Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series: Lesley Gregory, Chairman of associates for the event, Memery Crystal, explains how building networks can help scale businesses, especially for ambitious female entrepreneurs.
Being part of a network can make a difference both individually and for your business. Female entrepreneurs building a business face daily challenges in areas they may have limited knowledge of how to approach and manage. As an entrepreneur, you could have the most incredible idea or product which is ready to launch, but without the appropriate structures and team in place, the likelihood of success is going to be severely impacted. Building a network is one of the first things any entrepreneur should look to do when looking to scale up a business.
Why join a network? It’s not just about connections and new business
Being part of a network allows you to exchange information and ideas, develop contacts and creates space for informal mentoring. Being able to meet with like-minded individuals in a supportive environment, can help gain invaluable insight and advice from peers, as well as increasing confidence by knowing you are not the only business facing specific challenges.
Building a network takes time and commitment. You need to decide on the type of network you want to be part of, how it will benefit you both as a business and personally. It is also important to consider how you can add value to other members of that network. Being clear about what exactly are you looking to gain will prove invaluable as you commit to developing your network.
Business growth and challenges
Setting up and running a business is difficult. Networks can help on the thorny issues such as finding talent, organising infrastructure and working with contractors. At some stage it is also likely that funding will be needed to develop your business and this is where many entrepreneurs hit a wall. Unless you have been exposed to the world of financing in a past life, chances are you might not be confident, prepared and well informed enough to know about the various financing options. From a legal perspective, there are key areas that need to be in place before considering finance options such as:
- ensuring the right corporate structure and share incentives are in place
- IP is protected as far as possible and owned by the company
- all large contracts have been reviewed and are watertight
- The composition of the Board reflects the required skills for your company’s stage of growth.
Utilising your network to scale your business
Once your business is ready to raise capital, it is then about choosing the most appropriate funding option for your business. This is where being part of a network of cross-sector experts is essential to ensure you are making the right scale-up decisions prior to meeting investors and choosing between funding options - and this is where your lawyer can really help. Founders need to feel confident and comfortable with their business structure, IP, talent and infrastructure before taking a specific funding approach and choosing an investor. Often finding a mentor within your network who, through their own experiences, can help guide you through the pre-funding process and funding options can be invaluable. Not only will they provide a safe environment to ask what may seem like simple questions, they will be able to navigate you towards the most suitable options for your sector and the specific challenges your business faces. Lesley Gregory, Chairman of Memery Crystal who has led Memery Crystal through its rapid growth and continues to lead on firm strategy, notes ‘Having been involved in a fast growth business myself, I am committed to helping female entrepreneurs scale-up their businesses whether it be to help them access appropriate funding, assist with talent acquisition by opening up my large network or with appropriate legal advice. Utilising networks and finding the right mentor helped me on my journey and I am now keen to help others to do the same.’