Want a Killer Business Plan Template? Sign up for Advice from Sophie Neary!

Sophie Neary is one of the NextAdvisors signed up to advise our community in our Business Advice Programme.

Sophie is a veteran Internet entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in high growth start ups and major blue chips. She was on the management team of JCP, acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2000 and a founding director of the award winning BeatThatQuote.com, acquired by Google in 2011.

Sophie first started working with Internet platforms and services in 1995 when she was part of the team to launch Reuters’ first ever internet products.

After stepping back from her day-to-day role at BeatThatQuote (where she oversaw the development and roll out of the platform and looked after the marketing which resulted in BTQ beating Facebook to be the fastest growing website in the UK in 2007), Sophie became a freelance consultant.

Sophie is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

As an executive consultant Sophie’s roles have included: CIO of Silk Route, the company who developed and ran TescoEntertainment.com (all of Tesco’s music, video and games); Crystal Entertainment (a spin off from Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment – American Idol, brand Beckham etc); Board Level Consultant for Asda developing multi-channel strategy across all their businesses; Exec level multi-channel and monetisation strategy for SYCO (Simon Cowell’s company – X Factor, Got Talent etc); and Skype.

Sophie also sits on the board of a couple of innovative start-ups, specializing in big data & retail, and mentors women in technology. 

TNW: Tell us about your current role/venture. What’s at the top of your mind with regard to your business?

SN: I’m the European CEO of a pioneering mobile platform for sport called PlayUp.com. The company was founded in Australia and I’m responsible over here for everything from user acquisition to securing deals with rights holders. After working in the retail, financial and entertainment industries, it’s interesting to be working in a new area – and not without its challenges!  

Top of my mind is the sports fans we serve – what’s going to be the best experience for them, as when you’re meeting and exceeding customer needs then acquisition, loyalty, revenues and everything else that matters fall into place.

I’m also on the board of a few internet start ups – mainly in the mobile and retail space. Most recently I invested in Shareight.com – an innovative retail search engine that could change the way we browse on mobile forever.

TNW: Which business topics are you most interested in providing advice on?

SN: My background is product development, marketing and strategy planning.

I have a killer business plan template that I give to all startups I work with – I haven’t found anyone yet who didn’t say it was invaluable. 

I’m probably not the best person to advise on technical architecture or finance – anything else I’ve usually got a good handle on. After 20 years of working in the internet and tech industry, and exiting two companies, along with working with the likes of Tesco, Asda and Simon Cowell, I’ve been and bought the t-shirt in a wide range of areas!

TNW: How should a NextAdvisee approach their relationship with you, to get the best out of you?

SN: I think lazer sharp focus is helpful, come prepared with your top three challenges or the specific things you’re looking for help on. The more vague the request, the more vague the answer. I have a set list of questions that can help elicit specific responses if a NextAdvisee is struggling to get to the specifics of an issue. Be prepared before hand!

TNW: What do you see as the benefits of an advice relationship, for the advisor?

SN: 

For me, it’s the opportunity to give back. I’ve worked very hard in my career and been successful – I guess I have experience that money can’t buy.

I find it very rewarding to help other people put goals, strategies and plans in place to meet their ambitions.  

TNW: Do you currently have a mentor?

SN: Not an official one – but I do have close relationships with a couple of amazing people who I’m lucky to call friends. They probably don’t know they are mentoring me – but the reality is that I find their advice invaluable.  

TNW: Which business matters have you most needed advice on during your career?

SN: Not to be afraid to fail – we have the lovely new buzzword for that now – ‘fail forward’. I was always cautious of failing and so needed support and encouragement to be bolder than my natural instincts allowed. Fortune favours the bold - I was always naturally cautious about putting my neck on the line. There's a balance for sure, and certainly some people would say I definitely am a risk taker; I left my job at Reuters when I was only 26 years old to join an unheard of internet start up, my parents thought I was certifiably insane!

TNW: What is the most useful lesson you have learned from a mentor?

SN:

My strength is my weakness and my weakness is my strength.

It ties into the above. I’m brilliant at execution – seriously you could put Mount Everest in front of me and I’d find a way to go round it, over it, through it, under it. The best way to motivate me is to say ‘I bet you can’t do this’. 99% of the time it’s a brilliant trait to have, but the 1% of the time when things do go wrong and I can’t fix them, I have a tendency to over-react and usually get quite emotional. So now, I just take a deep breath, meditate and tell myself that no-body died. It’s a good job I didn’t decide to be a brain surgeon....

TNW: Who would be your dream mentor in a fantasy world (they can be living or a historical figure)?

SN: Oh wow, well I think Anita Roddick would have to be up there and I’d have loved to have spent some time with Winston Churchill. I’d love to spend some time with Marissa Meyer.

I have huge respect for the fact that she took on the challenge that is Yahoo! She stepped in when many men wouldn’t.

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you would like to share with our community?

SN: I have a rescue Jack Russell terrier called Tiggy, so if you like dogs then I guess it would be a bonus as she's my pride and joy. The best way to get me on side is to ask how she's doing!

Sophie is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

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