Why we need to think like an entrepreneur

20/11/2019 — Graeme Smith
Graeme Smith, CEO Jersey Business

Graeme Smith, CEO Jersey Business

I have always been fascinated by trying to understand how successful entrepreneurs ‘tick’. What is it that they are born with and or learn on their journey that means they are able to move on from just having great ideas into building and maintaining highly successful businesses?

This really does matter, not only to ensure we create new and vibrant businesses but also that established businesses continue to innovate and grow. Achieve both and you will have a successful economy.

By understanding what entrepreneurs think and believe we can then better help create a supportive economic, social and political environment that allows young businesses in Jersey to flourish as well as applying best practice to established businesses to help them grow and become more productive.

In this article I have looked at what we can learn from globally successful entrepreneurs and then brought that back to two Jersey influenced entrepreneurs to give a balanced view on how we ensure that we have the right Jersey environment to continue to build on the economic success story that Jersey clearly is.

It was the Kaufman Foundation of Entrepreneurship in the US that summarised the key to success as ‘Experience, Management and Luck’. This was based on researching 549 companies across a variety of sectors.

Delving more deeply into their research they identified the following as critical factors in why they succeeded:

From my own observations of lending to entrepreneurs for c30 years and more latterly working as part of the Jersey Business team I would fully support those key factors but would also add one more, namely ‘timing’.

If you type Bill Gross into Youtube you will see one of the most informative Tedtalks on how to be a successful start -up. His research of the US market for both successful start-ups and failures  identified that timing was the most important common feature ahead of team/ Execution, Idea, Business Model and Funding.

He quotes some interesting too far ‘ahead of their time’ businesses. From his own experience he was involved in Z.com in 1999 when they invested significant funds in an on-line entertainments company. They had a great team, contracted Hollywood content and had a strong business model that was well funded. At that time however, broadband penetration was just below 50% in the US and also watching video content was still rather clunky for the general public. As a result of this the business failed however if you roll forward just 3 years the world saw the launch of Youtube. By this time broadband coverage was over 50% and Adobe had introduced new systems to the mass market making watching video online much easier.

No matter how good the idea, no matter how strong the delivery capability is, if the public are not ready to buy the services or product then the business will fail. An example much closer to home that many of us will remember is the Sinclair c5 back in 1985. Who would ever have thought a battery powered vehicle could be a success?- reality is that this was 34 years ahead of it’s time!

So, what lessons can we learn from more local entrepreneurs? I was keen to catch up with two good friends who have ‘been there, done it and got the T -shirt’

Catching up with Nick Ogden at Gatwick Airport, me returning to Jersey, Nick off to meet the Fed Reserve in the US, we grabbed some time to discuss this.  Nick, who is widely recognised as the inventor of e-commerce which he established in Jersey in 1994.

As a Fintech pioneer, Nick subsequently founded Worldpay from his Jersey base in 1997, a year before PayPal was founded, when he noticed that customers of his online retail website wanted multi-currency quotes on goods, it was his Eureka moment. Based from his Jersey home, WorldPay has gone from strength to strength and was recently sold for $43bn.

Having since founded ClearBank, the first clearing bank in 250 years with state-of-the-art cloud based payments platform, he is now off to the States with his next venture RTGS global a cross border liquidity network. Easy to see why nick has twice been awarded ‘UK Entrepreneur of the Year’.

Nick has an incredible ability to turn the most complex issue into a logical and clear solution, as he says ‘I start with a great knack of identifying inefficiencies and then get paid for providing solutions’. He then describes the four key steps he always adopts using the ‘PAID’ acronym-

P is for product or process that you must refine and define,

A is for accountancy and audit-does the product or process work financially,

I is for innovation, you need something new to get free PR and develop your brand and

D is for distribution and delivery, the hardest part, customer service and sales.

Get all 4 points working and you get PAID

As I sit in Locke’s back in Jersey the following day, having just met Julian Box founder of Calligo in Jersey, I mull over the pearls of wisdom I learnt from him on his journey as a very successful entrepreneur. All of what he said very much resonated with me, but one phrase stuck in my mind ‘its all about the vibe (vybbe)’

Having successfully built up and sold four businesses, Julian’s focus is now Calligo, a Jersey based international data optimisation and privacy specialist, supporting businesses with Cloud and IT managed services, data privacy consultancy and AI

He is passionate about building the right team and more importantly building a culture that has to come from the relationships and respect his team have for each other. He firmly believes that the inter relationships between his team is the bedrock of his business’s success.  He emphasises that the role of the company is to help provide the right environment for the existing culture to grow.

Or to put it another way he recognised that the key differentiator dictating whether or not a business thrives or flounders isn’t just the people in the business but ultimately their happiness and wellbeing. This was something that was just starting to be recognised more widely across the business community as a key way a company could improve productivity, however he was critical of traditional company attempts to deal with this as he felt that did not recognise that what might work for one (eg company gym membership) would often not work for another. This scepticism is now starting to be borne out with many wellbeing programmes being found to have limited impact.

‘As human beings, we are all biologically programmed with the intrinsic desire to connect’ he tells me and so his focus as he built Calligo was to closely monitor how positive, strong and productive his staff felt their relationships with each other were, building on the strong one’s and supporting those that needed to be improved. As the business grew however, collating this became quite time consuming so Julian asked his team to develop an App that could track in real time the progress (or not).

Having seen the positive impact in his own business he believes the lessons he has learned including the app (suitably named Vybbe) has itself become a separate business spun out of Calligo with live clients in Jersey, the UK and Canada.

At Jersey Business we support budding Jersey entrepreneurs as well as existing businesses looking to grow and improve their productivity. We do this directly on a 1:1 basis as well as via our programmes and courses. A great example is our Six Step programme which is directly focussed on supporting the journey from that great idea through to an investable business.

Hopefully you will find the tips above helpful and I would encourage you to look at our Six Steps programme and how we can then all ‘think like an entrepreneur’

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