen supports charities selected by herself and ER Recruitment because they are “close to our hearts in one way or another.” Among them are Hope Against Cancer, Wooden Spoon and
NHS Blood & Transplant alongside many other fantastic charities within the community. As an active participant within the East Midlands business scene, it poses the question of how different the community would be if Eileen hadn’t made that big decision eight years ago to go it alone, and who would have thought at that time it would lead her to where she is today as an inspirational leader, successful managing director and President of the East Midlands Chamber, which as Eileen puts it, is a ‘testament to the underpinning support of having a wise and loyal team beside her’. “You are only one decision away from a totally different life.” | 35
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YOUR BUSINESS GROWTH JOURNEY
BOOKS TO HELP YOU REACH YOUR GOALS READING IS A GREAT WAY TO DEVELOP YOURSELF IN BUSINESS. THE ACT OF READING, OR LISTENING TO AN AUDIOBOOK, CAN INSPIRE, INFORM, EDUCATE, ENTERTAIN, AND EMBOLDEN YOU TO WORK ON SELF-IMPROVEMENT ime is often the thing that holds us back. But can we afford not to take that time out to learn? Disciplined commitment is the key. By dedicating time to reading, we allow ourselves that time to grow. The most successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffett dedicate huge amounts of their time to reading. So why should you not? You can always take your reading on the go, with audiobooks and Kindles. Here are two of my favourites. Let’s start with a book that will help you to reach your full potential: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. You’ll know that the most powerful enemy to achieving your dreams is procrastination, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. If you are struggling in this way, this book will help you to overcome these issues. As a powerful entrepreneur, you need a good balance between your work life and personal life, and this is the perfect book for it: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris. It will help you improve your time management and teach you how to use time and location to gain financial leverage by prioritising outsourcing and automation. We also ran a recent poll on LinkedIn, which revealed the following books as either essential or inspiring reads for a business owner, according to business owners themselves.
Eat That Frog!: Get More Of The Important Things Done Today by Brian Tracy
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight
Life Leverage: How to Get More Done in Less Time, Outsource Everything & Create Your Ideal Mobile Lifestyle by Rob Moore
They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomer
Get Out of Your Own Way: How to Overcome Any Obstacle in Your Life by Larry Winget The 5 Second Rule: The Surprisingly Simple Way to Live, Love, and Speak with Courage: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey Legacy by James Kerr Late Bloomers by Rich Karlgaard Principles by Ray Dalio The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers by Alex Banayan Zest: How to Squeeze the Max out of Life by Andy Cope Way of the Wolf: Straight line selling: Master the art of persuasion, influence, and success by Jordan Belfort
The Four Color Personalities For MLM: The Secret Language For Network Marketing by Tom ‘Big Al’ Schrieters The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy by Mariana Mazzucato The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller The Absolutely Critical Non-Essentials by Paddi Lund Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
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SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS SUPPORT KNOWING HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT SUPPORT IS AN ESSENTIAL SKILL FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS – YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU MIGHT NEED IT. AND WHEN YOU DO NEED IT, YOU MAY NOT HAVE THE GIFT OF TIME TO START LOOKING FOR IT. FSB DEVELOPMENT MANAGER JENNIFER THOMAS EXPLAINS WHERE TO LOOK
mall business owners make a difference to their community as soon as they start out on their own to when they take on their first employee, grow their business and ultimately their local economy. The most ambitious want to grow from being a small business to one with an international presence – and often they cannot do this alone. Everyone has different reasons for becoming an entrepreneur but it’s rarely to do with
relishing the regulation, tax returns or legal compliance that’s expected of you as a business owner. It is not always easy – no man is an island they say, and often small businesses need to look outside for the answers, or to even find out what questions they should be asking. This is where business support and advice comes in. No matter where you are on your business lifecycle or how well you’re doing, every business could benefit from support, whether that’s from | 37
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It is critical that small firms know where to look for support and advice. However, the business support landscape in the UK is undergoing changes as the use of European Structural and Investment (ESI) funding for business support ends. As part of the EU, the UK’s ESI funding allocation was worth around £2.1bn per year on average, with around half of this figure (>£1bn) earmarked for ‘enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs’, allocated via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). These programmes have then been historically delivered on a local level by local Growth Hubs, Universities and private firms who bid for the contracts. UK Government has committed to replacing ERDF, along with the European Social Fund (ESF), with a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which FSB argues needs to at least match if not exceed the amount previously allocated.
WHERE ARE WE MISSING OUT?
Research shows that business support and advice can help businesses to improve their productivity and enhance their whole approach
peers, business support organisations and membership bodies, or government funded support programmes. For this first issue of Real Entrepreneurs Magazine, I thought I’d take a look at business support from my perspective, as someone who works with business support providers, whose organisation, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), provides its own members business support and who represents those who the support is aimed at.
THE CASE FOR BUSINESS SUPPORT
Research shows that business support and advice can help businesses to improve their productivity and enhance their whole approach. Asking for advice about business growth and training has a positive impact on small business profitability. FSBs research shows that business support helps businesses to comply with regulations and taxation, find financial assistance and business contracts, grow business, take on and manage staff, improve sales and even cope emotionally. 38 |
Recent research by the Enterprise Research Council (ERC) highlighted that the business support landscape can be complex and confusing, and it’s difficult to know where to look for it. Qualifying criteria and paperwork can also be a challenge. Some grant funds require a lot of paperwork, an application process and match funding (giving you half the funding for the project, you fund the rest, sometimes only claiming once the money is spent). Some funded business support programmes are for high growth, scaleups, start-ups, or those with more than five or 10 staff. However, FSB believes that start-ups and those with the potential for high growth need to be supported equally alongside established small businesses that seek more moderate and sustainable growth and who are the steady and essential majority of our businesses. This is where FSB’s local and national lobbying can get involved, to put forward the case for microbusinesses, self-employed and sole traders, ideally using volunteers and real case studies. If you began a start-up business or were the director of a company at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, then you’ll know only too well how criteria for some support can leave you out in the cold. Business owners with no employees are far more likely to say that the business support advice they received over the pandemic did not help their business, and most likely to say they did not need any support. Microbusinesses are more likely to say they don’t have the time to look around for or take on funded business support, that they are too busy firefighting and working in the business, not on it.
FSB has been behind small businesses every step of the way during COVID-19. In 2020, we answered 147,000 calls to our legal advice line, 45,000 FSB members visited our Legal Hub and downloaded a record 280,000 legal documents or templates for things like new contracts, furlough letters, finance applications and covid regulation guidance. It’s fair to say our small business community was desperately in need of support. We also set up a Kickstart Scheme gateway to enable SMEs to get involved, and ran over a thousand online events to keep members informed. Our Government lobbying secured £133bn in much-needed financial support for small businesses and the self-employed plus £108 billion in loans/deferrals. We even put forward a full costed directors income support scheme alongside Forgotten Ltd to treasury, doing all we could to highlight the gaps. Covid forced many small businesses to seek support, and now it’s essential that they receive the right support to recover. With challenges for businesses like economic recovery, cashflow, high debt, tax, rising costs, people, materials and
FSB believes that start-ups and those with the potential for high growth need to be supported equally alongside established small businesses that seek more moderate and sustainable growth
skills shortages, and macro-economic issues that involve small businesses like levelling up and net zero, business support and advice is needed as much as ever. We need government to foster a more entrepreneurial culture, with larger firms helping smaller counterparts, and support those whose businesses fail, but who want to try again.
WHERE TO FIND IT
Don’t dismiss the opportunity to take outside funding or support, even if you feel you’ve ‘always managed alone’- this could just free you up to | 39
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spend more time on what you do best! Historically, many businesses haven’t gone much further than their accountants for business advice and support. Covid meant many businesses looked for support where they hadn’t done so before, from councils, LEPs, Growth Hubs, banks and universities as well as their own membership bodies, and government funded programmes and grants. The local Growth Hub is a good place to start to find what support is available from local and national support organisations, plus of course, ask your networks, your accountants and advisers, your suppliers and customers what they have found useful. Networking sometimes provides a group of peers with similar interests and businesses to yours, and now that networking is still virtual, it’s a great time to branch out to regional or even national groups to find the right people to help you. Good business advice often needs to be there for if or when you ever need it, and it needs to be bespoke, flexible, and easily accessible. FSBs member services far outweigh the £177 initial cost of membership, because we procure them
in bulk for all of our members, many other professional bodies may do the same. We receive around 14,000 calls per month to the solicitors on the FSBs legal adviceline, and we have recently passed one million downloads from the hundreds of legal templates from the online Legal Hub. Our Cyber helpline and insurance or Tax Investigation Protection is a good example of a service that’s there is you need it – if and when you need it. Microbusinesses seek support and advice from a variety of sources, not least their own accountant. However, many say they are unable to dedicate the time or resource away from the core business to explore external support options. In the future, making tax digital and other technologies could play an important role in targeting small businesses with the appropriate information they need at the right time in their business lifecycle. In the meantime, more needs to be done to ensure that local and national programmes and support are targeted and even ringfenced for the smallest businesses who can make the best use of it.
Take your place with thousands of small businesses
At FSB our mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. We are the UK’s largest grassroots campaigning group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and smaller business owners.
How can FSB help your business? If you’re just starting out or already run your own business, chances are you picked an industry you know and are passionate about. You’re confident that you know it well enough to be able to cope with whatever life throws at you. But what happens when you need to deal with something outside your field of expertise? The good news is, joining FSB, means having someone on your side who does have the legal, tax or HR expertise needed.
What's included in membership? Right from the outset, FSB members have access to a range of services, including: • 24/7 legal, tax and employment advice line
• Debt recovery service
• An extensive online legal hub with over 1,300 documents and templates
• Specialist hubs including our start up hub fsb.org.uk/start
• Easy access to funding
• Range of local and virtual events - free and open to all
To find out more or to join FSB today visit fsb.org.uk/join or call 0808 2020 888 *FSB Business Essentials Membership starts from £147 per annum with a £30 registration fee in the first year. This rate is applicable to businesses with no employees. Rates increase depending on your number of employees. Please see the website for full details of subscription rate bands. Registered Office: National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Limited, Sir Frank Whittle Way, Blackpool Business Park, Blackpool, FY4 2FE. Registered in England No. 1263540.
FSB 3598 Real Entrepreneurs Adverts.indd 4
Leicester events, brand and PR firm, Associate Events, has been in Scotland this month supporting the Government in its delivery of COP26. Based in Friar’s Mill Business Centre, Associate Events were engaged by DEFRA (Department of Food and Rural Affairs) as it’s official event partner to deliver exhibitions, conferences and awards celebrations. After months of planning, negotiation and work around the pandemic, Head of Sustainability for DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Mattie Yeta said, “COP26 is an event that represents a turning global change in our approach to life on our planet. DEFRA have been tasked with ensuring the environment, nature and technology are part of this conversation and collectively agree a way forward with the World. Over the past months we have been lucky and privileged to be working with our Official Events Partner, Associate Events, without whom this simply would not have been possible. Managing Director of Associate Events, Alister de Ternant said, “COP26 is a critical part of the conversation and race against climate change. We are extremely proud and fortunate to have been working with DEFRA on this global event, supporting and advising them on all the challenges that come with it.
We also secured work for nine other private companies at COP26 to provide their events, stands and exhibitions, whilst also delivering a range of content at the conference. I am exceptionally proud of our team and the impact we are making in Glasgow.” Despite the pandemic AE has continued to expand its service offering across the UK with new clients in sectors ranging from sustainable technology and property and construction to learning and development and the leisure industry. De Ternant adds, “Although the pandemic has dramatically affected the wider hospitality and events industries, our breadth and diversity of service and our methods of working in partnership with our clients, has allowed us to expand our portfolio and retain and grow our workforce.” Associate Events is a full-service agency offering a complete and professional cross-section of creative event, production, PR and brand management solutions across a wide range of industry sectors. Visit: www.associate-events.com for more.
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A WORKING-CLASS COMPANY DIRECTOR’S JOURNEY FROM WORKING THREE JOBS TO ATTENDING GLITZY AWARD CEREMONIES, LOUGHBOROUGH’S DARREN WILLOUGHBY HAS WORKED HIS WAY UP FROM THE BOTTOM TO ESTABLISH HIMSELF ON THE FINANCE MAP
My mum and dad made sacrifices to put me through university and it’s something I am forever grateful for Words by Kerry Smith
irector of commercial finance brokerage 2XL Commercial Finance, Darren Willoughby has a presence in seven locations across the UK and has been up for numerous awards since the company’s formation nigh on 15 years ago. But he confesses: “The finance arena wasn’t a world I was brought up in.” His working class parents, employed in printing and retail, worked hard to be able to afford to put him through university; one of the first in the family to do so which is reflected in his work ethic. As well as studying, he put in 30 hours a week working behind a bar, a chip shop, and in a call centre for a bank to help fund his way through his law degree at university. “I come from a humble background and have a working class mentality and work belief instilled in me,” Darren said. “Now I like to operate in the corporate space but that really wasn’t what my upbringing was about and I think my roots allow me to speak to
many business owners and understand their journey.” Taking a minute to compose himself, he continued: “My mum and dad made sacrifices to put me through university and it’s something I am forever grateful for but when I phoned my father one day and he told me he’d been made redundant, it brought home the sacrifices they were making which made me even more determined to succeed. I still remember I was on the payphone in the Union when I heard. Seeing the impact that had on my family just made me more determined for that not to happen to me.” The family couldn’t afford for Darren to go on to complete the postgraduate Law Practice course after graduating with his law degree. But, while working for the bank, he discovered he had an innate understanding of finance and a flair for client understanding and customer service, which led to an opportunity to apply for a Lloyds bank corporate graduate scheme. Out of the 12,000 who applied, only 10 were granted a place – one of them was Darren, who immediately made the move to Manchester to start the graduate scheme in business and commercial finance. Over the next seven years, he climbed the ranks and became a business development manager for Lloyds bank liaising with introducers such as IFAs, brokers, and accountants for commercial finance deals. “The motivation behind setting up 2XL was the fact that at that time, there was a lot of negative connotations surrounding brokers. Myself and my business partner Tim thought we could do it better and instil some integrity into the broker marketplace.” Darren added: “The business was born using £3,000 of savings which was actually all the money I had and was the last bonus I was given at the bank which paid for a website and a set of business cards. I had no choice but to make it work as I simply didn’t have anything else to fall back on. The hours were long and arduous and developing a network
Recovery Loan Scheme Commercial Mortgages Property Portfolio Funding Buy To Let Mortgages of introducers was the biggest challenge but we were persistent and it paid off. Once people started using us, the word spread and we continued to grow with great clients and referrers.” Business was going great for 2XL in Manchester until Darren’s dad passed away 11 years ago. “Dad was the head of the family so I wanted to move back to Leicester to support my mum and brother. It was very difficult having to start all over again in the Midlands but I also knew I had to be here to support the family so I decided to launch the East Midlands office and the rest, they say, is history.” Now, aged 41 and living in Burton on the Wolds with his six year old son Paolo, the struggles of establishing and relocating business are behind him and 2XL continues to improve and grow having six different office locations in the UK. And, despite the pandemic, the company was responsible for placing £33.65million of lending to business and property owners, an impressive sum considering the environment. Darren commented: “The pandemic hit many business owners hard including ourselves but we adapted and our reputation, loyal clients and introducers meant that we could continue supporting our clients in their time of need which in turn supported us. The business is about relationships and we are thankful for that.” So what next for 2XL and Darren? “We want to continue growing by recruiting top quality, hungry people and to make sure we continue to offer a great service to our introducers and clients. On a professional level, I want to work more ‘on the business’ rather than in it but still very much enjoy the cut and thrust of placing cases as that’s what pays the bills. On a private level, my son is what makes me get out of bed in the morning so to continue to work hard to ensure he has a good and positive start to life and to spend as much time in it and watch him grow is the motivation now as opposed to the goals I had 15 years ago.”
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JENNY CROSS CEO Cross Productions
In my opinion, much of the success of entrepreneurs is attributed to innate personality traits. But the fact is, entrepreneurship is being taught. Whether formally or informally these lessons are being taught every day. I believe the lessons come from many places, mentors, peers, books and methodologies from entrepreneurs, along with more formal programs. However, education, no matter how experiential, can never replace the real-world lessons of entrepreneurship. Over the past decade, technology has changed beyond recognition and we are seeing entrepreneurialism traits in a much younger and wider audience. From mindset to matter, there is no denying technology has helped shape the way a younger mind works which favours entrepreneurial mindsets. Over the past five years in particular , the demand for and interest in entrepreneurship education has only grown. We are seeing universities across the globe establish whole divisions, programmes and dedicated space to meet the demand of their entrepreneurial students. Entrepreneurship is an art, not a science. It is a set of traits that is perfected with time through learning and experience so yes we can teach this and yes we can stimulate situations to open up the mind and so we learn. I read an article with Forbes that discussed where entrepreneurs can go to learn and their stance highlighted the fact that many MBA programs have excellent entrepreneurship programs but on-the-ground, you can learn from mentors, competitors and even employees. Outside of work, you can acquire skills and knowledge from books and videos — even from just walking down the street. You can learn and be taught, and you can teach entrepreneurship. This is the “Growth Mentality.” A big topic and one I could discuss for hours. In summary, I believe, yes, it can be taught. However, there are certain traits that make it much more natural to some.
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THE NEXT GENERATION OF BUSINESS BRAINS THE MOST PROMISING YOUNG TALENT IN THE EAST MIDLANDS WAS CELEBRATED IN THE FIRST EVER GENERATION NEXT AWARDS IN THE SUMMER. SEVEN AWARDS WERE PRESENTED AT THE EVENT, WHICH IS PART OF EAST MIDLANDS CHAMBER’S NEW GENERATION NEXT NETWORK FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS AND BUSINESS LEADERS AGED UNDER 35 AND HELD IN CONJUNCTION WITH HEADLINE PARTNER THE UNIVERSITY OF DERBY. REAL ENTREPRENEURS SPEAKS TO TWO OF THE BIG WINNERS
eneration Next Future Leader winner (sponsored by Futures Housing Group): Kate Walker, founder of ExpHand Prosthetics in Loughborough
Tell us about your journey to Generation Next Future Leader? I was inspired to start ExpHand Prosthetics after meeting a young girl who was born with an upper limb difference. After chatting with her parents, I found there was a real need for change in children’s prosthetics as devices were hard to access and kids would grow out of them really quickly. I then spent the next year developing a 3D printable prosthetic arm that could be adjusted to grow with a child as my dissertation project. After that was a success, I formally set up the company. Since then, it has really evolved and developed with two patents pending, four interns and prototype devices currently being tested across the country.
How does it feel to be recognised as a Generation Next Future Leader? It’s great to be recognised by Generation Next as a Future Leader and a real encouragement to know others have faith in not just my company, but also in me as its founder. Particularly as a young founder, it’s common to experience imposter syndrome and feel like you don’t know enough to run your own company, so this is a fantastic confidence boost to have someone recognise my potential and validate my leadership skills.
It’s great to be recognised by Generation Next as a Future Leader
What has been the secret to the company’s success? I think the secret to ExpHand’s success has been getting involved with new opportunities whenever they’ve presented themselves and growing our network. We’ve been able to connect with a wide variety of people who have been able to offer advice or connect us to other organisations that have been able to help us as we’ve developed over the past few years. What tips would you have for any young person considering setting up their own business? Get involved and get connected. Link up with other new businesses and find out about enterprise opportunities near you. I’ve been part of incubators and business accelerators, which have allowed me to surround myself with other founders and earlystage companies. They’re great ways to gain and share knowledge with others and you get to learn from other people’s experiences. | 45
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ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR (SPONSORED BY FRASER STRETTON ESTATE AGENTS): PROJECT D CO-FOUNDERS MAX POYNTON, JACOB WATTS AND MATTHEW BOND GENERATION NEXT AWARDS WINNERS Breakthrough Award (sponsored by Nottingham University Business School): Daniel Jones, Professional Heating Solutions Excellence in Innovation & Technology Award (sponsored by GBS Apprenticeships): Tony Buck, EyeSiteView (Division of Oasis Studio) The Community Award (sponsored by Hardy Signs): Charlotte Robey Turner, Leicestershire Cares Apprentice of the Year (sponsored by Loughborough College): Coral Guard, GBS Limited Entrepreneur of the Year (sponsored by Fraser Stretton Estate Agents): Max Poynton, Jacob Watts and Matthew Bond, Project D Customer Service Award (sponsored by East Midlands Chamber): Jenna Hadfield, Banner Jones Solicitors Generation Next Future Leader Award (sponsored by the University of Derby): Kate Walker, ExpHand Prosthetics
hat’s been the company’s journey to reach this point? Jacob Watts (strategic director): I ran a gardening and landscape business before the three of us got together and decided we wanted to set up something related to food. We’d never made a doughnut previously but spent hours researching different ways to make them before we found the perfect one. The pandemic hit us really hard to begin with because we had three shops that closed. It took us about a week to work out what to do with our time and the staff we had. For a while, we were selling eggs and flour as there were shortages, before we decided to set up a delivery service and the pop-up stalls we now have. You’ve been a real hit on social media – how have you used these platforms to grow the business? Max Poynton (operations director): Our whole business is built on social media. We started with about 12,000 followers on Instagram and now have 135,000, while there’s about 100,000 people following us on Facebook. Our customers love new flavours and combinations, so combining that with new content we’ve put a lot of thought into has been key to the success of our business. We’re now trying to build a TikTok presence and recently launched a YouTube channel because the important thing is to evolve with everything else that’s happening.
Having started with the humble doughnut, it’s taken us on an incredible journey
What does the future hold for the business? Matthew Bond (creative director): Having started with the humble doughnut, it’s taken us on an incredible journey. We’re always looking to improve on that and we’re currently testing a new recipe we think people will love. Project D will also expand into protein doughnuts and potentially other products like cake truffles and doughnut ice cream cones. It’s about continuing to develop fresh new products that people might not be expecting. How did it feel to win the Generation Next Entrepreneur of the Year title? Jacob: It’s the best award I’ve personally ever won so it’s amazing. Max: The same for all of us – and off the back of this, we’ve met some great people we can work with.
Developing our region’s future leaders. Generation Next is a membership network for young business owners and employees aged between 18 and 35, facilitated by East Midlands Chamber. We are passionate about building futures by connecting like-minded professionals and helping them thrive through our programme of monthly events and on-hand support. Join our community Companies purchasing two or more memberships are eligible for a 20% discount. firstname.lastname@example.org
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A LOOK BACK: “THINK AHEAD” HE LOST IT ALL AND BUILT A NEW LIFE. A WILLS AND LEGAL SERVICES BUSINESS OWNER TELLS HIS STORY AND GIVES HIS ADVICE ON MOVING FORWARD AFTER A SERIES OF SETBACKS hat I do in these ten minutes will determine what I do in the next ten minutes.” Those are the words that Bhavin Gandhi, 38, lives by. It’s the mantra that has led him through a successful career and guided him into a life of entrepreneurship. But this motto was put to the ultimate test when Bhavin found himself in his mid-20s moving back into his parents’ home in Evington, still reeling from the loss of his beloved grandfather and in the process of finalising a divorce. Looking back at his marital split he recalls that “it was a stressful time. I was okay… but I hid myself because it’s one of the things you never want to go through in life.” The divorce ‘left him with nothing’ and limited his opportunities to spend time with his son to just the weekends. As his relationship with his partner unravelled, he found that it was other relationships that became his bedrock. Bhavin remembers: “I had family and very close friends who put their arms around me and made it less painful.” Living with his parents again brought back memories of his childhood and the challenges his parents faced when they first moved to the UK in 1971 with just £2. He recalls the kindness shown to his parents by friends who housed them and helped the young family. Even after finding work and moving into their own home, Bhavin watched his father work tirelessly in Scotland five days of the week barely seeing his children. Bhavin said: “He did what he had to do because he came here with nothing. That’s where my work ethic comes from. If you don’t like your work, do something about it or appreciate what you’ve got.” No stranger to hardships, in his early twenties, Bhavin juggled two jobs before leaving one only to be made redundant from the other a week later, a job he had hoped to fully commit to. After working his way up in other firms, he went on to become a national sales manager overseeing 400 people in his department. It was his work that helped him through the difficult personal challenges he was facing. Now,
happily married, the proud father of a baby girl and director of his own company, Paradigm Wills and Legal Services, Bhavin is still looking ahead and believes every budding entrepreneur should not stop at hurdles. He advised: “Look forward and think forward because, for every second that you dwell on what’s gone wrong, you’ve lost time in moving forward. Every ten minutes you spend thinking about what’s gone wrong, you don’t get back. Put that energy into something else. “Life is full of hurdles. If you stop at the first one, you’ve given up too quickly. If you have a dream or ambition, start doing something about it. No time is better than the present. And if you’re stuck, there’s always someone who can help. “We’ve been helped over the years by other business people. Equally, if anyone comes to us for time, help, or advice we will never say no, even if it’s someone in the same industry. Because we always remember where we came from and our roots. The moment we forget that we have lost our identity.”
Life is full of hurdles. If you stop at the first one, you’ve given up too quickly
Words by Farah Ghouri
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A JOURNEY THROUGH BUSINESS EVOLUTION FOR ONE OF LEICESTERSHIRE’S MOST RECOGNISED BRANDS OWNER AT FAMILY ROOTED LEICESTER’S PREMIER LOGISTICS, SHARES THE CHALLENGES OF BEING AT THE TOP OF A BUSINESS THAT GREW AT SPEED AND HOW WITH A RESILIENT AND ADAPTABLE MINDSET THE COMPANY HAS GONE FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH ee Christopher is an experienced, resilient and visionary entrepreneur who has adapted and grown with the challenges of that role over the years. You can from a chat with him immediately see that he’s no-nonsense, honest and open – traits which left an imprint on his 25-year-old son Macauley and took his business through tough times. It was never Macauley’s intention to work for his dad, and it wasn’t especially what Lee wanted for him – there wasn’t the pressure from him to take the reins as is common with family run firms. Lee explained: “It was never a desire for me to encourage my son to join the business. There’s a huge amount of responsibility that comes from being accountable for people’s wages and them
being able to feed their families. I didn’t want Mac to have all that responsibility. I wanted him to have less burden and pressure that comes from being a business owner that’s for sure.” As a father, Lee wants to make sure his son never felt the isolation that he felt so much over the years and wanted Macauley to know he could talk to him whenever he needed. And for when he doesn’t want to talk to his dad, he can talk to someone outside the business who not only understands but doesn’t judge. “Investing in personal development is the key to success and I am really pleased Mac is open to taking on different ways of doing business. I know I can’t stop Mac from making mistakes, that’s how we learn, but if I can save him from making some of
Words by Kerry Smith and Emily Miller | 51
My business partner had the right idea taking holidays and relaxing, whereas, I worried too much
the bigger mistakes I made, I’ll be pleased.” Macauley added: “I actually never intended to join the business; it was never part of my plan growing up particularly because I knew the realities of being a business owner.” Having witnessed his dad go through the trials and tribulations of running Premier Logistics, he shared: “I didn’t have rose tinted glasses about any of it. I’d seen dad go through steep downfalls with HMRC and entering into a commercial voluntary arrangement (CVA), for example, but I also saw his resilience and attitude to not giving up against the odds – it left an impression on me.” Reflecting on the 15 years as Director of Premier Logistics, Lee shared the realities of the lows that so many entrepreneurs can feel. “There are real peaks and troughs, it’s not always how it looks from the outside running your own business. I remember being unable to refund a £10 receipt to a member of the team when times were tough financially and it was the most soul-destroying experience I have ever faced.” Formed in 2004, Premier Logistics was renowned locally for its vibrancy as a brand and behind that its commitment to its staff as the culture of the company. Through harder times Lee recalls beating the odds and keeping his business and his employees in a secure job calling that time a “huge learning curve” in the nearly two decades in business. “It’s often through these tougher times that we find out who we are, digging deep into the hope and vision it needs to run a business. Whilst I didn’t encourage Mac to tread this path, I can’t help but feel proud to see that it was my resilience that he took from it.”
BACK TO THE START
Starting in the logistics industry as a driver in 1995, Lee soon fell into a role as an account manager at the firm. “Running the same route, you get to know your customers. You can see the frustrations and it doesn’t take a lot to begin to understand their needs.” Lee would feed back to the sales team advising on what consumers wanted. As a ‘people person’ through and through, Lee was building relationships and taking time to talk to his customers, gaining valuable knowledge. A natural problem solver Lee could spot new opportunities to improve their experience and often felt there was a smarter way to do things, therefore retaining business and further increasing client spend. Progressing to the role of account manager was a natural move. “I was classed as a challenging driver,” he laughed. “I was always the one to ask, ‘why do you do it like that…?’ I think I had four disciplinaries! I wasn’t trying to make trouble, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that things could be better, more efficient.” Falling on deaf ears, Lee became ever-more frustrated. His hands were tied when it came to making better decisions for his customers. This frustration turned to a motivator though and Lee decided to make the move to become a self-employed owner driver, giving him the freedom to make more of his own choices. But, he says, ‘the profits weren’t great’ and whilst selfemployment did give some freedoms, it didn’t give him the financial growth and stability he craved. His journey forked once again as he entered a partnership with a friend, which carried with it its own set of challenges. Together they ran a Logistics firm, had the motivation and skill set to do things their way, but it soon became apparent that the structure of the business wasn’t right for Lee. Drained and not securing the level of financial growth needed to develop the business, cracks started to show. “We had great fun, but I was the one who cared and pushed more. My business partner had the right idea taking holidays and relaxing, whereas, I worried too much, would get restless in situations and we had different mindsets. I am a perfectionist I know that, and it can hold you back from different aspects of your life.” The partnership dissolved in 2004. Waking up one day to the realisation that running a business with a partner whose values weren’t aligned just wasn’t working for him. Offering his business partner a financial way out of the business or the opportunity to run it by himself he explains, “He took the money, and I was free to take the company and implement my own vision for his business. We are still valued friends to one another.” The Premier Logistics journey continued when it took on its first unit of 800sq ft. followed by a huge upgrade to a 3.500sq ft unit meaning Lee could add additional storage services for clients. A brief venture in Ireland running Positive Logistic Solutions gained Lee a further 7,500sq ft unit before ending that branch of the company to solely
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focus on Premier Logistics. The new twist would come from a regular drive past Leicester’s Meridian Business Park. “I spotted a 28,000sq ft unit and couldn’t leave it.” Fixing himself a huge deal with the German company that owned it, Lee managed to obtain the premises during the 2009 recession with the first six months rent-free. “I had big cojones back then! We’d taken on this massive Unit at the time, and I looked around wondering how we were going to fill it, but if you believe in yourself like I did and still do, you find a solution.” Premier Logistics was growing and growing fast and soon with an £8m turnover working alongside a new sales expert, the company found itself growing by 30% year on year. The growth meant they needed to invest further in extra space from a pallet network in the neighbouring site. With more custom than ever and cash flowing into the business it was then time to think bigger metaphorically and figuratively speaking and he secured a 200,000sq ft unit.
ADAPTING TO CHANGE
Harnessing his experience and knowledge in his field Lee began searching for acquisitions outside of Premier, saving one business from insolvency. He soon bought out smaller logistic firms in Hull, Reading, Oxford, and Huddersfield all aiding the rapid growth of Premier Logistics. Now with a turnover of £26m, Premier Logistics appeared to the outside world as if it were flying, and in some ways it was. However, there was more behind the scenes as Lee had come up against ‘aggressive’ areas to do business in and faced the challenge around the contrasting culture of other cities. Established business networks in these cities
I do think on reflection I was entrepreneurial from a young age. I always knew I would run my own business were hard to break into and a lack of ownership and poor management from the previous business owners of his acquisitions meant internal company cultures showed averseness to change. Of course, for Lee these were challenging times of his own growth as an entrepreneur, a journey which started young. “I do think on reflection I was entrepreneurial from a young age. I always knew I would run my own business; I just didn’t know what it would be. Lacking knowledge in areas such as processes and forecasting meant I eventually ran out of steam and began to lose control of the business. Seeing your company spiral as fast as it had grown is one of the scariest, sickening feelings you’ll ever experience as a business owner, but I see now that it was all part of the journey.” At one point Premier Logistics was losing £50k a week and cashflow soon became an issue. Having made a £987k loss in 2017 it wasn’t long before the bank was knocking on the door. Lee said: “Luckily, the bank believed in us, at the highest point I got them to pay half a million pounds to our suppliers and to cover wages. It all came down to trust. It wasn’t a case of just sending emails, this was a relationship I’d built with the team over a period of three months. They built a massive rapport with me, and they knew what I was trying to achieve, they trusted me, and they believed in the business.” The debts were piling up and the bank | 53
This industry is relentless with the unsociable hours, KPIs, and new legislation, and the business became my second son. I put so much into it that I lived with it 24/7
eventually suggested Lee put the company into administration. But for Lee, this wasn’t an option. Hard working dedicated and honest, folding the company just didn’t feel right to him. “It wasn’t in the best interest of my suppliers or colleagues. I had spent years building relationships, contacts and networks – I knew I needed to dig deep and find another way.” It was now 2018 and having explored every avenue Lee pushed for the chance of entering a CVA. Entering the CVA the company battled back and forth to come up with a tangible plan to make payments to his suppliers. After a clash with HMRC and a £100,000 fine, Premier Logistics began paying 50p of every pound to suppliers accumulating in £3.2m. Lee and his team worked above and beyond to take back control of the finances in the months that followed and through sheer grit Lee and his team cleared the 5-year CVA devised plan in just 18 months. Lee wasn’t entirely alone here and as it becomes strikingly clear that he is a man who typically rolls his sleeves up, he knows it wasn’t his feat alone. “I remember the day I went home and told my wife I had to put the family home up as collateral and her just responding with total support. Often, it’s not until you take a step back you realise just quite how much support you have. The thing being when you are so far up the creek you have to be so focused to get the results, it’s like having blinkers on and owners tend to carry it all on their shoulders.” But Isolation is well-known to business owners. Who do you talk to when things take a turn for the worst? Being the first in his immediate family to run a business, and during a time when business coaches weren’t really a thing, Lee was on his own. And while his mum worked for him at Premier Logistics, he didn’t want to worry her with work problems. He said: “I couldn’t say to my mum ‘I owe a lot of money and I’m not proud of myself right now.” Things changed again though and through sheer grit and determination, as well as releasing branches of the company that weren’t profitable, knuckling down on expenses the company was able to gain back some control, increase sales, and reduce customer churn by adding value to the customer journey. “We were peeling back the onion and went from losing £50k a week to earning £1.5m a year in profit,” Lee shared with a sense of soul-stirring pride. The company successfully paid off the CVA 54 |
in September 2020, and on reflection the CVA “brought about a positive impact on the business as it forced me to create a solid business plan, which I’d never had before.”
The logistics industry is largely under respected and therefore needs a strong voice to speak for it. Lee is one of those voices and has begun tackling some of the issues in the industry such as the mental health of drivers while working 12-hr shifts alone and 60-hr weeks, making the industry more attractive to gain more drivers, unfair financial penalties given to drivers, Brexit, and supply issues, and more. The day before our interview, Lee spent four hours driving, collecting new trailers. This gave an inside view of the changes they face daily as well as building a great culture, one where the boss cares. He says he has huge respect for his drivers – he was stressed out himself after just a short time on the road and in part blames the selfishness of other drivers. He explained: “These 44-tonne trucks are killing machines. Yesterday really brought it home again how accidents happen. These guys are driving for 12 hours a day – this is their job. I liken the stress of it to the concept of being sat at your desk all day, eating there, taking breaks in the same seat, not getting up, and then others coming up and knocking your coffee over, messing up your paperwork, and hanging up your phone. It’s not easy, I know that first-hand.” Lee added: “The conditions on the road mean our drivers need a massive concentration span and we push our guys to get the best efficiency from the fleet. We have the best trucks for the job so all they have to do is steer on cruise control for maximum efficiency – this is where bad driving plays against us.” Lee suggests service stations and distribution centres should be geared towards making truck drivers’ lives easier. “Some service stations are brilliant, but others could do a great deal more. After a hard day’ or night at the wheel they arrive, and they’re often treated like a nuisance rather than service users. Meanwhile, distribution centres charge fines if drivers turn up late but 70% of our bookings run behind due to centres’ own inefficiencies – meaning we’re adding more Co2 to the atmosphere than needed.” His team has his backing and its why Lee considers himself to be a leader, not a manager. Respecting the people in his business in this way has seen him have their backing too, it’s a level of understanding and compassion that is needed in all workplaces – but it’s needed by the truckload here.
WHEN BUSINESS AFFECTS FAMILY
Macauley was four years old when his mum and dad split up. As can happen to many couples, the impact of running a business meant Lee’s attention was focused elsewhere and caused a rift
FATHER AND SON MACAULEY AND LEE CHRISTOPHER
between him and his wife. As they drifted apart, the company became a distraction and Lee put even more energy into it. The split meant Macauley got to spend a lot more one-to-one time with his dad, but not necessarily in the way Lee wanted. Like many business owners, the company was Lee’s baby. Juggling operations with bringing up a young son as a single parent must have been tough. He commented: “This industry is relentless with the unsociable hours, KPIs, and new legislation, and the business became my second son. I put so much into it that I lived with it 24/7 and unfortunately me and Mac’s mum split up, so the business won in one respect. I was always taking Mac to work with me when it should have been our time together, but the business craved more, and it was something I had to do.” In response, Macauley expressed his gratitude for being in that working environment with his dad, acknowledging the experience, “You won’t get anywhere by focusing on the negative, I certainly don’t see that time in that way. I’ve had the opportunity to work at lots of depots at such a young age which has taught me a lot.” Cleaning trucks for his dad since age 13, Macauley says the pair often look back and laugh at the time his dad teased him and was a hard task master when he didn’t get paid for a not-sogood truck clean one day. Macauley added: “He’s harder on me but it’s for the end goal. When I was younger, I thought he was picking on me but now I understand.” To ensure Macauley avoids some of the mistakes his dad made, the two of them decided to take on a coach for Macauley. Lee said: “He thinks too much like me and thinks he knows it all! But his business studies teacher would call me up to say he had an eye for business, and he gets those comments from customers and suppliers too, so I know he’s on the right path.” Back in Macauley’s early days working at Premier Logistics, he wasn’t immune to scrutiny from some colleagues. “I had remarks from the team in the early days, but my dad would tell me how to deal with it,” Macauley explained. “I’m
more established now having gone from truck cleaning to warehouse and learning all the way through the business. I think if you go straight into a family business in a managerial role, you don’t earn respect from people.”
A 7-10% growth per year is Lee’s newest goal over the next five years whilst developing his team through training and recruitment. He aims for Premier Logistics to be known as the best employer in the East Midlands. He’s learnt from his lessons; he listens to his employees and takes their ideas on board, he engages with his own ideas before he acts, he sticks up for his employees, and he’s trying to make the industry better for them. As he sits back in his chair having learned from the pain he’s experienced over the years, his message to fellow business owners is: “Tomorrow is another day, sleep on it – if you do sleep – do a business plan and a cashflow forecast to see if what you want is achievable. If it’s not, don’t be afraid to ask for help or even go backwards to go forwards.” | 55
Moving… and grooving Could music be the key to your creativity? As we head into the new year, you may be looking for new ways to spark your creativity and music could be the key. Local music licensing company PPL PRS talk about how music can benefit you and your small business, and get those creative juices flowing with your favourite tunes. In between the excitement of the Euros, Freedom Day and not forgetting Brexit, it is hard to believe that another year is already almost at an end. For many of us, this probably means the all-important Christmas preparations or remembering extra layers when venturing out in the colder temperatures. For others it may mean turning our attentions to the new
year and making plans for the upcoming months ahead. Whether it’s future holidays, finally getting to some of those rescheduled events or (slightly guiltily) deciding which home improvements can wait another year, it can often be refreshing to think about change and a new start, particularly at this time of the year. Some of us may be thinking about the small things like finally getting around to starting back at the gym or cutting down to just one take-away a week, while others may be thinking about bigger changes, like the ones we might make to our professional lives, or kickstarting a brand-new career. In fact, more and more people have actually used the events of recent months to their advantage to channel their talents into new, and sometimes unexpected, roles or to strive fiercely independently into starting up businesses of their own. According to Companies House, there were 340,500 new businesses registered in the UK in the first half of 2021 alone, a rise of 32% compared to 2019.1
With start-ups now more popular than ever and small businesses with 10 employees or less currently making up around 95% of the UK’s private sector companies2, there has possibly never been a better time for entrepreneurs and new business owners to embark on their new ventures. Not only are people now thinking more carefully about where they spend their money with 70% of those surveyed by YouGov saying they will continue to shop locally to some extent after lockdown3, but many people are choosing to favour businesses that are more unusual and unique from the rest. Think about your favourite restaurant for example, and how you might enjoy the unique menu and array of choices, or perhaps there is a coffee shop nestled off the beaten track of the city which you love for its one-of-a-kind blends and delicious, sweet treats!
A DV E R TO R I A L
Businesses who offer something unusual or different are often much more appealing to visitors, which could be why 42% of consumers surveyed by YouGov said that they buy from small businesses because of the unique products or services4. Not only does this give businesses more choice when it comes to their service or offerings, but it also gives them more freedom to express their individuality and creative side, particularly when it comes to the environment and overall feel of their business. From hair salons to accountancy firms or even micro-breweries, more and more start-up businesses are getting creative with their workspace and their atmosphere, especially now that there is even more emphasis on how we can all get the most out of the working environment.
This could be anything from re-thinking your desk area to help to ensure you remain comfortable and calm during admin jobs, or re-designing the layout of your floor to give your staff a designated breakout space to help them relax and recharge throughout the day. It may even be choosing to play music or listening to the radio to help spark creativity, improve focus and help you to stay in-tune with any new thoughts and ideas. A recent study released by Total Jobs found that 79% of people surveyed would benefit from listening to music at work5, whilst the BPI found that 78% of those surveyed said they felt more motivated after listening to music6. It can help to ease tension, make people feel more relaxed and help to prevent the feeling of burn- out, something that is particularly important when it comes to maintaining our levels of creativity and focus. Just as we might choose to listen to the radio as we unwind in the evenings or enjoy listening to our favorite songs as we make our way through the morning traffic, listening to music at work can help us to feel more positive and energised. It can help us feel able to achieve a deeper focus and channel our creative thoughts and new ideas. Since music has the power to bring people together, it can often help to drive collaboration and creativity ideas. It can help to make people feel more confident, improve morale, and help to make people feel more engaged and involved. So, whatever you are planning for the months ahead, music can help you make more of your mojo, stay in-tune and start out at your best!
Find out more by visiting pplprs.co.uk/release-the-rhythm Research references available at pplprs.co.uk/moving-and-grooving/
SHAPING A BRAND THE LIFE OF A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR MAY APPEAR TO BE ONE THING ON THE OUTSIDE, BUT AS EMILY MILLER FINDS OUT FROM DIRECTOR JOANNE PETERS THE CHALLENGES MAY BE TOUGH, BUT THEY ARE KEY DRIVERS FOR UNDERSTANDING HER CLIENT’S NEEDS, AFFILIATING HERSELF WITH LIKE-MINDED BUSINESSES AND SHAPING HER OWN BRAND
aving met director Joanne Peters a number of times over the last few years, the impression this writer has of her is someone who is absolutely relatable, instantly likeable and frankly totally unflappable. Of course, as a virtual administrative hub, organisation keeping it calm and organised is kind of part of the job description, but anyone who runs their own business knows that there are moments where the stress mounts and the path seems unclear. We all know though that this ‘unflappable’ look I speak of isn’t always the whole picture, but according to Jo herself this look is real, it’s just born from experience. She said: “I think it comes down to the experiences I have and cultivating enough selfbelief to know that I can handle it. I have been through enough experiences in both business and my personal life to know how to react to the pressures every businessperson has. “I wasn’t always so at ease with running my own business, my confidence has grown from dealing with high pressured situations both in my career prior to setting up my own business working for large companies and juggling personal life changes too.” These experiences though are helpful when relating to her clients, she knows that when things get highly pressured and stressful for clients, they need her company’s support to
even things out again, to take off some of that pressure. “We have grown from a virtual assistant company to a virtual administrative hub and in that time, I have grown too as a business owner, I have had to in order to meet the needs of our clients.” When I ask how she responds, “I have learnt how to thrive where my challenges are. When you have your own business, you are all departments to all people, and you have personal life in the mix too. “I have a business coach myself who guides me on these things. I recognise that in order to be all the departments to all people I need to have guidance on that. I think it’s really important for any business owner to take on guidance outside of their personal circle, to use the experiences of others to grow but also to work with businesses and networks who align with your vision for your own business to keep motivating you to push yourself and your business forward.” The growth of her company has come at a ripe time for demand. As the global pandemic shifted the emphasis to working remotely and the results for so many businesses being that working remotely could be a hugely positive and very possible thing for supporting their business. “Since our inception we have worked remotely for our clients, the pandemic shifted the general impression of what that looks like for businesses out there. We have experienced an increased demand for our services and then met that
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demand with further remote administrative services. The trust has grown in the whole process of remote services for the wider business community.” Since JSP Virtual’s part time beginnings in 2018 the company has grown from offering assistance to a small number of companies to becoming a full administrative hub with PA services, reception services, bookkeeping and being ‘Xero Certified’. The growing team has meant that the hub can offer a wide range of expertise, and crucially gives Jo support herself. “My team are so supportive, and capable of handling things, it’s a relief to know that I have a team of people to help me be part of all the departments! Really that’s been my other learning curve – to delegate and trust those that I delegate to. You just can’t be all the things to all the people all of the time.” From starting her own business in her home office to expanding to becoming the admin hub for a fast-growing number of businesses in the UK, Jo was ahead of the curve and tells me there’s no stopping her now: “We knew that remote working was the way before the pandemic hit. Our reach and services are
My team are so supportive, and capable of handling things, it’s a relief to know that I have a team of people to help me be part of all the departments growing all the time – the addition of new services has always been as a response to client need, spotting the pain points and providing a cost effective and efficient solution – that’s how I spot our next addition, by understanding what our client needs often before they do.”
WHICH PATH TO CHOOSE? HOW A MARRIED COUPLE CREATED A PROPERTY EMPIRE, BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS THEIR INTENTION TO DO SO
Words by Kerry Smith 60 |
t’s a dilemma many 20-somethings will encounter in this pivotal stage of life: which path to take? Which road to go down when it’s too soon to know where your passions truly lie? Jaz Kaur and Narinder Nijjar weren’t too sure either. The owners of Fraser Stretton, which was originally named The Lettings and Sales Business, set out on their career paths with very different destinations in mind compared to where they are today. On their separate routes in young adulthood, Jaz became a law graduate, and Narinder an IT network engineer. But Jaz’s passion for property – perhaps unknowingly to her at the time – was always “in her blood”, having worked as a teen with her parents preparing their student accommodations over the summer holidays and helping tenants to move in. For Narinder, it wasn’t until he married Jaz that he truly fell under the property spell too.
Both have a varied ensemble of qualifications and experiences; Jaz who embarked on a career in law with Shoosmiths Solicitors, and Narinder who became a sales manager with British Gas Business. Both paths led them towards each other, both picking up the skills and values along the way that would eventually guide them to their own way of running a lettings and sales agency. Working as self-employed property consultants for lettings and sales agencies previously, the foundations of Jaz and Narinder’s future company were set long before the idea manifested. “There are so many agencies out there and we’ve watched what they do and how they conduct business as we helped them with their growth journeys,” Jaz started. “But there was still so much more room for improvement.” Dealing with process management, the pair would pick up on missed leads and opportunities,
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where a company’s spend was going, and how practices could be improved. Narinder said: “The reality is though, when you’re consulting for another company, you can give them as many ideas and processes as you want, but the bottom line is that they will only do what they want to do. They would pick bits and pieces out from what we were advising them and we just kept thinking this is such a shame. So, we went about bringing our own vision to life.” Like many 20-somethings may find as they head out on their career voyages, they might not necessarily end up in the same place as they intended later in life. When The Lettings and Sales Business was set up in 2019, Jaz was 38 and Narinder 42. On how his career path weaved and wound up with him becoming a business owner, Narinder explained: “When the property crash hit in 2009, the company we were working for went bankrupt so we had to find jobs overnight. “I managed to get a job as a telephone account manager at British Gas but I was way out of my comfort zone. I hated being on the phones in a call centre but seven years later, I left as a retention manager with 50 agents and managers reporting to me. I then moved to Hastings Direct, and it was after this that myself and Jaz got into property consulting and went on to set up on our own from there.”
THE FORMATION OF FRASER STRETTON
The couple, finally answering to their calling, found their way to the next part of their journey as independent business owners. The Midlands agency they set up first took shape under the name of The Lettings Business in July 2019, which later became The Lettings and Sales Business on its first birthday in 2020. Jaz said: “Our lettings clients were asking us to take on sales too. We wanted to build on the success of the Lettings Business and do right by our existing customers first and after much thought, we put the processes in place to be able to deliver for our future sales clients.” A rebrand took place in April 2021 and Fraser Stretton was formed which allowed them to continue with both the Residential and Commercial Lettings and Sales services along with the Property Management Services. In addition to this they introduced a bespoke new build sales arm aimed at the small to mid sized developers. Since this, another off shoot company has been formed called Elite Property Professionals which is a Property and Land Sourcing Company that also oversees renovation projects
for clients.Narinder commented: “We feel we’re very visionary when it comes to the property market and we both bring different things to the table. It would be corny to say we’re the dream team but we’re very practical. Jaz gets the processes where they need to be, which I’d say 75% of our success is based on, and 25% is the idea behind it all, which is where I come in.” Answering the question they’re always asked as a husband and wife working together, Jaz continued: “Of course we bicker, we would be lying if we said we never fight. We don’t always agree on everything but that’s healthy. You can sometimes get people with very big egos and they just want everyone to tell them what they want to hear. Our staff have great ideas too and I don’t think in business you can afford to be like that. You should always be willing to listen, nobody knows everything.” The property consultants say the secret to their success is their shared goal: to provide for their children. Working this way means they have found ways to juggle childcare and methods of creating opportunities wherever possible. “Our children don’t hinder us, they drive us.” This drive has led to accomplishing an astounding repertoire of feats in less than three years. The company’s managed portfolio has grown by 200% during this time. In turn, it has matured from just two directors to a team of six, and from a home office to office premises in Stoughton, and now a desirable high street location in Allandale Road. To add to their success, Jaz and Narinder opened their first Coventry office earlier this year. They were named patrons of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce last year, and Narinder has become a mentor for Leicester Tigers players who wish to get into property after retirement from the sport. Their awards cabinet has now started to fill up having won the British Property Awards 2021 Gold Winner Estate Agent for Leicester in September and winning the Growth Business of the Year award at The Signature Awards 2021. Jaz was also a finalist at this year’s Enterprising Women Awards 2021, and both Jaz and Narinder have recently been shortlisted as finalists for the East Midlands Chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year category. They also supported other local businesses this year as headline sponsor of this year’s Niche Magazine Business Awards 2021. For the 20-somethings reading this who aren’t sure where they’re headed, or for the 40-somethings toying with the idea of setting up their own business, Jaz and Narinder hope that by telling their story, they can help to reassure and inspire.
We feel we’re very visionary when it comes to the property market and we both bring different things to the table
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL WINNERS OF THE ENTERPRISING WOMEN AWARDS 2021 WOMAN WHO FOUNDED PERSONALISED GIFT BOX SERVICE WHILE ON FURLOUGH SCOOPS TOP AWARD
THE WINNERS Business Woman of the Year (sponsored by Futures Housing Group) Natalie Bamford, Colleague Box Female Entrepreneur of the Year (sponsored by Midlands Engine Investment Fund) Rachel Hayward, Ask the Chameleon Social Commitment Award (sponsored by PPL PRS) CR Civil Engineering Small Business of the Year (sponsored by Unique Window Systems) Shed Grounds Maintenance Female Employee of the Year (sponsored by Smallman & Son) Matilda Swanson, Loates HR Consultancy Team of the Year (sponsored by She Inspires Global) RideWise Outstanding Contribution to Work in STEM (sponsored by Pick Everard) Rail Forum Midlands Apprentice of the Year (sponsored by EMA Training) Evie Smith, Reckitt Benckiser (UK)
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pprentices, entrepreneurs and stem ambassadors were among those recognised at the East Midlands Chamber’s Enterprising Women Awards. Eight women in business took home honours at the gala dinner on October 8, which was held at Nottingham Belfry Hotel & Spa in partnership with headline sponsor Futures Housing Group. The evening was topped off by the Business Woman of the Year title, which was awarded to Natalie Bamford, who co-founded personalised gift box service Colleague Box during the pandemic and has grown it into a £1m turnover business already. This was the first time the Enterprising Women Awards had been held since early March 2020, just before lockdown. It is the biggest event in the calendar for East Midlands Chamber’s Enterprising Women network, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Chamber president Eileen Richards MBE, who co-chairs the network with Jean Mountain, said: “It was wonderful to be able to celebrate the Enterprising Women Awards in person and welcome back all our members and supporters. You could physically feel the enthusiasm and emotion within the room, which demonstrates just how much these awards mean to individuals. “We have so many unbelievable women working at all levels of businesses across the East Midlands – from CEOs to managers to apprentices – and it is incredible to see them recognised.” Jean, a past president of the Chamber, added: “Our Enterprising Women network has gone from strength to strength, and this evening is always the crowning event in our calendar so it was brilliant to see everyone again. “Congratulations to all our winners and finalists, who thoroughly deserve the opportunity to have their stories told to the region. We can’t wait to be back next year and have some exciting plans to mark our 25th anniversary.” The 300 guests collectively donated £1,270 to the Chamber’s three chosen charities this year – Chesterfield Samaritans, Help the Homeless Leicester and Nottinghamshire Hospice. ITV weather presenter Emma Jesson hosted the black-tie event, with entertainment provided by Michael Bublé tribute act Mike All Bublé. Futures Housing Group chief executive Lindsey Williams, who is also the Chamber’s vice-president, added: “This month, we’ve had media reports that the gender pay gap is still not improving. That’s so disappointing and so wrong. There is also a serious leadership gap – just one third of organisations have women on their boards. “There is still such a long way to go towards true gender equality, so we are very proud to sponsor this event that puts women and their amazing achievements in the spotlight.”
WHO IS THE EAST MIDLANDS CHAMBER’S BUSINESS WOMAN OF THE YEAR? Natalie Bamford set up Colleague Box alongside husband Adam in April 2020 while on furlough as a technology company’s expedite services assistant. The couple have already grown the Derby-based personalised gift box service into a £1m turnover business and grown headcount. Corporations have identified the benefits of being able to send low-cost, high-quality gift boxes – which can be personalised or themed to feature everything from prosecco and coffee to chocolate and candles – that can be sent to staff en masse. After being announced as the Business Woman of the Year at the Enterprising Women Awards, Natalie said: “Adam and I used to work together, and we originally set up the gift boxes just to send to our team to spread a bit of happiness and positivity. It was a time when the country was in so much doom and gloom, and we wanted to send a bit of joy in the post while everyone was working from home. “We were working from our kitchen table, sent them out and it just grew into a business from there. “After launching in the April, we moved into our first warehouse in September to fulfil an order of 21,000 boxes.” Asked what she liked best about the business, she replied: “We get to spread positivity and happiness, so that initial aim of when we first started Colleague Box is what still excites us today.”
We were working from our kitchen table, sent them out and it just grew into a business from there
Words by Dan Robinson
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BEST APPS FOR BUSINESSES LOOKING TO TAKE THINGS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
FROM THE FREE TOOLS WE OFTEN OVERLOOK TO THE MORE ADVANCED APPS YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD OF YET, HERE’S HOW YOU CAN RUN YOUR BUSINESS MORE EFFICIENTLY WHILE ON THE GO aking your business to the next level means different things to different people. It could mean you want to become more efficient, increase leads, or even introduce new technology. You may be at a stage in business where time is a factor and you are looking to be more efficient. But where do you start and how can you make sure it’s cost-effective? There are hundreds of apps for mobile to help take your business to the next level. Having work apps on your phone and at your fingertips wherever you are means you are always ready to review your finances, check your workload, and gain valuable insights at any point. However, it has to be said that it’s one thing having access to the fasting growing technology and digital tools for business but unless you have a clear set vision, goal and plan they will never work to their full potential. Setting clear goals allows you to decide what exactly you need to measure. Once that is set out you will be more aware of what technology is going to help aid the growth and efficiency of your business. With that in mind, here are some apps to help in certain areas of your business.
First things first, you must find tools which benefit your established business. Staying organised is key to this. Sometimes, when your business is doing well, you can lose track of the daily necessities. Asana is perfect for this objective. It’s a project management tool and will help you stay on track with your goals, manage projects and hit your targets. It also allows team members to access shift tasks and it’s all in one convenient place. You can try the app for free with limited features or opt for the premium pricing. Get the basic Asana app for free. For extra features, prices start from £9.49
Every established business needs to be on top of their accounts, especially when it is growing even bigger. FreshBooks is perfect for this. Ranging from expense tracking, business report generations, profit and loss statements to setting up invoices for clients as well as accepting credit cards on your phone, this app has it all. It aims to help you stay on top of everything you need to keep your finances running smoothly. Freshbooks prices start from £4.40pm Gusto is a great alternative as it has wider features that help you with all onboarding
paperwork regarding your small business’ tax, benefits, and payroll. In addition, it also handles all the reporting that needs to be completed when you hire someone new to grow your team. Gusto prices start from £29.20pm
As an established business, it would be ideal to find and win more customers. Fortunately, the app SalesLoft is made specifically for this purpose. It’s specifically made to increase efficiency and effectiveness of your sales. Contact SalesLoft for individual pricing
Finally, let’s remind you of the tools you might already have, but forgot all about in the grand scheme of running a business such as Google Analytics, Google My Business, and Google Console. Google tools are free As your business is growing, it is crucial to take use of these free tools, which will help you take your business to the next level. These tools allow you the information needed to help you shape the success strategy of your business, discovering things you probably never knew about visitors on your website. So don’t sleep on this, or you will snooze! Prices correct at the time of print.
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ARE YOU AN ENTREPRENEUR? SOME SAY YOU MUST BE BORN AS AN ENTREPRENEUR; OTHERS SAY IT CAN BE LEARNED.
En·tre·pre·neur |ˌäntrəprəˈnər| Noun: entrepreneur; plural noun: entrepreneurs A person who organises and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
he definition of ‘entrepreneur’ is debated, which is why throughout this inaugural issue of Real Entrepreneurs Magazine, we asked influential business people from the East Midlands about nature Vs nurture argument of entrepreneurialism: are entrepreneurs born or raised? Can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur? Again, the answer is debated. You might even be struggling to apply the word ‘entrepreneur’ to yourself. The word is often thrown around with a rise in the number of new business owners since the pandemic. Becoming an entrepreneur, your own boss, an influencer, a change-maker has risen in popularity over the course of the last two years due to the pandemic allowing people more time to invest their efforts into something they’re truly passionate about. In 2021, there were estimated to be 5.6 million UK private sector businesses, according to the Federation of Small Business. They also found that the UK private sector business population is made up of 3.2 million sole proprietorships (individual entrepreneurship), which is 56% of the total number of private sector businesses. That’s a lot of so-called entrepreneurs. But just because you started your own
business, does that make you an entrepreneur? According to Forbes, Monster, and HubSpot, here are some of the traits that entrepreneurs demonstrate. 1. You’re always looking for an opportunity to reach new achievements. If you’re never satisfied with “good enough” and always strive to do better, this might be a sign that there is an entrepreneur inside you. Being a successful entrepreneur simply means that you must continually be on your top game and always stepping outside your comfort zone to achieve goals.
In 2021, there were estimated to be 5.6 million UK private sector businesses
2. You love to travel. You have a hunger for travelling and love adventure. If you love exploring different areas of the world, love meeting new people, you are a natural networker and explorer of new possibilities. The Wright brothers loved travelling and were relentless in their pursuit of manned flight. No one had ever flown before but with their passion, these entrepreneurs made it possible. 3.You don’t like the idea of working in a 9-5pm job. This sounds boring to you. You can’t stop yourself picking up the phone out of working hours, you’re inspired by things you come across when you’re
Words by Levitha Biji | 65
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Again, the answer is debated. You might even be struggling to apply the word ‘entrepreneur’ to yourself
socialising or holidaying that you can implement into your work, and you spend much of your spare time doing productive things like writing a book or building a website – anything that can eventually make a profit. 4. You don’t like being told what to do, you’re more of a leader. If you don’t like working for someone else and prefer spending your time on starting your own business, you can be a great entrepreneur. You may have been called ‘bossy’ growing up, or more politely ‘assertive’ but you know what it takes to get stuff done. 5. You are relentless. You’ve always known that there is something you want to do to contribute to the world and make it a better place. A vision that hasn’t been spoken about before, something fresh, just like Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb after failing 10 again and again. A great entrepreneur is singleminded and filled with grit. They don’t have an “off switch” and always keep trying 6. The future excites you. Thinking about the future and what you can do to reach goals motivates you. You always think ahead into the future and bring it to the present. Seeing the bigger picture and performing accordingly excites you. 7. You know what people really want. You understand what consumers want and what they really need. Most importantly, you can
recognise this and respond to it in a proactive manner. As well, you want others to strive as much as you. Offering the help others need makes you feel empowered and fulfils you. 8. You are willing to take risks. Not every step can be calculated in this career. Failure is one step closer to success. Henry Ford had two famous and very public failures before he found success. Sometimes you must take the risk and go with it. 9. You love to grow. If you are driven by growth, you love making progress in your life and love growing as a person. Seeing the numbers go up gives you a special kind of joy and helping others climb the ladder gives you even more joy.
By shining a light on those who set up breakthrough businesses, saw dramatic growth, or even pivoted their business to adapt in the everchanging face of our economy, we are here to share their stories enabling others to learn and, of course, grow. It’s through the Real Entrepreneur Awards that we will identify best practice, promote enterprise, and encourage entrepreneurship across the board.
SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS. TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. AWARDS NIGHT
28th April 2022 Register your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org realentrepreneurs.co.uk
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