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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

What I have Learned in Fifteen Years in Business

Last week we had a fantastic celebration of Downtown’s fifteenth year in business.

Apart from enjoying a fabulous party at the amazing DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, with some of the key individuals who have contributed to the Downtown journey since 2003, it was also, inevitably, a time of reflection too.

As you would expect, over a decade and a half I have learned a few lessons about business, and I just thought I’d use this week’s blog as an opportunity to share some of those with you.

First up, if you don’t enjoy what you do in your business, then it’s the wrong business for you. Even through the toughest and most challenging times, there has never been a moment when I haven’t loved what we do at Downtown. Meeting and working with great people, hosting events, and making a difference are the key elements of what we do, and that fits perfectly with what motivates me on a personal level. If you are running or working in a business that fail to hit your ‘motivation’ buttons, then get out as soon as you can.

Next, the money. It is something that I only really started to pay any real attention to once we got our first significant investment into the company eighteen months ago. I hate finance, and so tended to ignore it unless we were in a position where I couldn’t!

Having the right financial planning, support, and processes in place is something that, if I was starting out again tomorrow, I would make the absolute priority. We’re getting there now – but it took me nearly fourteen years to do so.

Thirdly, people. Every business will say that getting the right talent in is essential and is one of the most difficult things to do – and they are absolutely right. However, equally important is having the ability to move people on at the right time, even if at some point they made a really positive contribution to the business.

Persevering with people who are not right for the business, or who have simply stopped adding value to what you do, is a mistake for you, for them – and often the rest of your team as well.

Fourth, and back to the money. It has probably never been easier to raise investment if you have ambitions to grow. As I mentioned earlier, Downtown only reached out for investment in 2016. I wish I’d have explored the possibility earlier, because I think we’d have been able to grow the brand across the UK even quicker. If you are looking to expand, don’t hesitate to use other people’s cash to do so – equally, know exactly what you are raising the money for as well.

Finally, and back to people. Building the right team is important. Developing the right customer base is essential. I know it is difficult at times to say ‘no’ to someone who is offering you money for your product, but I tell you now I wish I had followed my gut instinct with at least a dozen companies over the past fifteen years who have been more hassle than they were worth. Short term gain for long-term pain is not the way to maintain the most important aspect of running your own business –  enjoying it.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to Downtown’s fifteen years. Here’s to the next fifteen. I’m sure there are even more lessons to come for me.

Downtown in Business