‘I am always spotting new ways to do things differently’
Starting your own company is a brave decision, and the road to success is fraught with difficulty. So, why do business leaders start their own companies and what are they aiming to achieve when all is said and done? We spoke to Kevin Brent, Founder BizSmart, about his journey in business.
When did you establish your first business and what inspired you to set it up?
My first proper business was a new division within an existing company for which I was a Director. I spotted an opportunity to repurpose existing content aimed at the medical profession and develop a consumer health information portal. Within the space of 18 months, we received an acquisition offer for six million pounds.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or did the desire develop over time?
I think it developed over time. I have always had a passion for strategy and have been able to recognise gaps and areas for improvement, opportunity or problem-solving. Therefore, I’ve always classed myself as entrepreneurial in that I am always spotting new ways to do things differently – better or more efficiently. One of my main strengths and areas I thrive in is solving strategy challenges.
Through recognising gaps and areas to improve, I found that only four percent of business scale beyond 10 employees, and less than one percent beyond 50. Dedicated to changing this trajectory, I established BizSmart in 2012 which has since helped over 800 business owners to transform how they operate and successfully scale growth.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
Oh, there are always challenges. In the words of James Clear author of Atomic Habits, ‘anyone can show up on the good days. It’s how you show up on the bad days that make the difference.’
After achieving initial early success based largely on a public sector contract and a substantial profit in my second year, I knew that building a business reliant on public funding was risky and it proved harder than I had hoped to reduce that reliance and build an underlying commercial offering.
After a fall in turnover in between contracts, I knew I had to change gears and focus on building a recurring revenue base.
Over a three-year period, I achieved an increase in turnover and profit, resulting in recurring revenue growth of 225% in the same period, and gross profit increase of 240%. Although I was happy with the results, I knew that in order to be able to progress, I should seize the opportunity to expand our services. So, in 2020 I launched the BizSmart® franchise model and invested significantly in the franchise offering.
Building on from this, I invested in publishing my book, The Entrepreneurial Scale Up System, and Smart90 software. This has proved to be a great development for BizSmart® and we have now onboarded two franchises, BizSmart Gloucestershire and BizSmart Birmingham and Solihull, strengthening and tripling our service output.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you first started out?
That everything always takes at least three times longer than you think it will, costs three times as much as you thought, and you’ll probably earn a third of what you expected!
Business is rewarding – and challenging – and it requires perseverance.
What is your top tip for other entrepreneurs?
Don’t feel you have to do it alone!
Two things really:
Firstly, if you don’t already have a 90-day ‘rhythm’ in place, start it now! Even if you just diarise a quarterly planning session and work on what went well, what didn’t and identify a handful of priorities for the next 90 days, you will be surprised at what that will do for you and the business.
Secondly, get yourself into a good peer group and learn from others’ successes and failures – don’t feel you have to come up with all the answers yourself. Harnessing tools such as peer-to-peer support encourages fresh dynamic thinking, and alternative perspectives and can often help with solutions for tackling current challenges.
External resources are so important in evaluating a business and ways it can improve. Following endorsed, proven systems such as those detailed in my book, The Entrepreneurial ScaleUp System, provides both budding entrepreneurs and business owners with a hub of resources that helps them increase value, profitability and growth including how to put a robust 90-day rhythm in place.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently focused on expanding our franchise model and increasing our reach through working with strategic partners.
Our main mission still remains the same – to help as many businesses as possible grow in a successful and sustainable way. To do this, I plan to continue to raise awareness of our proven system to achieve growth and work within more regions to increase the number of scaleups on a national level.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I’d like BizSmart to continue beyond me, impacting more and more business owners in helping them to create the kind of businesses they aspire to. Specifically, I’d like to help an extra 60,000 businesses in this country to scale beyond 10 employees – an increase of 25%.
Ultimately, I’d like to see my company stand as a catalyst for change – substantially increasing the number of scaleups and changing the trajectory that only 4% of businesses scale beyond 10 employees.