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Working out “what next” after exiting a business

Having been part of team behind Ormsby Street’s rapid growth, Robert Drury had to plan his next move after existing the business in search of a new challenge.
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On leaving Ormsby Street recently following a buy-out, as I looked at in my previous diary entry, I was faced with the big question of “what next?” after exiting a business.

You spend all your time and effort on heading towards a goal, which in the case of Ormsby Street was build a team, re-build a product, test, learn and development, and ultimately sell the business. And then you reach your goal and all of a sudden you need something else to focus on.

Do I stay in the world of fintech and use my experience in this space to move forward some other innovative financial product? Do I look towards a bigger organisation where there are more resources to help reach my goals? Or do I find an innovative small organisation that has a similar feel to the way we ran the Ormsby Street team and help them achieve great things.

Ultimately I’ve gone with the latter, and am starting with a young business, with a bright enthusiastic young team, and becoming the old, experienced one who has been there and done it. It’s less startup and more scale-up.

It’s going to be an interesting change as I walk into an existing team, with a successful product, and processes that have been working, rather than starting from a relatively blank sheet of paper and thinking about what we want to do and how we want to go about it.

I’ve already talked to the team about some of the areas for immediate attention and the everyone is keen to get “more agile”.

There are huge opportunities for learning in the business, which haven’t yet been tapped into. Sprint retrospectives haven’t been held to date, but that’s a key element of agile and its focus on learning and being able to move more flexibly and quickly.

It’s also a relatively quick win as it just involves sitting down as a team, with a wall and some coloured post it notes, and talking about what was good in your last sprint and what caused you frustrations. Everyone knows how they feel things have gone and you can see what you need to do more of, and discuss how you can reduce the number of frustrations.

They might only be little things like “it was great to not get too many interruptions” or “not having a full design of the thing being built”, but making lots of little adjustments over a long period of time really can transform a business into a well-oiled machine.

The biggest challenge is getting the team to be open and honest with each other. Only when people are honest about their joy and frustration will everyone start to feel the benefit.

Short and medium-term planning also need a little bit of focus as we look to start delivering more and in a more organised way. Agile isn’t just about delivering what you decide on today, but having an idea on what might help you reach your goals over a period of time and being prepared for this but being flexible if you need to change tack.

Looking at these areas whilst not losing any of the greatness that the team already have is the tightrope I will be walking. Wish me luck.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.

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About Author

Robert Drury

Former footballer and cinema manager Robert Drury has been a digital professional since 2000, specialising in project management, client services, and product management. He supported global brands such as Kraft Foods, Peugeot Citroen, and Lloyds Banking Group with their online presence before moving into startups. He was a founding team member at Ormsby Street, a small business financial information tool, before moving to Qudini to oversee the development of that firm's customer experience software product.

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