A Common Start-Up Story
Many small business are run by one or two original founders. They often emerge from an employed role and decide they can be their own bosses doing the same service as when they were employed. Possibly the founders are work colleagues and plotted their grand scheme before handing in their notice. The excitement and fear of starting out as a new business is sort of shared when there are two or more founders. They want to get on with building value in their business and earn more than they did when employed. In my experience if those founders don’t put some effort into having a shared view of the future of the business then things could get difficult. The early years will probably go well but some pressures will challenge the relationship. So, the owners need to be clear where the business is going.
Matt Driver takes us through the case study. He describes his business and how he felt before and after I started working with him and his original business partner. I helped (some might say ‘coached’) Matt, but he still made the decisions and took the actions, so he should be applauded for developing his business. He now feels good from adding value to his business and life. Let Matt say it in his words:
The Start Of Mint
The business evolved from the delegation of budgets from local government to individual school headteachers. My original business partner, Mick Land, and I had worked for Wakefield Council delivering and managing the Council’s IT services for schools. Mint IT began providing IT services to several primary schools in Wakefield and has now grown to service over 70 schools in Wakefield, Kirklees, Doncaster and Calderdale.
In our early days of business we had gone through growth surges as we took on new schools but seemed to struggle to cope and be able to plan our response to each surge. Stress and time demands were the norm. We all put in long hours to transfer schools over from their old supplier and sort them out to run the way we wanted.
Mick and I were so busy we didn’t have time to think about the business together – we were always in catch up mode – we weren’t really building value. So, it was hard to plan the future of the business and therefore hard to engage our growing team in helping us grow the business.
Working The Plan
We started working with Peter and he immediately got the directors to spend some time together on agreeing what:
- The business was good at and how those strengths should be exploited;
- Opportunities that lay out there in the marketplace – mainly capturing business from a faltering competitor;
- Our aspirations were for the business, and finally;
- Results in terms of numbers and ambition we wanted as a team.
The result of that time, facilitated by Peter with questioning, challenging and supporting was an agreed growth plan for the next three years. Our plan focused on taking the business through the £1m level and onto £1.5m. We asked Peter to support us through the growth of the next 2 years. I enjoy working with Peter for several reasons:
- He understands what makes our business tick and offers valuable operational and commercial advice on how we can work better;
- I welcome his “sounding board” style of working. I’ve lost count of the number of phone calls we have had where I test my ideas with him or seek reassurance about an upcoming decision;
- He works really well with our external accountant so giving us a sense of having a full board of directors.
Parting Of The Ways
Growth accelerated as we took on more schools when a competitor withdrew from the market. We took on more technicians and eventually moved into bigger offices. We were certainly building value financially, but unfortunately, Mick and I started to grow apart on where we saw the business going. I was keen to make the business bigger and more attractive to external buyers in the future. I bought Mick out of the business after what could only be described as an emotional episode for all concerned. Peter’s support during that time was enormous. He was a coach / adviser / sounding board / friend / shoulder to lean on. I am now the sole shareholder with my wife and I am truly the managing director. There’s no one else to blame.
Onwards And Upwards – Building Value For The Future
Having taken on full ownership of the business, it is in a much better position financially. I feel we are really building value in the business. We are attracting partner organisations who want to work with us. We have a management team that runs the business day-to-day and I am getting more time for me and my family. I feel I am on my way to build a business that can thrive without me. I think more about strategic issues like:
- geographic expansion;
- greater use of technology to add value to customers and maintain our efficiency;
- building my management team so that they become more strategic.
I’m looking forward to doing more with Mint and hope Peter will stay with me on the journey. I would heartily recommend Peter as a guide to any business owner who wants to increase the value of their business and also have a life!