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11 business experts share lessons they’ve learned the hard way


Exciting as it is, the process of taking your business to the next level can present a few nasty surprises. Featuring advice from top CEOs, founders, writers and coaches, this roundup is your guide to avoiding the rookie mistakes.

In our roundup, a range of bona-fide business experts give their two cents on the matter. See below for their responses when asked for ‘3 Business Lessons You’ve Learned the Hard Way’.

James Watt and Martin Dickie – Co-Founders, Brew Dog

1) Growth

First world problem, but we were too popular. The demand for BrewDog grew so quickly, we had to learn fast how to scale the business without relying on the suits or losing our edge. Equity for Punks was the answer: inviting people who love our beer to finance our growth, and be rewarded in the process.

2) Finance

We negotiated some pretty scary bank loans when we first started, and although the majority were spent on stainless steel, it’s this initial outlay that provided the basis for everything BrewDog is today. Cash is king – when it comes to finance, you need to be a yoda-esque grand master of playing by the rules before you can even consider breaking them.

3) Mission

Don’t start a business, start a crusade – if you’re thinking of starting a business, the overwhelming likelihood is that you will fail; 80% of them end up in the trash after the first eighteen months. You need a clear purpose, a mission and a reason for existing. We didn’t just start a brewery, we set out on a mission to make people as passionate about beer as we are and this still underpins everything we do.

Nancy Cruickshank – Founder, MyShowcase

1) Maintain a single, unifying vision

I run a fairly complex business. We’re SAAS for our Stylists, we’re training, mentoring & motivation for our community, we’re a new channel to market for our brand partners and we’re the 4th fastest growing technology company in the UK (according to TECH5, March 2016). We also need to avoid getting lost in the mechanics and progress from comparisons with other businesses. “MyShowcase is a Personal Beauty Shopping service” neatly describes exactly what we do for every member of our community. As Founder and CEO, my role is simple. To be the ambassador of this vision and to keep us all focused on prioritising our tasks to deliver it.

2) Having the right talent at every stage of a business’ growth is key

I’ve been involved in two businesses where the CEO had become the wrong guy for the job. He hadn’t always been wrong but the business had scaled very fast or transformed far from its roots – and these guys no longer fitted the bill. My critical lesson was about leadership and talent. Get the wrong people on the bus and it doesn’t matter how brilliant the vision or strategy is, chances of success are dramatically diminished.

3) Good is good, but great is what’s required!

I recently read a fantastic book, Good to Great by Jim Collins. It explores the unique factors that set apart great companies from the many average ones. I reflected on my business as I consumed the book in one Saturday afternoon and felt like we came up short. We were doing a lot well, but I didn’t feel I could call everything great. So we’ve gone back to basics in 2016: championing doing fewer things really brilliantly and going systematically, product by product, from good to GREAT! The early results are encouraging and our resolve is steadfast.

View the full list here.

Source: Towergate Insurance, the company behind bira insurance.

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