Following on from previous blogs the BB team have asked me to talk about ‘How did I find the move from corporate to start-up and how to build a strong culture from day one’.
BB has been established 8 years now so some of my memories are probably a little hazy but looking back I am pretty sure I thoroughly enjoyed the transition. It is clearly very different and not for everyone but the challenge of it has been the most rewarding stage of my career to date. On day one you literally sit there with no customers, no revenue being generated and no earnings which is a sobering moment for someone, to coin a phrase, who had not been ‘on the tools’ for a little while and had a young family to support. Attitude is key at this moment as you start putting your plans into action. It is not time to let your ego get the better of you, there is no substitute for hard work, resilience and being prepared to get your hands dirty. It may sound cliché but in those early days, I believe that I led from the front as it is always the right thing to do.
I was very fortunate to be trusted by some amazing clients early on and since our first 10 clients are still with us today we are delighted to have 98% repeat users throughout BB. Given this trust, I could not let them down and this attitude of delivering for our clients even on the hardest of briefs still rings true today. I was also very lucky to be joined early on by five colleagues who I knew very well and had worked with previously. The trust and bond between us is still there 8 years later and they all remain part of BB and should be very proud of what they started all those years ago. In a strange way, bringing that many people into the business so early on focussed my mind even further – failure could not be an option, not only did I feel responsible for them but also their families. As the business grew this sense of responsibility did the same and continues today. Whilst there isn’t a safety net in the corporate world it is very real when you start a business, the learns come down the pipe at breakneck speed. You have to juggle the complexities of generating revenue whilst ensuring the business also runs – often I would be pitching for work with clients, searching for candidates, interviewing for clients, meeting new consultants for BB, manually raising invoices, dealing with HMRC, preparing employment contracts, reviewing client terms, sorting IT issues and ordering new phones all in the same day. Clearly, some of those days become very long and you have to go deep into your pools of resilience and hard work. You have no choice though – who else is there to do these things and why should anyone else do it for you?
I think a lot of these early days shaped our culture without there ever being a conscious plan around it. Trust and relationships go to the heart of it – that, built with our customers who gave us a chance when it would have been easier to stick with more established suppliers. The trust those early BB employees put in me and each other to join when they could have remained in the corporate world, the bond this created still holds BB together. Even as the business approaches 50 people our EVP reflects these values. We had to be brave to start the business, focussed on the future from day 1 and every day since, show complete honesty to our customers, be real with them and each other and ultimately focus entirely on the people – both within BB and our customers.
I spend a lot of time with peers in the industry who have started businesses like I have and whilst everyone’s journey is different, I sense many similarities exist. I have enormous respect for anyone who makes the step away from the corporate world and starts their own business. It is not without challenge, stress and hard work, but for me, it has all been worth it and I am excited about the future.