Welcome to The Inspirations. In this series I’ll be interviewing people that have influenced me and my business in a variety of ways. I find every single one of the people I’ll be profilling incredibly inspiring and I hope you will too.
This week I chatted to Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation. I first discovered Emma after seeing her interviewed on the now defunct ‘Working Lunch’ BBC TV show. She was talking about supporting 5-9ers – i.e. people that run a small business in addition to holding down a full time job. This was exactly the position I was in at that time. I was working five days a week at the shopping channel, and running Rock n Roll Bride in my hours off.
I was so incredibly inspired by her story that I decided to drop her an email to tell her so. Within days Emma has got back to me, said she loved my website and would I be willing to be profiled in a book she was writing on the subject, ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a successful business in your spare time’. Of course I said yes (my photo was even on the cover!) and since then I’ve been incredibly motivated by everything Emma does, in particular her work with Start Up Britain, a company that supports people wanting to start their own businesses.
Not only is Emma amazing at what she does but the fact that her business is helping your business, makes her the perfect candidate for this first interview. I hope you find her as incredible as I do!
Can you tell us what inspired you to start Enterprise Nation?
After studying Law and Japanese at University I joined Arthur Andersen which, at the time, was the world’s largest professional services company and in my 5 years spent with the firm I created an inward investment group helping international clients set up operations and offices in Europe. This career led to me starting my first business – Techlocate – which was an incredible experience as, with a business partner, I launched, grew and successfully sold the company within 2 years. It very quickly taught me a lot about business! Having started and grown the first business from my spare room, this was the inspiration for second venture; Enterprise Nation which started life as the home business website but has since developed into a small business support company, helping anyone start and grow a successful business. Over the past 6 years we’ve developed the website, published books and kits, launched funds and been heavily involved in national start up campaigns – one of the great highs of being your own boss is you never quite know what next week/month/year will bring!
Have you ever faced any major obstacles in your career and how have you overcome them?
I wouldn’t really call them obstacles – more like challenges. The ones I’ve faced, to be honest, have mainly been around people ie have I chosen the right people to partner with us/ work for us etc. I’ve got this wrong a few times but I’d like to think I learn every time as to what to look out for next time round! The secret, I believe, is to learn quick and move on. There are a whole host of good people and profitable opportunities out there awaiting your call!
Has anyone ever criticised you or what you do and how have you dealt with this?
The harshest criticism I ever received was not related to my business but to the StartUp Britain campaign of which I’m a co-founder and was interim CEO for the first six months after launch on 28th March 2011. The campaign had a high profile launch with the Prime Minister and Chancellor present so the spotlight was on us and a number of people did not respond favourably to what we were doing. At first, I couldn’t understand this as the campaign is not funded by government (ie not costing the taxpayer any money) and its objectives are to help more people start and grow a business – how could that possibly be knocked?! What I quickly realised is that the best policy to allay criticism is to communicate better – understand the object of criticism, offer a response and try to turn critics into friends. I’m delighted to say the campaign now has many thousands of friends!
How important is standing out from the crowd and your competitors for you?
I think it is more critical than ever to stand out from the crowd as there is a lot of noise in our daily lives and as a small business owner, you have to be noticed. I try to achieve this by having a deep understanding of my market (start ups and small business), having an opinion, and then communicating that opinion via a range of channels. My opinion on small business is that anyone is capable of becoming their own boss and you can start and grow at low risk and on a low budget – I communicate this opinion through my website, in my books, at events and presentations and via videos/eBooks/in the press etc. The key to standing out is to become an expert in your field so customers and the media come to you for your opinion, products and services.
Can I say, Kat Williams, you’ve done an amazing job of standing out from the crowd, focusing on your niche and building a community of fans and friends – great work!
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I always think it sounds a little naff but my Mum has been an inspiration as she ran restaurants when I was growing up so you could say my business education started early! I’ve also been impressed and inspired by US entrepreneur, Martha Stewart. I recently heard her speak at an event and at the age of 70 she is at the top of her game with detailed knowledge of business operations and ambitious plans for growth – to me, that has to be admired.
What drives you as a business woman?
A commitment to see more people start and grow their own business and a personal ambition to build a profitable company out of doing what I love.
Oh, and to prove to my Grandma that you can be nice and still be successful in business!
What have been the biggest highlights of your career so far?
Selling my first business, publication of our first book, the launch of StartUp Britain and the current make-up of the Enterprise Nation team.
I’m hoping there’s many more to come!
What key attributes do you think all entrepreneurs need to have to succeed?
As per earlier response, I think everyone has the attributes to start a business and then you’re in control of how fast or large you want the business to grow.
In business what we all need is a plan, commitment to work hard, the skills to partner and deal with others, and the strength of mind and personality to keep going!
If you could go back and give yourself once piece of advice at the beginning of your career what would it be?
Make time for the gym more often!
What business lessons have you learnt over the years?
I’ve learnt many from lots of different people but possibly the one I think of every day is what I refer to as the golden triangle which is to spend roughly a third of your time on three things; business development, customer care and admin. It’s a useful guide. The lesson I hope to offer most to others in 2012 is ‘focus on what you do best and outsource the rest’ … I believe it’s simply the best way to grow!