Interviews

How a strategic entrepreneur went above and beyond for a client – with life-changing results

9 min read

15 March 2016

Former deputy editor

Life as an entrepreneur often means long days and unique experiences. And for Clive Bonny, the owner of business consultancy Strategic Management Partners (SMP), it meant going above and beyond to enter an incubator on behalf of a client – which had a life-changing outcome.

Bonny founded the consultancy business back in 1990, and has over 25 years of experience of supporting small and large organisations alike with strategic planning advice, training, coaching and support across a variety of industries.

SMP differentiates itself by delivering consultancy services for high-growth firms at a fee lower than that of rivals.

One of the firms Bonny has been working with is Applied Microcurrent Technology, an ecommerce health technology company. After 12 years of development, the business successfully produced a wearable health device that energises body microcurrents to repair and regenerate cellular tissue, which had a patent registered with the Intellectual Property Office.

Unlike some companies and the bosses behind them, Bonny really practices what he preaches. Indeed, SMP’s tagline is “success breeds success when values sustain value”.

With that in mind, Bonny was put in charge of Applied Microcurrent Technology’s growth and he looked to business accelerator Entrepreneurial Spark to get the job done, having noticed the company online during his weekly review of news.

A big believer in the community aspect of enterprise, and a customer of Entrepreneurial Spark partner NatWest, the decision was somewhat serendipitous.

Bonny told Real Business: “I am well networked locally in the business innovation community and look for new business arrivals to explore mutual support. I also bank with NatWest and had recently moved house to Brighton so was interested in finding out about their new local support initiative.

“I put my application online and was asked to join a group of about 30 local entrepreneurs in giving a 60-second pitch to join Entrepreneurial Spark. The pitching was great fun and I was lucky to be voted top, winning a £100 cash prize.”

He thought Entrepreneurial Spark to be “almost too good to be true”, highlighting the fully paid hot desk, modern office, smart mentoring, regular reviews and crowd of energetic innovators as “exceptionally attractive” benefits of joining.

Bonny added that the bonus of being in the Brighton hub was its location to the station, noting that he sought easy access to investors in London.

“Incubators can grow much more quickly through crowdfunding and that was a key part of our business development strategy,” said Bonny.

Adding how the business evolved under the accelerator’s watch, he revealed: “The equity share offer for Applied Microcurrent Technology evolved with the help of my mentor Mandy who helped create a great pitch statement.

“Entrepreneurial Spark introduced us on site to Angels Den and other potential investor syndicates, to whom we subsequently pitched, who offered useful advice on valuation and risk.”

Bonny took the opportunity of representing Applied Microcurrent Technology to foster young talent in the process and brought in Lewis Poku, an intern from Sussex University, as market researcher.

“We shared the same hot desk to assess the market opportunities, identify key media and investor targets, and drafted a business strategy to obtain additional funding for growth,” Bonny said.

“During the programme we completed the offer to investors, the market research and a full IP audit for business sustainability. These reports reduce risk to investors and can now be used to seek additional finance.

“The opportunity to network with other peer group innovators I’d previously worked with was rewarding as most entrepreneurs have few central facilities and meeting places.”

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Incredibly, Bonny and Entrepreneurial Spark left such an impact on Poku that he was awarded a place of his own in the incubator with a venture called Booksby. It’s designed to recycle online university text books for students and save them big sums for their four years in higher education

On the topic of the most challenging aspects with Applied Microcurrent Technology, Bonny pointed to intellectual property assessments and reviewing the competition.

“IP searching and registration is vital for all startups. Brand protection for trademarks and designs must take place as soon as they are created. This can be before company names and domains are registered,” he said.

“Too few startups or high-growth enterprises understand IP and many have never had an IP audit. Trading under a name owned by another party can result in being sued and losing the business. Not registering designs and work processes allows others to copy them. Data protection is also important as loss of data can be very expensive.”

In order to prevent any unexpected outcomes, Bonny registered for data protection with the Information Commissioner’s Office for £35 and accessed the IP audit report, which documented past, current and future requirements and how to manage protection for the long-term.

“This document can now be shown to potential equity investors to give them peace of mind,” said Bonny.

“I registered trademarks and designs and showed others in the business how to do this. The total cost was just a few hundred pounds. Affordable for any new business to obtain future funding for growth.”

He added that IP registrations provide a “first mover advantage” that protects products from “competitors and copycats”.

“I’d add that uniqueness of people, especially the management team, will ensure the brand carries successfully in competitive markets. If the team has the right mix of technical knowhow, commercial awareness, market experience, and a wide network of active supporters and endorsers then it can win business over others,” he said.

Running crowdfunding campaigns was also another way of raising awareness to stand out from any potential competitive threats, converting customers into shareholders – again supporting the long-term objectives.

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According to Bonny, bringing in Poku as market research was a great decision that resulted in more than 1,000 contacts via social media. Using relationships with inventor clubs, Bonny took the AMT product to the National Exhibition Centre British Inventors Awards and secured a place as a finalist, which supported PR and advertising further.

Looking to the future, Bonny said: “The directors have asked me to focus my future time in consultancy support so they may be able to use my knowledge and contacts in the markets of health and technology. I’d personally like the business to make more of myself as a case study showing personal health benefits.

“When I began using the product last year I had a life-threatening health condition called atrial fibrillation. In the UK, 800,000 people across all age groups have this condition and are put on drugs for their lifetime. There are 100,000 deaths every year.

“I now no longer suffer from this condition and my doctor has signed me off as not needing any more medications. I’d like to see the product used by more people as I can testify to its effectiveness. Let’s hope this article spreads the word!”

On the topic of strategy, Zendesk’s marketing director has detailed the lessons from the firm’s seven-year journey from startup to PLC.

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