Having started my own company in the pre-VC/dotcom boom and then being fortunate enough to being involved with a couple of start-ups thereafter, I’ve been lucky in seeing how circumstances and ambitions can change and develop over time. Here’s some food for thought that the current crop of founding entrepreneurs may perhaps find of value.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that just because, in the dim and distant past, I’ve sold a business, I’d have half a clue as to the pitfalls a budding entrepreneur would face when approaching such a task. And of course, you’d be wrong! This has been clearly shown to be the case over the last couple of months as Tibit positions itself to trade its soul in some Faustian pact with the investment community. Everyone talks of exit whereas I’m still on the ‘growing a profitable business’ page. But, with the availability of cheap money, acquisitive trade-buyers all fearful of missing out, and lots of private-equity cash sloshing around, there’s apparently never been a better time to sell a business, and it made me think of how I’d go about it, second time around.
As an ex-owner of a recruitment company that often ‘employed’ over 125 freelance IT contractors I fully appreciate I’m on thin-ice with regards to the recent landmark decision made in respect of gig-economy’s golden-boy, Uber. By ruling in favour of the individual drivers, the employment tribunal is quite rightly questioning Uber’s protestations that their drivers are not grafting directly for the firm, but thriving entrepreneurs in their own right and consequently, working for themselves. Complete twaddle.
No, not the face-painted glam stars of your not-so-rebellious musical past, but that relatively-old business acronym applied to all scenarios, Keep It Simple, Stoopid. And I use the ‘business’ term loosely as, coming from the very periphery of the computing-industry where anyone speaks of keeping it simple, the general idea is to make it as unbelievably complex as possible so we bamboozle anyone & everyone into buying this quarter’s must-have target-achieving-job-keeping product.
Back in the day when I kicked-off my highly dubious recruiting career (1984 for the pedants out there) we had a saying – lies, damn lies & CVs – and yes, each industry & profession did indeed have its own substituted version of this modern-day proverb. So, at the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, each and every CV was approached with a certain amount of scepticism, if not a huge pinch of salt.
Having come of age, in the business sense, during the 80s and 90s it’s fair to say that I’ve used more than my fair share of TLAs (there I go again), three letter acronyms, and partook in way too many blue-sky meetings where we put our heads-together, thunked out of the box and sang from the same hymn sheet whilst pushing some imaginary envelope downstream. Guilty as charged, y’honour.
No kidding and this is 100% true: I attended an AGM yesterday in Bracknell and was party to a very serious & ernest discussion concerning the nature of the sales process. Get me! Much to my chagrin, frustration and displeasure, the nature of selling has apparently changed. Here are the notes I took, and this is how it is out there, in the ever-connected digital age. I think it’ll make you chuckle and forget your own woes for a couple of minutes. Many a true word spoken in jest, and the next time you get a sales call, please just take it…
Wahay, I’ve just made some money! You know that great feeling when find a crumpled tenner in the pocket of those jeans that you’ve not worn for a while, or when the ‘premium bonds’ envelope hits the welcome mat and you’re in for at least £25? Well, I’ve just experienced the online, digital equivalent when I saw that Dell, the builder of your gran’s PC (and mine!), is putting its hand in its pocket and shelling-out a whopping 67 billion dollars for fellow behemoth, data storage company, EMC. Wahay. Again.
Tech is good. Tech is smart. Tech is beneficial. Tech makes me cool. Tech makes my life better. As part of a crowdfunded tech start-up I’m now in up to my neck and seem to spend way too much time watching similarly styled companies on Kickstarter, Seedrs or Crowdcube. Here I see every imaginable tech gizmo-gadget under the sun, each promising to be THE answer to all my problems, real, imagined or yet to be perceived.
At Connections I was ‘King of Lists’. My success mantra was ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ and my planning took the form of the list. Believe me I could plan for any occasion, any situation and any action – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever. And the best way to plan is to carefully write everything down on a piece of paper and then rip the paper to shreds. This accurately reflects what happens to plans in real life.