At Cranfield’s entrepreneurship speaker series, a group of students, alumni, local business owners and staff gathered on campus to hear from a Cranfield MBA alumni, former Dragon and Moonpig multi-millionaire founder, Nick Jenkins. Over the evening, it was touching to look around the room and see faces filled with hope, inspiration, and excitement. Steffi Hussels, Head of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship, commented that if there were people in the room for whom entrepreneurship was not an interest, Nick certainly had converted them to seeing the joys of business.
As a design researcher, I found it interesting how he created a successful internet business before there was even any real trust in online businesses- how he built the trust with consumers in this extremely hard time and the large amount of growth he had in the early 2000s.
Patrick Tawfik, Design Thinking 2020 graduate
My takeaway is the importance of being able to make decisions as a key quality of owning your own business. Nick’s talk has inspired me to pay more attention to numbers, and to try different marketing channels, identify what works for my business, and put more money into this!
Galina Pagliaro, greetings card designer and owner of Kapelki Art.
“Running your own business is like sailing a one-man dinghy, you feel every wave, every mistake. In a big company, you’re more like a steward in an ocean liner. When you have the opportunity of being a sole pilot- a business course like the one I did at Cranfield helps you understand enough of all the different aspects of sailing so you can stay course.”
Lessons learned along the way
- Hire good people and allow them to do their job. Restrict your input into the business to only things that only you can do. Aim to keep people for 4-5 years. Keep people on the same page. The real triumph is when you are no longer essential to sustain the life of your business- creating something that can survive beyond you.
- Understand legal and understand accounting. Management accounts are the dashboard of your business. Articles of association and shareholders agreements are ways of agreeing how you will solve potential problems while you are all still friends. Make sure you feel confident in your understanding around the core legal and accounting drivers in your business.
- Make your marketing a mathematical process- understand how quickly you will get your money back on marketing spend and when your advertising will pay off. Understand your mathematical equation between marketing and sales- how much can you afford to spend on a customer- keep spending money on the avenues that work.
- Repeat custom is a sign of success in a business. The most important part of business is hanging on to your customer as this is cheaper than acquiring new ones. Look after your customers and nurture them.
- Relatedly, good customer service is very important- humans want an immediate response, and an apology when needed.
- Recognise there is an element of luck involved- When lucky opportunities come, you must seize them: Intellectual courage and decisiveness is key.
- Determining the right time to sell- once you feel confident with your management team, and you feel that you have input everything you could.
- Raise money when you don’t need it to survive. Investors smell blood so raising money to cover losses creates harder negotiations. The UK has moved forward within the angel investment space hugely- you just need a good plan and be able to demonstrate your potential.
- Critical that within the core start-up team that someone is numerate, manages the business to some extent- just creativity isn’t going to cut it.
- Writing a good business plan is the cheapest way to find out if your business is viable. Too many people get too deep into starting a new business before they realise it is not feasible.
We left the evening full of pizza and reflected on Nick’s wild optimism about the rollercoaster ride that is being an entrepreneur.
“I have not been bored- terrified sure. But never bored. There’s a lot of security about learning about how to start and run businesses. It’s a lot of fun. Savour the journey for yourself. It’s a true privilege to build something yourself and get to set your own working environment.”
The Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship run an open Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.
For our November dates – please register here.