When I was 13, I started my first business, a car valet company. Perhaps not so different to any other teenager setting up what essentially began as a casual weekend bucket and sponge car washing for some pocket money. But, rather than stick with the odd pound here or there for washing my parents’ and neighbours’ cars, I started to pay attention when they were talking business and thinking about how I could apply their business insights to my fledgling company. I decided to work on a five year plan – I knew where I wanted the business to go and I reverse engineered the strategy to fit. At 17 (four years after setting up and one year ahead of plan), I sold my car valet business to the National Car Cleaning Company for £82,000.
During those years as a teen entrepreneur, I learned some of the most valuable business lessons that I still follow today as CEO of Ideal Shopping Direct.
Plan, plan, plan
I’m a firm believer in planning. You’re not going to achieve anything if you don’t have a clear vision in your head what the final destination looks like. In all my business ventures, I’ve devised and worked to a five year business plan, but it’s not enough to plan then sit back and wait for it all to fit into place. You always need to analyse what’s working and more importantly, what’s not, how is the market and the consumer changing, and update your plans accordingly. The end game may remain the same but the route there can and should change. I call this “Stick and Move” much like a boxer in a fight, you need to adapt very quickly to avoid being punched and then move to counter punch.
Get under the skin of the business
I don’t believe in sitting in an ivory tower, spending my days looking at reports and spreadsheets, and barking orders. I want to experience first hand what’s happening in my business. At Ideal Shopping Direct, you’re much more likely to find me on set in the studio or with the buyers, than in my office. This not only means I really understand the nuances of how the business is running and can experience first hand any issues, but I also know my employees – and more importantly, they know me and can share in my vision of where we are headed.
We’ve all heard the famous quotes from the likes of Steve Jobs and Richard Branson about hiring people who are smarter than you, but we keep hearing them because they make business sense. Jobs and Branson didn’t build their empires by themselves, they had smart employees. Critically however, they weren’t just smart, they were also empowered to make decisions. It’s these decisions of the collective of the minds in a business that drive it forward. If ideas and the glory of a good decision is reserved to the boss then the business will stagnate and good employees will leave.
I want all my employees to think like entrepreneurs and I encourage them to stick their head above the parapet. I want my employees to spot opportunities and have the courage to react – whether it’s monitoring a competitor’s pricing and adjusting our price and bundle accordingly, or changing our studio schedule on the fly to meet customer demand, for example to sell air conditioning units during a heat wave as we did this summer gone.
Put simply, my advice to business leaders, owners and entrepreneurs would be to know your business inside and out – don’t depend on third party information from others; empower your staff and build an open, entrepreneurial culture which is future-proofed by default of its empowered structure.
Jamie Martin is CEO of Ideal Shopping Direct. He started his first business, a car valet company, aged 13 and has since set up a string of successful companies in the TV and home shopping sectors. Since taking over as CEO of Ideal in December 2018, he has led one of the biggest turnarounds in live home shopping history, taking Ideal from a £32m loss to an anticipated £5m profit.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.