How small companies suddenly transform into global players

How small companies suddenly transform into global players

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How can a small enterprise grow into a fast-moving global player, doing business across Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Brazil? As one family company discovered, it’s about much more than having a website in different languages. Deeper changes make all the difference.

Founded in 1992 and based near Napoli, Megatron Sensors (Megatron Srl) designs and manufactures temperature sensors for coffee, vending and slush machines; boilers, HVAC, refrigeration and temperature control systems; food and medical equipment.

The family-owned company and its 10 employees were turning over a healthy €1.5M per year. But new CEO Luca Grimaldi recognised that revenues had flattened out and the firm needed to sell beyond Italy. Megatron knew that expansion was about more than simply winning international orders. For growth to be sustainable, the company needed to become more flexible, scalable, streamlined and focused.

Working with pan-European business expansion experts Eggcelerate, the Megatron team made key changes in four areas:

Go-to-market strategy: The company added a new Product Management function and restructured its marketing and sales capability, so any new products could be brought to market in a way that focused on customer benefits, not product features.

Customer Experience: How would Megatron cope if business took off massively in multiple countries? To address this, the company introduced new customer relationship software and management tools helped to streamline business processes, so the team could deliver a great customer experience and cope with a surge in demand.

Tracking & Reporting: If Megatron grew quickly, there was a danger that the business could become a victim of its own success. But a managerial reporting system enabled CEO Luca Grimaldi and his colleagues to spot logjams and other problems early. So if extra workers or equipment was needed, they’d know exactly where to put them.

People & Change: In many respects, Megatron needed to become a new company — and so it updated its vision, mission and values, translating these into clear objectives. Luca’s team also introduced a performance evaluation system to help everyone to stay focused on the tasks ahead.

What happened next?

With these fundamentals sorted, Megatron re-branded itself, launched a new website in six languages and crafted a company presentation to pitch to prospects world-wide.

The approach worked. Revenue grew by 40%, thanks to new international clients. A sales pipeline of €350,000 took shape within two months. And the company achieved a 10% gross margin increase on its international sales.

Crucially, growth is sustainable. New orders haven’t caused the company to over-promise, over-extend and overheat. Instead, Megatron has been able to play in the global league by thinking in a different way about its own company, its products and its customers.

CEO Luca Grimaldi says: “We knew where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to achieve. This gave us all a new mindset, and eased the discussions with international prospects – many of which are much bigger than Megatron. Most of them are now our best clients.”

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Do you want famine or feast?

Do you want famine or feast?

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Imagine you’re ravenous — and someone brings you plates of your two favourite dishes. You like them equally and both are the same distance away on the table. Which do you choose — or is there a very real risk you’ll starve because you just can’t make up your mind?

This may seem like a bizarre scenario. But there’s a business parallel that I’ll explore in a moment.

As for the dilemma itself, it’s one that philosophers have been chewing over since the 14th century. The quandary was dubbed “Buridan’s ass” which — let us assure you — has more to do with donkeys than derrières.

The scene goes like this … a donkey is equally hungry and thirsty but finds itself precisely midway between a stack of hay and a bucket of water. The paradox suggests the animal will die of hunger and thirst because it cannot make a rational decision to choose one over the other.


So what’s the business message?

At this point, we need to think about another animal … the elephant in the room.

We’re talking about a recent event, not seen in generations. A head-to-head contest, with a narrow victory. Something that left a country shocked and divided, raising all sorts of questions. As we’re sure you realise, we’re talking about the BBC losing out to Channel 4 over the signing of the Great British Bake-Off …

Seriously though, we do mean Brexit. For UK businesses, the country’s decision to leave the EU creates a major dilemma.


Put simply, companies face two options after the referendum:

1) Should we invest, seeing Brexit as an opportunity?

2) Or, should we baton down the hatches, make cutbacks and anticipate a downturn?

In this very real scenario, it’s possible to feel paralysed — not by hunger — but by fear and uncertainty. The danger is, companies end up doing nothing at all, lose direction and waste years, while their competitors drive forwards. To me, that seems the worst decision of all.


We don’t have a crystal ball but …

Every company’s challenge will be unique. Yet there are two guiding principles that will help businesses to chart these uncertain waters. And both of these point towards the growth option.

Firstly, the UK government is taking positive steps to encourage business. It’s backing a fall in Company Tax from today’s 20% to 17% in 2020 — with the suggestion of a further reduction to 15%. Meanwhile, significant government support for innovation and entrepreneurship is arriving to drive growth and economic diversification. The UKTI, Mayor of London and others are getting involved. If incentives appear, don’t miss out.

Secondly, the unstoppable march towards pay-as-you-go services for everything from staffing, to vehicles, offices and virtually all IT and support, make it easy for companies to grow without risking huge amounts of capital. Switching to these business models will help you to focus on what you’re best at and what’s most profitable.

We’ve got to mention the pound too, although currency markets are always volatile. Any fall in the value of the pound also throws up interesting possibilities. Investment coming into the UK from overseas will stretch further and exports from the UK will be cheaper.

Overall, we’re advising companies to invest carefully — rather than cut back. But do it in a flexible, focused way. What’s essential is that enterprises don’t end up like Buridan’s ass and simply perish because they cannot make up their minds. During times of dramatic change, doing nothing can have fatal consequences.

Talk to us about your growth ambitions and we’ll explore the best way ahead.


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How to beat the crowdfunding blues

How to beat the crowdfunding blues

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How can you put the ‘fun’ back into crowdfunding or, more to the point, the millions of missing micro investors needed to make it work? Recent problems have dampened this fledgling financial marketplace. But small firms needing cash shouldn’t despair.


A few years ago, crowdfunding was seen as a ray of hope after the world-wide financial crisis. Why look to the banks — if masses of micro investors are queuing up to help, each waving £10 in your direction? People liked the concept and a number of equity crowdfunding platforms were launched and scaled up.

But then came disillusion

Just recently I attended a CSFI (Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation) roundtable called ‘Fin-Tech for Breakfast’. It touched on several interesting topics such as regulatory developments, payments, digital banking, blockchain and P2P. But then we couldn’t avoid discussing the industry shockwaves emanating from LendingClub.

I won’t cast any judgment or go into the details, aside from saying it’s been reported that sales to a single investor of $22 million in near-prime loans failed to meet that investor’s terms (you can read the full story here). At our roundtable, someone commented that this made LendingClub look more like a non-bank lender rather than a loans marketplace.

This made me think about the broader crowdfunding industry, within which I worked at Code Investing, and which I have had the pleasure to discuss at The Pluralists Club. The question I’m asking myself is: does the ‘crowd’ in ‘crowdfunding’ really exist in this sector today?

What’s changed?

After the initial optimism and excitement, it’s clear that the crowdfunding industry is consolidating and making adjustments:

  • The demand for funding is definitely there, but what about the supply? In most cases there are a few large investors (usually angel investors) providing most of the funding.
  • Small and medium-sized investors exist but probably not in large enough numbers for these platforms to scale up. And stories like LendingClub won’t help.
  • Some platforms are branding and repositioning themselves almost as niche investors’ clubs. We are seeing now the first exits.

With these things in mind, the crowdfunding arena could be shrouded in gloom for some time to come. And in the unpredictable Brexit era, investors of all sizes may be looking for safer, more traditional investments in the short-term at least.

Crowdfunding isn’t gone for good

Even though crowdfunding has taken some knocks, it’s still a valid business model.

As long as interest rates are low and other investment opportunities remain uncertain, then a compelling crowdfunding deal can be just as good (if not better) than anything else you’ll see — and will attract investors of all sizes.

But the bar has been raised.

And that means that any small businesses venturing into the world of crowdfunding need to up their game. Here are three suggestions:

  • Stand out from the crowd: Present your core proposition in a bolder way. Find a business expansion expert with a technology/finance background who will help you to cut through crowds of cash-strapped companies.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-price and re-package your services: A trusted outside adviser may have a better idea of who you’re competing against – and how to give you an edge, so you can push your way to the front.
  • Show you’ve got investors already: Mobilise family, friends and other contacts to raise you up on their shoulders — and boost your crowdfunding chances. Hit the magic 30% funded mark from these people and you might find that’s the tipping point that gives you traction with other investors.

But if that all doesn’t go to plan, then there are other financial backers out there. And you don’t have to go all the way back to the bank. We haven’t gone full circle!


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What’s the secret sauce for business growth?

What’s the secret sauce for business growth?

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Sooner or later, most small or medium-sized companies reach a major crossroads. Business has been good in previous years — but how do you take things to the next level? Is there one change you can make to guarantee successful growth?

I’ve worked with firms across Europe in different sectors, from manufacturing to maritime, IT to financial services. Some companies were historic family businesses, while others were maturing companies or ambitious start-ups.

Each grew. Some spectacularly. But the answer wasn’t one thing, it was four things, which I call the key ingredients for growth.

Ingredient #1: How you bring products to market
Some companies had successful products or services. New ones were being launched. But what looked exciting at the ‘engineering’ stage failed to translate into sales. The breakthrough came when we adapted the proposition. In many cases, we turned dry product features into mouth-watering product benefits that connected with customer needs. The marketing spark returned, the audience ‘got it’ and sales lit up.

Ingredient #2: How customers do business with you
Sometimes you’re so close to your own business, so familiar with its quirks and nuances, that you don’t realise how ‘doing business’ feels from the customers’ perspective. But what if there’s something going wrong at the process level and you’re missing it? Most times, it takes someone from the outside to see what’s going adrift in the customer journey — and help you fix it.

Ingredient #3: How you track and report key information
Do you want customers to tell you when problems exist — or do you want to fix them before anyone notices? Placing key performance indicators at strategic points across your business will tell you where today’s logjams and other issues need attention. This can be the secret to unlocking productivity, being able to scale up rapidly, and where to spend most effectively.

Ingredient #4: Refreshing your vision and team
Most of my clients’ success has been due to the talent of their people. But sometimes a great team starts to misfire, people clash and effort is wasted. The answer is to refresh your company vision, mission and values — turning this into objectives, deadlines and priorities. Then get everyone to align behind your common goal, so they can move ahead confidently. If they refuse, then maybe your company isn’t the best place for them — and a few new faces could improve everything?

Oops. We missed something.
What I’ve described might sound like a shopping list for growth success. But you probably need a business expansion expert (rather like a chef!) to add more some ingredients and less of others — and then to mix them into a winning recipe!

Finally, there’s one extra ingredient we haven’t mentioned. And nobody can have it but you. It’s whether you have the right mindset to grow. Are you ready for change — and do you have the drive and determination to see it through? Only then will your vision take shape.


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Three things IoT must do to get beyond the hype

Three things IoT must do to get beyond the hype

How many times have you heard that the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be epic – with billions of connected devices generating trillions of dollars? And yet, the overwhelming reaction of tech consumers right now is essentially “meh”.

Just recently, I moderated a roundtable discussion at the Milan Disruptive Week, on the subject of “Investing in IoT”. We talked about emerging sectors, key success factors and open innovation strategies. But it was my three-year-old daughter that got me involved with IoT on a personal level.

This wasn’t because she’s a genius (though I like to think she is) but because we bought a baby monitor for her. I then discovered the manufacturer, Withings, has been acquired by Nokia as part of its strategy to consolidate its position in the IoT industry. So now I can “live the dream” of IoT next time my little girl wakes at 2am.

Read the full article here.

Big versus Small: Which is better?

Big versus Small: Which is better?

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Towards the end of last year, I was invited to FT Innovate, a flagship event organised by FT Live, the global events arm of the Financial Times.

It was an intense two days of presentations, meetings and discussions. I met many interesting people and attended a dinner with the founder of Evernote and the CIO of Eurostar. I also joined a debate hosted by TableCrowd.

The buzz was around ‘Big vs. Small: which one is better?’ For me, this is always a hot topic, because I left the corporate world to focus on growth strategy for SMEs.

The debate was all around how companies of any size generate, propagate and scale innovation. Some familiar themes emerged …

Big companies have the availability of resources, but they face the pressure of the quarterly results, and innovation can sometimes be stifled by corporate processes. In contrast, small companies can engage with great new ideas more easily, but struggle with getting expertise and how to scale up without sizeable investment.

It was a good discussion. But I felt we had missed something.

Afterwards, I wondered: Are we simply accepting the traditional ‘rules’ of the game? If you win in one way, do you automatically lose in another? And what about the medium-sized companies? Are they forever doomed to be caught in the middle – beaten by the smalls or eaten by the bigs?

If you were a small company with big ambitions, how could you go about growth in a better way? Is it possible to get the best of all worlds?

I think the answer is ‘Yes’ if you take a step back and consider three simple truths.

Truth #1: Success isn’t measured by what you own physically

Unless people have a burning ambition to build an empire, then success shouldn’t be about size in terms of buildings, people or even product ranges. Success should be about growing, profitable revenue.

In effect, you could be small business – let’s say 10 people – and be astonishingly profitable without needing to add to your headcount or invest much at all in new equipment.

Truth #2: Success is often linked to being very good at one thing

Can you sum up what makes your business special in just a few words?

It’s much better to do one thing exceptionally well, rather than being a mile wide and an inch deep. Often it’s helpful to get some outside expertise to help capture your USP (unique selling point) – and revisit this from time to time. Otherwise, it’s very easy to lose focus and drift when you start to grow. Staying fairly small – in terms of your core team – can keep you focused on what you do best.

Truth #3: Other people are willing to handle 99% of the cost and risk of investing

Cash-flow is the lifeblood of smaller companies. But as you start to grow, there’s the temptation to start owning things and employing lots of people on permanent contracts. Then you need a lease on a larger premises, bigger insurance, HR people, lots of IT and much more. This might feel good at first. But, in reality, you’re narrowing your options for the future and increasing your liabilities.

Today, virtually every kind of service can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis. And the list seems to be getting longer: office space, cars, people, telephony, IT hardware, software, hosted services, videoconferencing and more. Simply let other people invest in these things and make them brilliant. Just pick the best of them rather than try to create or own them. Then simply only pay for what you use, month by month, scaling up and down easily. That’s optimum efficiency.

What will the small-big company of the future look like?

In the extreme, I suppose it might look like a large company in marketing and financial terms – a brand with a massive turnover, recognised within every home and business.

But behind the logo, there might simply be a handful of innovators and their intellectual property. They might not even own a desk between them. If they want to change direction by 180-degrees, they can – or they might set up other ‘small-big’ businesses on the side (which entrepreneurs love to do).

As a result, they combine that ‘small company’ innovative spirit and agility with those ‘big company’ resources and scalability.

What do you think?

Please post your comments below. I’d love to hear about them.


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Why falling in love with your product can be fatal

Why falling in love with your product can be fatal

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As Director of Eggcelerate, I’ve met companies at different stages of product development. These businesses have ranged from early-stage start-ups to SMEs, mid-sized companies to corporate enterprises. They’ve been in different vertical markets: telecommunications, IT, fin-tech, energy and manufacturing. Yet, they’ve had one thing in common – technology has been at the heart of their new product or service.

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not against technology. Quite the opposite. I have a technical background and I love technology. Every time some new gadget or innovative service is launched, I’m fascinated.

But this is a warning about the dangers of falling in love with your product – not one that belongs to someone else.

If you’re bringing a technology-based product to market, then you could be at risk from this malady. It’s something I’ve witnessed again and again.

So what are the signs and the dangers? Self-analysis is always difficult when you’re so close to something to get perspective. But here are three areas where you can test yourself to see if something is going wrong.

Symptom #1: You’re looking for perfection. You keep adding new features and tweaking the product before it’s launched.

This is the problem of over-engineering. The consequences are serious: longer and longer time-to-market and overspending on a product that hasn’t started bringing in any revenues. In the meantime, the window of opportunity is closing. You’re also locking up valuable resources (people, time and money).

Symptom #2: You’re dazzled by the features of your product and can’t stop talking about them.

This is where an understandable passion for your creation mutates into excessive product focus. Damage occurs when you start reaching out to potential customers: You talk about yourself and your product, not the benefits you bring to customers. Excessive product focus can also weaken your marketing proposition. You become too distracted – caught up in feature-by-feature comparisons with other products and pricing discussions.

Symptom #3: When it comes to budgets, you’re only willing to spend if it makes the product better.

At first, this sounds like good business sense. But it’s really a misallocation of resources. Suppose you spend 95% of your budget on the product, but you refuse to spend 5% on Marketing and BizDev because you believe that money may be enough ‘to improve the product’ that tiny bit more? Without spending on these other things, you’ll have no first-day clients. In fact, it could take weeks and months to create demand. Really, you should be investing in developing the commercial proposition much earlier – while the product improvement phase is happening.

What’s the antidote to product love?

I’m tempted to say the answer ‘product loathing’ but that’s the worst outcome of all – if everything goes wrong.

Rather, the best approach is to always focus on your clients – and how you can help them to tackle their business challenges in a simple, effective and profitable way.

Build a prototype/MVP as soon as you can. And if you don’t have capabilities, time or the right focus, rely on experts (not consultants! See my previous blog) to help you.

Technology is a means to an end. We should always reflect this in the way we define strategies and approach clients. Their challenges need to be at the top of the agenda. Technology follows.


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Help! My business partner is from another planet

Help! My business partner is from another planet

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It can feel like that sometimes. When companies are growing fast, pressures can bring personal differences to the surface … surprising things you didn’t realise were there! So what should you expect and how can you deal with it in a professional way?


My experience has brought me into contact with a number of start-ups in different capacities (mentor, strategist, product marketer and business developer, to name a few). I’ve also worked at different stages of product development, from the birth of an idea, to testing its commercial viability and then looking for growth capital to bring it to market on a major scale.

Working alongside company founders and CEOs gives you a unique perspective. You’re exposed to the rollercoaster of emotions that inevitably happens when companies are growing rapidly.

The excitement of a start-up or new product can take over. Targets, finances, campaigns, spreadsheets and the regular business issues are vital. But all this activity can mask significant differences.

It’s crucial not to neglect the personal and emotional side of your business – and how the company’s founders feel about how things are going and about each other. After all, will the partnership between partners be strong enough to last the distance?

Let’s explore four key areas where differences can put a strain on working together.

1) Different dreams

What do each of the founders want in 5, 10 or 25 years? Is their vision to change the world or simply to get acquired by a large player and then exit with wads of cash for an easier lifestyle?

It’s important to be on the same page from Day 1. Otherwise, this can lead to conflict and affect the company’s direction in a serious way – for example, when deciding what to do about a future round of financing.

An outside expert can provide a listening ear and work to create a common objective at the outset, giving a strong sense of direction and purpose. This can be kept in review of course.

2) Different geographies

Is it viable to have a co-founder based in a different city or country to most of the other founders? This is linked to the ability to manage expectations.

The people that live and work in the same place (often the same room!) can meet, discuss and decide what to do. This can often be spontaneous. But their remote colleague can feel more and more excluded from the decision-making process – and simply be told what’s been decided already.

It’s as if they have become a ‘virtual’ partner, not a real one. Even with the latest tech, face-to-face communication is always better in this kind of scenario. It’s so easy to misunderstand the tone of an email, isn’t it? Miscommunications can have disruptive effects – eroding trust in a way that may destroy the business.

I’ll be honest, sometimes having a remote partner doesn’t work. But it can succeed with good communications, equal input from everyone and regular calls – not simply unstructured decision-making. Sometimes decisions need to be taken quickly, so the remote partner needs to make themselves easy to contact – or be happy to delegate some decisions. You can’t have it both ways.

3) Different planets!

Often, friends go into business together, which is great! But it can be difficult for everyone to enjoy the same strength of relationship at a serious, professional level.

It’s important to have a structure in place, to define how to make decisions and what to do in case of disagreements. Formulating a shareholders’ agreement at the outset is fundamental. Someone told me once that it’s a document you write when you’re sober – to use when your drunk, and I agree.

Think about what can go wrong and add it to the agreement: if things work you’ll never read it again. But if things become challenging, it’s essential. I know of co-founders having an equal share and no agreement. They were unable to decide if/how to take their start-up to the next level – and lacked the legal ground to unlock this difficult situation either way.

4) Different levels of resilience

If two people always agree, only one is needed; if they always disagree, both are not needed!

Disagreements can drain the life out of people – and your early enthusiasm for the business ebbs away. Companies grind to a halt. So how can you keep going during tougher times?

Even in healthy and active working relationships, sooner or later, you disagree and get to a conflict situation. This is usually amplified by the stress, the workload, the lack of sleep … and ultimately governed by the level of resilience of each person.

It’s here where points 1-3 all come together. But on top, you need a deep respect for each other, enormous patience and an acknowledgement that the skills/roles/experience of each person may be different, so should carry weight accordingly. Sometimes a decision is more to do with the other person’s side of the business. Sometimes you just have to ‘let things go’ on some issues, while the other person does the same on points that matter most to you. It’s give and take, which gives you balance. In many ways, this is the sharp end that may decide the fate of any company.


The points above speak for themselves and are worth considering seriously before going very far with any new start-up business or offshoot operation.

I would strongly urge anyone in this situation to get outside expertise to set a whole range of ground rules – from goals to communications. I know it’s often the last thing of people’s minds – and no-one likes to think of worst-case scenarios during those giddy early days of a new venture.

Getting a sympathetic expert to work alongside everyone to agree some helpful ground rules doesn’t have to be a dry, awkward, clinical experience. It’s a good way of thrashing out important details before politics or other problems raise their ugly heads. You could even decide how partners can exit the business gracefully if they wish (which is to be expected, almost inevitably). Sort these things while everyone is in a good mood and feeling positive. It can actually prove to be a motivating experience too, unlocking ideas and goals.

Ground rules will give everyone that added confidence as you move forwards. Over time, they’ll effectively serve as that grounded and sensible voice in the boardroom – that everyone can call on for impartial guidance.

Without thinking ahead, that first rush of enthusiasm that got your company started could disappear as quickly as it arrived.


This blog has been published as an article, read it here.

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Make your pitch – but avoid a horror show

Make your pitch – but avoid a horror show

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Cringe-making, toe-curling, awkward, confusing, arrogant, shabby, disorganised, unbelievable, deluded … all words that could be used to describe the worst business pitches. And most of us have been there, at one side of the table or another. If you want to avoid pitfalls with pitches, then read on …

First up, I don’t consider myself to be a ‘pitch guru’. However, over the years, I spent some time in the vibrant start-up London ecosystem, and have mentored start-ups in the UK and across the channel.

I come across pitches a lot – and I’m usually in the audience or watching from the wings. Sometimes it’s on a one-to-one, confidential basis. Other times, it’s at so-called pitching events. The latest one was the PitchFire event, which was part of the RoboBusiness Expo in Milan earlier this year. It was interesting and well organised. Well done to them.

This experience prompted me to clarify some thoughts about pitching. I haven’t provided any ‘general rules’. But this article might prove helpful as a checklist when you’re preparing your next pitch. These points are based on what I’ve actually heard before at pitches, time and again.

5 things you need in a pitch – but what’s often said

1) What you do

Q) I didn’t understand what you do

A) Well, the timeslot was too short to talk about our business model

If you can’t articulate what you do in a pitch to potential investors, partners or others, then how will customers have any a chance of understanding? Be very clear at the outset. You should be able to give anyone a good idea within 30 seconds.

2) Unique selling point (USP)

Q) What is your USP?

A) My what … ?

What makes you different? Why does the marketplace need your products or services? Three reasons are ideal. Make them clear, compelling and unique. And show you know the TLA! (That’s a three-letter acronym standing for ‘three-letter acronym’! 😉 )

3) Competitors

Q) Who are you competing against?

A) Oh, we have no competitors

Unless you’ve designed the world’s first teleportation machine or pizzas that deliver themselves, then you will surely have competitors. But even in that case, you have substitutes or at least one competing technology, maybe from adjacent industries (for some time, bicycle would be a competitor to teleportation to me!). The answer above is naive. Prepare for this question. Research competitors, even if their offering is slightly different. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Work out if your advantages are sustainable.

4) Your team

Q) Tell me about your team

A) We have known one another for so long and have very diverse skills – pretty unique

So many people respond this way. But we are all unique in some way. This kind of answer also points to a slightly unhealthy inward looking approach to the business that could be viewed as self serving. Much better to explain the business benefit of each individual, which might be their experience, contacts, etc. Then your ‘stock’ will grow in their minds of investors. After all, they are investing in your team. So why should they?

5) Finance

Q) What will you be using the money for?

A) Mainly product development. And BizDev. Oh, and people.

This is where many pitches come unstuck. Until now you’ve been talking about ‘your world’. Now you’re firmly in their territory. And they are the experts. Make sure you have the right answers and figures to back up everything you say – otherwise your pitch will unravel at this point (if it’s still intact). Be detailed about what you’re using the money for. Use an expert to help you with this – so you’re absolutely confident in all you say.

Other points

There are plenty more I could add which are important too: trademarks/patents, working capital, return on investment, and exit strategies … to name a few.

Then we could get into all the detail beneath of each of these, which is really crucial because your audience may push you for more information. The conversation could take all sorts of twists and turns. But each pitch will be so unique for every company that a single article can’t do the job.

Parting advice

I have mentored many start-ups in different sectors (telecoms, IT, agriculture, maritime, tech manufacturing, fin-tech, and more). But when it comes to pitches, many of the ground rules are exactly the same and they all need to work towards answering a single question: Is this a viable business worth investing in?

What I hope you’ll take from this article is the need to be 100% prepared for your next pitch. Work with someone who will give you clear, honest and constructive feedback. Much better to take it from them and work together on making it better, than emerging from a pitch with your dream in tatters and a potentially brilliant business plan that’s failed at the first hurdle.


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Are you allergic to consultants?

Are you allergic to consultants?

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The symptoms can creep up on you. There’s a sensation that you’re losing control. Perhaps you’re overcome by a feeling of weariness. And maybe your wallet seems mysteriously lighter. The symptoms can come and go, every few years …


Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients that want to achieve and manage growth for their businesses. In most cases, this meant difficult change at some level. But they all managed to go through it and achieve their objectives.

However, all of them loathed the word ‘consultant’.

Why? Well, they had some previous experience with consulting firms that came in and told them what to do. The consultant’s report or presentation was slick and stylish. Then they disappeared, leaving behind a huge bill.

Their recommendations didn’t really work either. But it was easy for the consultants to claim that the execution, not the strategy, was to blame. And therefore, another consulting assignment was needed to fix things!

Does that sounds familiar?

Simply telling small businesses what to do isn’t enough. Neither is coming up with a strategy. You need to be accountable for the execution.

Small businesses don’t require consultants. What they really need are ‘committed experts’.

So how can you identify one? Here are five ways capabilities they will display.

1) They can provide the answers that small businesses need – and put them into effect
Usually, ‘committed experts’ have experience working for major corporations as well as for small businesses. They understand the pressures weighing on business owners and senior decision-makers, whether it’s the daily decisions faced by a small family firm, or a key change to a portfolio of products worth millions of pounds. They know what works and what doesn’t. They put their proposals into action for you.

2) They are multi-skilled. One person is usually enough.
Their skill-set extends across many overlapping areas of business expertise: strategy, marketing, business development, restructuring and funding. Normally, hiring just one person is enough. This means you can make smarter decisions faster, without endless meetings with large groups of people.

3) They are committed
They don’t suddenly appear, make a few general observations and then vanish, leaving you with a large bill. They’re willing to work hand-in-hand with your business at a deeper, employee level. You can trust them. They’re open, honest, knowledgeable, committed and genuinely care about making your company a success. They’ll stay for as long as you need them.

4) When you invest, they’ll help you to get more back
During times of business growth, it’s very easy for companies to waste money on marketing plans, product launches and campaigns that turn out to be flawed. When working for your company, they’ll help you to avoid these approaches and focus only on proven strategies that will deliver the maximum return on investment (ROI).

5) They see the ‘big picture’ and can make success sustainable
Expanding in a profitable way is great news for any company. But it often leads to ‘growing pains’ as the business needs to reshape and re-organise around different objectives, products/services and customers. These experts will enable you to plan ahead, so you can prepare for these extra challenges in advance. This way, you can adapt easily, avoid the pressures of unforeseen consequences and protect the morale of your staff. With their help, you can make your profitability sustainable.

Maybe at this point you’re asking whether these people exist!

They do. But you have to look closely.

For a start, try to spot those who ask questions, rather than giving answers straight away.

That’s a good sign they’re focused on you and solving your problems – rather than making a quick dollar and a fast getaway!


This blog has been published as an article, read it here.

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