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personal
motivation
and
circumstance

Dom Moorhouse
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the guide i wish id had to building and selling a professional service business.

I had the privilege of sharing the Moorhouse journey with


Dom, as one of his co-directors, and can relate only too well to
everything he describes so brilliantly. If only wed had a guide
like this to help us on our way! The outcome may not have
been any different, but wed have avoided so many false turns
and blind alleys en route. These guides are essential reading
for anyone setting up in business, particularly in the field of
professional services. I strongly recommend them.

bob hendicott, hendicott partnership ltd


These guides were not around when we embarked on a similar
journey. If only they had been - it would have saved us years in
terms of the journey, 000s in terms of avoiding the common
pitfalls and a head full of grey hair in terms of frustration!

pete austin, director, suiko ltd


Dom has absolutely captured the need to manage the
growth of a business like a project with clear objectives and
deliverables, supported by robust and effective systems. The
sales guide is a must for any professional service firm leader.

paul wilson, managing director, provelio limited


I found the Five-Year Entrepreneur Guides an excellent
summary of the practical solutions required to building a
successful, small-to-medium-sized consulting business. I can
see them becoming a well thumbed text.

tim phillips, global partner, molten and winner of the


london and south east iod director of the year 2012
If running a successful consultancy or small business is
your aspiration then this practical, how to series is highly
recommended. For me, the guides on business planning
and how best to structure your teams and motivate them
were of particular interest. Doms willingness to share his
experience, both good and bad, brought these guides to life
whilst maintaining a pragmatic approach and providing simple
templates and examples.

tanya lightbody, director, ingenuity inspired limited

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about the author


Dom Moorhouse, a former Royal Marines Officer, is the Founder of Moorhouse a
leading management consultancy business. Dom started the company as a singleton
in 2004, grew it to a c. 10m/annum revenue business and sold it to BT in 2008 all
within the five-year target he had set himself. At the point of his departure as MD, the
business was a firmly established presence in the UK professional service sector (and
at the beginnings of an international presence in the US and Far East). The firm, which
continues to thrive, has built a reputation as a trusted partner in the realm of business
transformation and received consistent accolade for supporting such efforts in close
to 50 premier organisations (major government departments/agencies, FTSE/NYSE
100 etc). During his tenure as the MD, Moorhouse won a major national award (MCA,
APM, IBC) every year of its existence in recognition of such work, including multiple
firm of the year plaudits. Dom now enjoys a portfolio career writing and speaking
on the subject of entrepreneurship, mentoring business owners and angel investing in
start-ups. He lives in Bath, England.

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First published in Great Britain in 2012


1
Published in the United Kingdom by
Always Onwards Ltd, The Business Studio, 128 Bloomfield Road, Bath, ba2 2as
www.dommoorhouse.com
Content copyright Dom Moorhouse, 2012
Illustrations copyright Dom Moorhouse, 2012
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise,
be lent, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is
published. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior
written permission of the publisher.
The right of Dom Moorhouse to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
ISBN 978-1-909310-00-1
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Designed and typeset by James Nunn in association with Traffic Digital

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de
the gui had
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profess ice
serv s.
busines

DOM MOORHOUSE

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Guide 01

personal motivation
and circumstance

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Foreword
This book tells the remarkable story of the founding, growth and ultimate sale
of Moorhouse Consulting, a UK-based professional services firm. That this was
achieved within five years is testament to the vision and drive of the author,
Dom Moorhouse. Zero to 10m in sales and 20m in value in five years is the
stuff of dreams for most entrepreneurs in the professional services world but
in this book you will not only find the blueprint but also the detailed how to
instructions to mimic this success.
My name is Paul Collins and I first met Dom in late 2005, almost two years
into the Moorhouse story. I was presenting a seminar for my firm Equiteq called
Proven Strategies to Build and Sell your Consulting firm. This two-day event
was based on my own personal experiences and the material obviously resonated
with Dom. After the seminar we talked about Doms ambitions to build a 20m
value firm within five years of founding; remember, he was two years in at this
stage. Whilst I could not quote many examples of firms who had achieved such
a feat (it took me 15 years of growth to achieve a sale of my own consulting firm)
Dom was resolute and he impressed me with his infectious drive and ambition.
Within a few months I was signed up as a Non-Executive Director and two
and a half years later, in August 2008 (six months earlier than planned), Dom
realised his dream and sold Moorhouse to BT, a UK Telecoms plc and a client
of Moorhouse at the time.
Moorhouse were the perfect client for Equiteq. They devoured all the advice
we and others had to offer and executed with military precision probably
something to do with Doms first career in the Royal Marines! They seemed to
get everything right and still to this day they are the only client we have worked
with who consistently met their quarterly revenue and profit targets throughout
our partnership. It is not an exaggeration to say they became legendary in our
circles and are still now the most quoted firm on best practice from our client
portfolio. If your desire is to build and sell a professional services firm, or even
to understand how to generate sustainable growth in sales and profits, you could
do no better than to follow the Moorhouse example as described in meticulous
detail in this book.
When I was building my own firm, WCI Group, I yearned for a guide to
help show me the way to rapidly grow profits and value. For the first 10 years we
did what most firms do ... we grew by trial and error ... lots of error! We made
every mistake in the book. In 1995, we tried to get external advice and spent
six months searching for books, mentors and advice from academics, the City
and the business world. Nothing seemed to fit our situation so we created our
own plan based on what we called our Eight Levers of Equity Value. That plan
accelerated our growth by a factor of 15 over the next five years and enabled the

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sale of WCI in 2002. In this book you will read about the Moorhouse Multiple
Enhancement or ME programme which was their version of the same idea.
Every firm needs an ME programme. It works and in this book you will learn
how to create your own.
This book is the guide I wished Id had in the first 10 years of WCI. Every
page would have stopped us from making expensive and time-consuming errors.
It is written at a level of detail and with links to further resources like video clips,
tips and templates to make it an indispensable how to guide to grow your firm.
Whether you are just thinking about going it alone or your current growth has
stalled or you want to know what to do beyond just growing profits in order to
build future equity value, this book has everything you will need to keep you on
the right path to a saleable business.
If I am honest, this is also the book I wish I had written myself and I suppose
there can be no better personal recommendation than that! Dom has written
this book in the same way that he built Moorhouse with meticulous planning,
a talented team of contributors and advisers, disciplined execution to aggressive
timescales and with great humility and leadership style. Characteristics that you
will all need to build your Moorhouse story and probably the reason why my
book started but was never finished!
Enjoy reading it; I wish you good luck with your own entrepreneurial dreams.
Paul Collins, Managing Partner, Equiteq LLP (www.equiteq.com)
August 2012

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Preface
You have in your hands now, one of the guides from The Five-Year Entrepreneur
series. If you are the owner of a professional services business or are contemplating becoming so in the future and you want to maximise the chances of
growing such a business to create personal wealth, then this guide is for you.
The Five-Year Entrepreneur series represents the information I wished Id had
ten years ago when my entrepreneurial ambition first started to stir and the
foundations for my own professional services venture (and personal adventure)
were formed. It is the reference I would have loved to have read and dipped
repeatedly back into during the critical years of building my own companys
value. Finally, it is the pragmatic checklist I sought when I entered the most
foreign, and demanding, of experiences the sale process.
I know all this because I had the most incredible of entrepreneurial journeys
progressing from start-up to a multi-million value realisation moment in
less than five years. As always, such a tale of business success is graced with good
fortune and I certainly had the wind on my back at a couple of critical moments (you will get to read more on this part of the story as the series unfolds).
More significantly, however, I was fortunate to have a great team around me
colleagues and external advisors to traverse this path with real focus, structure,
research and discipline. It is these gathered insights, experiences, anecdotes and
practical steps that I want to pass on, plus some signage to the inevitable holes
in the ground we occasionally stumbled into.
I recognise fully having been there just quite how time-poor you probably are. As such, I have broken the series down into individual subject guides,
and each guide is made up of elements that can be digested in part you just
need to pick and choose what works best for you. I know that the technical description can be a bit dry at times so I have also worked hard to mix this up with
the more human story such that you derive the benefit of knowing how such
aspects actually work (or not) in practice. This specially tailored series organisation, and formatting, is all described further within this Introduction.
Why read on?
Well, with the approach that this book series details, coupled with some hard
graft (this is not a get rich easy scheme!), you will significantly, and positively,
alter the forward path of your business in terms of its growth rate and inherent
value. This, in turn, will shorten the time it takes to get you to a point when
such value is of real-world, material significance. A point in time when you can
potentially trade such ownership for a life-changing, freedom-bearing financial
reward.
I have designed the structure of this book series to be a useful companion
to you on your journey. At a high level, it follows the phases you will embark

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on understanding (what the journey will entail, where value lies etc), planning,
building (the guts of the series) and selling. Each of the detailed guides will sit
within one of these phases and, whilst there is a logic to consuming the information in this order, it is all perfectly accessible to the reader who just wishes to dip
in to gain insight in a specific area only.
This brings me onto the overall design. You may have found this sample on
my website (www.dommoorhouse.com) or an e-book store? If you return to my
website, you will see that you can get access to all the currently published guides
in the series. If your interest takes you further and you seek to derive further
value from this structured learning then please note also that each guide has
been specifically configured to work in reference with a number of supporting
resources (tools, templates, interviews, links, discussion boards etc) organised
on the same subject basis. Details on how to subscribe to these additional assets
are to be found on the website.
Finally, a heartfelt wish; however you seek to digest these guides and wherever you are in the entrepreneurial process good luck. You have my utmost
respect and the world certainly needs more people like you. I just hope that this
book coupled with your spark, vision and industry contributes in a small
way to the decisions you take and the success you deserve.
Dom Moorhouse
Bath, 2012

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Who is this Book for?


The simple answer is that this book is for you.
You that is, if you are the owner full or part of a professional services
business or aspire to become so. Indeed, this book is for you if you are just keen
to explore the idea of setting up your own such firm.
Before we go much further, some definitions. By owner, I mean a shareholder in a limited company, or a partner in a limited liability partnership, who
has equity (shares, stock, options) in the business and is, as such, able to direct influence over it and derive gain from it (dividend share and/or a capital gain from
selling shares). I should also perhaps expand on what I mean by a professional service firm as this book is very much focused on the unique characteristics of such
an endeavour. No one definition will suffice here but such firms are primarily
business-to-business and involve the marketing, selling and dispensing of a professional service as opposed to, say, the production and retail of material goods.
Capable people, qualified to discharge such services, are clearly central to such a
business and the billing typically but not always involves a function of their
time. The definition is, however, broad and covers a panoply of service types
from business consulting, accounting, law, advertising, web design, architecture,
engineering, recruitment, financial services, marketing, public relations, research
and so on. Generally speaking, if your firm harnesses the talents of skilled, knowledgeable individuals to provide advice and support to other businesses it is to be
included under this broad umbrella and this guidebook is for you.
Your professional service business may be long-established or, indeed, may
not yet even exist. Starting up such an enterprise may just be, at this point, part
of your future dreams and plans. You may well be, at this current moment, languishing as an employee in a large company wondering if the jam tomorrow
promise is ever going to materialise and looking to take more control over your
career, and future wealth, through such an ambition.
Moreover, The Five-Year Entrepreneur series is really focused on the leaders
who are committed to growing such businesses such that they afford themselves the option of potentially realising capital value from it in the future. This
is perhaps the critical raison dtre for this series of guides and, hence, serves as
the key test as to whether it is really worth reading on.
This is an important and not obvious point so lets pause briefly to discuss
it in more detail.
For some business owners, there is no deep desire to grow their firm (in terms
of people employed, revenue, profit etc). For such business leaders, the potential
upside of growth is just not deemed sufficient enough to justify the inevitable
effort and complication involved. They are simply content with where they are
and enjoy the regular income stream their business provides them. That is fine

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WHO IS THIS BOOK FOR?

if they are, indeed, enjoying a regular profitable income (putting aside the obvious concern that it is, in practice, very difficult to stand still and not actually go
backwards). It is a perfectly acceptable career, or work-life, choice and certainly
I do not seek to be self-righteous about the deliberate alternative. Its just that
this series really talks to those who have, or plan to have, an explicit ambition to
grow their business.
This does not mean, however, that you will only get value from this book
series if you intend to make a cast-iron commitment to, or goal of, the act of
selling your business; although if your plans are explicit and time-bound in this
regard, it is most certainly for you! As a minimum, I just anticipate that you
want to, through a disciplined plan-to-build approach, position strategic options for such a potential eventuality in the future.
Behind such an intent lies a myriad of personal drivers and goals. This should
include the professional satisfaction and personal growth journey involved in
leading a successful firm. There are few satisfactions greater than knowing that
your entrepreneurism, vision, drive, industry and force-multiplying enthusiasm
is responsible for a small economy on which other livelihoods (and their dependants) prosper also. For certain, such people are needed in abundance to
rescue modern economies from their recent malaise! There will also be a driver,
invariably, for self-determination be that in the form of a greater influence over
your own career path and/or a desire for greater wealth on which such future
flexibility can be based. There is nothing to be ashamed of in such an admission conversely, candour with yourself and key others is important here. It is
perfectly possible to reconcile such personal ambition with sustainable, ethical
business development and that is the sweet spot on which this set of books is
going to linger.
In summary, this book (as part of the overall The Five-Year Entrepreneur series) is for anyone who is, or who aims to become, an owner of a professional
services business and has a targeted intent to grow such a business in order to
potentially at least derive a personal wealth-creation point in the future.

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THE FIVE-YEAR ENTREPRENEUR

The Five-Year Entrepreneur Series


The Five-Year Entrepreneur series is organised into four parts and contains 21
guidebooks that cover everything you need to know to create ownership wealth
in a professional service business.
The two guides in Part 1 (Understanding) show you the personal attributes
and commitment you will need for the journey ahead (Guide 01 Personal
Motivation and Circumstance) and the fundamental components of value in a
professional service business such that you can embed this knowledge in every
future, firm-growing decision you make thereafter (Guide 02 The Fundamental Components of Value).
In Part 2 (Planning), I introduce you to professional service business models
and describe the business planning you need to do at start-up and embed as a
critical, repeating capability thereafter (Guide 03 Business Planning). I also
look at how to optimally organise your business for growth and value (Guide
04 Business Organisation).
Part 3 (Building) is the heart of the series. Here you will find multiple guidebooks that describe at a practical level how to establish and manage all the
components of a well oiled professional service operation.
Finally, in Part 4 (Selling), three guidebooks will cover this pivotal phase on
the wealth creation journey in order that your firm is well presented to the market, the optimal deal is achieved for all involved parties and your wealth creation
goals are realised.
The overall series is as follows:

Part 1:

Understanding

Guide
Guide

Personal Motivation and Circumstance


The Fundamental Components of Value

Part 2:

Planning

Guide
Guide

Business Planning
Business Organisation

Part 3:

Building

Business Development
Guide
Guide
Guide
Guide

Management Information and Decision Making


Service Propositions and Thought Leadership
Marketing
Selling

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WHO IS THIS BOOK FOR?

Knowledge, Culture and Communications


Guide
Guide

Establishing a High-Performing Team


Knowledge Management and Intellectual Property

People/Talent Management
Guide
Guide
Guide
Guide

Talent management Recruitment to Exit


Continuous Professional Development
Building the HR Function
Developing the Leadership Team

Operations
Guide
Guide
Guide
Guide

Financial Control
Service Delivery and Quality Management Systems
IM/IS Capability
Estate/Office Management

Part 4: Selling
Guide
Guide
Guide

Preparing for the Firms Sale


The Sale Process
Post Sale and Beyond

Readers Note
The respective guides are being published as they are completed. As such, you
may have your hands on one of the early, foundation books with the remainder
of the series still to be written. Indeed, if this is the case, you can head to the
website (www.dommoorhouse.com) and influence the chronology in which the
remaining guides are produced.

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THE FIVE-YEAR ENTREPRENEUR

Guide Elements
This book is designed for the time-poor. Whilst you will get most from it by
reading cover to cover (and any such investment in time to do so will be well
rewarded), it can also be dipped into as per your business challenge of the moment. However you approach it, each guide will have a consistent set of information blocks to further assist the rushed reader so you should look out for the
icons of each:

Aims:
Objectives you should achieve in reading this guide.
Top Tips:
Simple, practical guidance from the coalface.
Links to Resources/Tools:
References to relevant assets contained on the books website or links to
external resources.
Activity:
Signposts an activity you are recommended to undertake to cement your
knowledge or improve your business. These activities will be collated into the
guide checklist for summary reference.
Checklists:
A simple tick box list for those key things to do now.
Motivation Moment:
Quotes and anecdotes that teach or inspire.
Cautions:
Things to watch out for, traps to avoid.
Case Study Corner:
A relevant aspect of the Moorhouse story to illustrate a point.
As a minimum:
Final section giving you the least you need to know.

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UNDERSTANDING
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw
back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one
elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas
and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits
oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to
help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole
stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favour
all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material
assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come
his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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GUIDE 01

Personal Motivation
and Circumstance
AIMS

In this guide you should aim to:


U Explore your personal motivation for the entrepreneurial
journey do you have a realistic sense of the hurdles ahead
and the stamina required to last the course?
U Explore your values, skill set and attitude towards people,
work and risk is this the right course of action for you?
U Consider the important aspects of timing is this the right
time for you to build a business?
U Leave with a realistic sense of the implications of being an
entrepreneur on the Important Others in your life are you
going to be well supported, will it all be worth it?
U Leave motivated for the journey ahead. This guide does throw
in a dose of realism to ensure you are well considered
in your plans; thereafter, however, this book is all about
fostering the spark. The world needs more people like you!

The Complete Entrepreneur


Maybe you are reading this, pre launching out, wondering whether you have
what it personally takes to be a successful entrepreneur? If so, you are right
to dwell on this topic. No other feature is going to be more fundamental in
determining the success, or otherwise, of your business than your attitude and
basket of personal values, capabilities, prior experiences and motivations. So,
honestly assessing this now and at regular intervals throughout the journey
with candid critique is really key.
I am going to touch on some of the key characteristics especially as they

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THE FIVE-YEAR ENTREPRENEUR

apply to the nuances of running a professional


services firm. Before I do though, I should give
a really important health warning. It is easy in
such descriptions to end up painting the picture
of someone wearing a cape and underpants outside their trousers a veritable super person. In
reality, no one is ever this complete article or,
indeed, anywhere close to it. Rather, the more
important point is having, firstly, the self awareness to recognise your strong and weak aspects
and, secondly, the natural inclination towards
continuous professional growth and improvement. It is, after all, very difficult to inculcate
Figure 1.1: The complete entrepreneur?
this type of attitude amongst your future colleagues if you dont with evident conviction believe in it yourself.
We had an oft referenced expression at Moorhouse which said that the pursuit of excellence comes firstly with the humility to recognise you will never
quite get there. This is as apt for a personal charter as it is for a team one.
But I digress ... we were talking about the attributes of the complete entrepreneur as required to successfully build and grow a professional services business. Before I do so, allow me to make one further fundamental point. There is
one quality that should permeate through, indeed be the source for, all others.
That quality is a passion for the service offering you are about to take to market.
From this point on, I will take for granted that your motivation is to offer clients
a service that is excellent, better than the competition (or meets a need that is
just not fulfilled currently) and you have the idea as to how to do this. Only
with such a genuine conviction at your core should you continue. It is such an
axiomatic point that I am not going to include it specifically in my description;
rather, I just assume it is as your starting out point.
With that said, I present to you the dream package:
#1 Chutzpah. This Yiddish word captures a key entrepreneurial quality perfectly. It is the quality of audacity. In traditional usage, it has a negative tone as
in someone has overstepped an accepted boundary with little shame. The modern, broader definition that I am talking to is that of someone who breaks
boundaries with a cheeky, optimistic glint in their eye knowing they are about
to disrupt the status quo.
#2 Marshmallows tomorrow not today. The famous marshmallow experiment conducted at Stanford University () studied four-year-old children.
Each was put in a room with a single marshmallow and told that if they could

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PERSONAL MOTIVATION AND CIRCUMSTANCE

resist eating it for twenty minutes they would get two in reward. The experiment
has been repeated many times since and the resulting footage is invariably hilarious as children wriggle and grimace with the torture of the deferred gratification dilemma. More interesting, however, is the point that when the researchers
tracked these children into later life, they found that those who were originally
able to hold out for the twenty minutes were the more successful in life generally.
Simply put, an entrepreneur intuitively, stoically even, knows that it is worth the
sacrifice of the near years for the far greater return beyond. This takes a certain
degree of mental discipline and the marshmallow now brigade dont have this.

Figure 1.2: Marshmallow test

#3 Dream like a visionary, plan like a pedant. Aligned to the preceding


quality, a successful business owner needs to be able to shift seamlessly across time
horizons. At one moment articulating with some vivid description the type
of business you want to be three years hence to, in the next moment, reviewing
todays client proposal with sharp-pencilled pedantry. The best entrepreneurs can
do both.
#4 Force multiplier. This one is essential. To grow a people-based business
you will need some inherent leadership capability and passion. On the basis that
leadership literature abounds let me boil this down to some simple messages.
Leadership involves some key qualities. First, and foremost, integrity. No one

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THE FIVE-YEAR ENTREPRENEUR

follows anyone else at least not anywhere particularly material if they dont
believe that person is authentic. Force multiplication the ability to get out
more from a team than the sum of its individual parts is also about communication. The ability to describe a vision, to instil a sense of collective purpose
in others, to motivate in the moment. It is also about belief; in yourself fundamentally but also in others trust first, without caveats, and you will be amazed
how people rise to the opportunities you give them. Finally, it is about a sense
of humour and perspective. Never trust anyone in power who doesnt have this.
One of our cultural mantras at Moorhouse was to take your profession seriously
but not yourself. This is an essential characteristic of a high-performing team
and it has to be set from the top.
#5 Jack of all trades. Building a services business requires some command
if not mastery over a number of disciplines; from the technical specialism that
you sell, through to strategy, marketing, selling, HR, Finance, IT, estate management etc. Over time, you will potentially hire experts into each area; notwithstanding, as the leader, you will need to have a reasonable level of competence
in each domain such that you facilitate progress across all of these disciplines.
You may come at this entrepreneurial adventure from deep inside one of these
verticals. If so, now is the time to broaden out entrepreneurism requires plural
interests and demands. In fact, many successful business leaders enjoy the role
for the mile wide, foot deep variety it brings.
#6 Decision making tempo. This one is critical. Building a business is
about momentum. Experimenting with new service offerings. Qualifying opportunities in or out. Hiring new people. Expanding into new markets. As the
person at the apex (or even as the singleton pioneer) you will need to make a
raft of decisions everyday. The best leaders I worked for prior to starting out on
my own had this very special quality. That of making decisions with tempo. It
is so seductive to wait for more information, more data ... but know this ... you
will never have the complete data set. Far better to make progress-enabling decisions and get them right of the time than to put all your colleagues into
morale-sapping stasis with protracted deferment. There is a stratagem in the
military that refers to winning the battle by getting inside the enemys decision
making cycle. The analogy carries to the commercial world in so much as you
will steer your firm to the top of the market if you can ride the constantly spinning OODA (observe-orientate-decide-act loop) faster than your competition.
#7 Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the
goal. There is a very thin line between dogmatic tenacity and delusion. This
quality, therefore, is not about hanging onto a dream when every new bit of

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PERSONAL MOTIVATION AND CIRCUMSTANCE

information tells you it is doomed (this is a well known psychological trap


known as cognitive dissonance). It is, however, about the mental tenacity to
see a way around the everyday challenge, minutiae and bureaucracy that the
world can throw at you. As I was taught in the Royal Marines, in the face of
whatever was thrown at us, you need to improvise, adapt, overcome. Put another way, as my Gran used to say, It takes a carpenter to build a shed but
any donkey can kick one down. Be aware, the world is full of donkeys who revel
in why something cant be done; an entrepreneur is constantly, without tire, looking to prove them wrong.
#8 You are in business, to be in business. This was one of the best bits of
advice I got on stepping out and talks to another key attribute required business savvy. A good entrepreneur does not smoke his own dope in relation to
getting too puffed up with the rhetoric of business. All the MBA-type analysis,
business planning, product development is for nought if you arent actually out
there trading. I meet many who love the cerebral aspect of it all, they have the
shiniest service offering you have ever seen but appear to have totally lost the
point that it is all fundamentally about selling a service for more than it costs you
to provide it. Rather, an entrepreneur, just gets out there and does business. Be
receptive to what the market wants as opposed to belligerently sticking to your
original offer on the basis clients will eventually come to you. We had another
expression at Moorhouse which sought to encourage us into action whenever
we were starting to pontificate Stop polishing stones, start throwing some.
#9 Courage. Plain and simple. Of all variants. Later in this guide I will cover
your attitude to business risk but you will need a well of moral courage also.
Why? Well, you are about to grow a people business and leadership of such an
organisation will invariably throw at you human conundrums also. You can have
no idea now of the variety of issues that will come your way for resolution. All
you should know is that, occasionally, situations arise that will test your integrity. When this happens, hold the line. Never, ever seek short term popularity or
the easy route when you know it comes at a compromise of your values, integrity
or sense of fairness. Such a position will always slowly unwind.
#10 Luck. There is an inherent danger in seeking to nail down the attributes
of a successful entrepreneur and, for completeness, I am going to call it out. You
base such an analysis on your own experience, great leaders you have worked
for, CEO biographies you have read etc. Many of the attributes I have listed you
intuitively knew already optimism, risk-taking, courage etc. What these studies sometimes often fail to acknowledge, however, is the silent evidence all the
stories of those that didnt succeed. These tales are less often written up (which

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is a shame because done well they can carry far more useful information than
the pro forma success story). If you could access it, this graveyard will be full of
people with similar traits. So the reality could be that the only attribute of real
consequence that really separates the winners from the nearly rans is luck.
Plain and simple. I certainly had my fair share of this more of which later so
maybe I am also guilty of a retrospective narrative fallacy when I list all these
other factors. Maybe. I would like to believe, it is more than just luck but you,
dear reader, will need to judge that for yourself after reading this book. What
I can be sure of, however, is that you will certainly need a dose of it. But then
doesnt luck come to those that are inclined to look for it!
So how did you do? Do you personally qualify for the cape and superhero
underpants?
Let me reiterate again, this is a platonic ideal of the entrepreneur he or she
doesnt exist in reality to this idealised form.

ACTIVITY
Notwithstanding, take a moment with such a checklist to appraise
yourself. Better still get a close friend, colleague or mentor to guide
you towards the areas that stand you apart and those that will need
development. Ping them an email now to offer them lunch in return
for a chat over this important topic.

Once you have done this, lets turn next to the entrepreneurial journey.

Attitude to Risk
Entrepreneurism is fundamentally about taking a calculated risk with your time,
talents and capital.
Risk, and the management thereof, is a pretty hackneyed term in current
management literature. I want to take a more rounded look at it in the context
of the journey you are seeking to embark on.
Of course, there is a very rational approach to this analysis which you
should undertake. There is also, however, a very gut-based aspect to this question
how do you feel about risk, what type of personality and demeanour do you
have when it comes to facing risk? This is as important, if not more.
In relation to the former, you should of course spend time working
up projected P&L and cash flow statements for your proposed venture (with

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accompanying poor/expected/good scenarios and sensitivity analysis). In most


instances, this will generate a time value how many weeks/months can I survive if my hypothesis concerning future sales does not arise? You will have a
mortgage, liabilities and maybe even dependants, so this quickly becomes a case
of conjecturing a line in the sand when you might have to at worse case
concede defeat and look to return to the employee model.
So, do this calculation but then ask yourself what is really lost if it doesnt work?
Clearly, the safe brigade will say you have lost months of career continuity,
you may even have fallen a few rungs down the career ladder at Big Firm plc as a
result, you will likely have taken a confidence dent, you will certainly be poorer.
Let me say this also, however; even in the worst case, you will have gained some
invaluable experience and I believe lifted yourself above the masses who
never take such a leap. I would employ a failed entrepreneur as someone who
really demonstrated some get up and go every day over an employee-only
journeyman with comparable technical skill sets.
The important thing here is that you dont weight too punitively the cost of
failure. You clearly dont seek it but just by stepping out into the world of self
employment you will have crossed a pretty special threshold that has some personal brand differentiation and experiential value. I read some years ago about
a study of US billionaires under the age of clearly quite a select group. One
question posed to this set was how many businesses did you start up and fold
before you hit on the success you now have?. The average from memory was
! The US has a far more entrepreneur-encouraging regulatory environment
and culture than other nations (it certainly doesnt stigmatise failed directorship
to the degree done in the UK for example). That national characteristic noted,
you get the sense of what these individuals did just by stepping off into their
first ventures.
So the rational risk analysis is important but keep it in perspective.

ACTIVITY
On the more what does my heart say? note, you need to ask
yourself how you respond to risk in other aspects of your life as there
will be cross-over inference to be drawn. Do you relish a degree of
physical risk on occasion; for example, with adventurous sports?
What kind of investor are you is any spare money in a safe savings
account or do you look for the higher risk/return instrument? How
bold are you with regards seeking out new experiences and friends?

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If you find yourself naturally drawn to a risk-averse lifestyle and world view then
this may not be the road for you. I strongly believe that with the advice this book
lays out intelligently applied with graft you can eliminate a lot of the systematic risk involved in building a professional services business. That said, there are
always external factors outside of your control. Indeed, the world outside your
office window can be a capricious place at times, so you need to have a certain
constitution for the unpredictability that lies ahead.
You should also factor in the Important Others in your life (more of which in
a subsequent section). How will they fare emotionally and practically with the
risk that you may well be sharing? Even if you are an emboldened risk taker, is it
fair to take a nervous, dependent partner along for the ride? Only you can judge.
I should conclude this section with a final reinforcement of the point that this
is more art, and gut, than calculator. The reason why is to do with the little-understood distinction between the concept of risk and uncertainty. Frank Knight,
the distinguished economist famously elucidated on this in his seminal text Risk,
Uncertainty and Profit (, Schaffner & Marx). Knightian Risk is that which is
computable with known probabilities (like the roulette wheel); Knightian Uncertainty is that which you cannot measure or compute. As Nicholas Nassim Taleb
expands on in his fantastic book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (, Penguin), the reality is that outside of a casino game, computable risks
are largely absent from real life. We do not, in all honesty, know the real odds we
are betting on. As such, entrepreneurs are the most critical of catalysts for economies, as in the absence of perfect data they pioneer. They are required to be the
non-rational agents who break the impasse, more artist than scientist, the kind of
people that will take a bold leap and hope a net emerges to catch them.
In final analysis, to entrepreneur is to dare.

Figure 1.3: Me (as a raft guide in 1992) testing out my risk appetite

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The Entrepreneurial Journey


Heres a question:
If you were setting off, say, on a twenty-year spell as an entrepreneur and
your only point of self-interest was personal wealth creation, then, on average,
which of the following two models do you think you are likely to be more successful with? Model one: overseeing four five-year cycles (i.e. start-up-to-sale
four times); or, model two: a concerted twenty-year stint building the mega-firm
and the mega-payout?
Before I answer it and for the absence of doubt please let me be clear
on the point that doing this for wealth creation alone would not only be a
pitifully empty strategy, it is also unlikely to work as such a business leader
is unlikely to command the respect or followship required to actually grow a
high-performing team.
This is more of a thought experiment. The prize of wealth creation is one
important and very valid aspect of your motivation, so the answer to this
question is of some interest.
Well, it would appear from the data on professional service firm acquisitions,
that on average (exceptions clearly exist) you would be far better off undertaking the four shorter journeys. Why is this? One key reason is probably to do
with the near inevitable dilution of original owner shareholding that takes place
as a firm grows. Even within an ambitious five-year journey this aspect will be a
factor for you. For a firm developed linearly over twenty years, it is almost certain
that the original owners will have needed to dilute their shareholdings perhaps significantly. I suspect, aside from size per se, this is partly due to the point
that with maturity comes a heightened sense of equity awareness and expectation
from many members within. Such firms potentially also need to offer equity to
attract new business development talent (whereas the younger firms can market
the competing attractiveness of being a more fun, personable place to work).
I doubt anyone reading this is considering the multiple, serialised buildsale journey as a premeditated ambition you would need Herculean levels of
stamina to undertake such a course! The point I am making is just that the optimal strategy in relation to personal wealth creation on average is a focused,
short-to-medium term one. With a fair wind as my case study will show this
can play out fully in five to seven years (including the period to earn out all
your value post any sale).
The entrepreneurial journey I seek to take you on, based on a professional
services model, is realistically framed in this kind of time period. Well prosecuted, this should be the main play of your working career such that future choices
beyond this period can be based on the security of the financial buffer it creates.

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!
The phases of the journey that this book follows are as follows:

Understanding
Clearly, in running a business you never stop learning on the job. Indeed, it can
feel like you have an Everest to climb everyday in respect of new knowledge and
skills required its partly the attraction. What I am referring to here, however, is
an understanding of the fundamentals sufficient to give you knowledge of how
to build value and confidence that you have a fighting chance of being successful. This book should be an invaluable asset within this first phase.

Planning
The activity of planning is going to get due coverage in this book as it is one of
the critical determinants of success. Again, it is not a phase you pass through
never to return. Far from it; and I will cover how you embed it as an ever-present
firm capability later. You should, however, do sufficient planning (at a personal
and business level) before crossing the Rubicon of company incorporation and,
as such, this first iteration is a critical phase.

Building
This is clearly the guts of the challenge and, proportionately, within this work;
most of the guides sit here. It is also the most rewarding part the reason you
will go to work each day with, I hope, a real sense of purpose and verve. This
has a number of sub-phases, or maturity steps but, for simplicity, I am going to
contain it to this one, overarching phase.

Selling
In relation to the journey I am describing, this is the concluding phase the point
at which you can optimally convert your ownership capital into financial reward.
Hopefully, you will have been earning healthy dividend income during the build
phase but this is the defining moment. Having a good understanding of this phase
in advance indeed, ideally before you set sail is another critical determinant
to success. As such, I will take my time here. We will look at the preparation
for the sale, the sale process itself and, as importantly, the post sale experience.

!
Whilst this all caters, deliberately, for the reader at the early conception stage
who has yet to even incorporate it should be noted that I will not get too
bogged down in the actual mechanics of starting up a company. The reason for

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this is that it is actually quite straightforward; it can appear daunting but it really
isnt. You can actually have the basics in place in a couple of days (statutory registration, bank account, finance control package etc). A myriad of resources already
exist to talk you through this arguably quite prosaic section of the journey.
Rather, I am going to stay focused on the aspects that (a) shorten the time taken
to get to a potential sale point and (b) maximise the value as/when you get there.
That probably all sounds a little mechanical so it is worth me dwelling also
on how all of this will feel. In this regard, the metaphor of the journey is very
apt. At times, the destination will feel very, very distant and the path towards
it will have its highs and lows. The roller coaster was an oft used phrase in my
firm. Whilst you must never lose sight of the end game in order to traverse such
dips, dont get totally fixated by it. Like any journey, as much of the reward is
with the here and now and the serendipity of whats around that corner? as it
is in getting to your declared final port. Most importantly, you are in a peoplecentric business, so it will be a journey of companionship with colleagues and
clients joining you en route. This is the richest part of the experience as the
hard miles you share will forge a deep sense of professional camaraderie. Building a firm that harnesses this metaphor, this kind of we are involved in something special culture, should be part of your forming plan.

What is unique about a professional


services business?
I have written this book specifically for the owners of professional services businesses as there are a number of unique features to how such organisations operate and value create. Understanding these characteristics is essential for anyone
preparing to entrepreneur in this sector.

People-based
Suffice to say, if it were not already obvious to you, that professional services
businesses are fundamentally about people. They need to be managed to attract,
develop and retain the best staff, and associates, you can find in the market.
Growing a professional services business also involves an understanding of the
concept of a leverage structure (ratio of junior to senior staff) and how this
directly relates to your firms profitability.

Management Quality
Closely linked to the first point, the aspect of management quality is magnified
in the professional services business. Professionals by their nature educated,
intelligent self-starters will not hang around for long if the leaders are sub-

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standard. Similarly, this aspect will be scrutinised by any potential acquirer. It


is not just, however, about the qualities of the people in the top roles. In future
guides you will learn how your embedded practices, organisation and toolsets all
impact on your firms management quality.

The Marketing Challenge


Whilst a professional service might, at one level, seem an easy proposition to
message (e.g. We build websites, we can audit your annual accounts, we design buildings etc) to those who have the requisite need, at another, competitive
level you will have a significant challenge. How do you organise your service
offerings? How do you differentiate from your competitors? How do you communicate the benefits of your service approach and style or the type of people
you employ? This is a very different challenge to that faced by a product based
marketeer. Cracking the marketing nut will be key to growing value in your
firm as you will get to learn later on.

The Selling Challenge


Similarly, selling professional services is very different to retail selling or productised business-to-business (BB) as, for example, with software licensing. A key
feature of this difference is a fundamental one that in the main those that
provide the service are best placed/able to sell it. Unlike in other businesses that
employ generic salespeople (and then give them training in the product), in a
professional service business, the challenge is rather to train your doers (consultants, engineers, designers etc) to be able to sale also. Indeed, the most critical,
value-determining challenge you are likely to face is that of turning this capability from an esoteric skill undertaken by a select few to a systematic, shared one.
Only then will your business truly have value. We will look at this aspect in some
detail in Guide .

Managing the Pipeline


The pipeline, or order book, is fundamental to a professional services business.
Unlike other industries, the forward view can be very short-term; it is not unusual for the cliff (the point at which your projected revenue falls far short of
your plan/budget) to be a matter of a few weeks possibly days away. Whilst
we always seek for it to be different to push the cliff as far right as possible
this is the inherent nature of how professional services are often consumed by
clients. How you performance manage this phenomena, therefore, is another
critical determinant of your firms value. You will learn, in later guides, about
pipeline reporting methods, how to measure and improve forecast accuracy and
how to use all this management information to drive your business.

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Pricing
The pricing of professional services is also a science (and art) of its own. Similar
to any business, multiple factors will influence the pricing strategy market
need, competition, service model, the brand premium you command etc. What
is unique is that there tends to be a lot more flexibility available to the professional services firm in this regard; each tender competition essentially presents
an opportunity to renew your pricing strategy/model/rate. You will have the
choice of fixed price, outcome-based risk-reward or the conventional time and
materials model. How much do you discount to win a new client or to keep
utilisation levels high? Unlike unsold stock, an un-billed hour can never be recovered. There are a number of unique dynamics at play here that we will need
to explore.

Right Time in your Life?


This is, of course, a question only you can answer, but if I had to give some
steers, I would say that there is a danger of going too early if you have:
t Insufficient grounding, and/or qualification, in the professional service
area you seek to provide (obvious hopefully);
t A very limited professional network both in terms of potential future
clients and colleagues to join you;
t No experience of business development (selling) and business operation.
In such a place, you may be better planning in a few deliberate stepping stones.
Make your mistakes on somebody elses payroll, get the Big Firm tick on your
CV, start to build your contact list, read some more.
Conversely, there is a danger of leaving it too late if you:
t Are in danger of losing the appetite for the hard miles required; you need
a good five to seven years of fairly high octane energy left in the tank;
t Are too set in your ways; the entrepreneurial journey requires real flexibility, a hunger to learn new skills and this might not come readily to the
cynic who feels they have seen it all before;
t Are gradually losing your nerve and starting to fear failure too much. Some
subscribe to the bank account analogy of risk taking. That is we all get

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given (by nature of our disposition, upbringing etc) a certain amount of


courage tokens. As we cash them in over the course of our lives, so our
balance (or appetite for risk) reduces.
As I touch on later, this sweet spot (the space between these two poles) tends
to start around the early to mid thirties when you will have acquired sufficient
professional skills, experiences, gravitas and contacts but also have a real hunger
and energy to be successful.
There are, however, absolutely no ageist rules here. Of course, a certain minimum level of skill and experience is necessary (such that the market would be
prepared to pay for your time/expertise) but, beyond this, the right mindset and
attitude can overcome most other challenges.
As I have said before, dont feel you need to be the complete article before
you press go either. If you are waiting for this, it will never happen.

MOTIVATION MOMENT
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left
undone. Pablo Picasso
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and
endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with
a success unexpected in common hours. Henry David Thoreau
If you dont have a plan for yourself, youll be part of someone elses.
American Proverb

Appetite for Work


There is no doubt about it; owning and running a professional services business
is hard work brutally so on occasion.
Of course, similar can be said in relation to running any business or organisation as you invariably, as the leader, need to have an oversight of every aspect
of its operation. In navigating a firm from start-up through to growth and maturity, you will have to undertake most aspects personally for a period (from
marketing, proposal writing, client delivery, recruitment, performance management, financial control and so on) before you ever arrive at a point where you
even have the option to delegate to others. Even when you stabilise this into an
organisation with efficient role delegation, the buck still stops with you and

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the relentless pursuit of new clients and assignments will always bring with it a
growing inbox of new business challenges and anxieties.
There are, however, some features of a professional services firm that potentially exacerbate this work load dynamic.
Indeed, there is one very predominant feature. That is, the inherently human
aspect of such a business. Growth, in such firms, almost inevitably involves the
acquisition of more clients and more staff to fulfil on new engagements. Every
time a new person gets added to the equation be they the most fantastic, understanding of clients or the most low maintenance, self-starter of colleagues, there
is something inherently exponential about adding another human node into your
network of concern. Not all businesses face this challenge; for example, an online start-up can create leverage from a small back office team to grow significant
revenues from its innovative web service through marketing spend, search engine
optimisation etc. Effectively, the workload of such a business neednt grow proportionately with the user/revenue growth. The professional services firm is different
as even with the most efficient structures, growth in the human network results
in increased conversations, issues to resolve, decisions to make etc.
Professional service firms also aim to delight their clients, to be the best in
their area of service expertise. Clients rightly demand exemplar standards from
such providers. Put another way, a lot of the value perceived or otherwise
from your clients will be a function, partly, of how hard you work. It is a feature
of corporate survival in the modern age, that most businesses that are consuming professional services are working harder than ever to meet the competitive
challenge (coming largely from the developing countries of the world). In such
a client environment, it is rare for their providers of professional services to get
away with a to existence; conversely, their privileged externals need to actively demonstrate that they have skin in the game. As one of my clients put it
once, results will come about if we all get in earlier, leave later and work harder.
I should emphasise that I am not seeking to draw out any ethical point
here. There is clearly a rich discussion to be had about the unhealthiness of such
modern corporate life and its respect for the holistic well being of its staff. I am
merely seeking to draw attention to the reality of the competitive landscape in
which most of your client businesses will be located and the likely ramification it
has for professional services firms that aspire to serve them with due recognition.
The harsh reality is that to serve such clients in a way that will win you the
reputation on which you can grow (working in the business) concurrent with
running your firm and strategising its future (working on the business) is going
to be, for concerted spells at least, really hard work. Work that will almost inevitably bleed into your evenings and weekends.

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ACTIVITY
So, grab a coffee and take a moment to think all this through.

I am not saying it will not be worth it in the fulness of time far from it that
is the very nature of the entrepreneurial journey to reap a multiple of your invested efforts. I am, however, saying that you should enter the journey with eyes
wide open as to the amount of graft concerned. By some margin, the particular
wealth creation strategy this book outlines is not a get rich easy scheme!

Love of People
Love of people may seem to some readers a pretty florid turn of phrase for a
business book but I use the term with some mildly provocative deliberateness.
As mentioned in the Introduction, professional services businesses are unique
in that they are fundamentally based economically and organisationally on
people. They tend to be low asset businesses; rather, their value is primarily a
function of the collective relationships, skills and energies of the people within
the organisation.
The positive aspect to this is that professional services businesses can be relatively easy to establish there are low barriers to entry. Conversely, poorly
managed, a firms intrinsic value can quite literally walk out the door at any
given moment.
If you have a tight, well-coalesced team with a collaborative culture and high
retention rates then you are clearly going to be far more successful than if your
team is little more than a disparate group of contractors collected loosely together under a trading facade. Clients quickly establish one type of offering from
the other and, as importantly, so will any future acquirer in your business.
Put simply, as the leader of a business where success will pivot on your ability
to hire, task, motivate, develop and retain the best people you can find, you had
better have a pretty deep well when it comes to a natural appetite for human
interaction. I make this point because you do come across some business leaders
in the loosest sense of the term who are clearly technically brilliant but who
have very little emotional intelligence or patience when it comes to engaging
with their colleagues (or, indeed, sometimes even their clients!).
I guess the point is fundamentally one about leadership. Tomes are written on
this topic so I do not seek to digress along this well worn path. Suffice to say that
at its heart you will need to have a genuine affection for the people you work
with. Not in a I want to be everyones best pal type of way (as they say familiarity
breeds contempt) but in an authentic sense of caring for their welfare and profes-

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sional fulfilment and growth. Fakes in this department perhaps those who are
doing so because they read it in a text book once will be sniffed out in an instant.
Once again, no one is ever the finished article in this regard and you can
always mitigate for some frailty in this department by ensuring others with a
better human touch are in position to create the right firm culture. The fundamental point is, however, that you will not enjoy this path, or indeed be any
good at it, if you dont at your core genuinely relish the privileged opportunity
of leading others.
The most successful professional service entrepreneurs are often not the most
technically competent (they can convince others to cover these gaps for them);
but they are inevitably always very adept, charismatic leaders who have a genuine passion for growing high-performing teams.

ACTIVITY
Once again, take a brief pause and ask yourself how well equipped
you are for this fundamental aspect of the role. Do you enjoy this
part of your current role or would you rather be left alone to finetune a spreadsheet? Pause if so. Even better, find a good friend or
trusted colleague and ask for another honest appraisal in this area.

Deep down, however, you will know whether this most fundamental of aspects
is for you or not.

CASE STUDY CORNER


Starting Moorhouse

This first guide touches on the skills, attitudes and motivations required to be a
successful entrepreneur.
I want to ensure that you have examined your personal preparedness for this
journey. I also, however, want to fan the flame if you have even the smallest glimmer of ambition in this direction.
It is appropriate, therefore, that in this first Case Study Corner I take you
back to my early thoughts and fears pre launching Moorhouse. Everyone is different, but in doing so I hope you will see some aspects of overlap to your
own situation, drivers and concerns and, therefore, cause to believe that all of
this is perfectly within your grasp also. This will be the longest such case section
in this book but deliberately so as it pertains to the most fundamental aspect of
all in this equation you and whether you are ready for the road ahead. As

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such, I want to give you as rich a picture I can of my circumstances perchance


they resonate with yours.
So, what was my motivation for starting up? From where did my own entrepreneurial journey start?
Well, truth be known, the desire to build a business was there for a long time.
Build is the important word here as opposed to run as it captures the sense
of wanting to create something new and grow it, brick-by-brick, into a thriving,
people-centric concern.
From an early age, I had a good idea of what self-employment involved.
My father was a builder and had for many years run his own building company. Growing up, I saw the advantages and disadvantages of entrepreneurship
through this filial, domestic lens. He was very much his own man proudly
self-assured in the steerage of his own destiny. I admired that. I enjoyed the tales
he would bring home the great characters that worked for him, the humour of
the builders yard. I also, however, saw how incredibly hard he worked; noting
the times he took a sleeping bag to his office so late into the night did he need
to work to close the books for the month. With time, I also came to recognise
the somewhat upsetting reality that this graft alone didnt automatically correlate
to success or financial reward. For nearly two decades, his business fed a growing
family but, with hindsight, I would class my upbringing as near working class
in terms of its material possession. It, ultimately, never allowed him to escape
the grip of the mortgage payment and, sadly, like many other such businesses
he ultimately went under during the recession of the early nineties. Regardless
of all of this, through such childhood observation, I gained a palpable sense of
the dignity inherent within such self-determination and, no doubt, a seed was
planted in my own mind to do similar.
On reflection, there were probably some other pertinent features of my
childhood that leaned me in this direction. I was the eldest of seven children.
My mother was (and still is!) incredible she managed the house with indefatigable grace and good humour. Her hospitality was legendary; so much so, that
our home was often the preferred after school location for local friends as if
catering for seven was not enough! If you peeked in the window, you were likely
to see a wild gaggle of children playing out some adventure with upturned furniture or racing cushions down the stairs. I think all this probably contributed to
my gregarious nature my enjoyment of the company of others which as per
my Love of People section is an important determinant of the pleasure you
will draw from the entrepreneurial process.
But if my mothers touch started to influence my people skills, my father
moulded some key attributes also. Critically, he threw out our TV from an early
age I was probably about nine or ten. He was frustrated at the amount of time
we wasted in front of it. I was distraught in the moment but fully recognise it

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now as a stroke of genius. It initiated my love of books and from there on in, I
had an insatiable appetite to read and learn. I believe most entrepreneurs even
if not necessarily academic often have this innate intellectual curiosity.
My father also taught me the early lessons of commercial savviness they
were harsh lessons at the time (Im not sure I would commend them to the modern father) but they were certainly worth learning.

Figure 1.4: Me (on left) with childhood pal Lee get on yer bike entrepreneurs

Lesson #1 If you want money, get off your backside and earn it.
I remember again at the age of nine or ten undertaking a thorough survey
of all of my classmates who, to a person it seemed, were getting handsome levels
of weekly pocket money. Flushed with my recent mathematics knowledge, I
presented the data in a neat column graph format, carefully coloured and with
a particular emphasis on the average amount which was, I felt, my fair dues
post this truth-searing analysis. My father took one look at it and then screwed
the paper up in front of me. Harsh. The accompanying message was if you want
some money, start learning that you are not entitled to it as a hand down. To be
fair, he then facilitated the flow of jobs that could enable this and through my
teens I laboured on building sites and washed cars to make up for the lack of a
direct parental stipend.

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Lesson #2 Enter all contracts with eyes wide open.


In one of the school holidays, my father asked if I wanted the job of preparing the
foundations for a small extension at home. It promised to be back-breaking work,
digging up a concrete floor and underpinning an exterior wall with reinforced concrete. I was sixteen at the time and had a fair amount of holiday labouring experience already under my belt so felt confident I could give a reasonable estimate.
One hard week I thought with the help of my best mate James (who happened
to be one of the strongest friends I had). If I charged per person this would
be a nice little earner and so I shook hands with my father on a job and
backed it off with James for his share. This was perhaps my first experience of
a sub contractor deal. It was a brutal, twelve-hours-a-day experience and nothing went to plan. Each section of the footings trench had to be reviewed by the
councils building inspector before we were allowed to pour concrete. On on
one of these early visits, an unforeseeable complication arose and the official demanded a different, time-sapping approach to our work. One week turned into
two torturous ones but we eventually finished our young bodies broken in the
process. So, I said to my father on completion, I need to adjust my original
quote up to as you know it has taken twice as long as foreseen and I have
already agreed a week to James. Except, said my Dad, you committed to
a fixed price quote. Despite all protestations to the effect that whilst I got his
commercial point, I was his skint son who had just donated his entire school
holiday to this project he remained resolute to that line. And so, I found myself collecting the and placing it all in my friends palm. It was the harshest
of lessons and I fumed on it for weeks but it did teach me early on that deal
making is all about risk analysis and commercial savvy. Maybe that, and to be
very careful about mixing business and family!
I found myself drawing on some of these early lessons at University. I needed the
extra money badly as my parents were certainly in no position to support me; indeed, this period of my life coincided with my fathers real financial difficulties.
I also wanted to earn smart; what, after all, was the point of going to University
and spending all your spare time working behind a bar. I wanted to be on the
other side of that equation. So, with my college pal Max, we launched Domax
Campus Initiative (DCI) and rolled out our first product a student term planner. The idea was simple even if the company name was gratingly bad. At the
start of every term, we would give every student (over , of them) a free
A poster for their wall showing the key dates for the term ahead. As you could
literally guarantee these would hang in over of all student rooms, this was
prize advertising estate for every student bar/club/supplier in the area. Around
the edge of the planner we placed thirty business card sized adverts and charged
each of them out for . We even got the printer to print for free as he could

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promote his business in the margins of the poster. It was brilliant. After the
initial cost of getting it all set up, we would return to University a few days early
each term and phone up previous advertisers for a re-run and the vast majority
would just automatically renew. We would make each in a couple of days.
It paid for me through University.
But if a seed (and some useful entrepreneurial lessons) was planted in these
formative years, there it rested for some time. After graduating, I travelled across
Africa (another story) and then returned to take up an Officer Commission in
Her Majestys Forces.
I served an eight year commission with the Royal Marines; something I
wouldnt change for the world. It was and remains an extraordinary organisation and I count myself privileged to have served alongside so many outstanding
individuals whilst an active member of it. Indeed, as a young, single man in his
twenties there was no better occupation for me. It clearly wasnt a commercial
decision to join up; money has never been a primary motivator for any of my
life decisions. Rather, I aspired to be stretched physically and mentally. My
life mantra is whoever has the most stories wins and I knew this career choice
would provide a rich vein of camaraderie, random experience and adventure.
Importantly, it would test and hone any innate leadership capability I had. The
Officer Training Wing of the Commando Training Centre in Devon is probably
one of the finest leadership academies, military or otherwise, in the world so to
spend fifteen months there courtesy of the UK taxpayer was opportunity indeed.
Finally, it was the most honourable of professions. Money cant buy the pride
that comes from knowing you walk in the steps of men far greater than yourself
in the service of others.
It was a difficult decision to leave. Not easy to summarise but a combination
of multiple factors. Marriage, and my first child, certainly started to change the
appraisal. I also sought to specialise within the Royal Marines and after months
of training and tests discovered I wasnt, well, frankly good enough for that particular ambition. Also, looking to the next decade, I couldnt really see (especially
outside this particular specialism) anything ever really happening other than
the constant roulement of training exercises. So I put in my chit to call it a day
after eight years. What a spectacular lack of foresight I had as the following decade
proved to be the busiest since the Second World War. My former comrades and
close friends embarked en masse for Iraq, and then Afghanistan, and I experienced
a heavy sense of dislocation in my first few years outside.
Another part of my motivation for leaving commensurate with family responsibility was a desire to have more control over my life. Life in a green
suit had irreplaceable benefits but I felt I had done my bit. I had no problems
subordinating my life to such a principled cause but once a wife and child appeared I was less comfortable about them being tagged to such sacrifices also.

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I came close to setting out on my own immediately on leaving in .


Fortunately, with my candid self appraisal at the time I acknowledged that self
confidence would only take me so far when coupled with a complete dearth of
commercial experience. So, with the aid of an MBA with the Open University, I
transitioned into a role with the global management consultancy firm, Deloitte.
I knew from this point on, however, that I had to have a high-level career plan
and stay true to it. I recognised the risk of me meandering aimlessly in civvy street
without such a structure. So, in my final weeks in the Royal Marines, I sat down
one evening and wrote down some future goals in relation to the multiple components of my life family, career, finance, health, professional development etc. A
key objective was to set up my own firm within five years enough of a period to
learn the ropes of the commercial world and make a network of useful contacts.
Fast forward a few years and this objective loomed large. Deloitte was a
great company to work for a global brand, smart colleagues and prestigious
client work. I had a number of good friends there at this point. As large business
consultancy firms go it is certainly one of the best but I was restless. The jam
tomorrow partner promise was there but I knew it would be a very fair wind,
and a couple of economic cycles, before I got close to it. More importantly, when
I surveyed the members of this hallowed group, I recognised there were few role
models there for me; too many were full of their own self importance and didnt
share my values. Many had completely lost perspective on the worklife balance.
For them, it wasnt who had the most stories wins but he who has the most
cash wins. I couldnt be sure if the partnership process attracted this type of person (it would be fair to say man as there were so few women) or it was just that
applicants were eventually worn down into this mould. Like all generalisations
there were notable exceptions but the averaging was sufficiently accurate for my
five year goal to remain unperturbed.
It is, however, even premeditated, a mighty big step to take. Especially so,
when you have the responsibility for others and I now had two young children.
The value of the original goal setting was key here and I would often pull out the
original paper from my drawer to keep me honest and on track. I eventually got
to a point in late when the timing felt right. From a push perspective, I had
been through another round of the corporate theatre that is the large-scale performance appraisal process. I had been awarded a stellar grade but calculated that
my bonus would buy me an extra cup of coffee each day. It was clear where in the
company the bonuses were really focused! I had, I felt, served my apprenticeship. I
had made some good contacts (this would come in useful), received some training
(albeit this was mostly on the job) and was confident in my area of specialism
large-scale corporate transformation or programme management. I could also see
there was an opportunity in the market. Looking to the US, I could see there was
ample evidence for successful smaller niche firms taking on the less-focused, larger

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firms in this sector. This market was growing. The time was now.
So, in December , I took a week off from work, sat at my cramped attic
desk and undertook the am I ready? personal evaluation I am imploring you to
do. On the positive side I noted some inherent leadership capability (I owed this
all to the Royal Marines), a good grounding in the service area I wanted to focus
on (Deloitte deserved recognition for this) and reasonable business savvy (from
the completed MBA and my fathers school of hard knocks).
My attitude to risk was robust. In my mind, there is a definite cross-over between your appetite for different dimensions of risk physical, emotional, financial etc. In relation to physical risk, I knew I had a healthy (but not foolhardy)
appetite that had been well examined primarily in the realm of adventurous
pursuit. Whilst fatherhood had slowed this down, my twenties had enabled me
to test this threshold well. From white water raft guiding on the Zambezi rapids,
paragliding (badly), sky diving to multiple expeditions across deserts, jungles
and mountains, I knew I could handle a certain degree of pre-calculated risk.
In terms of the financial risk assessment, I had some savings which, carefully
managed, would get us through three months of paying the bills; thereafter, if
unsuccessful, I was prepared to swallow my pride and return to a big employer.
I also looked at my contacts list for potential first clients and, by weighted estimate, reckoned I had a c. chance of securing one of them in the first month
or so. Thats probably, I concluded, about as good as its going to get.
In terms of timing, it was right from a career moment perspective for all the
reasons mentioned above. I think there is a sweet spot decade between your
early/mid thirties and your early/mid forties for this game. During this period
you have enough experience and gravitas to be taken seriously in the market and
also enough energy and drive to really put in the time required. I was ; I didnt
want to leave it any longer.
In final analysis, I wanted to break out of the wage slave process. My thinking went as follows. I felt that with a dose of good luck, and some hard work
intelligently applied I could grow a business that was saleable within five years. I
knew it would come with personal sacrifice but, if I could pull this off, I would
secure my family considerable financial freedoms beyond. The status quo of big
corporate employment would place less onerous demands on me on a day-today basis but would remain inescapable until retirement age. My heart also told
me how much more animated and passionate I was about this project; I was lost
in the Big Firm, so disconnected from its overall results, such a small cog in a
massive machine. It was time to be bold. It was time to take the first step.

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The Important Others


This is a really important section. I am not sure I thought about the issue of
Important Others enough when I set off on my entrepreneurial journey and I
very nearly paid for this lack of foresight. Dont do the same.
So, what is my point here?
Well, unless you are a one-dimensional automaton who lives solely for the
shallow success of business life that is wealth creation for wealth creations sake,
or external applaud only for the sake of your own ego aggrandisement, then your
proposed adventure is likely to have a more rounded, philosophical ambition.
Ultimately, one hopes ... the success you seek is such that you can spend more
time with the people you love, more time surrounded by people that inspire you
to better things, more time laughing with good friends, more time working for
the causes you feel passionate about and more time in the pursuits that further
develop you as a person.
I am not saying that building (and maybe selling) your professional services
business is just a means to a better end. Indeed, being involved in a high-performing team is one of the most essential elements of such a rounded life. What
I am saying, however, is that the pursuit of the right ambition can be for naught
if none of the people that are special in your life survive it with you.
The road to the top in the big professional services firms (Big Four management consultancies, Magic Circle legal firms etc) is littered with failed marriages and broken families. Indeed, you may be reading this looking to escape
the inevitable tension on your personal life that such a career journey is placing
on you. If so, it would be crazy to take greater control over your own destiny
but to then forget this fundamental aspect when you do become your own boss.
But this is so easily done. I know many successful business owners who, on the
surface, achieved their wealth creation goals only to find it was a hollow victory
and that too great a personal cost was suffered en route to getting there ... and
all this was realised too late.
Business owners are inevitably driven, conscientious folk ... you want to delight your clients, you want to help your colleagues to grow, you want to improve the numbers, overcome the latest obstacle ... and you know that no one
else is going to do this for you. Such thoughts can occupy your head for most of
your awake moments (and plenty of your asleep ones too!). There is no natural
break point in such a stream of consciousness. As per Parkinsons Law (applied
to running a professional services firm), work truly does expand to fill the time
allotted to it. As such, the off button or a determination of what time should
be allotted to your business and what time is to be preserved for family and
friends needs primarily to come from you.
As I mentioned before, you will struggle to contain this within a forty-

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hour week but, notwithstanding, you should give due consideration as to what
boundaries should be set in order that your bigger picture is never lost.
I mentioned that I nearly paid for this. It is, to some degree, the entrepreneurial dilemma. You need a certain stubbornness and constriction of vision
to the immediate problem in hand to be successful. But if this constriction remains in place for too long, Important Others are out of focus and invariably
neglected.
I have a beautiful family of three children and when I set off with Moorhouse
in , my son was five and my eldest daughter three. My youngest, Annika,
was born a year later. At the time, I shared with my wife, Roz, the plan to start
up a business and the overall goal to sell it within five years such that we could,
with providence, enjoy greater financial freedoms. This all went pretty much to
plan as this book will expand upon but I would be doing you, the reader, a
disservice if I brushed over this Important Others aspect of the journey.
In short, my strategy paid off just. I am now in the very fortunate position, having exited the business post a successful sale, of having considerable
financial freedom and autonomy over the current stage of my career. Freed from
the demands of running the business full-time, I am able to invest time in new
projects but, most importantly, to spend valuable time with my long neglected
wife and children.
It feels like I have caught the moment just before it nearly got out of reach. If
you rarely do the school run, or attend the school plays, or take your partner out
for the evening, or just chill out with long-term friends ... these moments will
pass you by. After a decade of working away from home and allowing all these
relationships to imperceptibly weaken (in a million, tiny acts of omission), I just
about got away with it. I wouldnt like to say how close it was but certainly if I
had pushed the same focused agenda for another few years, I wouldnt deserve to
be married or to have children that know me as a father.
I dont want to get overly philosophical here and dont worry this book
quickly gets to the stories, checklists and pragmatic advice you seek but I would
be doing you no service if you didnt spend a moment to weigh this aspect up
also.
Running a business is not the easy route, and the sacrifices and anxieties
inherent within it will, on occasion, spill over into your personal life. But just
ensure you dont focus on it to the extent that other frankly far more important
dimensions of your life suffer in the long term.
The best way of doing this is to talk through this issue with loved ones in advance and at regular intervals en route. Take really honest pulse checks on this
and surround yourself with friends who will be brutally candid with you when
you start to lose this perspective. Give them explicit permission to do so; indeed,
demand it of them in advance.

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Most of all, be prepared to take time out whenever such relationships really
require more time and commitment from you; this might result in the business
taking a small step backwards occasionally but far better this than relentlessly
driving a thriving concern whilst all your important friendships and relationships irrevocably wilt.
The next Case Study Corner is written by my wife, Roz, who gives her
perspective on all of this. If relevant to your circumstance, you might get your
partner to read it and discuss so what? in relation to your own circumstances.
With that slightly tangential, but really important matter covered, lets turn
finally (after you have read the Case Study) to how best to enjoy, and remain,
energised throughout your impending entrepreneurial journey.

CASE STUDY CORNER


The Partners Perspective

Now that the company has been sold, and Dom is at home more, I can see the
bigger picture but until this point I had not always been able to. What I want to
make clear is that in order for Dom to be as successful as he was, I had to work
harder and make more sacrifices than I could have imagined. The point of telling
you this is not to gain a sympathy vote but to try and make clear, at the beginning of your journey, things that were unknown to me at the outset. When Dom
talked about starting a business, I was right behind him. I had little knowledge
of the world of business, but knowing the man he was, and is, I had every faith
he would be successful. What I didnt anticipate fully was my role in the venture.
For many, it is likely that the stage of life when you are ready to start a business
coincides with a time when you might have, or are considering starting, a family.
It is almost impossible to give both the time that they deserve. One or other will
suffer and, in my case, it was our family. There is no point in dressing it up Dom
was not there enough and I, and our children, suffered as a result. For a lot of the
time, I did the work of two parents. Indeed, I often saw myself as a single parent
as, for much of the time, it felt like I bore the responsibility for our children alone.
Running the company office away from where we lived meant that Dom was not
physically at home for most of the week and, even when he was, he spent many
hours in his home office. Indeed, even when he was with us, his mind was often
elsewhere. Manys the time that I realised half way through a conversation that not
a word I was saying had gone in so preoccupied was he with work.
By the time success started to come, my career had ground to a halt. I had
previously been a nurse and although I was never a high-flying career woman,
I had always really enjoyed working. I just couldnt justify trying to maintain a
career and look after a growing family in these circumstances.

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I will stop there as I am sure you get the picture. The point of sharing some
of the negatives that I experienced with you is not to put you off the idea of starting a business but, rather, to encourage careful, realistic thought. I want you to
anticipate the pitfalls and put some rules in place to ensure there are moments
when your company always takes second place to a special relationship and/or
family. So, heres a few suggestions:
t No pre-arranged Sunday night phone calls; they became a huge irritant
and meant that there was never a waking hour that was sacred to the family. Indeed, at times, it felt like Doms phone had become the third person
in our marriage. With hindsight I can see that I should have put my foot
down on this one; no one would have died if these moments had waited
until the morning. So, if you are in a relationship, agree some set times
when the phone is turned off completely.
t Its often said, but less frequently acted upon have a regular date for just
the two of you. If once a month you could guarantee that your relationship would be more important than anyone, or anything, else in the world
that would mean a lot to your partner.
t If you have to weekly commute to your business then think seriously
about re-locating. Dom and I lived separate lives for too long.
t Make sure your partner is able to have time for themselves, be it an art
class, the gym or the occasional drink with friends. If they are looking after
children full-time, the lack of grown-up conversation without such breaks
can be pretty soul destroying after a while, however much they love them.
Let me end on a positive tone. Im a great believer in experiencing the highs and
lows of life, rather than coasting along somewhere in the middle. There were, of
course, many enjoyable highs along the way. More fundamentally, without all
that we went through, I know we wouldnt have the very comfortable life and
freedoms we now enjoy.
So was it all worth it?, I hear you ask. This is a question I have to seriously
consider ... to contemplate the probable alternatives. Yes, is my definite answer,
but I think it could have been a little less painful getting here, had I taken my
own advice at the start of the journey.
On a final note, I never married Dom to have a safe and predictable life, and
that, I can truly say, it has never been!

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Sustaining the Journey


So you have made the decision to take the journey. Maybe you are already well
and truly on it? If so, the more important topic is how to sustain yourself (and,
indirectly therefore, those you lead) en route. Only by giving concerted thought
to this dimension will you arrive at the finish post in one piece if, indeed, at all.
The answer has two parts. Firstly, the approaches you take to look after yourself directly and, secondly, the practices you put in place within your company
or the culture you create that everyone can benefit from.
In relation to you, we have already discussed one of the most important
aspects the Important Others. Hopefully, this has already reinforced in your
mind the need to ensure that your closest do not suffer from a busy persons
thousand acts of omission. This for their sake and yours. Those closest to you
help you retain a grounded perspective on your business and its bit place in the
universe of life, family and friends dont ever lose this.
What else should you be doing? Well, perhaps the next most important
area is your physical well being. Mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a
healthy body) is one of the most accepted pieces of folk homily but, also, one of
the most often discarded. As a complete aside, there is an apocryphal story of a
cobbler who put this latin phrase above his shop door hoping to attract a more
discerning customer. A rival cobbler, across the road, matched it with a bigger
sign Women and Mens Sana in Corpore Sano! I digress.
Keeping in good check physically is paramount and even the most naturally
active will need to resuscitate this part of their lives every so often. You see, what
happens with your own business is that you invariably convince yourself you do
not have the time to exercise. Thus you enter a mental trap of self-defeatism as
we all know that the fitter we are, the more energy we have, the sharper we are at
making decisions, the more productive we are and the better we feel generally. I
fell into this trap a few times and this as someone who loves to exercise. The best
mitigation for this that I eventually got better at was to book in two to three
one-hour sessions a week (at least) in your personal diary for your preferred activity (be it running, swimming, gym, walking anything that raises your heartbeat)
and absolutely safeguard it. The first few times it is threatened by competitive demands on your time you may feel awkward holding to it but soon it will become
a pattern respected by colleagues that is genuinely only disrupted in extremis.
Be careful with your diet also as this has another massive bearing on your
energy levels and your wellbeing generally. I had another wake up moment when
I described my average weekly meal routine to an interested dietician friend.
His horror as I described my typical day of no breakfast, rushed lunch and a
late night chinese meal, after another long day in the office was palpable and
shocked me into a shake up of this aspect also. This is all obvious stuff, huh,

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but how many of us forget the basics when we are so deeply caught up in our
personal project? As soon as I reset the routine for a morning fruit smoothie,
healthier snacks throughout the day and less of a carb-binge last thing at night
so I felt another shift up in energy levels and productivity. Sorry, I dont seek to
patronise but the best business productivity tips often start with you.
In a similar vein, take your holidays. Dont get caught up in the macho
culture that infers time down is for wimps. Leave that concept to the brainless.
Aside from re-charging, you will be amazed how much you process in your subconsciousness when better relaxed ideas you can bring back to work. As importantly, you should also, from the off, introduce the concept that tasks can be
delegated. Remember, you are building for a future where the culture, systems
and processes are so strong that everyone is ultimately replaceable even you.
Start training this in early as opposed to the business cant last a second without me vibe which is often delusional or, at best, a result of poor organisation.
Read. Take an interest in your own professional development. Often, this
can go by the wayside. Dont let it. Join relevant professional organisations and
enquire as to their ongoing training offerings. As an example, at Moorhouse,
a number of us set ourselves the goal of becoming Chartered Directors (with
the UKs Institute of Directors) and attended their courses at regular intervals.
Not only was useful knowledge acquired or refreshed, the days out of the office
meeting others invariably sparked new ideas and gave fresh impetus to our next
business improvement effort.
Finally, on a personal level, find some external critical friends. Be they advisors (or non-executive directors) you place on your board, or a personal business mentor or another peer business owner having an intelligent, experienced
sounding board outside of your organisation is critical. More on this later.
Sustainability, however, is about more than just your personal journey. You
should also be setting the right tone within your business for others. Starting a
business is a privileged opportunity to cast the culture you seek. Even if your
business has been running a while, as a leader within it, you have the chance to
culture set from the top. It is one of your most profound responsibilities especially so as discharging professional services unmoderated can be a brutal career
at times quickly able to drive you and your colleagues to exhaustion and, on
occasion, untenable levels of stress.
I have a number of recommendations here. There is no one silver bullet,
rather a multi-dimensioned response can go a long way to making everyones
journey more sustainable and, hence, the business more effective overall.
Firstly, avoid the macho culture I mentioned earlier. It is amazing how the
working late (or at weekends) trend can feed off others. You seek committed
colleagues but make sure you arrest this behaviour if it is just becoming the
normalised pattern as opposed to a genuine business requirement. For example,

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we noticed over time that a number of us were working into weekends regularly
but largely as a result of internal dialogue no client demand sat behind it. Once
one person starts this others were almost needing to do similar out of some
(sadistic) form of professional validation. Look out for it as the leader. Keep such
behaviour in balance.
Schedule in shared moments. I will dwell on the Escape concept we had at
Moorhouse in some detail later in relation to its place in our goal setting and
planning disciplines. Simply put here, such events at least quarterly brought
the whole team together to share stories and create new ones. As the firm grew,
such events became more complicated to coordinate, more expensive, but I never left one thinking that wasnt a good investment of time and money. Far from
it. The collective re-charge you get from a well organised gathering of colleagues
is invaluable. At a personal level, I took huge inspiration and succour from a few
days, off-site, in the close presence of talented colleagues. These Escapes always
picked me up, reminded me why I was so fortunate to be the firms MD and
re-stoked the engines for the next section of the climb. I know it had a similar
galvanising effect on everyone in the business.
In guide , I will dwell on your management information (MI) also how
you compile it, how you read it, the decisions you make from it etc. It occurs to
me, thinking about it now, that this is a key contributor to firm-wide sustainability. With sound MI, and effective performance management processes, you
establish a real sense of direction, milestone, journey and progress. We made a
point of expecting every member of the team to know the business plan (that
they had helped craft) for the year ahead and to track actual progress against
this. With the regular stream of win often moments (new clients, revenue plans
met, new hires etc) there was a very evident sense of being involved in a growing,
successful venture. Colleagues fed back that this frequent, clearly communicated
progress, against bold plans, was evidence they were involved in a career-enriching experience. It reminded them they were involved in something collectively
special, something on an ascendant trajectory and for such a ride they were
prepared to put in the extra miles.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, dont allow anyone to take themselves
too seriously. There is nothing more draining than an earnest colleague full of
self-importance or sense of stature. I worked hard to put at the heart of Moorhouse a culture that would chop such an individual down at the knees. Take
your profession seriously but not yourself was the clarion call. It was reinforced
in our team awards, firm artefacts (e.g. Young Mugs everyone had a mug
with their baby photo on, Look-alikey playing cards, even team pyjamas!) and
the regular wind-ups (that nearly got out of hand!). Most of all it permeated
just from an established atmosphere of what was expected and once this culture
was set, it self-policed. Humour is an invaluable ally especially so in times of

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PERSONAL MOTIVATION AND CIRCUMSTANCE

professional adversity; the toughest journeys are sustainable, fun even, when this
lies at the core.

GUIDE 01 CHECKLIST
F

Appraise yourself against the Complete Entrepreneur I


describe. Better still, set up lunch with a close friend, colleague
or mentor to guide you towards the areas that stand you apart
and those that will need development.

After reading the Attitude to Risk section, take a moment to


appraise yourself on this aspect in particular. How do you
respond to risk in other aspects of your life?

After reading the Appetite for Work section, grab another


moment to self assess.

Find a good friend or trusted colleague to give you an honest


appraisal with respect to your people skills.

Review the whole situation and your forming plans with the
Important Other(s) in your life.

If not already a habit, schedule two to three one-hour sessions


in your diary for a preferred physical activity. Review your
average diet room for improvement?

Write down your set of professional development goals for the


next one to two years. Start thinking now about one or two
critical friends you can use as a sounding board as your
business ideas and plans take form.

If you are getting close to the conclusion that this is the step
for you, schedule a decent chunk of time (say, one week) when
you will take time out from current commitments to seriously
progress your plans.

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THE FIVE-YEAR ENTREPRENEUR

TOP TIPS
U Make a concerted effort to meet other business owners. Most
out of respect for the step you are about to take will be
surprisingly giving of their time to pass on experiences. Such
contacts will also prove invaluable as your plan evolves.
U We havent got to start-up yet or, even, the planning you
should do ahead of this. Notwithstanding, if your ambition is
starting to take shape, start asking around for accountants and
lawyers that come well recommended by others. You will need
such advisors from the off and good ones are worth their
weight. Similarly, start researching the business banking
facilities on offer from a range of banks. All this is good
tactical preparation in advance of incorporation.
U Examine your current employment contract for restrictive
covenants and clauses. If you are currently working for a
company that competes in the area you seek to work in,
what limitations are placed on you with regards to the
solicitation of clients and/or staff? I would advise anyone not
to burn their bridges when they leave their current employer.
Reputations are precious and, in most professional service
networks, you wont do yourself any favours by flagrant
disregard for such matters. Taking them on as a fair
competitor is a different matter!

AS A MINIMUM
U Understand the fundamentals of the Complete Entrepreneur
and what is unique about a professional services business.
U Undertake an honest assessment of your preparedness for this
venture (skills/experiences, attitude to risk, right time in your
life etc). Use a trusted critical friend to review this. If you
conclude this is the likely path for you but now is just not the
time then write down a SMART4 target as to when you aim to
be ready and some stepping stone interim objectives. If now
is the moment, then lets press on.

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PERSONAL MOTIVATION AND CIRCUMSTANCE

U Head to the website www.dommoorhouse.com to access the


remainder of the book series.

MOTIVATION MOMENT
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the
strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done
better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives
valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because
there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the
great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a
worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of
high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails
while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold
and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

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THE FIVE-YEAR ENTREPRENEUR

ENDNOTES
1
2

3
4

The OODA Loop is a concept developed by military strategist and USAF Colonel John Boyd
An earn out period is very common in the acquisition of a professional services firm - as the buyer
will typically seek to incentivise the incumbent management team with an ongoing commitment
to the firms growth. As such, a normal deal structure will involve a transfer of a portion of the
agreed price on the deal date - with the remainder earned out over a future, defined period (often
as per agreed profit growth targets). This is a really important topic and we will cover it in detail in
Part 4 of the series.
Professor Guy Claxton is a well-known proponent of the link between innovation and the relaxed
mind. His writings are well worth reading if this area interests you.
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

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Acknowledgements
Writing a book like building a business is a team sport. In the same way that
I used to feel awkward taking solitary, personal plaudit for Moorhouses successes (recognising, always, how many people had contributed to this), so I feel that
the singular descriptive of author belies the massed efforts of contributors, advisers, reviewers, family and friends who truly keep such a project on its tracks.
To this end, as a newcomer author (and publisher), I am particularly grateful
to the support of my editor, Lynda Watson, and typesetter, James Nunn. They
introduced a complete novice to the nuanced craft of writing a book and showed
commendable patience and professionalism as I blundered my way through the
early stages of this process. In a similar vein, thanks go to Jonny Perl, and his
team at Traffic Digital, for the illustrations that help bring this series to life.
I set off on this book series aiming to produce content that was genuinely
relevant and useful to professional service firm entrepreneurs cf. being a complete vanity project (there may still be shades of the latter). If I have got even
close to achieving this aim, then the many expert contributors and reviewers
deserve fulsome plaudit also. Thus far (in the part complete series), this illustrious group includes: James Appleby (Bluefin Solutions), Pete Austin (Suiko), Paul
Collins (Equiteq), Jon Everett, Nick Fletcher (Vivendi Consulting), Bob Hendicott, Tanya Lightbody (Ingenuity Inspired), Andy Marsh (Suiko), Martin Powell
(Cambridge Market Research), Tim Phillips, Jon Russell (Moorhouse), Lars Tewes (SBR Consulting), Rupert Tobin (100%Cotton) and Paul Wilson (Provelio).
There would not have been any content or story to tell in the first place,
however, had it not been for the simply awesome team that was the firm Moorhouse during my tenure of MD-ship from 2004 to 2011. Leadership is an absolute privilege and pleasure when you discharge it amidst such a talented
group of colleagues. For any pearls of motivation or knowledge I was able to dispense, I received ten-times back in return from all of those I worked with. There
are too many to name in person here but they all know who they are; collectively,
they are the founders of what will, hopefully, be a great firm for many years to
come. To all of them, a heartfelt thank you for supporting me in building such a
tremendous business and for having such immense companionship and humour
en route. It is a very special thing indeed when your primary reflex, on reflection
of a period in your life, is simply to smile.
Finally, a long overdue thank you to my wife and children. Building a team,
a business or a book can too easily result in a single-tracked restriction of ones
overall vision. I have certainly been guilty of such mildly obsessive pursuits. As
such, Roz, Finlay, Claudia and Annika deserve all concluding credit for their
loving tolerance of an imperfect husband, and father, and for their daily demonstration to me of what is truly valuable in life.

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to
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That said, successful entrepreneurs also


have a very clear game plan. In this unique collection of Guides,
Dom Moorhouse explains how to go about building a sustainable,
profitable and, ultimately, valuable professional service company.
Written specifically for business leaders who seek to methodically grow
their service companies, the Guides provide a trove of insights, tips,
checklists, ideas and case studies that will significantly de-risk the process
of owner wealth creation. If you want to arrive at a point where your
business has material, life-changing value, and you want to get there in
short order, then the Five-Year Entrepreneur series is for you.

Dom h
condensed as
of critical e a wealth
xperience,
anecdotes
a
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d
advice into
a really pra
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guides rele tical, concise set of
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ankly thos
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who have
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ears!

andy
managingmdarsh,
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suiko ltdector,

dom
moorhouse,
the founder of Moorhouse, a leading
UK professional services business,
led the company from singleton
start-up to a c. $30m (20m) sale in
less than five years. In these unique
Guides, that give an unprecedented
and detailed how to analysis,
he explains how such a journeys
reward is within the reach of all
who approach their entrepreneurial
ambition with a deliberate,
structured intent.

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the guide i wish id had to building and selling a professional service business.