How to make time to learn the skill to scale: Findings from Ambition Nation

Mar 29, 2018 / Ambition Nation Media

Sam Smith, finnCap CEO, addresses Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series

Time is that most precious of commodities that every ambitious CEO lacks. It’s not just a case of there not being enough hours in the day, but being granted that ample opportunity to make important, future-proofing decisions – decisions that make or break positive company growth. As they say, time is money.

Knowing where, how and who to go to for equity fundraising is a minefield to traverse and can be a sluggish slog to embark upon. Moreover, knowing this sort of stuff doesn’t always come naturally to even the most hardy businessperson. You’re good at running a business; accessing capital is a completely new skill set one suddenly needs to find the time to learn.

Speaking to us at our Ambition Nation launch in Manchester, Mark Mills, Non-Executive Chairman of Velocity Composites, explains more:

Following two eye-opening meetings of Ambition Nation recently – a second visit to the North West of England to meet with locally based growth businesses, and our Female Leaders Series event in London that sought to inspire growth amongst ambitious female founders seeking investment – a key challenge for business owners today is simply having the time and opportunity to learn to how to grow, learn about the different forms of equity fundraising and growth capital, and how to access the investment that’s right for you.

The easy answer is to divert the CEO’s attention away from other areas. That is easier said than done. You’re running a business, after all.

Talent, or innovation?

When finnCap Ambition Nation recently visited Manchester to discuss private company fundraising with North West-based entrepreneurs, we purposely split the conversation around the dinner table between three key areas – funding, talent and innovation. We soon discovered that we perhaps needn’t have made the distinction.

Finding funding and identifying what’s right for you and your business is a skill that needs nurturing in order to bring about real, valuable growth. Talent and innovation, however, are two sides of the same coin. What pays you back with growth, ultimately, is culture.

Allow us to explain – as finnCap’s Head of Corporate Finance Stuart Andrews pointed out in Manchester, one cannot plan to innovate, one can only create the right conditions for innovation to happen.

“If you immerse talented people in the right culture, they will innovate,” he said. As we’ve pointed out previously, Manchester is a microcosm of that ethos – it’s a good place to innovate because the nature of the city creates that necessary culture. 

But as Sinatra said of love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other. To get talented people to create the culture that works for innovation, you need to attract and retain that talent in the first place. Our two events revealed burning issues amongst entrepreneurs hungry for business growth. Principle among these was finding and keeping the staff that push businesses forward.

The recruitment conundrum

“Talent acquisition and retention is absolutely key to growing businesses and will drive ambition,” said Lesley Gregory, Chair, Memery Crystal, speaking at the Female Leaders Series meeting. Irene Graham, CEO of The ScaleUp Institute added that attracting talent is a key issue holding back scaling companies in the UK, as she explains in more detail here.

Shelley Hoppe, CEO of Southerly said that even when you’ve employed the right recruitment strategy to attract the people you need, the problem still compounds because entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have time to train, say, a promising graduate. And then you run the risk of losing them.

Watch this session from the Female Leaders Series below, as our panel discuss the challenges of the scale-up phase.

So what’s the answer? There’s no silver bullet, of course, but creating a welcoming, inclusive culture from the ground up seems at the very heart of positive growth for UK PLC.

Speaking at Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series, our guests Dame Helena Morrissey and Sahar Hashemi DBE, both highly respected entrepreneurial heavyweights, pointed out that cultures are changing to favour something altogether more passionate, empathetic and less officious. It’s in many ways a more female way of thinking, and certainly lends itself well to creating more diversity, in terms of how a team reflects wider society and, therefore, in terms of diversity of thought – a freedom that should inherently inspire creativity and innovation.

Create free thought and project

Creating that notion of free-thinking inclusivity must in turn be reflected in the recruitment marketing of up and coming scaling businesses. A recruitment strategy that focuses on promoting an inclusive, innovative culture to prospective candidates gets more innovative minds knocking on one’s door. A few good minds can train a few more good minds, and in so doing nurture that culture as well as potentially creating enthusiastic ambassadors for your brand. Those voices, amplified through the likes of, for example, social media, can be a highly powerful recruitment tool.

With those wheels in motion, the CEO can focus on growth and learning new ways of funding the company.

Through Ambition Nation we’re discovering that attracting talent is a key issue that is hampering growth. If more CEOs and founders can inspire each other with a culture-focused strategy internally, and progressive recruitment strategies externally, we can create better, more focused conditions for growth, by allowing company leaders the space to grow themselves. Give your innovative thinkers the freedom to think and you’ll naturally attract others into that space, giving you the freedom to engage with peers and financial advisors to help you learn the skill of scale.

If you would like to hear more about Ambition Nation events or would like to share your story of growth with us, please email: