What do you currently do?
I am the co-founder of Watson Moore along with my business partner David Moore. I focus on recruiting Finance Directors for fast growing entrepreneurial businesses, many of which are private equity backed. Within the business I have more of a Commercial Director role, overseeing business development and communications.
What is your inspiration in Business?
My focus is to run a successful values driven business that I can be proud of and which allows people within in it to flourish whilst hopefully having a good deal of fun in the process. On a general level my Christian faith is a key influence.
On a day to level, I find myself invigorated by the sheer enthusiasm, passion and vibrancy of the entrepreneurial clients I deal with. There are some great characters out there, and I just love working with them – hearing about their business, understanding the culture and ultimately providing them with an outstanding FD who will be a key part in ensuring that the business achieves its potential.
In the current environment the need for entrepreneurial businesses to have a high calibre commercially able FD in place has never been greater. The relationship between a Chief Executive and FD is critical, and I take a great deal satisfaction in those appointments that ensure that the Chief Executive is fully supported in his/her commercial decision making, key holder relationships (eg banks, VCs) are managed effectively and that they are able to focus on exactly what they should be doing.
Who do you admire?
My Dad was a significant early influence. A very down to earth and personable Yorkshireman, he taught me to always ‘deal right’ and never pay asking price unless I absolutely had to. He also imbibed in me a very strong work ethic and whilst I don’t think he would perhaps classify himself as an out and out entrepreneur, I will never forget how he managed to sell a wood burning stove to my secondary school woodwork teacher whilst supposedly enquiring about my progress at a parents’ evening!
On top of that, I will always be grateful for the sheer sense of self belief my parents encouraged and nurtured in me.
On a wider level, those I tend to admire are less famous individuals but rather people whose appetite for life and optimism enable them to persevere and succeed against opposition, difficulties and failures that would stop the majority of their peers in their tracks. I love hearing redemption stories, of people who have bounced back from failure and used it constructively in their next venture.
I remember reading the account of Henry J Heinz and how his first attempt at the food and pickles market ended in bankruptcy. Remarkably, he kept an account of all the people he had ended up owing money to and repaid them when he came roaring back with his now famous “57 Varieties” of food products.
Such respect for people underpinned his hugely successful business and he was one of the great pioneers of much improved working conditions for his employees.
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
I certainly would have picked a degree and career path I was much more suited to and interested in. I studied law at Birmingham University and was bored to tears, to the extent that I kept myself entertained by having a freelance sports photography business covering motocross events across the UK and Europe.
I vividly remember virtually falling asleep in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and subsequently parting company with the faculty trip to make my own way to the Dutch 500 MX GP.
Whilst I eventually qualified as a litigator, after about 15 minutes I couldn’t stand it any more. It was abundantly clear the only thing I actually enjoyed was winning the business and developing client relationships.
I would inwardly groan when a piece of client development had gone well and the cases came flooding in. As I look back now, and in particular at all the ventures I had started as a young lad (selling bundles of kindling in the local village aged 8, personalised BMX number plates aged 10, video rental business at school aged 15, managing a band aged 19 etc), I find it hard to understand why I didn’t wake up a little earlier to what I was all about.
What defines your way of doing business?
“How we do business is more important than how much business we do”.
Inevitably, the two are linked, and I believe that long term success is underpinned by high quality relationships with clients, suppliers and employees alike.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
In light of my own experience, first and foremost to do something you are passionate about. We spend a remarkable amount of our life at work, so we need to enjoy what we do. Such passion will also not only help sustain you through the many challenges and difficulties that will come your way, but will also be infectious to those around you and help you bring on board the right employees and backers.
Secondly, failure isn’t fatal but giving up is. Try and embrace failure as a friend, each time learning and building on it. As I try and do this myself I am often reminded of the phrase: “Experience is the greatest of all teachers, shame the bills are so expensive!’’