What I wish I’d known

Film school graduate and former Panorama documentary maker Nick Glynne gave up a successful career in the media to open a computer shop with £3,000. He now runs IT company Easycom, which is about to hit sales of £100 million


Film school graduate and former Panorama documentary maker Nick Glynne gave up a successful career in the media to open a computer shop with £3,000. He now runs IT company Easycom, which is about to hit sales of £100 million

Film school graduate and former Panorama documentary maker Nick Glynne gave up a successful career in the media to open a computer shop with £3,000. He now runs IT company Easycom, which is about to hit sales of £100 million

I loved making film, but there was no continuity in it. You made the film, it was consumed and then you had to start again. I really wanted to build something up independent of me and the only way to do that was through running an organisation.

For me, what I’m doing now is far more creative as you have to continuously think on your feet. There are similarities in both careers: you need passion, organisation and an understanding of what makes people tick. Both have a similar level of intensity as well.

Learn to focus
The main thing I wish I’d done is focus on my strategy. I used to have loads of ideas that I’d chase when I was starting, instead of just picking a few things and doing them properly. When I first took over the shop I was always coming up with ideas and that became a problem: we were taking on too many projects. At one point, there were about 60 different initiatives between three people. Not having a focus definitely hindered our growth in the early days.

Spend money
Early on, I fretted too much about keeping operational costs low. This meant we didn’t have proper IT systems in place to deal with every customer eventuality, such as processing credit notes. I ended up wasting my time absorbed in things that I shouldn’t have been thinking about. The total cost probably came to about £2 million in trying to develop the system ourselves, whereas if we had bought it from scratch it would have been half the price.

For a lot of entrepreneurs, aiming for perfection is one of the key drivers. So although the business was growing, there was a real sense that something was missing because behind the scenes it was such a struggle. For that whole period I didn’t have a proper work-life balance, and my marriage collapsed.

It’s also important not to be tight with people. Even if it means taking a hit on your own salary, you need people who can think on their feet. There was a particularly talented person who worked for me and I know now I should have done more to keep them.

I should have realised that it wasn’t their business and so they needed incentives to stay.

Long-term gains
Just because something is profitable, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. It isn’t always where the growth will come from. When we first started we were building about 200 PCs a week, which was very profitable for us. But it came to the point where I realised we were being held back. I had to ask myself, is this something I can scale up?

There wasn’t much market potential in it and we would have had to increase our cost base, so we eventually closed down two profitable divisions of the company in order to focus on the more scalable side of the business.

Trust yourself
Although I didn’t want to sell my business, I wanted to make it exitable at any stage. The auditors reminded me that in order to do this I needed to ensure it was not dependent on me and have a good management team in place. At the time, I was running the company on my own; but I was persuaded to hire an entire team from my competitors. My instincts said this was wrong and it turned out I was right. The new staff didn’t really understand the finer details of the business, and weren’t adding much to the company. Consequently, I had to get rid of them and the total cost was astronomical. My whole approach to business has been this sort of childlike, instinctive attitude, and that has been partly responsible for some of the mistakes I’ve made on the way. But I know if I had gone to business school, I would have been too intimidated to take the kind of risks I have.

The mistakes have contributed to the success of the business in a way. It’s all part of the same package. If I’d been more cautious, I wouldn’t be here now.

Marc Barber

Raven Connelly

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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