Interviews

14 Tips From 14 Years In Business

Celebrating 14 years since he set up his first business, de Poel (a temporary labour procurer), recruitment entrepreneur Matthew Sanders reflects on his journey so far with some valuable experience-based advice.

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Celebrating 14 years since he set up his first business, de Poel (a temporary labour procurer), recruitment entrepreneur Matthew Sanders reflects on his journey so far with some valuable experience-based advice.

Interviews

14 Tips From 14 Years In Business

Celebrating 14 years since he set up his first business, de Poel (a temporary labour procurer), recruitment entrepreneur Matthew Sanders reflects on his journey so far with some valuable experience-based advice.

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14 Tips From 14 Years In Business

They say most businesses fail within three years, so growing a successful company over 14 years is a notable achievement. But success is not a linear process and every day represents a learning curve, so here is a lesson-learned for each year de Poel has been alive.

1.       Back yourself and your ideas

When I think back to my 26 year-old self, I was enjoying a fantastic career finding my niche in recruitment. There was a real buzz in the industry and I quickly worked my way up the ranks. However, I reached a point where I became restless – something was missing.

This something was a company of my own. This vision comprised of a neutral vendor solution, which optimised company and recruitment agency relationships by sitting between the two parties; something that was pretty radical 14 years ago. Moving from poacher to gamekeeper, this became reality in 2001, through the founding of my first business, de Poel.

2.       Balance ambition with some pragmatism

When it comes to starting up a business, it can be easy to grow impatient – we tend to lose sense of the bigger picture sometimes. Building a business should be seen as a journey, and success does not often come overnight.

3.       Be bold and take risks

Business success cannot always be attributed simply to hard work, determination and careful planning – you have to be able to take risks.

Having said that, I do not believe that in order to achieve true success it is a case of flipping a coin; truly successful business owners are experienced and adept at taking risk, pursuing opportunities only once they know the limits of the risks they take.

4.       Mistakes are what make us human: learn from them and move on

Being a firm believer in not having regrets, I would not do anything differently in my career. de Poel’s proprietary software solution, e-tips, was revolutionary at the time I launched the business, and is now a proven technology which has processed over 2 billion hours. However, ADD and Permport, two complementary software solutions did not have the same success and cost me a nearly a quarter of a million pounds.

But I do not see this as a ‘failure’ – life is a continuous learning curve. What is crucial is how you learn and grow from these experiences; opportunities can be found in the most unexpected places.

5.       Lateral thinking

There have been, and continue to be, many occasions when I have needed to deviate from limited thinking; our natural ‘auto-pilot’. Naturally, as time-poor human beings on the go constantly, when we process things we tend to automatically do them without engaging in an actual thought process.

By tapping into lateral thinking and allowing your mind to explore untraditional realms, some of your seemingly outlandish ideas may just prove to be the foundation for many successful actions.

6.       Know your competition

This may seem obvious, but it is vital to know who your competition is, what it looks like and how it sounds. As the saying goes, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer” – every one of us faces competition on a daily basis, even if we do not realise it.

Don't just research what is already out there; it is crucial to always monitor threats posed by both current competitors and new entrants to your market.

7.       Know your customer/client

In the same way as knowing your competition, it is essential that you know your customer/client inside out, in order to provide an optimum service. Take the time to understand the needs of your customers and react accordingly. The benefit of being a small to medium sized business is you can react quickly and be dynamic.

8.       A business is nothing without its people

Quite simply, a business is nothing without its people and my team help me to drive my vision forward each day. I strongly believe that a strong team is a critical success factor in business; you can save time, money and increase productivity by hiring properly.

9.       Be yourself

Regardless of whether you are an ENTJ, and INTP or ESTP personality type, it is important to be true to yourself in business. I for one believe this begins with self-awareness: knowing who you are—your values, emotions, and competencies—and how you’re perceived by others.

10.   Don’t follow the crowd

Continuing on the same theme, I believe much of my success has been down to breaking away from the crowds and not being afraid to put my head above the parapet.

11.   Watch your cash flow and spending

Another seemingly obvious tip, but cash is king when it comes to the financial management of a growing company. It is about preparation, meticulous cash flow management but also understanding that these plans are not glimpses into the future.

12.   Be willing to work ungodly hours

I have spoken about gut instinct and being adept at taking risk, but this does not work without putting in some serious hours. When I launched de Poel, I gave up my social life and engrossed myself in working seven days a week, determined that it would eventually pay off.

I am still of the belief that if you want something enough you have to put in the hard graft – whether that is at 2pm or 2am. However, I am now fortunate to have the freedom to travel to various parts of the world and have the flexibility to pursue my charitable interests, alongside growing the business.

My next fundraising activity is The City Three Peaks next month, where I will be abseiling down three iconic buildings in London to raise money for The Outward Bound Trust – I have always relished a challenge!

13.   Understand what makes you different

I have always believed passionately in doing things differently, challenging the norm and improving service levels; this is Brookfield Rose’s ethos. As a result, I have always sold on what makes us unique, our strengths and why clients should use our services/products.

It is about building a business case that is so strong, they will not be able to say ‘no’ and are already envisaging a successful working partnership.

14.   Set both long and short term goals

Long-term goals are hugely important, but without a clear idea on the smaller steps required to get you there, there is the danger of losing focus at times. In order to keep on track, you should break down your long-term goals and assign appropriate timelines, visualising these as mini-milestones on your way to success.

Matthew founded de Poel in partnership with Michael Campbell in 2001. For more, visit his personal website www.matthewsanders.info.

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14 Tips From 14 Years In Business

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