Charlie Mullins OBE, Eric Partaker, Flavilla Fongang, Lara Morgan and Piers Linney joined the panel in the interactive virtual event
On 18 November, five incredible business leaders gathered for the Elite Business Live Presents live virtual event, sharing their entrepreneurial journey and revealing top tips and knowledge about what it takes grow a business. The event was hosted by Hannah Prevett, Deputy Editor of The Times Enterprise Network, who led the discussion, asking the panellists burning questions from the audience – and getting them to spill their top secrets on how they made it big.
Hannah kicked off the event asking the leaders what their biggest challenge was during the pandemic, and how they managed to deal with the effects. She asked Piers Linney, former investor on BBC Dragons’ Den and Founder & CEO of Moblox, to provide tips to small businesses for managing cash flow during this tough time. He said: “Small businesses (during the pandemic) had to take finance they had no choice due to capital constraints... The advice I tend to give is to keep some of your powder dry. I think things are still uncertain in terms of the supply chain, I keep talking about inflation creeping up now... So don’t put all your chips on to red and hope for the best thinking this is the end of it, the light may be further away than we think it is.”
We can talk about the technical and financial aspects of running a business. But what about you, as a business owner? What sort of mindset do you need to develop to create a strong framework for your business? Eric Partaker, world-renowned CEO and mentor for Fortune 50 CEOs, spoke about the importance of reframing stress and how to see stress as something ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’. “People get anti-fragility physically so what I try to do is to get them to get it mentally. And when you do that, life gets a bit more exciting because every adversity, challenge, disappointment, things that don’t go your way, I get my clients to picture those as nothing more than weights in the ‘gym of life’... The number one I try to get my clients to do is reframe stress as not something bad but something that actually builds strength.”
Given that the pandemic was one of the most difficult times for businesses in decades, how do you stay motivated if you’re starting your business? Charlie Mullins, founder and former CEO of Pimlico Plumbers launched his business on his own with just a toolbox in 1979. said: “You motivate yourself, show your passion and believe in your products. You have to show that in front of your staff. You have to be a leader and lead by example. And if people see you doing that, they’ll be with you. To motivate yourself, you can start by motivating your staff.
“If you’ve got them working well, your business is as good as the people who work for you. If you can incentivise them whether it be a gym, canteen, massage or different things we used to do at Pimlico... and if you motivate them, that motivates you. And if you are motivated, you motivate them. Never giving up is a better way of putting it. We’re always going to have downtime, a bumpy road in business and sleepless nights but, if you strongly believe in what you’re doing you’ll eventually get people believing in you. And you work as a team.”
If you’re a business looking to grow, you want to place yourself in the best possible position for investment. How do you make your company stand out from the crowd, and how do you attract investors to take a chance in the product or service you provide? Lara Morgan, founder, investor and entrepreneur has a portfolio of seven consumer service businesses, and she shared her insider investor knowledge. Lara said: “My point is to always be selling. We should always be passionate about our proposition. In terms of investment, it starts with the person. And it’s about the person, their passion and infectious belief, but not impracticality. You have to have some fundamentals; you have to know your finances. But you have to try and build something unique about your proposition.
“Because we’re all inventing, but actually how do I create something good enough, something interesting enough that’s going to deliver better than the average? You start with the person... No pound of investment is equal, meaning the investor’s pound and what he brings to a business with their background and experience is different... You should be looking for an investor partnership that brings more than that pound of advantage. Many times, it’s not just about the cash. On the other side of the table, when you’re looking to get investment culture matures so much. The culture of how we maintain momentum and growth of companies, how is a business operating and looking after its team, how are we behaving?”
How can you attract talent, and more importantly, keep them? Flavilla Fongang, a serial entrepreneur, author and the founder of 3 Colours Rule, an award-winning branding and neuromarketing agency, stressed the importance of building a positive work culture in your company. And work culture starts first and foremost how you treat your employees. She said: “If you want to decide how to build culture, decide how you want to treat each other and define that clearly. It’s really hard to build culture when you’re not meeting physically... When you see them in a Zoom meeting you get to the point and you don’t have time to have a longer conversation. So, what I did was, I had these conversations outside just work. I thought to myself, ‘What can we do instead of just talking about business?’
“I started being very open in terms of what I do as a business leader, and I allowed myself to be vulnerable with things that I deal with so my team can do the same thing. We had to create several activities on how to do this. When you have a big company it’s probably different, but try and think about what you can do in terms of engaging in conversation beyond just work which allows your colleagues to get to know one another. It helps make people understand why they are part of this team, and understand the vision and mission of this company. And with younger employees, they’re not just interested in how much money they can make with you – they're interested in your vision and how they can be part of it. If you spend enough time sharing your story with them, you’re more likely to attract them.”