Business Leaders reveal the 7 Secret Ingredients to Grow your Business

Last week, The NextWomen left London for sunny Cambridge to attend the Business Leaders Network Growth Forum 2010. Around 170 ambitious entrepreneurs and investors met up at the University of Cambridge ideaSpace to network and discuss different elements involved in the growth of a business.

What was revealed were the Seven Secret Ingredients to Grow a Business:

A Successful Business Starts with a Great Team
jana eggers and david soskinAccording to Female Internet Hero and the NextMentor Jana Eggers, CEO of Spreadshirt, the key elements to build and maintain a good team are:

  1. Communication and Trust
  2. Fire people quickly and let people leave
  3. Only trust negative references when hiring people
  4. Have a simple goal, clear enough for all employees to understand and focus
  5. Give both Guidance and Autonomy

A Successful Business needs a Star Advisory Team
Mark Zaleski
As for the advisory board, Hermann Hauser, Co-Founder of Amadeus Capital Partners, explained entrepreneurs should appoint a a “star” entrepreneur on the Advisory board as he will importantly influence business decisions and investors. The type of people you manage to get on board will reflect the quality of your product idea and business plan.

“You get the board you deserve”, Mark Zaleski, Chairman of DVDPost

So if you don’t manage to get great people involved, you may have to rethink your product.

A Successful Business adapts to Dynamic Markets
IMG_2490 For your business to be a success, the market needs to be there. Tudor Brown, President of ARM Holdings explained that what has been learned in the past of ARM is that a great technology innovation with no market is prone to fail. The customer base must be established and the market identified. As every market changes in time, timing and adaptation to new markets and to a new business model is essential.

“Be confident, don’t miss an opportunity”, Tudor Brown, President of ARM Holdings

A Successful Business follows its Customers.
“Follow your customers!”, the successful serial entrepreneurs will keep on telling you. The “Getting customers to come and stay” panel chaired by Ted Shelton, Co-Founder and Partner of the TED conferences which included Russell Buckley, Vice President, Global Alliances of AdMob agreed on one point: an excellent entrepreneur will be able to predict what his customers will want in the near future.

Russell Buckley
Care about what people say about you and your brand. The importance and influence of “word-of-mouth” in constantly increasing so good customer relationship is essential. Identify your company detractors, the ones who wouldn’t “recommend you to someone else” on the survey feedback, and follow up. You learn best from your mistakes.

“It’s not because your product is brilliant that it will sell a lot and quickly. You have to get people to love you”, Russell Buckley, VP Global Aliances of AdMob

Finally, use social media carefully. Your customers may not be there (mobile apps, twitter etc.) and costs and time investments could outway the benefits while you could find other ways to sell with lower investments for higher returns.

A Successful Business will be able to Fund Growth
Terry Burt and Stuart Paver (photo from Jonathan Gough)
For Terry Burt, CEO of 2e2 and who invested in over 50 businesses, entrepreneurs have to find investors they can work with. Transparency and trust are key. The person who invested money will be working closely with the entrepreneur and his team for several years, so their relationship will be very determining.

Last advice from Mark Zaleski: “Be careful the kind of money you take on”.

Any investment comes with a different baggage, different strings attached. You may want to think through carefully what is expected from you and manage expectations: accept the fact that you cannot do everything.

A Successful Business will Expand Globally by Targeting Countries
"Identifying and Targeting Big Markets" Panel (photo by Rob Wheatley)
The "Identifying and Targeting big markets" panel chaired by Angel Investor Sherry Coutu which included Tudor Brown, President of ARM Holdings; Al Gosling, CEO of The Extreme Sports Company; Richard Longdon, Group Chief Executive of AVEVA Group plc and Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy concluded there are 2 ways:

1. you could choose a country where you already have competitors, implying the presence of relevant customers and markets,

2. while others would simply decide to go where opportunities and gaps are and find the right local people and partners to work with.

A Successful Business Learns from Failures and has some Luck
There are no set rules to grow a business successfully but entrepreneurs learn from each other by sharing knowledge and experience. People learn from their mistakes and from their competitors’ mistakes. Unfortunately, luck is also a big component of a growing business.

Ashish Patel (photo by Rob Wheatley)

“I’d rather be with a lucky investor than a smart one”, Ashish Patel, VC and entrepreneur

As entrepreneurs learn from mistakes, adaptability is also a key skill to have to be able to follow the trend, market, and customers in order to grow a business further on a long term basis.

The event ended with a few words by Mark Littlewood, the Founder of BLN, summarizing the main themes which came up during the Growth Forum:

Honesty, Bravery, Passion, Simplicity, Great Advice and Timing.

He thank you for the write up and the very kind words.

We are delighted that you enjoyed the day. It was a privilege to put together, a relief that the room was full and energising to see so many conversations going on over the course of the day.

We will be posting video footage of the speakers as it is processed on our blog http://thebln.com/blog/ Follow the BLN Twitter account (@The_BLN) for updates. I will let you know when it is available and you would be most welcome to share.

Mark Littlewood

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