Puma Private Equity hosts female entrepreneurs and founders
As a supporter of scaling businesses and a champion of female founders, we were delighted to welcome guests to our recent Female Founders event, at the Arber Garden in London. Joining our Investment Director, Harriet Rosethorn, were Sarah Deaville, Amy Hopkins, Ciara McCormack and Carol Paris, who discussed the many and varied challenges that exist when scaling and exiting a business.
Puma Private Equity
Business founder and CEO
The Hopedale Group
Business founder and CEO
Sunlight Education Nucleus
Director of Acquisitions
The Royal Bath and West Society
The lively discussion provoked a number of key takeaways, including:
Surrounding yourself with people you trust and whom you can lean on for support and advice
- Being a leader or founder can be quite lonely at times – particularly when things aren’t going to plan. All our panellists felt that having a true partner or partners where you have full trust in each other, made the journey of scaling a business immeasurably easier.
- Having a good support network around you, to bounce ideas off and to enable you to see things from different perspectives, supports stronger and – at times – more strategic decision-making.
- There is no point having the same people around the table who all do everything you say all the time. You need others to challenge your ideas and make you better. This doesn’t have to be your team – it could be your investors. Having diversity of thinking will enable you to move the business forward in ways that you may not otherwise think of doing.
- You need to invest time into building relationships with people – and continue to invest in them. When you are trying to get things done quickly, it is easy to have fleeting conversations, but you need to get to know each other and build that trust. That goes as much for suppliers and investors, as it does for colleagues in your business.
Regular goal setting for both life and work – to ensure you maintain balance and can identify where the strain is
- Work is just one aspect of your life – and while you are scaling a business, it may take up most of your time, but it shouldn’t take up all. Having a balance and stepping away at times is important.
- Have a plan not only for work, but for home. Most entrepreneurial people are naturally ambitious and always thinking of what’s next. But it’s so important to plan your home life in the same way you put together plans for work. Perhaps sit down with your family or partner every six months and set expectations – so that you all know what’s coming up and how you are going to manage it together.
- Be realistic about your goals and your timings. And build in contingency and scenario plans, as it is almost never the case that everything always runs smoothly to time, or that nothing unexpected happens.
Diligence the investors/advisers and others prior to fundraise – know that you have the sector expertise, and lean on investors for broader guidance
- If you are looking for investment – whether that’s initial funding or private equity – you need to trust the people you work with; not just the company, but the individuals within that company. You need to find a team who understand your ambitions and ideas and work in synergy with you.
- When you are considering investors, you need to consider their personality as well; theirs has got to complement yours. You need someone who can give you the support and confidence to grow, but at the same time you need to set your stall out early, in order to maintain your ideals and move forward in the way you want. Seek out someone who respects your knowledge, and doesn’t tell you how to run your business.
- The involvement of private equity can challenge your thinking and lead to hugely positive outcomes. Sometimes being a sector or product expert can constrain your thinking, and it’s good to have someone there to challenge why things are being done in a certain way.
- Private equity is not just there to provide investment, it brings structure, and accountability and helps to deliver your goals. It can really help your business to get where it needs to, much quicker.
The importance of maintaining culture as you grow – make sure you know what your culture is and be cautious about straying from your values
- As a company grows, adding lots of new people in a short space of time will, unless properly managed, end up changing the culture and values. While this can be positive, often it can cause challenges and frustrations with longer-serving employees, and potentially lead to a loss in productivity.
- The values, norms and behaviours of a smaller business are not always well articulated. However, it is likely that there is a clear way ‘things are done around here’ that permeates across the business. Paying attention to your values and desired behaviours as the business grows, is critical to achieving scale. Without paying explicit attention to nurturing your core values and behaviours, you run the risk of creating ‘cultures within cultures’ – where different groups or functions operate in ways counter to the established culture.
- One of the best ways to protect and nurture your culture, is to very accurately capture what your values are, and ensure they are explicitly stated across the whole organisation. It is then critical that they are used in the recruitment and assessment processes, to ensure new hires are able to work within the values and behaviours that the company wants. Robustly managing this through a new employee probationary period will help ensure suitability – and quickly managing those who do not live within the values is also critical.