Posts Tagged ‘success’

Ten key tips for aspiring entrepreneurs

October 8, 2011

My new book, “From Vision to Exit- The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building and Selling a Business” is available in all good bookshops and online now.

Here are my ten key tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:

1. Work on your vision and strategy. If you can’t be passionate, choose another path.
2. Create a clear roadmap or plan. Work out what you will do and how. Don’t set off in the wrong direction.
3. Consider your resource requirements. What will you need in terms of infrastructure, people and finance? Don’t run out of cash!
4. Develop your purpose and values. Why do you exist? What difference will you make and to who?
5. Never underestimate the power of the status quo. Inertia means that it can take far longer (and much more cash) to achieve your vision and goals.
6. Consider meaning as well as money. Work towards a “triple bottom line”, valuing people, planet & profit.
7. Protect your valuable IP. Don’t let someone else take advantage of your innovation, investment and hard work.
8. Think international. Maximise cross-border trading opportunities and take your place in the global business village.
9. Embrace change and be open, flexible and transparent in your dealings with stakeholders- including customers, suppliers, staff and investors.
10. Work hard, get up early and never ever give up!

“Guy Rigby’s book is a lip-smacking smorgasbord upon which to feast. Easily digestible, never dry, stuffed with sage anecdotes and wit, it can be devoured it in one full fat sitting, or you can pick and mix from the menu, depending on your appetite. The tasty top tips at the end of each chapter should become the staple diet of anyone wanting to run a healthy, growing business. It deserves a Michelin star. Bravo.”
Tristram Mayhew, Founder and Chief Gorilla, Go Ape!

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Money for nothing in the Big Society

April 9, 2011

“That ain’t working, that’s the way you do it. Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free” . So said Dire Straits on their 1985 album, Brothers in Arms.

I attended an event this week, and these iconic lyrics sprang to mind when the conversation turned to the increasingly rare practice of having to actually pay for things.

The concept of getting things for free is now well established. It has moved from gifts and hospitality through sales promotion to the production and distribution of free products. If you work in London, you can easily be weighed down by free yoghurt, special offers and free newspapers before you even get to work. When you get there you can carry out some free internet search or update your mates on your free Facebook. All paid for by, er, someone else.

There are signs that this concept of ‘money for nothing’ is becoming ingrained. We have become so used to being given things (and not least by government) that we have developed ‘Entitlement Syndrome’, a world in which we expect to be given just about everything we need.

At the event I attended (for entrepreneurs, by the way) there was a clear indication that this thinking is spreading to the world of ‘paid for’ services- a worrying feature since the service sector dominates UK GDP and employs the vast majority of us.

At the end of the day, there are a number of home truths. Perhaps the two most important are that governments (aka taxpayers) and businesses can’t survive by giving it all away for free and the second is that, in life, you generally end up getting what you pay (and strive) for. If we can bring these two concepts together to stimulate a stronger work ethic, we might beat ‘Entitlement Syndrome’ and be well on the road to a happier and more prosperous ‘Big Society.’

Who Cares Wins

March 3, 2011

One of my long held beliefs is that ‘who cares wins’ and I was pleased to be reminded recently that great businesses are built around meaning, not money. Alex Cheatle is the founding entrepreneur and CEO of Ten Group, a highly successful and fast growing lifestyle management business which he has painstakingly built around his thesis- that meaning is more powerful than money and creates value more efficiently. In our recent meeting, he pointed out that:

• Money is divisive, whereas meaning is unifying
• Meaning creates pleasure through shared endeavour, whilst money creates honour amongst thieves
• Money creates dollar thin commitment, but meaning creates loyalty and dedication
• Meaning is cost-effective; money is expensive
• Meaning creates genuine value and business strength

Businesses that build this kind of culture find it easier to recruit and retain their staff and build better value for their employees and investors. It’s a winning argument!

The best place to start a business

December 11, 2010

What’s the best place in the world to start a business? According to surveys reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, it’s Denmark. This and a host of other interesting ‘facts’ about entrepreneurship around the world were published in their November 15th edition.

Based on the information provided, it seems that the UK has some way to go to become the most entrepreneur friendly country. In the overall rankings, we come 14th, behind the USA (3rd), Ireland (6th), Iceland (9th) and Australia (11th). (Source- US Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy)

In terms of Red Tape, we appear to do rather better, coming 5th out of 183 in a ranking of how easy it is to start a business based on the procedures, time, costs and capital requirements that governments impose. Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the US are ahead of us with a number of African countries populating the bottom of the table. (Source- “Doing Business 2010,” the World Bank)

In gender terms, 7.4% of men and 3.6% of women in the UK are involved in an early-stage business, compared with 12% and 7.3% in the US and an incredible 19.3% and 13.4% in China. (Source- “2007 Women and Entrepreneurship Report,” Global Entrepreneurship Monitor)

So what’s the message? In terms of a school report, it looks like 7/10- could do better!

Ode to an Emergency Budget

June 23, 2010

George Osborne spoke, he set the scene….

The nation is in debt.

We’re broke and he will fix it,

Clearly no need to fret!

A billion here, a billion there,

We’ll find the money now.

The poorest will be better off,

But nobody’s sure quite how.

For entrepreneurs, it’s not too bad,

That capital gains tax charge.

£5m they say, at 10%

What’s left may still be large!

For public sector workers,

The cuts will run quite deep.

Let’s hope there’s no strike action,

No promises to keep.

With VAT @ 20 per cent,

Luxury spending may wither.

So if you’re thinking of splashing out,

Whatever you do, don’t dither!

They say you’re still young at 66,

The new retirement age.

But it seems too late to me, you know,

To leave the employment stage.

So some have won and some have lost,

A very taxing day.

There’s only one question that now remains,

Will Capello stay?

Ten key hooks for investors in early stage businesses

March 19, 2010

Family and friends are a great source of funding for start ups and early stage businesses, but raising money from external investors or business angels is challenging.

Here are ten of the key issues that investors will be considering when they meet you or read your business plan.

1. First impressions

First impressions are critical. Most investors will decide not to proceed within the first 30 seconds of any discussion, or within a minute or two of picking up your business plan. Think about your approach, test in on your friends and practise it to perfection. Don’t fall at the first fence.

2. Demonstrable need

Where is the pain and what exactly is the need for your particular product or service? Most businesses offer ‘me too’ opportunities which are not obviously exciting to an investor. Make sure it’s clear how and why yours is different. Is it better, faster, cheaper or is there some other reason why you will succeed when many others fail?

3. Existing Revenues

Raising money for a business with pre-existing revenues is far easier as demand for your product or service has already been partially proven. The fact that you have already established the beginnings of a customer base will carry huge weight in any discussions.

4. Strategy

You may have a great idea, and you may have existing revenues, but what is the future for your business? Do you have a vision? If so, is it realistic or just “pie in the sky”? We have all seen those hockey stick shaped graphs showing an embarrassment of riches only a year or two down the track. Don’t be tempted to over-promise and under-deliver. It’s normally transparent from the start.

 5. Business plan

The credibility of your proposal will be reflected in the quality of your business plan. A poorly presented, badly researched plan will kill your proposal before it has a chance. An idea may be good enough to gain the backing of family and friends, but it won’t cut the mustard with any serious investors.  

 6. Business model

Your business model will determine how and where you make your profits and how you will build long term value in your business. A model that requires huge revenues to deliver small profits is inherently unattractive, whereas a business in a niche market with high barriers to entry will be of interest to potential investors.

7. You

Are you credible in the eyes of the investor? What is your track record and what experience do you have of your business? Most successful entrepreneurs “stick to the knitting”, creating businesses based on their passion (ie something they know and understand), personal knowledge or experience. If this is limited, get the support of a mentor or partner. This will demonstrate maturity in the eyes of your investor.

8. Financials

Businesses go bust because they run out of cash, so be sure to demonstrate a good understanding of your financials. Margins and overheads will be part of the discussion, as well as working capital and cash flow. Remember that small businesses are normally cash constrained and prone to overtrading, so the investor will need to understand how you will manage this.

9. Pricing

Don’t be tempted to overvalue your business. We are a long way from the heady dotcom days when investors were persuaded to part with large amounts of cash based on little more than an idea. Nothing will put an investor off more quickly than an excessive or unsupportable valuation. The more you need, the more you will have to give away, so be realistic, cut your cloth and take in as little external funding as possible.

10. Exit

It’s very easy for an investor to put money into your business, but how will he get it back? A vague idea that you would like to buy his shares back at some future date is unlikely to be attractive. Taking in external funds means that you need to “begin at the end” in terms of thinking about exit, having a clear strategy and plan. This may change as the business grows, but you need that stake in the ground.

These are just some of the issues an investor will be thinking about, often subconsciously, in the short time that he focuses on your business. If you’ve thought it all out beforehand and you can tick all the boxes, you will have a strong chance of success.

Good luck!

A nation of entrepreneurs

February 21, 2010

Napoleon said we were a nation of shopkeepers, unfit for war against France, but are we in fact emerging as a nation of entrepreneurs, ready to take on the world?

At a recent breakfast held by the Non-Executive Directors Association David “Two Brains” Willetts, the Conservative MP for Havant and Shadow Secretary of State for Universities and Skills, said that fewer younger people were getting jobs, whilst older people were being retained by their employers for longer. At the younger end, he highlighted a lack of joined up thinking in the education system, an obsession with league tables and a lack of apprenticeship opportunities. At the older end, employment law and the cost of providing pensions were contributory factors.

But Julie Meyer, founder of Entrepreneur Country, said that she hardly knew anyone under 30 who wanted to work for somebody else. This is supported by a recent survey, where 38% of the 2,000 respondents (both old and young) said that they do or plan to run their own business at some stage in their career.

The fact is that the younger generation, the so called “Generation Y”, is different. They are tech-savvy, multi-tasking, confident and ambitious. They are also achievement oriented with a strong and healthy commitment to family and lifestyle.

So is this the new paradigm? Are we entering a new age of individual capitalism, where people take responsibility for their own futures, rather than trusting in employment or, ultimately, the State?

It is to be hoped that whoever wins the next election will understand the fundamental changes that are happening in our society. It is these that must drive our education and skills agenda, encouraging entrepreneurship and providing both vision and purpose to future generations.

Vision 2020- Five key themes for the next decade

January 16, 2010

Doesn’t time fly? Now we are in 2010 it’s time to consider some of the themes for the next ten years. If they are anything like the last ten, the world will look very different in 2020.

So what are the five key themes that I am thinking about as we begin a new decade?

  • Globalisation….is not something that is going to happen in the future. More and more businesses must now take advantage of cross border opportunities to increase their revenues and manage their efficiency and costs
  • Technology….is a great leveller. The pace of change is set to continue and business models will continue to evolve. Businesses that embrace technology in all its aspects will be the successes of the decade.  Those that don’t, large or small, will be overtaken (or if they are lucky, taken over!)
  • Opportunity….is exponential. We have just been through the worst recession in living memory. For entrepreneurs with vision and drive, the opportunity to disrupt markets, hire great people, keep costs low and challenge the status quo has never been greater
  • Differentiation…. is the name of the game. Successful businesses will always find a reason why customers should choose their product or service over that of their competitors.
  • Reputation….is hard to earn and easy to destroy. Who and what you are is now entirely visible to the global community, so it’s time to engage with that community and be helpful to it. 

Good luck!