Editor's View

Learn from the best

Jul/Aug 06 issue

One of our goals at Business XL is to give you, the entrepreneur, exposure to the thoughts and strategies of some of the most successful business people in Britain. In this month’s issue, four of the UK’s leading practitioners of growth offer up thought-provoking ways in which business progression and expansion – both internal and external – are best served.

Sell solutions, not products
On page 20, Alistair Baker, the outgoing managing director of Microsoft UK delivers some fascinating insights into how his attachment to innovation has helped him radically transform every division of Microsoft for which he has worked. His comments should have deep resonance with you regardless of the size of your business, particularly his advice about dealing with all-important customers. Success, he reckons, comes from not just delivering the product you promise, but from ‘delivering a solution and strategy that supports the growth and efficiency of your client’.

Bad management and mediocrity
Tackling a vastly different – although no less important – topic is the much revered Jon Moulton, managing partner of UK private equity firm Alchemy, who holds forth on the oft-controversial issue of ‘bad managers’ (see page 34). As Alchemy has invested no less than £1.5 billion in an array of ventures – often with a focus on troubled companies – Moulton has an unrivalled perspective of this area. As you might expect of a Fellow of the Society of Turnaround Professionals, he doesn’t believe you always need to replace bad leaders with exceptional talent to reinvigorate an enterprise. Mere mediocrity at the top often suffices.

Acquiring, growing and de-stressing
If you want to grow your business fast, you need to start acquiring other businesses, and there is probably no better equipped person to provide insight on this topic than Chris Ingram of Genesis Investments (see page 44) – after all, he has bought something in the order of 70 companies in his career to date. Having ‘screwed up 15 deals’, he gives a warts and all take on this topic. For me, it was fascinating that his first two tips to those about to embark on the takeover trail were to build the reputation of your business and your company’s assets.

Lastly, leading a fast growth business from the front, while being highly rewarding, can also be excruciatingly stressful. How the person at the top handles this is critical. Michael Jackson (see page 32), the outgoing chairman of software behemoth Sage, a string of AIM companies (and online betting giant PartyGaming), reckons he has a strategy to help you beat the stress jitters.