Business Diary: September 27

SELL your granny before selling equity.

This no-nonsense advice was provided to a Yorkshire audience, by a woman who knows what she’s talking about.

Lara Morgan started her own toiletries company, Pacific Direct, with £350 and sold it for £20m. Along with Julie Meyer, the chief executive at Ariadne Capital and BBC online dragon, Ms Morgan was one of the star attractions at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last week, where she appeared as part of the MADE festival for entrepreneurs.

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The two entrepreneurs had been brought together by chartered accountants Barber Harrison & Platt, law firm Nabarro and the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels to reveal the findings of a survey of 100 Yorkshire entrepreneurs. The findings were surprisingly bullish.

The survey concluded that three-quarters of the businesses who responded have either hit or exceeded their projected revenue growth targets in the last 12 months.

Speaking at the launch event, Ms Morgan advised entrepreneurs against selling equity in their companies: “I’d sell my grandmother before I sold equity,’’ she said. “People are in far too much of a hurry to give away equity early on in their businesses when, with a bit of patience and imagination, and perhaps some bravery in borrowing, there’s a better way of doing it without selling your grandmother.”

She also railed against the lack of financial management being taught to the younger generation.

“We send people to university and they come out with huge debt, but there is nowhere in the maths training at school about how you manage money and run a budget,’’ she said.

Ms Meyer said it was a good time to set up a business, adding: “Davids often need a Goliath distribution base.”

The unassuming ‘rock and roll star’

ONCE upon a time, when Peter Jones was starting out in business, it was only footballers and singers who became famous.

That’s all changed, said the star of TV’s Dragons’ Den at last week’s MADE festival.

“Entrepreneurialism is the new rock’n’roll,” he declared, as the youthful audience cheered and screamed in a starstruck manner. But Mr Jones has a nice sideline in modesty, missing in some of the more preening Premier League players and rock stars.

“I find it difficult to watch myself on TV, unlike fellow Dragons Duncan Bannatyne and Theo Paphitis, who have parties to watch the show.”

Back of the net for business initiative

The relationship between business and football hasn’t always been a happy one. However, a football match can be a relaxed setting in which to discuss economic issues away from the strain of the day job.

Last Saturday, Diary attended the second Business Minds event at Huddersfield Town, an initiative which has been created in partnership with Huddersfield-based solicitors Armitage Sykes.

The invitation-only event aims to bring together some of the greatest business thinkers in Yorkshire.

Diary wasn’t sure if his intellect was quite in the Premier League, but his appearance didn’t do too much harm to Huddersfield’s prospects.

They recorded a 2-2 draw with Leyton Orient, which stretches the team’s unbeaten run to 35 matches.

Forgiven for £4m project mess-up

It’s always refreshing when senior business leaders share their biggest disasters with you.

For Allan Leighton, his biggest mess-up was when he was at Asda back in the 1990s.

“I was running the renewal project and I’d spent around £4m on changing six or seven stores.

“The sales went down!

“I couldn’t work out what was going on.”

Staying late into the night at Asda’s head office he decided to go out on a run and it was while pounding the streets of Leeds, he realised his mistake.

“I had made the stores look nice. I hadn’t focused on the product,” he says.

The hardest part was telling his boss Archie Norman, who was chief executive of Asda at the time.

“I told Archie: ‘I’ve really screwed up. We’re going to have to spend another £10m sorting it out’.”

Archie responded: “Thank God for that.

“We’ve all known that for the past five days. Now just get on with it.”

If only all bosses were so forgiving.