With more than 25 years in venture capital, private equity, M&A and as chief executive officer, Vin Murria, non-executive director on finnCap’s board, demonstrates how great businesspeople turn negative energy into positive outcomes.
There was one train of thought that kept pulling up to the platform at our recent Ambition Nation events – the idea that there’s always a defining event that makes you do what you do. It’s often something negative, that gives one a yearning for change or a deep-seated need to do things better. It’s something that ignites the fire inside.
It’s a common theme for successful entrepreneurs, that purpose. A purpose that derives from an unwillingness to be defeated. There’s a knowing, deep down, that it is you that is doing the right thing – that perhaps history is on your side.
The reasons why
It might be a question of ethics. For instance, our guest at the Ambition Nation Summit, Jamie Waller, was determined to install better ethics into his industry – that of debt collection – and he only sold his business when he’d felt satisfied that he had made his mark. If you’d like to hear his story you can watch his panel discussion from the Summit here or read his blog in full here - 'What I decide to invest in'.
It might be rooted in the greater global good. Take the pioneering outdoor clothing brand Finisterre, for example. The brand, with a deep belief in a more sustainable and responsible way of making product, through the use of natural fibres, recycled polyester and nylon, initially found it hard to secure investor funding. As an alternative, they went to Crowdcube. When they put forward their message clearly, their purpose resonated with the wider public. At the time of writing they’ve raised over £4m, hitting their initial target in just 32 mins.
It might be changing the paradigm. In the Ambition Nation Magazine (read the magazine online here), we spoke with Rosaleen Blair CBE, founder and CEO of global talent acquisition business Alexander Mann Solutions. Quite simply, Rosaleen had a vision to do recruitment differently. She could see that the industry needed to completely change its way of thinking from one that was transactional – in other words, a bit ad hoc – to one that actively supports and strategically aligns with a business’s goals. Last year the company boasted a 98% client retention rate and sold to private equity in a deal worth over $1.1bn.
Or it might be just be simple determination to put things right. Which is kind of the crux of why we hold the Ambition Nation: Female Leaders Series events twice a year. We hear countless tales of entrepreneurs and investors solely focused on releasing that widely recognised economy driver and frustratingly untapped resource – female entrepreneurship. And at the last event, a few weeks prior to the Summit, one of our very own board members, Vin Murria, shared her fascinating story of just why she became the businesswoman she is today.
Vin Murria’s path to leadership
Like many of these stories, for Vin the spark started with dogged determination to right a wrong.
“My parents were a bus driver and shopkeeper and we lived above a corner shop,” Vin explains. “And in many ways this is the driver behind everything I’ve done. Because I wanted to make sure I never ended up in this position.”
The position to which Vin refers was when she was 18 years old. The bank insisted that her father owed some money to the taxman. She was old enough and savvy enough at the time to know that something was wrong, and that her father owed nothing.
“It almost put the business under and the bank manager came to pull the rug,” Vin continues. “If it wasn’t for the fact that he sat down with my parents for lunch – a lunch which my mother had cooked specially for him – I would have let it go. But that drove me to fight him, the Inland Revenue (who were fabulous) and our accountants. And I won.”
Vin explains how this shaped her thinking about business.
“It taught me firstly, that while you should take the advice of advisers, always know what you are doing yourself. Secondly, never owe the bank so much money that you cannot pay back (unless it’s so much that it becomes their problem, not yours). And finally, the Inland Revenue are not there to hurt you; they’re there to support you, within the rules and regulations.”
On these principles Vin found the basic grounding from which to work upwards. What was to come was another underlying principle of her success – knowledge. She graduated with a Computer Science degree, doing a final year project in Manufacturing. She developed a practical understanding, conducting her studies from inside factories, of the manufacturing industry. This led to her joining a company as a salesperson at 22 – selling manufacturing systems to manufacturers. Vin became their most successful starter ever. The company took a punt on this bright spark.
“They were very brave, looking back on it,” Vin explains. “At 23 they asked me if I wanted to become a Managing Director. I was so naïve; the thought of failing didn’t even enter my mind. The risk didn’t even register. So I went for it.”
The industry was big ticket manufacturing systems; Vin was selling to a male-dominated client base in a male-dominated environment. Through that same rugged determination that saw her help her parents’ corner shop, the company’s profits skyrocket, going from a £1.8 million loss to £800,000 profit and still profiting to this day.
“I turned the business round in a year; a lot of it was just common sense really,” explains Vin. “I focused on salespeople and sales opportunities, not spending too much on fountains and foyers – I always maintained the cars in the car park shouldn’t be posher than the customers you’re selling to. And always measure everything. The point is just get in front of your customer, find out what they need, and service it. That’s customer service.”
Strip away the bumf
Ultimately Vin’s success was driven by her determination to get to the heart of what makes a business tick. Strip away the bumf – the foyers and fountains – and what are you left with when you’re faced with your customers?
The answer is your product and your determination. This is where the focus is found. There’s a problem and there’s a need to solve it and then there’s you, right in the middle.
Our next event on 22nd April 2020 dives headfirst into this way of thinking. We’re going to strip away the excess conversation and let the entrepreneurs and the investors that invested in them speak for themselves. We’re going to begin to demystify the funding landscape and the language around it by hearing what inspired the investee, and in turn what about them inspired the investor. Most of all, we’re going to let the audience ask the questions, so you can get to the heart of what will push you to success.
In many ways, this is exactly why we hold these events. Every entrepreneur will get that fire inside of them. We’re here to find the match that lights it.
Join the conversation.