I’m sure everyone running their own business at times feels the isolation of the big job. In fact, recent research by Close Brothers Asset Management shows that many business owners lie awake fretting about how best to develop their business.
Underlying this problem is that so few business owners have the luxury of a full management team to support them. For growing businesses, the additional challenge is that scaling up is rarely a straight line without drama, and is more likely a complex up, down, right a bit, left a bit, growth pattern with a new challenge to be met around every corner.
To cope with the messy reality of growth, many businesses use self-employed consultants for specific projects, or for a one day a week/month top-up to the core team, to keep the focus on the future. NEL makes extensive use of specialist consultants as mentors to help us innovatively grow our business. We are currently working with David, James, Julian, Malcolm, Peter, Phil, Rob, Simon and Steve (with apologies in case I missed anyone). Every one of them is highly skilled and an asset to NEL just like our core team. Having a pool of external talent available means you are never short of a solution to a problem.
Some businesses however rely on a less formal form of support. Joining an existing network for your sector or for the size of your business can allow introductions and discussions with people facing similar challenges to you. Steven Johnson in “Where good ideas come from” argues you can go further and make your own network by immersing yourself in a crowd of thinkers and creating an informal hub of ideas around your business with “all those new ideas jostling against each other”.
The standard method for broadening the thinking in a business in the venture capital industry, is a non-executive director. We find non-execs work really well for some businesses but are criticised as an expensive distraction by others. Non-execs are now our solution in the minority of cases; how best to achieve growth is the important bit not what hat everyone is wearing.
Within NEL, we have created an ideas hub. For our investees, we are part of their crowd of thinkers contributing our knowledge into the mix of how to sustainably grow. We see all our investees regularly and often there is no charge for the support and guidance we provide. For growing businesses with changing needs, a pick-and-mix of consultants, coaches, mentors or non-execs can provide a flexible support network to the business owner. If you’re interested in hearing about how we construct growth funding solutions around the needs of growing ambitious businesses, please get in touch.