The guests were a mix of senior directors and owners of the fast growing businesses that reside in Workspace buildings across London. They were greeted with an array of fabulous canapés and drinks supplied by the excellent Acklam 242, the cafe at Westbourne Studios. Lively discussions and networking were aplenty amongst the array of contrasting business leaders, who all had one thing on their minds: how to continue the growth of their new companies.
To help us navigate the proceedings were our hosts Chris Dines of Knowledge Peers and Alan Coates, one-time senior director of United Biscuits.
Chris and Ken Mawbey, founder of AroundThen, the networking app helped kick the event off by introducing the speakers David Riley and Mike Southon.
First up was David Riley (pictured below). David had built a profitable award-winning recruitment company and sold a majority stake to an international public company, later selling the whole company for a significant six figure sum.
He had also experienced more difficult times with other businesses he had run and as a successful mentor could impart a real wisdom. Alan Coates began by asking David about what drove him on through those early years and what advice he would give to today’s startup entrepreneurs. “Fear of poverty” was David’s initial response. He had re-mortgaged his home as had his business partner and they had both relinquished a great deal of equity to the bank to start up the company. They were already in debt before they started.
However it was a driving force for both of them to put in the long hours and go that extra mile to ensure the success of the business. David also encouraged business owners to hold on to the controlling ownership stake of the business at all costs. He eventually bought back the original equity swap but at a greatly increased cost from its original value.
He also delivered sound, no-nonsense wisdom to the crowd - from stating that you must “bring in great people and build great teams” around you, allowing them to “create the culture of the business from within”, to saying “many, many small differences make the main difference to whether a business succeeds or fails. Then it was time for dinner.
A fantastic menu of coq au vin and risotto was served followed by a desert of lemon possets and shortbread, all of which was consumed in the vibrant surroundings of the courtyard area of Westbourne Studios. The next guest Mike Southon, a successful serial entrepreneur, mentor and best-selling business author, passed on his thoughts on what makes a successful entrepreneur.
Having built and sold his own company in the ‘80s and worked with seventeen different startups in the ‘90s, with two of these companies later going public and three that went broke, Mike was in a perfect position to expound his ‘Beermat Entrepreneur’ style anecdotes.
He again talked about holding onto founder equity at all costs. He encouraged making the extra sale before looking to “raise more cash for equity”. The theme of building strong teams with “people you like” again emerged as being an extremely important ingredient to a successful business. Mike Southon stressed that the quality that entrepreneurs need the most of all is “gumption”. Looking around, there was certainly plenty of that on display this evening.
If you're a Workspace-based customer, you can take part in the Workspace Business Insights Programme which is run by the business network Knowledge Peers. WBI conducts case studies and hosts dinners.