The template for a model entrepreneur

BGF made its first investment in October 2011. As I write thirteen months on, we have put nearly £100 million of new capital into growing British businesses. We are on target to make 20-25 investments in 2012, and more significantly we have put in place the team and the infrastructure required to make 30–40 investments next year. And we expect that number to rise further as we begin year-on-year to make “follow-on” investments into our portfolio companies.

But this publication isn’t about BGF. It is about the companies that we are investing in, and the business heroes that run them. This “club” now numbers over twenty business leaders, including entrepreneurial teams as well as single owner-led businesses.

There is no such thing as a typical entrepreneur. As our investment portfolio has begun to expand, it has been striking how different the CEOs are, whilst at the same time sharing notable characteristics.

Let’s start with the differences.

The spread of investment shows that good ideas, good management and growth are not restricted to any particular cities or regions. And neither do one or two sectors dominate. In fact, with 20 portfolio companies we have invested in 15 different sectors – from healthcare to oil & gas services, and from leisure & hospitality to IT & telecoms.

BGF doesn’t invest in property or financial services and when those sectors are removed from UK national statistics, the BGF portfolio broadly follows the national pattern. For example, manufacturing companies represent almost a quarter of our portfolio, as they do in a rebased UK economy.

Across the UK we have invested in almost every region, and most large industrial centres. This is a direct result of having dedicated regional teams and regional approach to market.

Another major point of difference is how our investment is being used by each of the companies. BGF investments have to date funded overseas expansion, new sales and marketing campaigns, acquisitions (big and small), development of new facilities and the roll-out of retail and leisure chains. There is one thing they all have in common, however – the creation of many new jobs.

Lastly age, which presents no limit to entrepreneurial success. Today, our youngest entrepreneur is 32 while our oldest CEO is almost 33 years his senior. The average age is 45. Experience is not a requisite for success. What sets successful business entrepreneurs apart is the passion and drive to take your business further.

And so what are the characteristics that these entrepreneurs share, qualities that we look for when selecting which companies to back?

I see four that particularly stand out:

VISION:Entrepreneurs have an idea, probably even a dream. They know where they want to go. Innovation is critical, as James Hurley explores in his article (p 11). But the most successful entrepreneurs back up their ideas with a clear strategic plan. They really understand the dynamics of the market they are operating in, and that means they are sure of the product and company position they are seeking to achieve. They have vision and a route map to get there.

PASSION: Don’t ask any of the CEOs to tell you about their company if you are in hurry to get somewhere else. They love their businesses. They love their products, their sector, and they love the people that work for them. They are generally in constant sales mode and its infectious. Spend time with a successful entrepreneur and you will soon become their latest salesman!

OPEN TO IDEAS: Another characteristic is willingness to listen to advice. That doesn’t mean an entrepreneur will always take it, but they are innately curious and looking for new ideas or a new edge. They recognise that information, expertise, and new networks can all be keys to unlocking yet more growth. This is why we think it is so important to create forums where the CEOs can get together to share their experiences – and they agree.

OPTIMISM and DETERMINATION : We asked all our investee CEOs for their single biggest piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. They all said the same thing: never say no, never give up. It takes a special kind of person to take the disappointments, knock-backs and downright failures that come with starting and growing a business. Not everything works first time, not everybody sees the genius of your idea – even for the most successful business owners. But the real heroes are the ones who put faith in their vision, take advice where they need to, possibly even change tactics, but ultimately carry on trying.

18 companies … 18 unique, compelling and inspiring stories. This publication tells some of them, and introduces the entrepreneurs that BGF has backed. If you want to know more, please visit the website , or better still just give us a call 0845 266 8860

[This article originally appeared in BGF Portfolio #1 published in November 2012]