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So many articles in the broadsheets about people leaving London and their reasons why, some real and some spoofed for comic effect. It stirs up many emotions in people, given the pressures of modern life and the increasing ratcheting up of costs of sustaining a family and a young business in London. I moved here in 1976 from NI and lived first in Guildford a commuter town in Surrey, then Belsize Park in North London, mixed with time in Silicon Valley off and on since 1987. Now I am back in the countryside of Wiltshire, I have built start-ups in both London, Silicon Valley and in the rural areas of the UK, so I think have an interesting perspective.

So let’s get real the better opportunities for creating a team, cutting deals and getting funded are in London, simply by the volume of people, networks and funds to plug into. In my last start-up we were based in Clerkenwell and by that stage of my start-up experience knew how to slipstream all the players that created opportunities to make a name for yourself. But of course if you are less experienced and maybe never going to be the number one or two in your global market space, it can be the opposite, a more daunting, alienating place where you feel you are not at the party.

There is definitely an inner game feel to London and some just do not ever get the invites to the inner sanctum of top-level VC funding and all those cool Pitching events at Downing Street and the Palace. That, if it is happening to you, even though it is all around you in London can make you feel like a failure. Very few actually make it as a tech start-up in London, although from all the column inches, blogs and networking events devoted to the space it is difficult to see through that veneer. My calculated guess is that 98% never get funded beyond family and friend’s rounds, of which only 30% of the 2% that do will survive and maybe you will remember 3 brand names that did win in 10 years time.

It’s a tough game and takes real stamina, resilience and experience around you to make it, and that is without taking into account the negative macro events that can wipe you out like Lehmans and the periodic UK/Global market crashes every 5/7 years. But of course if you were looking at the start-up world in a logical and reasoned basis you probably are not suited to the crazy world that we entrepreneurs inhabit. Yes you must really believe as a founder beyond all the negative pushbacks that you are right about your product/service and must keep the idealist attitude alive.

So you can fail in London too, and it is why most British start-ups fail in Silicon Valley as well because the competition there is even more fierce and the money game even more aggressive than in the UK and most are not tough or experienced enough to compete on equal terms. But you are in Cardiff, Bath, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin, what chance do you stand cut off from Boris’s gleaming Tech City? Well it depends a lot on what level you are playing at, what your goals are and how you set about creating your own networks.

There are great start-ups out across the UK and Ireland, bright people with bright ideas, but the thing that defines a winning company is the drive to reach the goals that are set day one in the business plan. If you are out to build a global company at some point you are going to have to go where the big deals are being done, be it London, New York, Frankfurt and San Francisco. This does not mean that you have to move the whole company from the low-cost base you might have established but it does mean a lot of travel and nights away connecting to the networks that open the door to enterprise clients and the funding that follows those early big name wins.

It requires a concerted effort as well not just dipping in and out every 90 days as I see so many companies doing, the people in the big city networks won’t take time with you and create that continuity of connection if they do not sense your committment to the cause. There is no easy or quick way of doing this, the hours day and night have to be put into this programme. If you are lucky you may find key experienced champions in those networks that like you and your company and will get alongside in accelerating your access and growth. It is certainly a lonely thing to do on your own and it never does any harm to have someone watching your back on the circuit when travelling and running hard.

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I saw this slogan “Youth and talent are no match for age and treachery” on a tee-shirt recently. It prompted me to ponder whether young people coming to London, our fine Capital city would find this to be true of their entrepreneurial experiences. Imagine it you have been to London for a few meetings, on the whole are getting a warm reception to your ideas and are being advised if you want to scale you need to be in London. You are from Newcastle, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, Leeds, Dublin and Bristol as examples, big enough places to have a thriving start-up scene where you have made a major impact, but not on the scale of an International city like London. The other point being these cities/towns are small enough for the network to know and have background knowledge about who you are likely to be networking and doing business with.

You land in London, managed to get enough money together to cover the first 6 months rent/deposits and find yourself in the backwoods of London because it is staggeringly expensive, so either a shoebox bed sit or sharing with some other young people who may or may not be from your business world. But it is all very exciting, maybe even slightly scary and adrenalin filled, but you have confidence so you hit the circuit you have read about on-line. So many meet ups, difficult to judge which one or where in the city to spend your time and funds to attend, never realised it was so big. You find some, larger than life on-line but when physically there very lean pickings on numbers of connections, or lots of service companies wanting to sell you something. The good ones you find in the end, as your funds are rapidly diminishing, but here you are one of hundreds of dynamic big play companies that seem to know everyone and have people from all corners supporting them.

How can you make any impact above the noise and you ponder whether you need to raise money for marketing, something you swore you were never going to do. Now as you head is turned a little, the big deals not coming as fast as you would like, cash flow going to be a problem, then they appear. A friendly face, a few drinks maybe that you are grateful for given you can’t believe the prices even in outlying bars, and someone who is taking you seriously at last and really thinks the plan has legs. Perhaps we could meet to discuss this some more, say in a weeks time, come over to my club,  office, boardroom, lunch, my goodness these people seem like players. Maybe even some of their contacts have been on TV or linked to Westminster, perhaps I have got something, I was beginning to have doubts. But surely they have been here for years and would know the good from the bad, nothing to lose in talking to them some more, so you do.

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It is all very comforting, they think you are great and use terms of corporate business that you have heard once maybe but don’t really understand. They over a few meetings ponder whether it is so strong an idea that you need to raise a lot of money to give it the best chance of succeeding globally. You were thinking low hundreds of thousands they are now talking millions, but again they do this for a living surely they must know the reality of this. You are now in a turmoil , the plan had been to eke out an existence, get a few big name trials under way, and then build on that experience to hone the product. Now this is all much more exciting, less pain, faster progress perhaps off the back of the funding, which they in their smart suits and fancy offices say will be highly probable given the timing of the market.

Your gut is telling you something, a boy/girl from x city just landed in London and they want me, gosh they have already introduced me in passing to the business man who built something major. A name I had never heard of but it all sounded familiar and he was so well dressed, he in turn was impressed with my idea and wished me well. Then they produce contracts, many pages of contracts, clause 29 A etc, and whiz me through it, because whoever reads the detail of contracts and they want me to take it away to ponder it for a week so as not to rush into anything. So you do and having cleared your head the next day from the drinks they supplied the night before you begin to read, lots of detail, commitments, warranties, financial jargon, you begin to get that sinking feeling about how big a deal this all going to be and it is all riding on you.

So you read it again even more slowly, using Google to check the terminology to make it slightly clearer, now you see they want money from you up front to be retained as they put it, to act for you in this fund-raising process. You were sure they said at one point they had the money, a fund surely not looking out for others to invest, and my goodness the amount of money they want per month and a major cut of the money raised. Must be some mistake, the lead guy you have a great relationship with over the last few months must have sent the wrong type of contract, he knows we are a start-up with limited funds. So you ring him to check and after a roundabout conversation about how they have already started the process and had positive feedback from quite a number of interested parties, he while laughing and smiling all the way, says of course they need to be retained that’s how these things work.

They were sure given you are the brightest of the bright and worldly-wise you of course understood that, as they would not have invested so much of their partner’s time in this due diligence process. Which you know does cost money in its self as you will be aware, but we were willing to waive that as you were an outstanding opportunity but he had still to do great work internally to convince the rest of the partnership. So he hoped given all the time and thinking that had gone into this and enhancing your reputation on the circuit it would be only a small step to you signing this off. You are caught cold and don’t want to seem as if you are not part of the big game and a potential player and play for time by offering to come back to them in a few days with a decision which you are sure will be fine.

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And you are shell-shocked, you can’t believe after all this time thinking they were going to fund you and work together as a team to build out the company, that they actually want money from you to fund them. How could you have misunderstood you really like the people and think their experience and contacts would be amazing and the thought of going back to square one again with out that weight and support is so depressing. Maybe you were being naive, maybe this is the way business is done, they have spent a lot of time on you, surely they don’t do that with lots of companies. So the pressure builds and before you know it they have called and you have agreed to meet them to move the process along and you are in the boardroom with two senior partners all smiles and positivity.

The answer to all this is you are not alone, this is the business that this world lives in day-to-day, they are sellers of their services, always there, and as they say “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Yes they will trawl through dozens of deals, feigning surprise when most of them back off at the mention of retainers and fees because that is the world where it is how they exist. Never mind if and when retained they can actually raise the funds from their network of private wealth clients, angels and small funds. These are the good ones, real offices, partnerships and track records, beware even more the out-and-out con men that have no intention of doing any real work but are there just to fleece you for every penny you have, and they exist wherever there is money on the table. If it seems too good to be true it generally is, all entrepreneurs get desperate at times, the answer is not to give in to that pressure, desperation or conversely positive hype that skews your thinking. Even if you don’t lose money, it is the time spent and opportunity cost that hurts.

There is very little glamour in London, plenty of hangers-on and fair weather friends, it is all about learning the game, hard work and setting priorities, even then very few come out the other end smiling. But it is a learning experience and will ground you for many things by taking on the challenge. So don’t shy away from it, or retreat to the small ponds, rather embrace it with an open mind and get street wise quick. Better still find your own trusted network and home team…. as it is going to be a long game.

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It all starts so well, swimmingly in fact, you as the young Founder/CEO blazing a trail with the latest technology making a major impact in the market. So you have a founding team, perhaps with engineering, operational and financial skills to match and balance your business and marketing bias. Seed capital provided by a couple of names in the industry that have helped not just with the money but really opening up the network. They in turn after some key wins have introduced you to a particular venture capital company and you have closed an A round giving you the rocket fuel to enter the US market.

You have filled out the board room, one of the private investors, a representative from the VC, a Chairman like figure that the VC recommended with long experience of your sector, an experienced VP of sales from one of the established brands, and of course your co-founders. The board meetings are purposeful and you are learning lots of new stuff, even more so at the dinners and lunches that follow as you bond with the board members. So it all feels good, they are great support, you can ring them up any time to pick their brains and of course they are beginning to learn a great deal more about you, your ambitions and capabilities.

You are running flat-out managing the team and company during the day, catching up with the administration and contract detail in the early evening and hitting the event circuit for product exposure later on. This gives you little time to gain a perspective on where you really are, how committed people are internally and what conversations are going on about your company elsewhere that you are not directly involved in. As Andy Grove at Intel said “Only the Paranoid survive” well he was talking about a bunch of things to do with change, but it is a good line to focus on. At some point come hell or high water things will change and you better be ready for them.

What you have to understand is that you as Founder/CEO are on your own, despite the appearance that you have all these people around you that are seemingly becoming friends. In business you have acquaintances, fellow board members, maybe colleagues, but let me assure you no real friends. The reason being people in this particular adventure have vested interests, keeping their jobs, supporting their families, growing the share options, enhancing their shares, flattering their reputations and most of all limiting risk. Now that might come as a shock, you have started a company with these people, won the early deals together, travelled in economy together, built event stands to the wee small hours together and shared many a dinner and drinking session.

But when the day dawns when the company hits a major blip and it will, the pressure will build and when it does, strangely you will find that the buck stops right at your door. So what is the point I am making here, why am I in some way stating the blooming obvious, yes you are in charge. It is easy to lose sight of it, that’s why, you have all these players around you, a buzz of interplay going on. An adrenalin pumping speed of movement, which makes the silence that accompanies you at last when on your own at midnight, wondering what happened, wrecking your brain for the solutions, even more deafening.

Even if they all in the end do turn out to be great people and continue to support, just be ahead of all of this, be prepared, build your own trusted support team and be slightly cynical throughout …. Just in case.

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In the technology world that we play in there is a tendency for the teams we manage to be on the young side. That in itself is cause for caution in how we treat them, as often they are not fully formed yet as people. I know this will go against the grain of the US vendor numbers led system, in which the turnover of people is seen as part of the competitive machine. Now that is not to say there are not some really good cultures to be found in that setting but on the whole from my experience it is more about the company than the person in most cases.

From the time in my late twenties when I really had enough experience under my belt to handle most situations in management, it was clear to me that people are fragile in their early to mid twenties and easily broken if not treated carefully. In the hyper competitive sales world it is easy to crush people with a careless word or line that is ill thought. You don’t in most cases even remember saying it, while they the recipient ponder and agonise about the meaning and implications for days. Communication that is clear as to the message and well thought out is imperative, even more so if it is constructive criticism of performance rather than praise. But even in the positive role it is very important to balance the messages so that the team member can gauge what is real and not real and can understand the level they are at.

This does not negate you being demanding of performance or driving hard in a competitive race to win against the opposition. The team say 20 strong are all going to have growing pains inside and outside the business, and they will bring them with them to work. So you have to manage in the round, walking the talk, a bit like the old factory foreman that knew their people intimately from being close to them on the factory floor and out of work as well. Some management can be learned in books and on courses but the handling of people comes from learning mostly on the job, being sensitive to changes in mood and temperature on the shop floor so to speak is one of the great skills.

Often body language rather than what the team member is saying will be a stronger clue to the mood of the moment. People nodding, head down and eyes averted may not be gaining the acceptance of whatever you are trying to put across, no matter the verbal protests that they are. Reinforcement of messages is always needed remember they are not you, perhaps they need more time to assimilate, but when they do, blossom off the back of it. Others will have little patience for the message being laboured, quicker on the uptake, but maybe less prepared when implementing.

That is the joy of management it is so diverse, if they were a bunch of robots with no feelings they could get a machine to manage them, not you. That is why to get a team or a start-up company purring on all cylinders is one of the great things to achieve in life, just like any sports team that is flying at the top of their game. But it is a responsibility that has to be taken seriously, in the high stress environments we operate in, you have their lives in the palm of your hand and that should never be discounted lightly.

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I hear it all the time, company scaling fast, maybe 200 + people on board or even 1000+,  3 or 4 years in. The functional teams are growing and need managing more closely, You are good at your job, getting good reviews and now prime to be given that first non task orientated management role. Even if it is only 2/3 people, maybe some older than you, you were promised training, but what with the growth and pressure of work the company has not managed to get round to that yet. So you are a little lost, a nice person, well liked, maybe even a good communicator, but in reality now really worried about how to handle all this.

Well the first thing is not to stress too much or panic, the company has failed you a little here, even if they have been great in most other areas. Let them know in a professional manner, nothing over the top, that you really could do with a basic principles of management course. Either bought in to be run in-house or which I think is better offsite, with other company’s people so that you can share experiences together. In the interim pick up some of the better known handbooks on management, the difference between task and people management. There is no shortage on-line or off or recommendations, Peter Drucker’s “The Effective Executive” is a good start, this stuff tends not to date.

So what is this PODC in the headline? Something I was taught over (well let’s not say how many) years ago when I was in my first team leader role in a multinational telecoms company. I too was a young sales hotshot, dumped into the role because of my outstanding sales results, not a grounding for management, as I was a killer loner, which is why I usually won. Luckily they did train me, as was the nature of big companies in those days, with some of the best trainers in the business. PODC has stayed with me across the years from managing small or large 100+ teams in big established companies to whole companies as Founder/CEO of entrepreneurial start-ups.

It is a very simple framework for most things that come across your desk when you are moving at speed and juggling balls..

PRIORITISATION: Set out the key things that you want to achieve, the must haves over the next month or quarter that you can hang your hat on as success in relation to how your particular organisation makes up the count.

ORGANISATION: Set up you team’s resources to be able to deal with the priorities you have set. Work with the team to discuss what they are being allocated and your expectations of how they will approach their tasks and allocation of their time.

DIRECTION: Now walk the talk, management is about communication and support of the team to help them exceed their targets and make them feel good about the process. Don’t shy away from conversations if someone is struggling or going off at a tangent, keep talking and inputting.

CONTROL: Measurement and a checking process is a constant to keep moving in the way you want the team to grow and win. Results positive or negative are valuable, so gain ongoing feedback as well as the ultimate scores at the end of this particular set of tasks. Then reflect and do it better next time.

There is a lot more to this as you can imagine and years of experience help, but it is good place to start and hang on to when the whirlwind seems to engulf you, always good to return to base and map it out, your people will thank you for it.

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Surely the most exciting part of building you’re own business is that week spent writing and honing the business plan document, or is that just me? Only kidding, it is hardly the sexy end of the business, cutting the deals, marketing and counting the money more you’re style I am sure. Certainly you are moving at a pace that given every opportunity would give you an excuse to ignore the plan and all the number crunching that goes with it. Anyway your business is scaling so fast it will be practically out of date before you even get it on paper, so why would you bother?

Even if you agree that you need one, it is always next week/month we will get round to it, meanwhile making hay while the sun shines. You know what, that is still the top priority, getting the deals for whatever it is you are selling, but in the end this one is going to bite you so hard it is going to make you’re eyes water. At some point someone somewhere is going to want to see the plan, even if it is only an executive summary. Why do I know this, well just like you in the early days I used to try to avoid this like the plague, putting in a CFO to handle the numbers and cover that side of the business.

Unfortunately you the C team are the business, have the vision, ideas and plans in your head as to how this company is going to develop. If you have a commercially led finance person they can input, but finding that balance of what the company is today and what you want it to be has to be thrashed out.

This is the hub of it, by going through the process and it will take long hours, you will get close to what this business is all about. The messages to the market, the monetisation layers and what it all comes down to in the end what resource, financial and physical is it going to take to execute and win. You need a document that will hold you all to account at board/management meetings, it’s about measurement. Yes the figures won’t necessarily be accurate, forecasts after 12 months rarely are, but it is not set in stone rather something that continually needs to be updated as you gain more feedback from the market and historical numbers to play with.

Yes, Yes I can hear you say, you are right, we must do it ….. I hear it every month from companies that use me as a sounding board  …. so we agree ……  well get on with it then.

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I was at a recent event out in the sticks from London for a change, technology based and all about the future of a particular layer of mobile development. Something that might affect all of us in the future and as I looked round the room I was struck by the fact that 90% + people there were over forty if not fifty years old. It made me think, is it true that when it comes to the big moves in the game the decisions and politics that shape our world at that level are still made by older grey men?

The magazines and blogs would have us believe that the movers and shakers of the technology world at this time are all young men and women reinventing that world and beginning to control the levers of power in that setting. In small numbers that might well be right and hopefully that will continue to grow as it is a healthy platform to build on. But from many years of negotiating deals on a global basis, it has always been clear to me that when the big decisions are to be taken it seems to return to a table with either one powerful older man or a board of older males, very rarely women to make the final sign off.

Now it is not for me in this piece to fight the cause for this to change, rather it is to accept at this point that this might be the status quo and how to deal with it. When I talk to founding teams of growth companies most of the time there is a certain naivety about who or what they are going to have to deal with over the coming years. They want to do deals, partner and expand internationally but seem to be leaving it to trust that the people that they have to engage with will be similar in thought to themselves. Now this might be true for a limited number of cases within that shiny new circle of emerging players, but when you look into who they will have to deal with on a regular basis as they scale that certainly changes.

That optimism and idealistic approach that has galvanised their companies and belief that others across the table are there to help them grow will be shattered at some point. As they continue to underestimate the nature of big business and a set of long-established rules for playing in that pool, increasing numbers will find their ambition blunted. Well we won’t deal with these people or type of companies I hear them say, well good luck with that, given when you trace back the lines of power to the centre how much control of markets these people have.

A better strategy would be to wise up to the reality of global business, learn the rules fast and begin to accept that not everyone has their company’s best interests at heart when working closely with them, internal or external. Numerous up and coming companies over the years blast out major PR announcements about global deals with big names either in direct sales or joint venture plays. Only for me to discover as I do when generally picking up the pieces afterwards, that the majority of the margin created has stayed with and will continue to stay with the big name player involved. This cannot always be avoided, this is real life and the pressures from larger players can be enormous, but it does not need to be the norm if handled with the right knowledge, attitude and experience on board.

There I was in the gym just doing my usual routine. A set number of exercises blending cardiovascular work with strength building over an average of fifty minutes with a warm up and down of a few minutes either end. This routine had built up from experience over many years of in the early days training to play professionally, then in later years just keeping a level so that I would not hurt myself while playing against generally younger opposition. Just a local gym, nothing fancy, the same faces mainly that mostly know why they are there and what they are doing. But the rest, well I wonder when they are going to hurt themselves given the lack of knowledge of how to approach even the simplest of tasks. Now to be fair the majority are perfectly happy, content to be there and that’s good, better than not being there at all.

But there are a few you can see who with a little bit of feedback and thought could be getting a real lift in return on the time spent there. In fact the real gain for them would be reducing the time they need to spend there, concentrating on quality rather than quantity. Well bar the occasional input from me, if they welcome it, I will leave that to the professionals, which in this field I am not. But it did make me think about the age-old question, in the wider context of my years of business management in the technology markets, whether professional experience at the C level will most of the time trump natural talent, enthusiasm, energy and the will to win of young executives in growth companies?

Well if we are to believe the PR in the trade press there are plenty of success stories of young men and women knocking it out of the park. Building and scaling companies with wonderful business cultures that they just have the spark and vision to drive forward. That is good of course celebrating success and inspiring others to do the same, the entrepreneurial world we live in today. But the reality is for every photo shoot or video that is featured there is a massive counter balance of executives at companies where they have soaked up all the research, books, magazines, network meetings on being a player, but are stalled in the process of recreating that dream for themselves, why?

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Now this can be for a myriad of reasons which I am not going to cover in this article, the question for here is if they were trained professionally themselves, or had professional experience around them as a reality check or guidance would more of them be progressing? I meet a lot of entrepreneurs across the TMT markets and through my trusted networks across many other industries. The theme I see is them making basic mistakes time and time again that comparable professionals removed from their business life’s early on. Now it is impossible and maybe not necessarily a good thing to have these young executives be totally insulated from mistakes and it might toughen them to find out the hard way a few times the consequences of their actions. But if you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you learn on the job in a small company?

But it does seem that some of those more basic things which can really put a company at risk could be easily avoided if the support and feedback was readily available. Growth companies move at a pace where all the bases are difficult to cover especially when you are consumed at the bleeding edge of your market. While there will hopefully always be the superstar exceptions, having a blend in a team, the founding team’s natural talents alongside hardened players has got to be a good thing especially when fighting on multiple fronts. It is the balance of instinctive skills and professional experience in a business which will in the end win in most fast growth situations.

Here is a guest post from Mary McKenna founder of LearningPool on her recent move from Northern Ireland to London and the welcome she has received. Mary and I met for the first time at my business club at 8, Northumberland Ave 200 yds from Nelson’s Column.  A place that seems to be gaining ground as an economic West End base to work from, if you want to connect to the London start up world and the Irish business network in London. IIBN will be hosting their usual new and prospective member informal drinks there on the night of the 23rd of Feb – all with an Irish connection welcome. (If from the start up world and not Irish, I am always glad to connect with you at the Club – just get in touch)  Over to Mary…..

As I’m sure the whole world is by now aware, I’m coming to the end of my first week living back in London.  Everyone I’ve met this past week or asked for help has been extremely welcoming and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to a few really useful networking events.  Best of all, however, from the perspective of a newly arrived Irish entrepreneur in London has been the Irish International Business Network or IIBN as it’s known.  The link is here for anyone that would like to know more or find out how to join http://www.iibn.com/london I’m lucky enough to have been introduced to the original WildIrishGuy himself, Damon Oldcorn, and it seems that once you know Damon, you don’t really need to know anyone else.  I’ve always found this to be a good strategy.  Bryan Keating was the first business person I met in Northern Ireland, he’s the exact same and it’s never done me any harm.

Thursday night’s IIBN event started with drinks & chat and it was very easy to circulate and get talking to a few people as everyone’s very friendly and open.  Everyone has an Irish connection even though many, like me, don’t have an Irish accent.  Don’t let that fool you! – they all know their Leitrims from their Letterkennys and their Dungloes from their Dingles.  Our diaspora is a beautiful thing.  There were bankers, recruiters, reps from private equity houses, lawyers, entrepreneurs, investors and no doubt many more besides.  If you’re Irish, in business and in London you need to join IIBN. As part of the evening, our speaker was the charming and self-effacing Rosaleen Blair (pictured).  Rosaleen is one of those women who have achieved a helluva lot but doesn’t go around shouting that from the rooftops.  She just gets on with things.  Most of all, I liked the way she described the values her company operates by and I liked her statement of the 3 things she demands from people in her team and recruits against.  I’ve used these a few times already in conversation with others I’ve met this week but having chatted with Rosaleen on the evening, I don’t think she’ll mind.  They are as follows:

  • Trust – the members of a team have to really trust one another; of course this takes a bit of time
  • Collaboration – people need to be able & willing to work on projects with each other and to work hard to make that collaboration work
  • Sharing – Rosaleen hates it when people hold back knowledge & refuse to share it with other members of the team

I also loved what she said about encouraging a culture of “intrapreneurship” within your own organisation as a way of motivating and retaining the people in your team.  If anyone’s unsure what that means, it’s about encouraging positive aspects of entrepreneurial behaviour but within a large organisation.  It’s something we’ve always tried to do at Learning Pool. Rosaleen told us her story about how she arrived in London from Dublin in the 1990s, not knowing a soul but with a background in recruitment and having run a few small businesses in Ireland, believing herself to be fairly unemployable.  She went to work at Alexander Mann Solutions and over the course of time, persuaded her employer to allow her to try something new to fill a gap in the market and co-create adjacent services with clients (the first one being ICL/Fujitsu).  As it happened, she, working along with James Caan, became one of the early pioneers of what these days is known as RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) and the rest is history.  In 2007, Rosaleen led her team through a £100m management buyout with the backing of private equity house Graphite Capital.  These days her company Alexander Mann Solutions employs 2,000 people working in 70 geographies and 42 languages.

Rosaleen also gave us some priceless bits of advice which I hope she won’t mind me passing on here to others:

  • When looking at which private equity house to go with, do some research and talk to some of the companies your main players have divested themselves of
  • As CEO, always keep your bank manager close & don’t give them any surprises; don’t pass that bank relationship off to someone else in your team
  • If your company is going to be working in some way with a private equity house, get yourself a CFO that has previously worked with a PE house, a CFO coming from a big corporate background won’t have the right sort of experience
  • Trust your own instincts and that of your team every day of the week over the advice given to you by external “experts”

Thanks Rosaleen, thanks IIBN and hello London!

Large beef steaks over wood
Image via Wikipedia

What an opportunity to mix with your investment peers and catch up on the recent topics in the technology and investment world. Are we in a Bubble? US versus European VCs does style matter? Super Angels and inflated valuations? What next for NI? Boy will there be some bites on the night and not just around the food.

Steve Orr Director of NISP Connect and Alan Watts Director of the Halo Angel Network are inviting a select group of Angels and VCs to join them for a Drinks/BBQ/Tapas Bar evening in London. Please do come and share in the informal dialogue and what we are sure given recent experience will be an animated discussion around the common ground for investment for both Northern Ireland and London. A number of VCs and Angels will be travelling from NI/Belfast to join in the evening with new funds and emerging companies to hear feedback.

Venue:         Gordon’s Wine Bar 47 Villiers St, Strand, WC2.

(The back of the Terrace has been reserved)

Location:     http://www.gordonswinebar.com/hwhere.php

Times:         From 5.30pm to 9pm+

Date:           Thurs 18thAugust, 2011

Hosted by:    http://www.nisp.co.uk/Connect/home_4.aspx   

This evening is part of a continuing programme and we are very clear on the objectives, this is not a short term play for Northern Ireland. Rather more about continuity of connection and discussion with the rest of the European Angel and VC community to reap mutually beneficial rewards. Over the coming years from the seed of discussions started here in London we are sure the rewards will come as that entrepreneurial ecosystem in NI continues to grow. As we have seen already not only have the participants from London had a view on NI but very rarely do they leave without having touched on subjects and new connections on the London scene that further helped their own progress.

We are very much looking forward to welcoming you in typical NI style on the evening. Gordon’s (some say the oldest and best wine bar in London) not along our normal Irish inspired venues theme, but  perhaps a more appropriate relaxed outdoor setting given the time of year. If you are an Angel or VC and would like to be invited to this private event or future gatherings please get in touch with me for confirmation details.