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Secrets to Growing a Business Part 4 – A Duty of Care

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Make a mistake and it’s a learning experience, make a mistake that costs you a lot of money and it’s a painful learning experience.

In 1993 I made a mistake that was a painful learning experience costing in excess of £150,000 in just over 2 months. With hindsight I had a few of the most valuable lessons I have ever learnt. In the moment and for a few months afterwards it was just painful!

The lessons I learnt were the value of carrying out a robust due diligence or duty of care and avoiding over enthusiasm before embarking on a new business venture.

At an Oil and Gas conference the other year, a common theme from many of the guest speakers was on the importance of getting a new product or service to market quickly.

In Eric Reims book “The Lean Start Up Of Me” he shares a model for just such an approach to business.

In summary it is BUILD – MEASURE – LEARN.

Defined by:

“The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine. This will involve measurement and learning and must include actionable metrics that can demonstrate cause and effect question.”

In the oil and gas business (as with many other industries) innovation and getting a new product / service to market quickly is essential to the business evolving, especially as new technology can quickly become redundant, time is of the essence.

A secret to the successful growth of any business is being able to evolve and equally as important, is being able to evaluate the business or new product / service without emotion, being able to separate the facts from the opinions.

If you have ever watched Dragons Den you will know what I mean, many a keen entrepreneur or inventor is blinded by their enthusiasm and optimism and can’t see beyond what they want to see. That is until one of the Dragons asks the questions they were unwilling to ask themselves.

  • How do you know these assumptions are true?

  • How did you come to this conclusion?

  • I know you think it’s a good idea but who has bought it?

Back in 1993 I got caught up in my own enthusiasm for a new business and I failed to check the figures thoroughly enough before committing resources to the project. I had written a business plan, but a friend of mine had just discovered this wonderful new tool called a spreadsheet and put my financials into an excel format. Normally I would have done all the number crunching myself using paper and calculator, but this time there was a quick easy way to achieve the same result. On paper it looked good, so we executed the plan.

Two months later after seeing money going out and very little coming back in I revisited the spreadsheet and saw there were errors in the formulae calculations, we were right on track for spending money at the same rate for at least another two years before we broke even. I had failed to double-check our assumptions and the workings

I made the executive decision to stop or as Eric Reims calls it “pivot”.

When growing a business either as a start up or if transitioning, here are two simple tips for not only getting a product or service to market quickly but also ensuring you avoid any painful learning experiences.

1. Avoid enthusiasm; it will cloud your judgment.

2. Think from the perspective of an investor and ask the tough questions.

When you are comfortable you have exercised a robust duty of care (being analytical but not over ANAL-ytical) then it’s perfectly okay to be enthusiastic and motivated.

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