Entrepreneurs Hub Team recently celebrated a decade of working business owners help business owners achieve their goals and aspirations and realise the value of their life’s work. I have recently joined the Entrepreneurs Hub and decided to interview our founders Malcolm Murray and Andrew Shepperd to gain their insights on the last decade of Entrepreneurs Hubs journey and what are their plans for the next 10 years.
1. Where did it start?
Andrew and I met one evening to discuss our personal futures at a local Indian restaurant – and by the time we got to the chicken tikka masala we agreed that we could build a great business together!
We had a vision to build a team within the corporate finance space that was very different. After almost a decade working in the sector before launching Entrepreneurs Hub, I recognised that most advisers would just take their client through a process. If it worked, it worked. Unfortunately, if it didn’t, they would then part company and move on to the next mandate leaving many clients disappointed and disillusioned.
Andrew and I saw that business owners wanted to work with a friendly and experienced team who really cared about the result. They wanted a team who could help them overcome obstacles and would deliver, a team who would really help them achieve their ultimate exit goal. They wanted to maximise the sale value and realise the value of their life’s work whilst finding the best home for their business.
As Malcolm said, it started informally over a curry, but also it was a culmination of many years of our careers. We had both been associated with many business sales and it seemed the next logical step was to land that experience. However, rather than be encumbered with a legacy of someone else’s making, we decided to start fresh. That allowed us to have an orientation towards people, not just finance. That did not mean abandoning best practice, quite the opposite. It meant creating an environment where best practice and innovation could flourish alongside each other. These days, when people talk about starting a business, they talk about disruption and being a challenger. Our disruption was to bring affordable good advice to SME’s owners and founders, but to also ensure that people remained at the heart of all that we did.
2. What do you believe is the key to the success of EH?
The leveraging of experience would be the first thing I would say. We have watched other businesses succeed – seen why they succeed and seen where others failed to grasp similar success – and tried to learn from those experiences. The other thing we’ve tried to do is make it all very people oriented. Inevitably, that means customer oriented as well. Ultimately you have to build a great team. People you are excited to work with and who share your values and beliefs. We have tried to assemble a team who make an impact and genuinely care about customer outcomes.
It’s got to be our Entrepreneurs Hub team and living our values. I believe that we really care about our clients and the results that they achieve. In our industry, people sell a lot of sparkle with no substance, which many business owners can fall for initially. But it’s about getting a result! What makes us stand out is the fact that we have built a good team of people, who have walked in the shoes of the client, not just a group of highly experienced individuals. We are all aligned to the mission of serving entrepreneurs.
Malcolm said ‘walking in the shoes’ and I think that’s the point. We have stood where many of them have stood – running small businesses, working in big corporates, working internationally, selling our own businesses previously. Seeing things from their perspective enables us to help them better – and acquirers also recognise we understand the companies we are selling.
3. What do you think that were the tough times of the business?
Entrepreneurs Hub was your classic start-up to scaled-up business, there were many tough seasons. It is not easy to build a quality sustainable business model in this sector. It has taken 10 years of honing our offering. An obvious tough time was the pandemic. We thought we needed to batten down the hatches and take it slow. But it turned out to be a very good period for us, although we had to put our own money in – and many months didn’t pay ourselves while we grew the business and built the team. 2020 turned out to be one of our best years, beaten by 2021, with 2022 showing equal promise.
We started up during the post-credit crunch period. Something good always comes out of those tough times. Initially, you celebrate the kind of things that every start-up celebrates – first order, first quarter, first year. Then you talk about getting past milestones, and inevitably, you want to ensure that it’s a happy place for clients and for staff. In the early days, you inevitably tread the steps of learning and failing. You spend your savings, sell cars, load up credit cards. Ultimately, we believed in what we were doing, so those early years of one-way investment although painful, were done with the confidence that better times would come. Of course, you need some good fortune, but it’s vital to face the lessons and adapt quickly, being honest with yourself, not giving up, while understanding where you have to change and adapt. From an early stage we built transparency into our business which helped us quickly identify risks. I would also say that some of our greatest breakthroughs came as a result of hearing what our customers liked and what they didn’t like. Our customers helped us shape the Entrepreneurs Hub of today.
4. Where do you see the business going in the future?
We want to keep helping SME businesses, while also handling larger and more sophisticated deals, particularly considering the talent the team has. Due to their international background, we also see us increasing our international coverage.
Ensuring that we maintain a client-centric offering. Also, venture out into providing holistic guidance and help beyond preparing, selling, and growing businesses. We also really want to inspire the younger generation of entrepreneurs.
5. How was it celebrating the event with everyone and what was your favourite part?
It was a memorable and moving time. I loved having the chance to sit down and celebrate, to talk with people, to gain from their reflections. I can’t believe 10 years have gone so fast. A highlight for many was seeing another side of other team members – on a high-speed boat ride down the Thames! It was evident how committed team members are. This loyalty is humbling and something we don’t take lightly. It also never ceases to amaze me how well the team members get on with each other once the work is done and it’s time for fun and celebration. I feel very fortunate that each of our team have chosen to spend this part of their careers with us. It really can feel like a big family.
It’s a real joy to reflect on where we started and what we’ve walked through in the last 10 years. Having not really seeing as much of the team face to face over the last three years through the pandemic, just spending a whole weekend together with them and their families made me feel very grateful for the team. A favourite part of the event was having the time to sit back, relax and just chat with people. I also liked the anniversary video that clients prepared for us. Watching those clients, one after the other, telling us what the team had achieved for them was very moving indeed.
However, for me, the very best part was the opportunity to publicly thank our team and their families for helping us achieve what we have over the last 10 years.
6. I can’t help but notice that the bond that each team member had with one another, how do you think this culture has been inculcated in the past 10 years?
It’s something I noticed as well, and I’m quite taken aback. Malcolm and I do try and be very authentic and very straightforward. We just try and be ourselves. And try and set the tone. Since the whole thing is about being people centred, being customer focused, we hire people who think that way. We hire motivated people who have similar values to us. Clearly, when you put such people in a room they don’t take long to bond, but I still think it is a remarkable thing.
One of the things we’ve tried to build the business on is the belief that ‘everybody’s important’ in the business. Everybody has played a part in the success. It’s not just one or two people, it’s eighteen who have helped achieve what has been achieved. Everyone’s important; we value each other. I think we are like a family. We do care about each other and try serve each other. In the last 10 years, we’ve probably only had two or three people move on from the business that I can think of – apart from the interns, obviously. We’re careful about ensuring those we recruit will live the values of Entrepreneurs Hub.
7. What would your advice to young entrepreneurs be?
There’s always going to be tough times that you have to walk through. One of the things that we’ve learned over the years as directors is that we have to stick together and stay aligned. We might not always agree, but once we’ve discussed a matter and agreed what we’re going to do, then we stick with the decision and run with it.
We’re not afraid to engage or to speak our minds with each other. I think that’s very important that you have that ability to stand and not run away. When it gets tough some people run, but you must stand and find people who will also stand and not run when it gets tough. There is a business phrase “disagree and commit”. We agree where we’re going, and we get on with it. One might say to the other; ‘I do like that direction. I just don’t know how we bring it about.’ We have the challenge first and then come to a place of unity. We may even stay slightly different in opinion, but still back the other person.
If you’d like to find out more about mitigating the risks and selling your business for the right price and best terms, please contact us.