The Big Bang Theory May Not Be Right After All - Russ Taplin, Mmm Thoughtful Business

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It’s amazing what you can learn by watching a group of people sat on a couch. Not just the way they go about doing things or the way they interact, but science, technology and the intricacies of understanding human behaviour and our differences too.

No, I’m not talking about a sit-com, I’m talking about what we learned from the last couple of #screwitjustdoit events in Bournemouth and London. Don’t forget the title of this blog though, it means something – and if you need Sheldon or Penny as a mental jog, then who’s to stop you.

Last month we had the privilege of seeing six wonderful entrepreneurs talk in Bournemouth, in an ‘Unplugged’ open-mic format, followed by four female entrepreneurs in the same format, on the couch in London.

One theme that emerged from both was the concept of how fast you grow – and bearing in mind the usual aspiration or motivation of an entrepreneur is to “dream big or go home” the feedback that came out of both sessions was markedly considered and thoughtful.

Holly Tucker MBE (Not On The High Street) used the phrase “Take pride in being small” with the view that those who take time to build their brand and business simply end up with stronger and bigger businesses in the long run, and those that build and scale up fast can often burn out or get overtaken anyway. That makes sense and I think that is the true entrepreneurial way - to bootstrap as much as you can for as long as you can.

It might feel like you could get more sooner, but remember one of the first principles of business is that of “Going Concern” – which means that you need to make sure you keep going and effectively means it’s no race - there isn’t a finish line that if someone wins today, they’ve won forever. It really seems that the consensus view here is that slow and steady wins through in the long run.

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Similarly, the view coming out of the Bournemouth session was to take time, don’t rush, and make sure that you understand your business inside out, to make sure you have it documented and replicable before you even think about extending your reach. You have to run your business as though you already have due diligence in mind.

A great example of this is franchising, which seems to be a hot topic at the moment, and is probably the perfect example to use to demonstrate why it is important to make sure you systemise and document every bit of your business to understand it exceptionally well. In the case of franchising, the value to you is in doing exactly that – to make life as easy for your franchisee as is feasibly possible. The more you can do that, then the higher value you can command for your opportunity, and the less risk there is on you in terms of any warranties or indemnities you may need to provide in offering it.

It also makes you think of funding opportunities carefully too – inevitably if you do want to grow quickly then you’ll need a funding partner, and we all know that if you’re giving equity away that you’ll want to be very sure they are the right person, or team, for your business. So, you want to be in a position to choose them when you need them, for the right reasons, rather than choosing them because you are set on the hopes of a high growth plan.

There are other real practical implications too, for example trade funding and cashflow. If you have a manufactured product and you are starting out near enough from new, then you have to think about how you fund the manufacture and distribution of that product. You’ll typically have to pay out for it up front before manufacturing, which takes time, while then waiting for your customer payment which typically happens after delivery – and sometimes up to 90 days after delivery (with chasing too!). This isn’t an easy funding or cashflow journey, and it naturally gets harder the higher the volume and value – this pushes you down the route of starting small and building up your working capital to grow, or it asks you to rethink whether you are the manufacturer at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, none of this should take your hunger away for growing your business, but it is a just small shift in mindset that you are doing that over a sustained period, and to focus on the business you have in hand rather than the hopeful business of tomorrow. Building that legacy and going concern is important - steady measured growth – if you apply an enterprise model approach to business, then it’s no coincidence that I’ve used that phrase more than once in explaining a business case.

Russ Taplin, Mmm Thoughtful Business, February 2019