What do you currently do?
I am a partner at Pembridge Partners LLP. We work with small and medium sized businesses in the marketing and media and technology sector, which includes advertising, DM, film and television, PR and digital media, to name a few. We work with shareholders on building and growing their business. Our ultimate goal and validation of our success for all the businesses we work with is to help them to realise the value that they have built by attracting a buyer or investor.
We have worked with about 2,500 businesses since we set up in 2001 helping dozens of companies achieve their objectives, making many of them millionaires in the process!
Our philosophy is based around making sure that the businesses our clients work in can help them to achieve their personal objectives. That way they remain focused on what is personally really important to them, rather than being tied to a business and just going through the day-to-day machinations. To give you an example, one investment we made was through our Extreme Services Fund, which we set up in 2008. Omobono is a marketing services consultancy based in Cambridge and it fitted all the criteria we were looking for in a potential investment – cutting-edge services with a motivated, energetic and clear management team. We have a seat on the Board to advise their team through a 3-5 year growth plan. In a nutshell, we aim to add value to this company over and above their core business plan.
I am also lucky enough to work with very early stage businesses which I am passionate about helping. Through a scheme with G2i (www.g2i.org), I work with entrepreneurs to build an investment case for their business ideas which they can take to potential investors. This scheme has helped many entrepreneurs attract funding from angels and private equity firms. It is a great scheme – currently only running in London – but we are keen to see the government back more schemes like it. It’s the new entrepreneurs which will help to get the UK out of recession.
Who is your inspiration in business?
The guys from Google. They thought big, but they bought in the experts to help build the business. My impression is that they focused on what they were really good at and had fun whilst doing it. So for anyone who is a serial entrepreneur – focus on building something to sell, sell it, and then start again!
Whom do you admire?
These change all the time! My current heroes are the two British cyclists in this year’s Tour De France. Bradley Wiggins – 4th overall is an amazing achievement for a British cyclist – you have to admire his sheer determination to keep up with the three guys ahead of him, which included Lance Armstrong, winner of seven previous Tours. The other, is the sprinter who won on the Champs Elysee. Both were so humble about their achievements. They didn’t just talk about what they achieved, but what they wanted to achieve in the future. The world is full of too many people who just talk about what they have done, rather what they are going to do.
Looking back, are there things you would do differently?
Network, network, network right from the beginning of your career! I have met and worked with some real heroes over the years – luckily, some I am still in touch with, others I am not. Do think about the long-term, rather than whether they can help you now. LinkedIn, Facebook and the like, have made it all so easy, but you can’t underestimate the power of real, face to face networks – the people you have met, done business with and are connected to, rather than people you are linked to via a computer network. So get out there and actually talk to people!
What defines your way of doing business?
An honest, direct approach – telling people how it is. Our premise at Pembridge is that we have “been there and done it before”, and we back our words with our own cash by investing alongside some of the shareholders we work with. We don’t talk ‘business gobbledygook’ and we mostly talk about getting the fundamentals right in a business. So many people overlook that. Most of the time it works, but sometimes people just don’t want to hear it – I can’t always help those people. Quite simply, our perspective comes from being investors and real-life entrepreneurs.
What would you say to businesses who are worried about tough times ahead?
Focus on the fundamentals in your business (see, that again!) Most companies who are growing forget about the fundamentals so when times get tough they just don’t have they cushion they need to weather the storm. And focus on the big picture – growing a business isn’t easy and it won’t be plain sailing all the way – but if you remain focused on a specific objective and end game, you will get through the tough times. The time that takes and the route it takes to get there might change, but the objective won’t.