Ep7 – Setting Up in Business after working in a Corporate World

starting up in business after corporate work

Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide Transcript

Martin Rodgers:

Welcome everybody to the entrepreneurs’ survival guide. Here we welcome our very first guest on the podcast, which is awesome to have James Powys from ICS business coaching. Welcome, James.

James Powys:

Thank you. Martin.

Martin Rodgers:

Great to have you on board. What we’re going to look at today is exploring James’ story about how he became self-employed, how he took a step into the big wide world of setting up your own business and going forward. Cause I think one of the great things out there is we’ve all got a story to share. And when we share that story, we can learn from each other’s challenges, successes, the actions they’ve taken and hopefully learn some from that to help us get to our goals and reach the success that we’re looking for. So first of all, James, tell us a little bit about where you were before setting up ICS.

James Powys:

Yeah, absolutely. Yep. So I’ve had 25 years or so in the corporate world, uh, mainly in the drinks industry actually. And actually the last 18 years were spent at Britvic soft drinks and in a variety of roles actually. So Britvic was a great organization where I’d had the opportunity to try lots of new things. So I, I, I did roles in marketing across different sales positions, um, then into L&D or learning and development and then more laterally into talented leadership. So, uh, yeah, good. Uh, almost two decades in Britvic soft drinks.

Martin Rodgers:

Okay. So, and you did a range of different,¬†departments and it’s been 20 years there, so, man and boy almost I guess, and then all of a sudden, for some reason you started to look at venturing out and setting up your own business. So what was going on internally? How did that start the thought process start or come about?

James Powys:

good question. So I guess there’s a couple of things that were driving it for a long, long time. So the first thing was, you know, ever since a young age, I knew that I wanted to have my own business or, or do my own thing, but for a number of years, I was unsure what that might be. And I’d had certain, certain, certain ideas. So I always knew there was an aspiration to, to, you know, hopefully, add on of value within the corporate world. Uh, but also take learning from that to apply it to something, um, that I do with my own, you know, of that’s my own. So, but I’d been, uh, a long, uh, along with ambition, also my key motivator with learning. So my key motivator. So every point I was very conscious of to what level am I learning and actually where do I want to grow. And then I was actually very conscious and planned with my career to say, okay, if these are the areas I want to grow, learning what will be the right roles in or outside of this business to help me do it. And I was very fortunate that there, the business, the Britvic business was big enough for me to try lots of new things. Um, and I could

James Powys:

Learn a lot of those skills and X and get a lot of those experiences with it within the organization. Albeit as you say, across different functions. I think nine or 10 different roles over those 18 years.

Martin Rodgers:

Okay. So there’s a lot of different functions you able to learn, but at the same time, there was an awful lot of questions about the future and where the future might go to carry on that journey towards your goals and your vision of where life should go. What were some of the considerations that you had about things on the outside So your family and job security and that kind of stuff before you stepped into the world of being self-employed?

James Powys:

Yeah. Good. So yeah, I mean I, I, I live in the Midlands, and the office was in the Southeast, so typically I was spending, you know, two, three, four days a week away from home, including cleaning, overnights. So, um, you know, I started to recognize that that was having an impact on family life. I’ve got, I’ve got two step kids, um, and a wife. And so I noticed that the routine and regularity of, of, of being, a way, it was, it was, it was having, having a bit of an impact. Um, so that was, that, that was, that was a consideration. Um, and therefore I was thinking how, how can I still feel fulfilled, um, and provide for the family but not be chained to the south-east with, uh, quite so much regularity. Um, so that was huge, that was a huge, huge consideration.

James Powys:

And I guess internally, you know, when you’ve been with the business for such a long period of time, you can have an, I I definitely had a limiting belief around my value was in this business and actually did I have, uh, something to offer or did I have, uh, the same level of value outside of the business, so I had to explore and conquer that. And that was, that was the biggest challenge.

Martin Rodgers:

Okay. So in terms of exploring and conquering that challenge, how did you go about that?

James Powys:

Um, well, I’m quite an extroverted individual, um, and love meeting new people. Um, so what I did, both based on the role I was doing at the time, over the last two or three years in, in leadership and, and, um, talent, it was important for me too because I was, um, I’ve moved into that space relatively recently for me to continue to go to, to learn really quickly.

James Powys:

So what I wanted to do is to, um, learn from experts across different industries, um, different suppliers. So I made a point of bringing those into the Britvic business so that I could see what value they might be able to bring to the business. But at the same time, building relationships and contacts and through doing that, I guess I started to think actually I can do some of this. Um, and actually it wasn’t, it wasn’t something that was difficult to grip, to grip or grasp. Um, and then sort of get some feedback. Um, we started to do a little bit of, you know, a few things outside of work. Um, and then actually what helped for me as well as I was able to almost codify what talent behaviour in leadership was through doing some, some sort of extracurricular qualifications.

Martin Rodgers:

Right. Okay. So you took on board some extra qualifications, used your network around you to build that confidence and reassurance and, and take a, put a toe in the water outside of the corporate world and that security. And at the end of the day, map out the process of what you wanted to do. Would that be right in saying?

James Powys:

absolutely. Yeah.

Martin Rodgers:

Fab, And that allowed you to make sure that. What I seem to be hearing and is at Britvic it started very much getting into the comfort zone, which isn’t surprising after that period of time. And I think for a lot of people when they step out from that kind of security of an employed job into the world of setting up their own business, it can be very much, jumped straight from the comfort zone to the panic zone. And that can cause some challenges. But you’ve mapped out the process in a way that took you gently as it could be from the comfort zone, stretch zone, and you managed to stay, out that panic zone most of the time. Would that be right in saying?

James Powys:

Yeah. Yeah. So the, the few things really I guess as I was working, working with or talking to providers, external consultants, um, with a view to how they could help the business I was in, I was also talking to them and understanding how a future relationship could work if I ever, if I ever stepped away and understanding the level of support and confidence that they were giving me, so that, that, that was very important. Um, I’m not a very risk, or I’m quite risk-averse, so I don’t like a lot of risk in my life. Um, and I guess it was a big decision, and it took me, took me at least two and a half, three years to, to, to finally make the decision that it was happening. Because I, I could sense that my, I was learning at a slower pace.

James Powys:

Um, and it was, it was, it took a long time for me to get that confidence, confidence to do it. And what I was able to do, um, when I was, I was, I was guided by a, a lovely little, um, image that I saw on, um, on the internet that I cut down and framed and then it was sat on my windowsill for three years, which said, entrepreneurial-ism a few years of doing things that most people daren’t to live a life that most people can’t. So that was my inspiration that was on my windowsill, and I kept looking at it and go, could I, could I, could I And then what I also did is I worked out, the cost risk-benefit of doing it, so I looked at if I jumped from a business with no redundancy or package, um, what would the risk be of, of having 12 months to try and apply my own path or create something.

But then I worked out what would the benefits be over the next 20 years if it was a success. And that allowed me to go, um, the risk of failure is, is not insignificant, but actually, it was worth it in as much as the potential benefits over a couple of decades. So that allowed me to do that. And then what I also did, which was my first piece of advice or my biggest piece of advice is I was also able to, to make that decision. It wasn’t an emotional decision to leave the business. It was a very measured and planned decision. Um, and what I was able therefore to do for two to three years was to save up some working capital for the business. Okay. So I knew I had probably 18 months worth of bills and living costs, um, that would enable if I didn’t earn a single penny for at least 12 months meant it wasn’t going to force me into compromising what I wanted to do or rushing back into employment.

So that was the biggest thing for me, really making sure that there was some, um, something there it didn’t force me into making too many early, early decisions that were going to be helpful for the long term.

Martin Rodgers:

Okay. So it was a good three to five-year-old rolling plan almost by the sounds. Yeah. To make sure there wasn’t any knee jerk reaction and you didn’t take, um, rash decisions and hasty decisions in terms of how setting up your business and running your business, and you had a backup plan ready there at the same time. So you mentioned that that’s all a logical process, a big believer that um, all decisions or commitments have an emotional decision first and foremost before the logic backs it up. Was that true for yourself, even if it was a flash in the pan of like how excited you might be having a successful business or what it might be in terms of a legacy of what you’re leaving for your family

Was there any kind of emotional bit that if you reflect back just before you started making the logical process?

James Powys:

There was, um, but it, had a, it did have a healthy slice of, of, of logic. So what I did was I recognized that I was; All the questions I was asking myself as, you know, what if in the negative perspective, what if this doesn’t work or what are the risks? Yeah, very much looking at Yeah. Looking at very much from what are the risks of it not working. And, and, and, and it took a moment for me to, to actually recognize that and then reframe it to actually what are the, what are the risks of staying and not doing this And actually why identified or it became apparent was there were more risks associated to staying than there were to going in terms of the fact that, you know, the damage that was happening on, you know, my family life and being away the fact that, um, it’s that my learning was slowing and that, that I wasn’t sort of collecting know new experiences to be able to, to, to, to, to grow me as an individual.

Um, and also the risk of if you like, becoming, um, becoming bored. Um, and the impact that that has on how you feel and how you show up. Plus they were also wanting two things happening internally within the business where I was questioning, um, whether I, it was just closer fit with my value set as the business perhaps had been changes that may have been very well for, for the, for the good. Um, but certainly made me make me question, um, was I as kind of married to or wed to the businesses as I perhaps had been historical.

Martin Rodgers:

Okay. So particularly drivers that picked up now is the burning desire to grow personally, the love of the family and the certainty of wanting a great future as well before planning out the logical processes.

James Powys:

yeah, absolutely. And the other thing, um, you know, again, though, um, one of the things I did that we talked into a little bit earlier was I became accredited in insight discovery, which is a personality profiling tool.

And while I recognize through that was that I thought I had a high level of self-awareness. But actually, um, you know, once you nudge yourself out of your comfort zone and you, you, you have an opportunity to learn every single day. And I did a lot of learning and in the last sort of four or five years at Britvic as I stretched and pushed myself further. What I, recognized was one of my key motivators is, is, is, is, is a level of control and actually within, uh, a bigger business, um, one of the compromises for, um, being part of a business, uh, the security and the benefits of, of being part of our business is of course you compromise your level of control because you are in a business and you, you, you conform to the needs of the business, the culture of the business. And the the the, there’s the strategies of our business.

And what I felt was the business was starting to go in, in a slightly different direction. Um, and actually a lot of my time was not on the things that I felt were important or weren’t really value at. And I felt that actually, uh, obviously if you, if you, if you set up as your own business or an entrepreneur, you have greater control over what you do, how you do it and when you do it. So there was, there was something about taking even greater control of, of my career and, and kind of, um, mapping my own destiny.

Martin Rodgers:

Yeah. And there was a mentor I was listening to the other day he very much used the wizard of oz, and, and, and deciding, um, mapping out. So Simon Sinek talks about, you know, your why and what your driver and why. And this was a slightly different take on it, and it worked really well for me in terms of what’s your Oz, what is Oz, and then what’s your yellow brick road to get there. And it sounds like you had that very much defined in terms of what is your Oz, you know, what’s the wicked witch of the East And that might be the changing in corporate, but not quite going where you want to be. And you know, the growth from stuff that we’ve mentioned all before. So what is it you’re trying to get away from. What’s the driver from, what’s pushing ya and what’s pulling ya and how are you going to design that yellow brick road to get you there and go along that journey.

And I think interestingly you also mentioned there another part of the fantastic story about the wizard of Oz is having people around, you know that isn’t it What you mentioned there was you’ve not got a team of employed people around you, but you built a team around you of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, leveraging network. And I think that’s a really important thing to do that when we go out by ourselves, we feel alone. But actually, we can build a team using our network even if it’s just one or two people or that support mechanism to help get us to Oz. Um, it can help the journey go along so much easier.

James Powys:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s the second thing I’d draw out.

Your recommendation is to make sure you, you have absolutely got the right people around you. So I did, I had a formal and informal mentor. So Steven Edney from expression for growth. He had very much taken this journey a number of years before. Now looking at it as leading and owning a successful global, global business. Um, so good , good friend and um, someone that we used in the business, uh, at Britvic and he, he was really helpful in helping me understand what was the, what does a formula for success look like, what were the potential pitfalls I’m, I’m, I might fall into, um, and where I had any, you know, naivety sort of nipping that in the bud, um, quite quickly. And then there was another lady, Jo Wright. Um, she was about probably 12 to 18 months ahead of me. So she, she take taken a similar journey, um, but much more recently and hearing how happy she was and the success she was having, and her encouragement gave me that confidence to sort of kind of take the leap.

Martin Rodgers:

Yeah. Okay. So, um, a brilliant story there. So you’ve now been going for about a year, just coming up to a year it I remember rightly. What. Despite trying to see into the future and forecast some of the challenges and such like, you know, what has probably been one of the greatest challenges over that period of time that you’ve had to face since starting the business?

James Powys:

So I think I, will normally tend to act on, on one instinct or emotion as opposed to going through the sort of painstaking sort of data analysis and planning. So, so, so, for me, what I wanted to do was I wanted to, I’ve got, I had a feeling or a sense that there were other opportunities and there was a need for what I had to offer. And the first thing to do is to actually to, to make sure that, that I wasn’t trying to be too, too broad, but equally what I didn’t want to do was be too niche because I wasn’t going to do loads and loads and loads of market analysis and data. Um, I just got a feeling and a sense that there were businesses I could help. Um, on a, on a smaller scale or certainly outside of the business that I was in employed in it and the, I had something unique that I, that I could bring. Um, so the biggest challenge for me initially was going, what, how broad is, should that scope be

Not too niche, not, not too broad. So I actually had to prop two propositions, which I stepped out. Um, and I, and I kind of worked at, worked, worked on both, and that actually worked really well for me. Um, because what I was able to do if I, if I just had one, one was much more successful than the other, if I just had the one and it actually the one I would have gone for, what was the one that took probably 60% of my time, 70% of my time, maybe in the first six months, but probably 5% of my revenue. Um, and that was the business coaching. And what I realized was on reflection, I was trying to build a new network in a new space with new contacts, which takes time. And, and maybe at that point in time, I’ll dial that backup, but I need to be more patient.

At the same time, I had a proposition around teams and helping leaders in the corporate world. And actually what was happening was I realized that mine, potentially my network, my strong network in that space was decaying because I was focusing on something else. So what I realized and had to make a decision on was to slow down and park the proposition around business coaching, stay on the, um, the path of, of or accelerate the path on leadership, um, and teams. And again, probably another big tip here for me is absolutely rekindle and focus on that network of people that know, hopefully, like, and trust you because having a conversation, dialogue and finding an opportunity with those people can be much faster, um, than starting from, from scratch as strangers. So I’m finding the reason or a need to rekindle those conversations, catching up for coffee and having the courage to ask them for, um, people they might feel might be need of the services that you’re offering and not being afraid to, to ask for, for, for, for support and help not being too proud to call in some of those favors that hopefully in my years through learning and development leadership and teams whereby I had hopefully given, uh, it was actually fine to ask or call a few favours back in.

Martin Rodgers:

Okay. So not being, there was so much great stuff in there. So you particularly spoke about not, not being, not having a shotgun approach as you when I end the business, but also not having a sniper approach either. Yeah. There’s somewhere in the middle of not being too laser-focused and not being too widespread. I mean, the other thing that we picked up on that, um, was the ability to take imperfect action and a lot of entrepreneurs are coming across them. They are either frozen by analysis paralysis. The fear of getting it wrong. The fear of somebody else doing better than them. And actually that vulnerability to a) ask for help and say, I’m not perfect. What support can you offer me and b) the, um, facing the fear and I’m going to do it anyway and take the action, and I’m gonna learn from that action. That was another thing that picked up from all that. So that’s a massive amount of advice.

James Powys:

Absolutely. And then just, yeah, being also being with, with the people around you, the people you respect in this world is taking them off a pedestal, taking them off a pedestal, um, stop looking up to them and looking more across, across to them. Um, and that, that know, and, and, and also recognizing that, um, maybe working some very, very experienced leaders or business owners. But actually what I found, what I found actually moved very more recently is by being, by, by, by finding your focus, finding your niche in what it is, I. E. it’s teams working with leaders and teams. It gives you that inner confidence to actually whilst you might be working with people who are incredibly bright, incredibly experienced and incredibly successful leaders. It might be that now I have focused on an area and gone deep into the area that I, um, hopefully, have something at least to share perspective and because I focused on it, um, something to bring to even the most sort of experience leading.

Martin Rodgers:

That’s fantastic. And I mean there’s an awful lot that we can all learn from that in terms of how we step forward and take action. Definitely in terms of making sure we build a successful business. Because of one of the things I picked up in terms of what you’re saying there no point in this conversation have you said actually this solution was going to make a million pounds overnight and this solution was going to earn me zero or whatever and actually is all about what you want and do what you enjoyed most and what you’re most passionate about. And the money’s almost secondary. I’m sure you didn’t take a business decision looking at going, there’s no money in this at all, but I love it. I’m going to do it anyway. But first and foremost, it was your passion, your wants and your desires to test and measure two different things and see what worked for you. Yeah.

Jame Powys:

So you mentioned the Simon Sinex and finding your why. For me, it was about, because both of my propositions were consistent with that why. So for me, it is absolutely about helping¬†individuals and teams to achieve far more than they ever considered possible. Okay. So look at unlocking those limiting beliefs, giving them a platform and a springboard of the confidence to be bold and to try new things. So the business coaching did that in an SME world and that the leadership of teams does that in a slightly more back into the back, back into the corporate world, but the why connected, connected both of them. Um, so yeah, so that, that, that, that fundamentally, and then again, it’s an interesting one between, there are different views around, you know, um, some people say follow your passion. Others say, you know, do that with, with caution because it if is two hobbyists, then is it going to pay the bills? Have you got that financial freedom that allows you truly to do what you love? Um, and I think my view is, um, make sure you’re clear on, on, on who you’re talking to or who would buy your services, what their issues and needs are, and that you have a solution and experience to help them in that, in that space. Um, and I think as you become hopefully more successful and more established, you can make more choices to go further into what you love, um, when you hopefully got a little bit more financial freedom.

Martin Rodgers:

Yeah, absolutely. I hear this all the time. People talking about follow your passion, follow your passion. What do you enjoy the most Go out and set up in business, and then they negate some of the basic fundamentals of business about is there actually a market out for people to buy this product You know, I quite enjoy shredding paper. It’s quite relaxing. It’s quite enjoyable, but I’m not going to set up a business where I just shred paper all day long or try and do a podcast on how to shred paper creatively. I don’t think there’s much of a market out there, so you’ve got to stack all those, um, all in a row, really to see whether they actually just fit int a business. So yes, try and find something you’re passionate about or try and find something you enjoy, but make sure there’s a business model that fits around it. It can make you the profit that you need to run a successful business and to have the lifestyle that you desire. Absolutely as well. So yeah, definitely all those things come into mind. That’s brilliant. Fantastic for taking us through that journey James, it is really appreciated. I think there is so much useful stuff in there.

This podcast continues in part 2

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