The venture will offer guidance as to how they can operate more effectively, utilising King’s 20 years of experience and knowledge of enterprise and entrepreneurship.
The businessman, who founded his British men’s grooming company in 1993, has suggested there is an absence of accessible experienced entrepreneurs out there to provide counsel to businesses looking for direction. “Before I started this, I’d had something like 300 enquiries, including individuals looking for help or queries as to whether I could invest in various companies,” King said.
Seeing an opportunity, he created a platform to link companies looking for advice with entrepreneurs who will lend their skills to help get the respective firms to where they want to be. King is bringing on board other high-profile entrepreneurs, to be revealed later in spring. They will not sit on the board of any companies they advise, remaining independent and providing advice across all types of business.
“I never saw myself as a serial entrepreneur. But I knew I had a great variety of skills, and a huge network of people who I can draw upon too. It’s quite a unique position,” he pointed out. While King noted that there are a plethora of management consultants and senior executives out there, he couldn’t see a service offering his range of experience and expertise.
King’s “no-nonsense” approach and interest in seeing businesses reach their potential is reflected in how he describes the methods of the Entrepreneur in Residence Company. “To those companies that are interested, I want to inject them with relevant, useful information – no fluff. I’ll give an honest ‘this is how I’d react’, ‘this is what I’d make of it’, or ‘you’re not spending enough on marketing here’,” he explained.
His own career in marketing came to a swift end when the early 1990s recession resulted in his redundancy. A chance discovery that using his girlfriend’s bath oil on his face stopped razor burn meant King saw the scope for a business if production could be scaled up. The early days of his prospective business saw King individually filling hundreds of plastic bottles with shaving oil each day. He added: “When I was back hand-filling bottles, I’m not sure many others would’ve stuck at it.” Indeed, when considering which particular qualities are necessary for successful entrepreneurship, King lists persistence as being crucial.
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“If you’re in a race against 26,000 and everyone gives up, but you keep running, you win the race. It doesn’t matter how long the race is. Persistence is vital – though not to the extent where you’re being a silly fool and keeping on when you’re going nowhere.”
The Entrepreneur in Residence Company has already stirred up some interest, and King is currently working with three businesses including FutureGov, which designs and puts in place technology services into local government to make public services more effective and efficient. Each has its own obstacles that King is helping to address, from the wrong image to being slow to make decisions due to the type and size of company involved. He said the key is “trying to inject healthy paranoia, but with solutions attached” – rather than just listing out all of their problems and then disappearing.
While King believes that today there is a more welcoming climate for developing companies and startups in the UK, other difficulties have arisen as a result of this. “It’s definitely a gazillion times easier to start up now. But, if it’s easy for me to do, it’s also easy for the guy next door to do. You need a clear differentiation in what you’re providing.” He pointed to the transformative effect of technology as also lowering people’s tolerance for glitches and initial mistakes. “People’s attention spans are much lower and everything is judged to Apple’s standards. It’s never been easier to start up, but it’s also never been easier to fail,” he added.
King may now be in a position to provide assistance to others, but what does he wish he’d known earlier on in his career?
“How big Gillette was! For me, ignorance was bliss – I’m not sure a sane person would have looked to take that on, knowing its sheer scale. Otherwise, more knowledge really, and quicker access to it,” he said. The Enterprise in Residence Company is King’s attempt to bridge this gap for businesses today. “It’s about leveraging that entrepreneurial knowledge into companies and transforming startup Britain into scale-up Britain,” he told us.
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