Roger Wood, Director and shareholder of Midven, Midland’s leading specialist venture capital company tells Business Matters what defines his way of doing business and provides insights to those that are just starting out!
What do you currently do at Midven?
Midven, is a venture capital company focused on early stage and small businesses with significant growth ambitions. We manage a range of funds including Midlands focussed regional funds targeting high growth SMEs and specialist seed funds supporting innovation from the UK’s public sector research base.
My key operational role is Fund Principal for the £35m West Midlands Equity Fund, part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund – basically leading the investment activity and ongoing portfolio company support for that particular fund. Oh, and I also have the privilege of being the company’s Compliance Officer, the typical multi-hatted aspect of being part of an owner managed business!
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Midven was set up to support SMEs achieve their growth plans, not just with money but also with experience and expertise and significant hands-on support, which epitomises our ‘more than money’ approach to investment. When we took control of the business in 2007 through a management buy-out, the ambition was to take control of our own destiny in the direction of the business and grow it significantly – both of which we have achieved.
Who do you admire?
I have the upmost admiration for any founder, owner or manager of a business. It is a huge step to branch out on your own from the safety and security of an employed position – it is a significant amount of hard work, can be very frustrating (but ultimately very rewarding!) and can be a very lonely place. So, anyone prepared to do it deserves absolute respect.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Like any owner managed business, we have had our challenges, internal squabbles and made mistakes along the way but I strongly believe there is no point dwelling on the past. Yes, try and learn from it but focus efforts and energies on the challenges and opportunities in front of you, as this is what will ultimately deliver success.
What defines your way of doing business?
I think it is key to always be honest, open and straightforward in your dealings with people. People may not always appreciate the truth but at least they will always know where they stand.
In the world of venture capital this is particularly true – the hardest part of the job is telling someone that you don’t want to invest in their business, but it is better to be open and upfront about it and give a quick no rather than dragging out a process which potentially wastes everybody’s time.
The key is to provide constructive feedback as often the issue is not necessarily that the business opportunity is a bad one but that it is not the right time or place for the fund we are investing from, so wherever possible we look to introduce businesses we can’t help to other sources of funding that may be appropriate.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Have a clear vision and direction for your business but don’t be frightened to make changes if something isn’t working. Go into the venture expecting everything to take twice as long and twice as much money as you thought it would. Be decisive – it is always better to take decisions quickly rather than procrastinate and potentially do nothing – not every decision you make will be right but if actions are taken quickly they can always be rectified.