I am founder and CEO of Winning Pitch, one of the UK’s fastest growing management consultancies. I started life as an industrial chemist but soon found the attraction of setting up and building businesses far more exciting than playing around with Bunsen burners and test tubes. I was fortunate enough to have met some fantastic people who helped me to build and sell companies in a variety of sectors. Over the past 10 years I have also written two business books and have interests in a number of small growing businesses. I am also NED of an organisation that is the innovation arm of the NHS. Happily married for 26 years with three daughters
1. Tell us about a usual working day?
The day starts at 6am with a 3 mile walk over the Lancashire Moors with my black Labrador Buddy. This gives me time to think about the day and what I am going to do. Work is based on the ethos of 20% thinking and reviewing, 80% just doing. I am usually at my desk for 7.30am following up on emails and arranging appointments with customers, partners, associates and individuals/organisations who can add value to the WP offer. I am constantly in search of the next big idea and that involves quite a bit of experimentation. The day usually ends at around 7.00pm with a 45min walk with the dog, which gives me time to reflect and think about tomorrow. After dinner (8.30pm ish), I will then spend at least another hour or two researching and following up emails from the day. I don’t differentiate between work and play as work is my life, my hobby and I just love the buzz of moving things forward. Bed at around mid night!
2. What’s Winning Pitch’s proudest achievement?
Winning a £10M contract when we where only 2 years old as a business. A great motivator for me is when people tell me something can’t be done. I usually respond with the comment – “ I will show and prove to you that it can”
3. How many employees work for Winning Pitch?
We currently employ 120 people. I guess within the next 12 months we will be moving towards 200
4. Are the majority home or office-based?
We operate through offices in Salford Quays, Liverpool, Gateshead, Leeds, Cardiff and soon London. All staff are office based but the nature of the work means that they spend a large proportion of their time on the road.
5. How do you keep employees engaged?
This involves a mix of things ranging from monthly internal bulletins with updates on what’s going on through to staff communication days twice a year, a big Christmas Party, team leader dissemination sessions and a policy of ‘the door is open and the phone always switched on’. Staff are encouraged to live by the ethos of ‘there is no such thing as a bad idea’ – this drives innovation and new thinking.
6. I think Robert Kiyosaki assessment that ‘when times are bad is when the real entrepreneurs emerge’ seems very true to what is happening here in Manchester. What are your thoughts?
Totally agree – been there myself. An ability to ride the tough times and maintain infrastructure and capability is vital. This means having something put away for a rainy day – sticking true to your purpose and vision is critical. Those entrepreneurs who come through the bad times emerge from the other end with lots of wisdom and in better shape. You learn how to run a tight ship and more importantly the lessons learnt create food for thought for the future. As Winston Churchill said “when you are going through hell, keep going”
7. In your experience, do entrepreneurs make good managers?
Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes – what is vital for an entrepreneur is self awareness and knowing what you are good and bad at. What makes a great business is a good mix of “doers”, “sellers”, “thinkers” and “controllers”. I personally view myself as a thinker – I am certainly not a controller, but I know someone needs to do it.
Successful entrepreneurs in my experience are the ones who can build a multidisciplinary team. I would define that as good housekeeping without losing entrepreneurial flair.
So I guess the answer is some do and some don’t.
8. You’re an expert in helping businesses design growth solutions. How much emphasis do new companies put on HR strategies and people as key elements in their prospective growth?
Building a business is all about people. Staff first customers second. Many companies stall because the founder has failed to get the people systems and structures in place and as an organisation grows the HR strategy needs to get more and more sophisticated. Trying to build a business without the right HR foundations in place is like trying to build a tower block on sand.
9. What are the common mistakes made by entrepreneurs?
There are so many where do you start? What is critical to success is having a clear vision, passion, innovative proposition, solid team, strong leadership, good governance, tight control on finances and cash, commitment to delivering great customer experiences backed up by a flawless reputation. The common mistakes I suppose are doing the opposite of the very things needed for success.
10. What makes you optimistic?
Having a clear sense of purpose supported by clarity of personal and business intentions.