The price I might have paid for falling into the endless enterprise trap of being too entrepreneurial could have been far greater had I not had sound business advice (also described as a fair and controlled non-executive bollocking…) by the brilliant Colin Barrow. (Book Ref: Growing business)
By 2000 I had been running Pacific Direct, (then, although I did not know, it was the 57th fastest growing company in Great Britain) in the only way I knew how, through massive sales growth, following my gut feel and a wing and a prayer…until I attended Cranfield Business Growth Development Programme. (BGP) (see www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/)
Nevertheless, because I had the luck of being so terrified of failure like that of the bankruptcy that my father experienced, I had literally (nearly) breathed, slept and sweat every moment of every day into the company I was growing. Focus involved never watching movies on planes, working instead, never allowing myself the small luxury of reading papers and pretty much allocating small slots in which I would treat myself by spending time with the family and not thinking on Pacific’s next great challenge.
Colin caught me at a high point in Pacific where at the end of the BGP I finally had a business plan, had a clear vision of focusing on selling luxury brands under license and I felt I had a growth momentum and a structure starting to shape place (I’d delegated that challenge to a brilliant new General Manager) and of course my mind started to wander. The business was after-all generating a good(ish) living – actually I was underpaying myself so devaluing the company – and thereby really declaring false profit. (Another lesson learnt, once you can afford to pay yourself market rate – do so.)
I had great visions then of creating my own luxury retail brand of products – started to come up with the concept, brand positioning, invented the product line, started formulations and low and behold the Colin reminder to bring me back into line. If you are running one company, whilst developing another, in simple terms, both might grow at 50% of the previous growth rate – if you are lucky whilst the new-co gets of the ground. Um…not so smart if the cash cow actually still needed a lot of leadership, structural changes underway and also all process and management systems needing to be professionalised, but this was the dull stuff I delegated (actually nearly abdicated) to my talented proper grown up General Manager. People need support during change management, probably more than at any other time, more communication, more training, more encouragement and incentives as never before.
Colin’s little budge to remind me to stay focused on the prize of making Pacific Direct sellable, of getting it through the tough change stage, stepping up from small to slightly bigger company (GBP5m to 10m turnover) meant I shelved my great retail brand plans for another day (in development 10 years on and now with the financial backing to really get it right) and I managed to stay focused all the way through exit, (failed once success on the second attempt) and I cannot ever thank him enough. (see companyshortcuts.com for free templates on all my shortcuts for building a successful and accelerated growth journey to success.)
The lesson: Focus on your business asset, for all it is worth, until you either realize it’s value (sell it) or have it run by a brilliant team of well bedded in management professionals to the point where you can then travel from sandpit one to sandpit two and then and only then can you start building a new castle.