Former Dragons’ Den investor Piers Linney, who rose from teenage paper boy to businessman of influence and a champion of SMEs, has created a hit list of goals to help budding entrepreneurs reach for the sky.
Piers, recognised as one of the top 100 most influential black Britons, also has a background in law and investment banking and has worked with companies ranging from start-ups to members of the FTSE 100.
On the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, he sat in judgement on a wide range of money-making ideas from the bizarre to the brilliant; he knows what it takes to turn a dream into a financially successful reality.
One of his investments was in Wonderbly, a creator of personalised content for children, which was #1 in the Tech Track 100 as the UK’s fastest-growing technology company in 2017.
Piers is also a trustee of the UK’s largest innovation foundation and is a non-executive director of the Government-owned British Business Bank, which has facilitated over £12bn of funding for UK SMEs.
As a result, Piers has experience, advice and insights worth hearing.
He showed his natural flair at the age of 13, building a Sunday newspaper round into a money-making operation by cutting out the newsagent to deal directly with his wholesaler.
Piers, who also appeared on the reality show The Secret Millionaire, said: “My first business taught me early lessons about hard work, monetising an opportunity, keeping customers happy and wealth creation.”
It was the first step towards him becoming one of the UK’s most recognised businessmen, an investment expert whose views have been featured on BBC, Sky News, Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN and throughout the regional, business and national press and radio.
Always keen to support entrepreneurs and new businesses in the UK, Piers has identified a lack of access to practical business guidance for first-time entrepreneurs and those with ambitions to grow an existing business as a reason for failure.
He believes that people need to be equipped with the right knowledge to succeed, from understanding accounts, corporate structures, putting a team together and showing leadership and having a basic understanding of tax.
“My own research has found a lot of get-rich quick and motivational content and noise that does not provide support on what entrepreneurs need to execute to be successful,” he added.
So, to help new starters, Piers has identified four points based on his own experience to help budding entrepreneurs avoid the inevitable pitfalls onto the pathway to prosperity.
Prepare to manage people
“New entrepreneurs may have limited or no experience of managing people and it can be daunting,” said Piers.
“First, as the founder with a clear vision, it can be frustrating realising that no matter how carefully you hire, or how you incentivise people, or how amazing your culture is, nobody will ever care as much as you do about the business and the details.
“Secondly, they should be prepared to be let down and that can range from performance, to star employees leaving to even theft. Manage it and move on.”
“Entrepreneurs are eternal optimists and can be blinkered to reality even as reality is telling you that things taking longer than expected. No matter how carefully you plan, as Mohammed Ali said, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face’.
“Time can be everything and, if your business is initially unprofitable, time is money. If your customers or partners are very large companies, they plan and execute in three to 12 month cycles, whereas entrepreneurs operate in far shorter timeframes – days, weeks and months.
“Be realistic about how long it is going to take you to reach key milestones and build realistic timelines into your plan.”
Cash is king
“It doesn’t matter what complex problem you solve for customers who are willing to pay for the solution – if you run out of money, you are out of business.
“This obviously relates to businesses that require finance to fund losses, but it equally relates to companies that are growing quickly when it is critical to manage working capital.
“If your customers are paying you on 60 days and your suppliers expect a new company to pay in advance, or if you must invest in stock, growth can create financial pressure. Manage this tightly and make plans to finance working capital as far ahead as possible.”
Sell, sell, sell
“Business is about solving problems and creating value for customers who are willing to pay more than it costs a business to deliver the product or service,” said Piers.
“Success will depend on your ability to sell and understand the channels available and routes to market. In so far as possible, minimise risk by looking for multiple routes to market, such as selling through traditional retail distribution as well as direct.
“Sales is a profession and a process. Marketing is a science and digital marketing is data-driven. If you are uncomfortable selling, or don’t understand marketing, learn quickly, or find somebody who knows what they are doing and manage them closely.”
- For more advice or information from Piers subscribe to his YouTube channel or follow him on social media.