Once Richard Branson's right hand man, entrepreneur Brad Rosser discusses some of the pitfalls SMEs commonly fall into and how he turns ideas into successful, sustainable money makers.
He may have graduated with an MBA from an Ivy League school and walked into work alongside Alan Bond (Australia’s most successful entrepreneur at the time) and Peter Beckwith (the nation’s leading dealmaker) all at age 24.
Run the story a little further and you’ll find this same fellow becoming Sir Richard Branson’s right hand man as corporate development director at Virgin Group.
Today, he heads the BSF Group, has a number of other ventures and is the author of Better, Stronger, Faster: The entrepreneur’s step-by-step guide to success in business.
Who is this man? Brad Rosser. A passionate, energetic and warm-hearted entrepreneur.
You can tell Brad thrives on upping his game time and time again, which has no doubt given him the knowledge and experience to be where he is today.
“I love growing businesses and growing people,” he says.
“While at Virgin, the challenges were to develop great ideas and business, and finding a great market to sell were vast.”
What’s further evident within the first two pages of chapter one in his book, is that while he is an entrepreneur and it may seem to some that he flies by the seat of his pants, the truth is that Brad understands how to differentiate ideas between a ‘thumbs up or a thumbs down’.
Brad knows when to take flight and when to eject from the pilot’s seat. Ideas are abundant but it doesn’t mean that they are all commercial, in which case they ought to be released back from where they came.
So what do you do when you’re already in the start-up phase, or you’ve survived the first year and running your business with some success, yet you know you’ve got room to do it ‘better, stronger and faster’?
“Most [SMEs] focus on things they get a tangible result for and marketing does not always work that way.”
Pitfalls SMEs can fall into
“Many small businesses are not spending enough time on the innovation and marketing [of the business]. A business is “part inspiration but a lot of hard work”, he says.
“Sometimes you don’t get a result straight away and have to try different marketing strategies and sales efforts.
“Most [SMEs] focus on things they get a tangible result for and marketing does not always work that way. You’ve got to put the time and effort in and you’ll get results – and sometimes you might need help as well.”
What help would you suggest?
“Help depends on the business,” he says.
“Start-ups and SMEs are very different to large corporations.
“For sales and marketing in SMEs you need someone who’s been in that neck of the woods, who understands budgets (normally smaller) and how to stretch those budgets and get the most out of them. Sales is also different, establishing new markets is hard and you need a real terrier.”
Another pitfall that we see amongst growing businesses is that they spread themselves thin. I asked Brad, what antidote he could offer to SMEs who might be in this position.
“I would ask:
1. What products and markets are getting traction?
2. Are my products cutting edge and making a difference in the market?
3. Look at profitable and easier to sell products, and build from there,” he says.
“Build from a strong base…If you’re being all things to all people, which is very alluring in SME then you’ve just got to be disciplined to not do that.”
Sales is key to growth, but not everyone is a salesperson
“A good sales person is very passionate, knows the product, is very energetic, engaging, resourceful, prepared and is open minded to their approaches,” Brad says.
Brad shares a brilliant story, which reflected his apt entrepreneurial compass to spot opportunity anytime, anywhere.
“Once I was running a sales property company in the UK (which went on to be one of the largest in the UK), and I used to do the banking at Netwest,” he says.
“One day, I found the teller I was dealing with to be very engaging and smart, and I thought she was wasted in the bank, so I offered her a job on that Friday, provided she left on that Friday and she became our best salesperson.”
Do you think some people have a natural ability to be good at sales or is it something anyone can learn?
“I’m in two minds about that,” he answers.
“My instincts tell me that you’re either a salesperson or you’re not, but I do think that anyone can be taught to be a better salesperson.
“It also has a lot to do with attitude, some people aren’t willing to pull the trigger - and by that I mean some people are embarrassed to ask for money.
“But it’s really those people who are cheeky enough and engaging enough and those who love sales; you’ve got to really love sales to be in the sales game. Some find it a challenge and think it’s wonderful, and some really hate it. I think you’re born with it.”
Many successful businesspeople know delegation is key when it comes to sales and future growth and Brad also stands by this notion.
In fact, one of his major focuses when working with SMEs is that he takes a look at the overall people in the organisation and reviews all the complimentary skills.
Sales is just one component of a successful business and while it is a critical component, it’s also important to be “honest with what you’re good at and then fill in the gaps”.
Brad says it's important to remember that “you can’t do it all on your own” and if you’ve plunged in head first, are fuelled by your passion and want to grow your business, it’s imperative to keep this in mind.
Sales, business, growth, expansion, even life is not about flying solo, it’s about sharing the journey of flight, so you too get a chance to enjoy the view.
A quickie isn’t the goal
Many people look for a “quick fix” in all areas of life and for the most part people are running around trying to “get” somewhere without ever being anywhere.
So what does Brad, a high profile and successful entrepreneur, think about the “quick fix”?
“If I had a problem, there might be a quick fix in the cost element of the business,” he says.
“Maybe there is some key marketing that’s missing and that would be super and a real find.
“When I look at businesses and in turning them around I certainly look at their cost structures and some quick things to do to turn them around, but to build a long-term profitable business that maybe you want to sell one day, that’s going to take time.”
He adds: “A quick fix will not get you there over a five-year period, but I’m thinking about building a foundation.”