27 May 2019

Taking time to recalibrate in the mountains with my two managing directors, Gail Jones and Jonathan Bowers - there are no shortcuts in business

Mountain climbing takes practice, focus, time and patience, much like growing a business.

How often are you tempted to take a shortcut?

It’s all too easy to want to jump ahead, to be swayed by the prospect of instant gratification. But life doesn’t work that way! As the saying goes – good things come to those who wait.

In fact, taking a shortcut in business can prove to be catastrophic later down the line, much like building a castle on sand.

I very much believe that you have to put in the time and effort to build strong foundations for the business and for your own personal growth.

For example, one of the most common shortcuts that I see time and time again in startups is taking on investment too soon. In the age of ‘Dragons’ Den’ we see startup entrepreneurs looking for investment before they’ve even generated any revenue, when the business is a concept. Or fledgling firms give away swathes of their business before they’ve really tried to struggle through, or even not knowing what they need that cash injection for.

In the early days of UKFast, we did everything we could to tighten the purse strings to ensure that we didn’t take investment on too soon. It’s a myth that every startup needs a huge amount of financial backing.

Of course, you have to be frugal, you have to learn skills that you can’t afford to hire in for and that is undoubtedly difficult. It takes huge amounts of energy and commitment, and often sacrifice.

But ultimately you have to ask yourself, if it is worth it in the long term. What do you need that investment for? Is having the investment to pay for a funky-looking office, fancy furniture and jumping ahead a few years really worth giving up chunk of your business for?

Driving at 100mph

You simply can’t rush things in business. Consider it this way, when you are driving a car, the risk is relatively low when you’re travelling at 30mph. When you up you’re speed, so does the risk and effort. Driving at 100mph takes a huge amount of focus, steering and controlling the vehicle becomes more difficult and the risk is hugely increased. When growing a business, the risk increases likewise.

Take your time and consider what an investor can bring to the table aside from the money itself. Will their expertise accelerate the growth? What can they do that you can’t? It should never be about hopping ahead. Whether that’s investment or otherwise.

When you’re climbing mountain, you have to train. You have to put in the practice, to build up to it. Then you put in the graft, the steps, the stumbles, the grazes. Once you reach the summit, that feeling is incomparable. Would you have that feeling if you took a helicopter half way up?

I know from experience that the lessons learned in those harder times have shaped both Gail and myself to be better business people in the long run.

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