Tell us about yourself?
Thirty-plus (and most of them were a plus) years working for the most difficult, demanding and unreasonable person in the world (me) has made me strive to be a kinder, balanced and more humble entrepreneur.
I used to be driven and consumed by the balance sheet, but after involvement with 9 start ups, 2 failures, 5 exits and 2 IPO’s I have learned that building a successful business is not exclusively about the numbers.
As one entrepreneur who built a multi-billion hotel business once told me, “We do 100 things each 1% better than our competitors”.
I still get a burst of pride when the management accounts continue to show a growing top and bottom line but the lasting glow of success comes from working with people who are proud of the work that they do each and every day: delighting customers, five star reviews and when your investors give you a pat on the back.
I have been lucky enough to be supported by so many loyal and talented people. One day I want to get them all in a room and say thank you.
I am involved with 4 businesses, as an investor, owner, advisor or just Santa’s little helper.
I am truly grateful that I have the opportunity to work in entrepreneurial businesses, on some amazing ideas and with such talented, kind people who care.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
2. Honesty wins (especially when you look in the mirror);
3. Always do the right thing by others;
4. Cash is king.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
I’ve started or been part of 8 start-up businesses (5 tech, 1 airline and 2 online travel), so I have distilled this to one theme which I believe is relevant to each and all of them:
Raising investment is (probably) the hardest thing you will do in business.
It is time consuming, relentless and takes it toll. Build a business which requires as little investment as possible, and when you raise it, DO NOT SPEND IT.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
I am blessed with masses of energy. I was a hands on husband and father to 3 daughters and have built, or helped build, 9 businesses. And here are things I have learned:
1. Be kind and generous to those around you, always. You can make a massive difference. And you will sleep better at night (more about that later).
2. You cannot keep all of the people happy, all of the time. Just do the best you can.
3. You cannot help people who do not help themselves. Use your time, energy, resources and skills with people who you make a difference to.
4. Have a healthy mind, free from negative emotions. Learn to manage negative emotions like anger and hatred. (there are good things written and taught about this).
5. Stay physically fit and healthy: make time for exercise, rest, relaxation – sleep when you need it (don’t try to schedule it, you’ll probably fail). Eat and drink healthily. Seek medical advice when you are ill and take your medication…so many people try to be heroic with their health. And fail.
6. Be financially prudent and make yourself secure. If you’re stressed about money, you will find it hard to focus, be motivated and you might make yourself unwell (mentally & physically).
7. Make time for your own pleasures, and don’t feel guilty (mine are sailing, cooking, 1:1 time with friends and one beginning with s…!)
8. Eliminate negative people from your life. Surround yourself with genuinely supportive and loving people. Be brutal about this: I have found that most stress is caused by other people (and remembering passwords)!
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
I bought the company in 2017. I was previously a client and they did great things for me, in 2 of my businesses.
They were an in-house team, that wanted to create a more client-focused agency that only works with entrepreneurs and understand the importance of marketing efficiency, cash and the stresses of growth businesses.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
addmustard works on a performance-fee basis exclusively with entrepreneurs, joining up brand, marketing and technology.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
We tripled the business in 4 years. It’s hard, but so is every business. If you do great work, you will have a great brand, and customers will find you. If you do great SEO, clients will find you. (in any business).
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
Retaining great staff – they deliver our magic.
We do many special things for our team: personal development and training budgets; unlimited holiday; frequent and often unplanned bonuses; personal, medical and psychological professional support; and some other things that are secret…
What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?
It’s a huge market, with massive talent and wide ranging skills; London is the most innovative, open and energetic city. Despite the politicians!
Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?
Transport in and out of London is a challenge. And seems to be getting worse. London is now the 20th worst city for the speed of getting around.
How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?
If you want great talent in your business, you have to reward it. In any creative, innovative and forward thinking business, its probably essential to go where the talent is, reward it and nurture it. In turn, your brand and margins should then reflect the talent of your team.
If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?
Edinburgh, Oxford, or possibly Cambridge. They have talented, dynamic workforces and welcome entrepreneurial businesses.
How has BREXIT impacted your business (if at all)?
Badly. It costs us a fortune to employ talent in other European countries. It’s harder to win business. Our growth is significantly limited by not being in Europe. Another business I am an investor in now 50% of the size it was pre-Brexit.
What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?
The build a profitable, innovative, kind (yes, kind), smart, honest and authentic business. That I can continue to add value to over the next 20-30 years.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
Whatsapp me. +447767 476320. Please bring some research, analysis, ideas and do your homework (the fun part).
I find it much more rewarding and fulfilling when people have taken the time to do a bit of the lifting before we chat.