September is one of my favourite months. Not just because we often have an ‘Indian Summer’ here in the UK with warm, bright, sunshine filled days. Nor because I love the autumn produce you find in the farmers’ markets; damsons, blackberries, figs, pumpkin and squash. September is when my favourite magazine, Red, hosts its annual ‘This Is A Smart Women’ week. And this means I get the opportunity to meet the founders of some of our most iconic British brands, and put my questions to them about how they went from kitchen table to global business. On Wednesday, I put my glad rags on and went to One Belgravia for lunch with Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company.
The White Company represents simple, affordable luxury, and is synonymous with fluffy white towels and Egyptian cotton. But its genius resides in the idea that peace and tranquillity in our busy, noisy world – not to mention a good night’s sleep – can be found in the simple pleasure of a Seychelles scented candle, with its notes of fresh bergamot, bright orange and tropical coconut, and the crispness of a high thread Egyptian cotton sheet.
This week I’m attending several events hosted by Red magazine as part of its ‘Smart Women Week.’ It’s an opportunity to meet some of the UK’s top female entrepreneurs – including Jo Malone and Chrissie Rucker – and gain inspiration from their stories. Plus I get to put my glad rags on!
The most popular article on my blog, 6 Business Lessons From PANDORA, was inspired by a talk at last year’s ‘Smart Women Week’ given by two executives from the company’s UK marketing team. In this article, I explored how a tiny jewellery shop, in the back streets of Copenhagen, was transformed into an iconic global brand over a 35 year period. Later this week, I’m going to be writing about how Chrissie Rucker started The White Company from her kitchen table with just a simple mail order catalogue. And went on to create a much loved brand with 50 stores and an e-commerce site here in the UK, and a second e-commerce site for the US market.
When it comes to business and financial success – I don’t believe in magic. I believe business and financial success are the result of good old-fashioned hard graft combined with a dash of inspiration, a sprinkling of good fortune and consistent action.
Whilst I don’t believe there’s a magic pill, I do however have firm firth in the magic penny, a story I often tell when I’m teaching. Before you think I’ve started to go woo woo on you, let’s dig straight in to my story about the magic penny.
First I’ve got a question for you. If asked to choose between £3 million in cash right now, or a magic penny that doubles in value every day for 31 days, which would you choose?
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about my worst business nightmare. I didn’t have to think too hard about #1 on my personal hit parade. It was the day I was told that we couldn’t make the payroll bill! I was one month into my CEO role so this was not the start I wanted. You can read the story HERE.
This incident may have happened 13 years ago, but it’s still deeply engrained in my memory. My first few weeks had been a baptism of fire, dealing with one crisis after another, and my To Do list was enormous. This incident made me realise that I needed far better information than was currently available to aid my decision making. So I sat down to work out the most important KPIs; the numbers I needed to keep track of on a weekly and monthly basis.
Two questions I get asked frequently are: (a) what are the secrets to your productivity and (b) do I sleep. The reason for these questions is that I’m perceived as somebody who is highly focused, and gets a lot done.
It definitely didn’t always used to be this way!
In the first couple of years as a CEO, I worked at a relentless work pace, was always ‘busy’ and frequently felt stressed. Between the Board, my senior management team, my staff, our strategic partners and the clients, I had so many competing pulls on my time and attention, I didn’t always know which way to turn. Something had to change if I wasn’t to hit burn out – which actually I did a couple of times.
31st August 2016
During August I heard a lot of first time entrepreneurs saying that business was really quiet, and they were ‘hearing crickets.’ Business is traditionally quieter in August, especially here in the UK when it’s a popular time for summer holidays. But instead of seeing the quietness as a problem, I like to see it as an opportunity. Here’s why.
First of all, London is at its quietest as so many people have gone away. This means that I have the city all to myself. Well not quite! But it’s a lot less crowded and busy compared to the rest of the year. There are fewer attendees at networking events but I take this as an opportunity to strike up deeper conversations.
I find the calm and quiet helps me to focus as I turn inwards to reflect on the direction of my business. This meant I spent a very productive month working on my own business plan, and deciding exactly where I want to take it over the next few months. I mapped out my Built To Succeed™ methodology, and sketched the outline for the book I will be writing with that title.
One of the key reasons why the businesses that are profitable and scaleable are able to fund their expansion activities and build up a healthy cash balance is their professional approach to financial management. Now I know that for many of business owners, looking at the numbers is about as appealing as eating vegetables is for a small child! But if you’re truly serious about making a success of your business, you will be willing to eat your broccoli and spinach and even your sprouts. Metaphorically speaking! And you’ll get off the cash flow roller coaster.
Sometimes you just have to say it as it is! The bottom line is those business owners who do have a firm grip on the financials are the ones that buck the statistics where:
- 40% of start-ups fail in their first year
- 80% of businesses fail within the first five years
And who achieve these kinds of business results:
- Are four times more likely to exceed your profit goals
- Are five times more likely to exceed your sales goals
- Are three times more likely to build a large business and to grow it significantly
- Are four times more likely to create jobs
24th August 2016
In last week’s post, Business Focus: The Secret To Business Success, I shared a statistic that really shocked me. That only 5% of businesses in the UK have more than 10 employees. (The figure is actually less in the US, Canada and Australia). This got me wondering about why this is and what are the most common problems business owners experience when it comes to scaling their small business?
If you ask any small business owner what the hardest aspects of running their business are, you’ll likely get a wide variety of answers. But just about every business owner has, at one time or another, experienced most, if not all, of the common business problems and challenges listed below.