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From Vision to Exit - Interview with Guy Rigby

Cover of  by Guy Rigby

With rave reviews from serial entrepreneurs including Julie Meyer, James Caan and Luke Johnson, Guy Rigby?s new book has set the taste buds of leading UK entrepreneurs on fire!
No stranger to entrepreneurs and start-ups, Guy heads up the Entrepreneurs? Group at Smith & Williamson, one of the UK?s top 10 accounting firms. He has played a pivotal role in driving the growth of many start-ups into growing and thriving businesses.

In an interview with NACUE he discusses his new book From Vision to Exit- The Entrepreneur?s Guide to Building & Selling a Business, described as ?a must-read book for any aspiring entrepreneur? by James Caan, serial entrepreneur and founder/ CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw.

Guy, at a time when the literature market on entrepreneurship seems saturated, what led you to write a book on entrepreneurship?

There?s a gap. The market is full of books about how to start a business, from the basics like how to open a bank account to how to get a customer. There are also plenty of books written by entrepreneurial celebrities about ?how I made it?. But there is no definitive guide for entrepreneurs about building and selling a business in the market. My book takes the reader through all the necessary strategies and processes needed to grow a start-up into a thriving and successful business, including how to sell it.

From Vision to Exit- what underpins this title?

The fact is that most entrepreneurs start businesses with a view to exiting them. There are various reasons for this, ranging from personal to professional.

From Vision to Exit encapsulates the whole of the entrepreneur?s journey, but most importantly, the strategy, from start to exit. It explains how to take an idea and build it into a great business, step by step. There?s no magic and you don?t need to reinvent the wheel. Plenty of people have been there before.

Vision is key. Vision begets strategy and strategy begets tactics. If you have a poor vision, you?ll struggle to create a great strategy. You?ll be pushing water uphill.
Take easyJet, for example. Stelios had a vision that transformed the model, then went about developing the strategy and the tactics to achieve it.

Most entrepreneurs learn by doing, so what can your book teach them?

They say that we learn from our mistakes, but failure teaches us how to fail, not how to succeed. Learning from success is a far better model. My book puts entrepreneurs in a position to succeed. It?s a bridge, a roadmap if you like, that enables the successful experience. It?s full of easy case studies to read, practical advice and it?ll set people on the right path, avoiding many of the most common bear traps. I?d like to think that it will help many businesses avoid failure.

Why start a vision that ends in exit? It?s a very strong culture we see in Silicon Valley.

In the last 20 years it has become fashionable to start businesses to exit them. Longevity is difficult to sustain, so there aren?t so many family businesses around these days.
Part of the reason for the exit culture is that larger companies use smaller companies to help fuel their innovation and growth. Entrepreneurial businesses have become feeders to their larger counterparts, often with mixed success.
Generally speaking, the first-time entrepreneur wants an exit. Selling the company can clear debts, pay school fees or enable holidays, for instance. However, many first-time entrepreneurs sell their businesses too early and most sell the best business they?ll ever own.

How do you know when?s the right time to exit?
When you?ve built a sustainable business and when the market is ready. There are some
telltale signs for this:

? When the economy is good and/ or people express interest in your business
? When it?s growing
? When the value offered is equal to the value of the idea (the dotcom boom in the 90s was victim to ideas having greater value than the reality, which may again be emerging as a trend)
Mostly, the right decision to exit will depend on your gut instinct, how well you know your business and how well you understand the risks and opportunities you face: all you can ever predict is where your business is today.
The most common mistakes people make when exiting their business are:
? Poor understanding of the exit process, as they are flattered by
unsolicited offers. The way round this is to appoint a good adviser.
? Being unprepared. Some businesses are completely owner dependent.
Others lack substance in terms of internal operations, processes, controls, corporate governance, patent protection etc.

From all the chapters in the book, which are the most important?

They?re all important! But if you push me, I?d say Financial Management, Culture and Branding and Entrepreneur to Leader. Entrepreneur to Leader is one of the most powerful chapters as it explains the changes the entrepreneur has to manage to turn a small business into a large business.

What core myths does your book explore?

There is a lot of talk about entrepreneurship. Much of it is theory and hype. Building a great business is challenging and the notion that anyone can do it is simply not true. Huge passion, energy and commitment are required. You have to be well rounded and multi-faceted to build a successful company.

Do you think students can prepare for becoming entrepreneurs?

Yes, but only to a certain extent. What young entrepreneurs lack is the wisdom and experience that can only come from doing it. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to surround themselves with mentors and advisors, who add the bit they haven?t seen before. They?ll provide invaluable experience and guidance.
Whether it?s advisors, mentors or even your own staff, always buy the best you can afford. Remember that you don?t have to reinvent the wheel; people have been there before.

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