From Zero to £10M revenue in 7 years – how ?


I have been asked this question on more than one occasion. How did you do it? This blog is based on my own experience with Winning Pitch. Well this is my advice to anyone who wants to set up in business and build something of significance:

Have the ambition to change the industry or sector you operate in. A business set up because of a desire to change the status quo creates energy more powerful than you can imagine. The sense of purpose creates clarity and momentum. Be clear on your crusade.

Think big from day one. You need to have a massive dream and more importantly you must have the courage to believe you can achieve what you set out to accomplish. Make your intentions clear and write them down – courage and an ability to overcome fear will drive action and build momentum.

Develop a unique way of doing what you do. Make the delivery of your product or service stand out from the crowd; make clear unique aspects of your proposition. This delivers a memorable experience, one that others will acknowledge and communicate. Think – IP, brands and knowledge, these drive value.

If you are the founder, build a strong personal profile, however as your company grows provide a platform for other key members of staff to develop their own brand. No one on their own can build a great business – team is vital.

High profile customers provide a reference point for others to buy from you. Evidencing the impact you have delivered for existing clients will help to win more.

Hang out with like-minded partners and build alliances with others who add value to your proposition. Collaboration is an essential ingredient to success; always work on a win-win basis

Have a voice in the marketplace and become a thought leader in your industry. Have a view, have a voice and let the world know what you are passionate about, this will resonate with those you need to influence.

Have a mentor or coach – someone who you respect. This is a person(s) you can pick up the phone to and ask – what do you think about……..? Can I ask your advice on? They will give you an honest view.

Chose your advisers very carefully, trusted advisers are few and far between. Many of them are fee chasers and I have had so much bad advice from so called professional advisers. (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, YOU COST ME, MY COLLEAGUES AND FAMILY LOADS OF MONEY!)

Use controlled experiments as a way of testing new ideas, products and services. If they fail, fail fast and move on, but do this in such a way that you don’t empty the till.

Manage your business as a shopkeeper; keep a keen eye on the cash. Be clear on cash coming in and cash going out. Never, ever lose sight of cash. Profit does not equal cash!

Immerse yourself in the “Customers World”- second-guess what they are looking for. The customer is not always right; they usually are not clear about what they want. You have to be one step ahead.

Be part of a community of other entrepreneurs – you will learn so much, far more than blogs like this one, books or training courses.

My thoughts only !

Enterprise Rehearsal


Why is it a large proportion of the workforce want to work for themselves but only a few actually go for it? My view is that fear holds so many back – the fear of not being able to pay the mortgage, have holidays or enjoy nights out at weekends. The key challenge to overcome is getting yourself conditioned to recognising there is no pay cheque going to land in your account at the end of the month. This can often be the biggest barrier to going forward.

Well there are other ways of thinking about being your own boss and indeed rehearsing before the big performance. Speaking from experience I have found that an interest or hobby can be turned into a small business. I remember some twenty odd year ago when taking the plunge was just not an option but it was a burning desire. A young family, and mortgage meant that rehearsal was the only way, and gosh did it pay dividends. Turning a passion for contemporary art into a small business taught me loads about suppliers, customers, doing the books, VAT returns, dealing with awkward people – the list goes on.

These experiences can help so much in the conditioning process and with very little outlay can unleash a profitable stream of revenue. There are opportunities that so many of us just overlook, here are some ways you can rehearse:

– Buying and selling on eBay

– Car boot sales

– Take a market stall at weekends

– Take a stall at an art/antiques fair

– Buy a small property do it up and sell it

– Explore the buy to let market

– Look for innovative products overseas, find an outlet in the UK

– Turn your hobby into a weekend service e.g photography

I feel that some of these tiny nudges can get us thinking more entrepreneurially. The markets in the UK are desperately trying to encourage more traders and we should not over look them as the training ground for the next generation of entrepreneurs – maybe feels a bit Del Boy and Rodney but from humble beginnings big things can result.

After all you only need to look at the Sunday Times Rich list and I know for a fact a number of them built their fortune starting from a market stall.

Controlled lunacy – a recipe for growth


Are you MAD? This is often the reaction friends and family give when someone says they are off to set up their own business. Giving up the security of a well paid job and entering the unknown is often seen as a bonkers thing to do. Well if this is madness we need more lunatics. Very often seeing things that others cant is the first sign of going off the rails, however it’s also a trait of entrepreneurs who have a vision or calling to go it alone. A burning idea, new product or a solution they have found to a commercial problem. So often entrepreneurs see things that others cant!

One word of caution, this lunacy must be controlled and a safety net provided with solid advice, sound coaching to ensure all the cogs of finance, compliance, systems and processes are in place. So important, otherwise the wheels come off. Control that madness.



Fear is a major barrier faced by individuals thinking about setting up their own business, unless it can be overcome, progressing an entrepreneurial dream will be difficult.  Dipping into savings, re mortgaging the family home, personal guarantees, going without holidays or giving up a social life is a step too far for many. A foray into the unknown can be a very daunting experience, this means anyone taking the plunge should think very carefully about what the journey of self employment holds. Expect the unexpected is a phrase that so many business owners will relate to. Growing a company inevitably becomes a rollercoaster ride with no stop off point, you are swept along with the momentum that builds when, staff, customers, suppliers and the day-to-day running all demand your attention. Be prepared and aim to minimize all the risks associated with going it alone.

Given the current economic challenges faced throughout the world, entrepreneurship has now become a hot topic for debate. My advice to anyone going down this path is prepare yourself emotionally, mentally and commercially. Head, heart and wallet must be aligned. Once you get this, the rewards can be massive both in financial terms and from a sense of personal fulfillment.

My research shows that successful businesses don’t happen over night, they are the exception rather than the norm. The reality is there is no fast track to success, normally it takes over 10 years to create a properly functioning company. The journey involves navigating the forks in the road, where taking the wrong turning could have potentially disastrous consequences. Building a successful company is a bit like trying to get to heaven, you have to go through purgatory before you get there! It almost seems mandatory to have experienced two major setbacks before you get to the desired destination.

Whilst fear is a very sound reason for not moving forward with an idea, the reality is that focusing too much on this negative emotion and its associated outputs will hinder the ability to progress. Having said that a bit of fear can be also a powerful antidote to complacency. It’s all about getting the balance right.

Is the fire alarm going off?


So many of us hear the fire alarm going off but how many of us do something about it? The research has shown that when a fire alarm starts people do not react immediately, they hang around talking and working out what is going on. Most individuals wait for more specific clues – smoke or the smell of burning.

Well I liken this to life and business when the alarm goes off do something about it before it’s too late. How often do we think nothing is the matter, but the bell is getting louder and louder. This could include:

1. The employee not performing after six months of support, training and assistance – we think it will get better but it wont – we just hope it will, don’t kid yourself

2. Business costs are running out of control…keep on and you will run out of cash. Too late then.

3. Strategic partnerships that are resulting in they win, you lose. You think it can get better but guess what? it wont!

Sometimes we don’t want to believe that crap is happening and we think all will be OK. Many of us avoid having difficult conversations or meeting reality head on and taking action.  As human beings we ignore the fire alarm, and put our head in the sand. But still we are surprised when the inevitable happens.

Be prepared – Sometimes it can be crap


I am really encouraged by the new Coalition Governments attitude and approach to enterprise and entrepreneurship. Start up’s are the future, they will create the jobs. But one word of advice is that being your own boss can be demanding and at times take its toll on you personally and potentially your family and dependants – it’s stressful. Most people who know me will appreciate that I am a passionate and proactive ambassador for entrepreneurs who go out there and take a risk. So much of our recovery as an economy depends on individuals with an idea who can take it forward with gusto – generate revenue, profit and create not only a wage for themselves but also for others. It really is not easy.

My advice to anyone who is thinking about, going it alone, is get your HEAD IN GEAR. As long as you are prepared then you will be OK. Being your own boss is great when you are riding the wave of success but the lows can be at best crap – it’s a bit like a rollercoaster. As long as you know this you can be mentally prepared for the journey. The high’s include:

– The feeling of euphoria when you win the new contract

– The pride in creating new jobs and seeing individuals develop

– Recognition from your peers about the difference your business is making

The lows often involve a sense of just wanting to escape to somewhere well out-of-the-way, particularly when you are:

– Worrying about whether you have the cash to pay the wages

– Waiting to hear about a new contract that has cost you a fortune to bid for

– Dealing with people who are making your life really difficult, sometimes people look to you for the    answers but you really don’t have them.

So my advice is get your head sorted, expect the unexpected, accept its going to be full of surprises, ups and downs. When you realise this it’s a great journey. Always maintain the faith in what you set out to do, accept the brutal facts and just keep pushing and pushing till you get to the destination.  Its going to be crap at time but that’s just temporary the highs massively shadow the lows!

Be clear on your personal intentions


Goal setting has been around for years and there is nothing new about the concept. However, I believe that the term is too easily used and indeed its over used. What I mean by this is, its easy to say that you have a goal but how real is it? How emotionally and spiritually are you connected to it? Is it more of a wish? I am desperately trying to get away from the term because personally I think it’s a bit of a tired phrase. Many individuals say they have a goal, however they remain to convince me that its firstly, really what they want and secondly they are behind its achievement with energy, drive and focused activity.

A more powerful way of thinking about your goals is to define your personal intentions. For me this captures a more potent and motivating way of thinking about what exactly it is you want. The road map to achievement must flow from your personal intentions – it should guide your actions and prioritise the projects that will get you there – wherever there maybe.

When personal intentions have total clarity a set of other invisible, yet highly powerful forces flow – for example:


1. Purpose – you know exactly why you  are doing the things you do when your intentions are clear

2. Mental Toughness – you will keep going because what you want is has a meaning

3. Passion – achieving what you want gets you out of bed with gusto, no alarm clock needed

Ask yourself are the targets you set yourself as part of your New Year’s resolution goals or deep-rooted personal intentions – have you delivered on them or have you given up? Monitor your progress against them


Stepping out into the unknown


My research over the last few years has focused on the whole arena of success and as mentioned in other blogs so many people I know want more from life. However they just cant define clearly what more looks like. This desire for achievement and fulfillment but not knowing what it is, can be motivationally debilitating – even after long periods of reflection our goals just seem so fuzzy that personal clarity moves even further away.

I think we live our life in chapters and each phase of our existence is characterised by three key mlilestones:

1. Arrive – new horizons

2. Stay – enjoy the time

3. Move on  – time to try something new

But where is it we want to arrive at or move on to? Sometimes we just have to step out into the unknown and see what new opportunities present themselves, who we meet, the places we visit and the experiences we feel. It is this stepping into the unknown that can be quite a scary period. For those who have lost their jobs or businesses that have failed to realise their potential – there are times when we just have to believe that the next big opportunity is around the corner – but believe it with conviction. This conditions our mind to tune into the next stage of our life, one that provides us with a sense of purpose.

Don’t spend the rest of your life trying to find what you are looking for. A vision and strategy are very important but sometimes you just have to step into the dark – using the first draft of the plan as your guide. Its like a voyage of discovery – you know that there is something out there, not sure what it is but without taking action and exploring you will never find it. Would Christopher Columbus have brought the Americas into the forefront of Western attention without leaving the port – does a Paratrooper get his wings without jumping eight times (day and night) out of an aeroplane? Would Amy Johnson have made the contribution to aviation without taxing her plane on to the runway? Woven throughout the fabric of each of these remarkable people is – bravery and courage, and pushing our ambitions one step beyond.

When we want to achieve something or we are looking to move to the next chapter of our life – just go for it, explore, discover, and keep an open mind. Stepping out into the dark means that sometimes you have give it a whirl because fortune often favours the brave. Time is ticking away so give it a go – leave the port or depart from the airfield.


The lure of the red Ferrari


So often all we see from successful entrepreneurs is the red Ferrari or some other fancy thing they own – an Island in the Caribbean or private jet. Whilst this can be an extremely motivating set of visuals for the aspiring entrepreneur, I don’t think these material items should be driver for going it alone, they should be the outcome. As with all things it’s about balance.

I feel the focus for any new business or wannabe entrepreneur should be launching a differentiated product or great service that delivers customer delighted or solves a problem in the market place. The reason I use the flash car analogy is because of a young lad I was talking to the other week, he’s taking a rather innovative entrepreneurship qualification – I asked him, “so what’s the business idea?” – answer, I don’t know just want a red Ferrari. I certainly hope the course is teaching him the importance of having something to sell! I also pondered on the issue of – do these business/enterprise courses teach what really happens when you are running a company? – Dealing with awkward staff, trying to pull money in to pay the VAT bill, preparing for a large tender or quotation till the early hours, telling someone there is no bonus money in the pot – the reality of running a business I fail to find in any text book. The best advice and teaching comes from people who have been there and done it!

What we so often don’t see from those who can afford the well-earned luxuries of life is – what happened when they where training in the gym – often battered and bruised from the daily hassle that comes with keeping the lights on. Having a commercially viable product or service forms an important part of the equation the other part relates to endurance, mental toughness, going the extra mile, faith, coping with loneliness, self belief – I hope these things get on the curriculum as all too often you need both commercial and mental strength. Without these things the red Ferrari might just remain a dream!

Great quote – “there is no traffic jam on the extra mile” – sometimes being in business can be painful but that’s just life – the great bits are brilliant!


Setting up your own business


Over the last few months I have been asking lots of my friends and contacts why they set up their own business. Its amazing the wide-ranging motivators and drivers that led them to make the decision to go it alone. In some instances there was no other option – redundancy, for example often forces individuals to go it alone because of the shear need to just keep food on the table. I am sure the economic downturn will be the catalyst for the next generation of entrepreneurial superstars who have been forced to do their own thing.

Having said all of this, there is a large group of individuals that leave well paid jobs and the security of a monthly salary to pursue their passion. The people I have spoken used phrases like – I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny….I wanted to get it out of my system….It’s the only way I can create true wealth…I did not like working for someone who I was better than….Freedom to make my own decisions…I can do things better. The reality is the people who go and work for themselves start to think about it a long time before they make the leap, it can be as long as five years and in some cases more. However, I believe that individuals get to a tipping point (someone described it as an elastic band that snaps)  – once it happens there is no turning back. It’s almost like you disconnect from the old world of employment into this new landscape – once your mind is in this place there is no turning back. It feels weird, almost uncomfortable to a point, yet exciting – it’s now down to you to put cash in the till.

Self employment is a wonderful thing when things are going to plan – when it goes off course, it can be a lonely place to be – but that’s part of the challenge. Going forward the UK needs more enterprising people to create jobs for others – whatever happens in this new environment of LEPs and all that other confusing nonsense that is going on at the moment – we must make sure that the people advising the next generation of self-employed people have been there and done it for themselves – you can only advise when you have done it yourself. Totally empathy with the start-up entrepreneur is vital!