Lara Morgan is amongst the big names included in a new list of businessmen and women giving the most back to the next generation of entrepreneurs, as voted by fellow entrepreneurs. Compiled by the Centre for Entrepreneurs in partnership with Maserati, the list was revealed by The Sunday Times and showcases those who give their time and expertise willingly to support new business.
Listed alongside other prominent entrepreneurs such as co-founder of Carphone Warehouse Sir Charles Dunstone and co-founder of lastminute.com, Brent Hoberman, Lara Morgan was recognised for the help Company Shortcuts provides to fledgling businesses to increase sales.
At the age of 23, Lara started her first business, Pacific Direct, manufacturing and selling brand licensed toiletries to the hospitality industry. She famously took all her staff to Barbados to celebrate the company’s first £1million profit, before selling her majority stake in the business just three years later for £20million.
Lara Morgan is now founder and Chairman of Company Shortcuts, an innovative sales acceleration agency that offers a complete sales solution to ambitious business leaders. 100% of her profits from Company Shortcuts are invested into The Company Shortcuts Trust, to sponsor ambitious enterprise leaders’ course costs to support their growth acceleration. She also invests in a number of innovative and exciting start-up businesses such as Gate8 Luggage, Activbod, KitBrix and Scentered, and mentors them on their own journey.
We caught up with Lara to ask her how startups should go about seeking advice from established successful entrepreneurs.
Lara why do you think it’s so important for entrepreneurs to inspire and support the next generation of businesses and start-ups?
During the time I built my first business I always asked other professionals, experts and leaders to give me the benefit of their time and experience, and after being given time and support so generously by many people and I feel I owe it to others to share the experiences I have had. I’m less qualified than most so I have had to constantly learn new skills to achieve the goals I set myself, and by sharing the experience of youthful endeavour because I started so young I hope others will realise they can do the same.
I was brought up to believe that you get far more out of life from putting effort in. I have always gained payback for whatever time, talk or enterprise involvement, and I gain and great deal of enjoyment by perhaps taking some of the pain out other individuals’ journeys to try and build successful companies. Being hailed as an entrepreneur is a real honour coming from one’s peers. You may be being enterprising, you may be building a new business but to be called an entrepreneur I think you have had to achieve some level of business success.
We are the engine room of growth and offer the importance of sharing lessons, experiences and mistakes we’ve made so others can be inspired and hang in there during the tough and lonely hours of hard work and fast growth.
You mentioned that whilst building your first business you always asked professionals, experts and leaders for their help and advice; what specifically did you learn from them that helped you build a successful business?
The list is truly endless. I learnt about every facet of the different skills in companies from different experts in their fields whom generously gave me time and patience to help me learn, avoid mistakes and to make the right decisions. I have mentors whom helped support me when I was a one-man-band, I had a recruitment genius share his skill set to allow me to make better employment decisions, I picked the brains of marketing professionals at Cranfield, I sourced a brilliant small company accountancy firm having interviewed 3 others in Bedford, selecting Keen Shay Keens and the lovely Charles Little and Caroline Godfrey. My M&A lawyer taught me a huge amount about the exit process, the language of the ridiculous timetable, the legalities, the planning and Ian Morris of EMW Law also applied the priceless commodity of common sense and friendship when needed.
What’s the best way for start-ups to approach entrepreneurs for help?
My favourite and most powerful opening question when looking for help is as follows, “Please treat me like the idiot, the beginner I am, I understand you are experienced in / expert in XYZ and what I am trying to understand is the best way to get whatever challenge of the learning moment sorted.”
I have never been let down when I ask someone to share their valuable time using humility and respect, and being all ears in the process whilst writing notes and then sense checking against 3 other “experts” before coming to my own conclusions. Apply the three sense check rule, than make a decisions on your own learnings and guts feel and you will not go far wrong. I may be much older now but the process still applies today.
What sort of guidance do you think startups can ask of entrepreneurs?
Anything that is relevant to that particular individuals experience. I think it’s also important to be involved in enterprise clubs like Supper Club or E2E exchange or Vistage, or The Academy of Chief Executives, whichever flavour of learning and development gives you a network of good people to share problems and solve challenges with. I made the mistake of not joining such an organisation soon enough and have since found them priceless for my continued business education.
The biggest problem our readers have is accessing funding for their start-ups. So many readers simply don’t have the time or know-how for in-depth crowdfunding or angel investor pitches. What advice can you give start-ups in this position?
There is no such excuse as not having the time. Time is a matter of the priorities you need to make but fundamentally I remain horrified and disappointed that we still have business leaders running companies whom do not put in the vital time and attention they should to their own company finances.
Companies with hundreds of thousands in turn-over will fail ultimately as they make the wrong stock order decisions not knowing what cash is available. These companies often complain banks do not lend when the bank itself cannot lend without facts like a cash flow and balance sheet showing the owner has a grasp of making the right commercial investment and reinvestment decisions when taking risks in growth.
Funding is out there, banks will loan to good bets as they have the cheapest rates for finance, so we should go to them first and any other source funding next. Entrepreneurs also need to learn that at some stage, if they believe their idea is so very good, then they themselves have to back it with assets on the right occasions. If you’re not willing to bank on your idea why should a stranger? There is a mass of information now also available on support to get the right pack together for crowd funding and to get investor pitches right, it is about making the effort and applying yourself, like all the development stages of a growth business – another hurdle to leap and move forward with new skills.