Business owner Tim Clover reveals the stuff-up that saw him wanting the earth to swallow him up, and how he’s learnt the hard way what does and doesn’t work in generating sales.
- Business: Glow
- Industry: Research technology
- Number of employees: 5–20
- Operating since: 2013
What was your first paid job?
I worked in a factory in the Welsh valleys as a production engineer. I had to help them create a production line for a new product, which was fun!
What made you get into your current business?
After leaving the production line at the age of 23, I started a business to help people create processes because I found it hard to do the process mapping I needed to do. I made some simple technology and sold it. It was really hard! I realised I needed to get some more business experience, so I got a proper job for a few years.
Ten years later, I was ready to go again! I could see that consumer insights were too hard to get hold of, and the company I was working for, PwC, was great, but was structured to only work with big companies. I thought there must be a way to allow people to capture their own data, whatever size of business. Technology was in the right place to support this… Glow was born.
How did you get your very first customer/client?
I started going through my network to let them know what I’d been doing. I started by trying to sell everyone I met a solution, using my consulting background to try to solve problems. That was a terrible idea!
Then I started to just listen. I started to listen more than I talked. I started to take detailed notes about the problems other people were facing, and fed them into our awesome product development team. They came up with some magic functionality quickly and I was able to loop back to the people I’d met to show them what we had come up with. One of those was an amazing lady called Michelle who worked at Target as a GM of store operations. She needed to understand why customers were returning products and they had no data. We solved that for them.
What has been your biggest triumph in business?
I really can’t name any one triumph — there has been such a long set of opportunities and decisions that have rolled into each other that have led to where I’m at now. I think to be able to run a company that started in the front room that’s now got partners in the UK, USA and Australia and is used by some of the world’s largest and most innovative brands is a “pinch yourself” achievement.
Conversely, what has been your biggest mistake?
I once presented to a potential business partner and had been lining up a number of competitors for weeks to see who’d bite first. In doing this, you need to retain the personal connection and be as transparent as possible, but I once presented the wrong deck to the wrong business which was pretty embarrassing! I had to back-track a lot.
In the end, it worked out OK as it seemed to create quite a lot of FOMO in the end and they signed up. But at the time, I wanted the ground to swallow me up. It only happened because I was trying to do too much — which increases your risk of these sorts of mistakes.
If you run a business, you just need to allow time to plan meetings if you’re doing a lot concurrently. It’s hard enough getting the meetings in the first place!
What is the best thing about owning your own business?
The best thing about it is that the buck stops with you to make decisions. That’s also kind of the worst thing as well — you need to learn to be super fast at making good decisions and learn from mistakes without beating yourself up.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A combination of: Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Roll with the inevitable punches. Think bigger. Popularity is not as important as integrity. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.
If you could change one thing to make life easier as a business owner, what would it be and why?
The finance side of business is complicated. It gets in the way of creativity and saps energy. Small businesses need better support from the government when it comes to the frequency and terms for ATO payments.
Who do you look up to in business and why?
I look up to lots of people. Mike Cannon-Brookes (Atlassian) is doing some great work to shape the future of Australia’s carbon footprint, which is important. He’s thinking outside the boardroom to consider human impact and government policy, which I admire.
Sheryl Sandberg is a great example of a dynamic leader in Facebook. She has gone through a lot through the years, both personally and at work, but manages to remain very human, which is so important in leadership.
Elon Musk is just Elon Musk. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks, which you have to admire! This makes him a great innovator — the problems he solves are not bound by rules, they are just problems to solve and he’s great at deploying resources to solve them.
What do you do to get away from work?
I spend time with my wife and see my friends as often as possible. We’re doing a reno at home which is fun. Plastering is hard!
Name a little-known fact about yourself.
I make a mean beef wellington followed by a cracking lemon tart.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.
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