What made you want to start your own business?
The catalyst for me was being sacked from my first ever job at the age of 17 and this event completely changed me, as overnight I became ambitious. It was as if a switch flicked inside of me, and my personality completely changed for the better.
From then on I worked my way up through from shop floor to upper management, with my final position before starting GMA with my business parter Chrissie Porter, being the European Managing Director at a large print business. Even though I felt I had succeeded on my career, I became frustrated that major decisions had to be authorised by the shareholders, and I wasn’t really in charge when it came to the crunch.
It was this final frustration that made me start my own business, and my proudest achievement overall is that we keep the decision-making quick, and move things efficiently as a team, which I love.
How do you make sure that a business will be a success from the beginning?
Starting a business with success in mind is a strong start, however, you can’t predict what will happen in the future until you get into the reality of what the business is and how it changes with many different internal and external forces.
I met the CEO of e-Harmony when I was one of the advisors to Lord Sugar and his aides at the Apprentice Final in 2015. He told me that he had to give away free membership of the site for 2 years to gain critical mass. Imagine that? 2 years with no earnings. They are now the market leaders in the dating field.
The plans for GMA were completely different to how they are now, which shows you that anything can happen when you run your own business. I think success is all about the journey, as you start to be successful when you realise what’s going well and learning from your mistakes.
Having a great team is the main reason that your business will succeed in the long run. When you grow, you naturally need to step away from the day to day elements of the business and trust your team. This ‘handover’ is vital to going to the next level.
Another big aspect you have to think about is that you shouldn’t be afraid to lead. Success doesn’t come from the start – success means being able to plan, do and review. You should make sure you set a business plan which you continuously improve on!
What are the biggest risks when starting up a business?
The biggest risk you take when you start a business is losing money. Invoices are worthless if that money isn’t in the bank! You have to ensure the risks you take aren’t too big and that you’re not putting yourself under pressure with money, as this is what will either make or break your business.
Lack of cash is a threat throughout business life. You have to get hard with this element. Customers who don’t pay have to be dealt with firmly, and you need to hold onto cash as long as possible in the early years or in periods of hyper-growth.
What are the basic survival skills you need to run a business?
Easy…passion is number 1. You have to have passion for what you do, which is more of an attribute than a skill set. Number 2 is determination. Strong determination you have will see you through the tough times, because when you’re running a business you sometimes face low points. Sometimes you have to dig deep and also have the passion as the icing on the cake. If you haven’t got that you will crumble and your business is likely to as well. I am a huge believer in adversity only makes you stronger.
Another survival skill is being organised, making sure you plan things properly and that you’re fully detailed. Failing to plan is planning to fail!
Finally – bravery. I came from a print background rather than a marketing one and it was bravery that got me into marketing. Stepping outside your comfort zone is a prerequisite. You often have to make scary decisions, but most of them turn out well…as long as you have passion and determination to see them through 🙂
How much commitment does it require to own a business?
There is so much commitment needed when you run a business, more than anyone can imagine! You have to make personal sacrifices too, and getting through those can be difficult.
When I wake up in the morning my business is the first thing I think about, and before I go to bed I’m usually finishing off an email, which means that there is no end or beginning to work in my waking hours! I could be leaving my office at 3 in the afternoon to go and pick the kids up from school, and then start working from home again until late.
If you take a business on, it can be like having a baby. You can’t take it on and have it for a few days, it’s with you constantly.
Running a business is like a rollercoaster as when you’re self-employed there are many highs and many lows, but it is so worth it!