The highs and lows of AIM

Gooch was brought up in Staffordshire and started her career in the eighties as an in-house consultant at Forward Trust, a subsidiary of Midland Bank. “I always knew I wanted to work for myself,” she says. “As a consultant, I noticed that the financial services sector would benefit from using production management systems. So I designed a software programme myself, on the back of a cigarette packet!”

But the banks weren’t interested in her start-up. “I got sniggers from most of the high-street banks,” she recalls. “Bank managers back then were all middle-aged men with balding heads. They wouldn’t even give me an overdraft facility.”

Unfazed, Gooch used the fees from her freelance consultancy work to fund eg’s growth. Then came the crunch point: “In 2005, we’d reached a stage where we had two choices. We could seek VC investment or we could float on AIM. I decided on the latter. I thought a mix of nine or ten institutional stakeholders would be better than one VC investor.”

Within 12 months, the value of the company jumped from £12m to £25m. “We were being hailed as the darlings of the AIM market. Investors were clamouring to buy more shares.”

But the bubble soon burst. “In November 2006, we peaked at £1.72 a share. In December last year, our share price had plummeted to 8p a share. It was a business nightmare.”

What went wrong? “When you’re preparing to go public, the due diligence process is very retrospective. Months are spent delving into your company’s historical performance and not enough time is spent looking at strategy or forecasts.

"I guess you could say we slipped on a few banana skins. We were so busy trying to crack new international markets that we missed some of our financial targets.

“Did it affect me personally? Yes. There were times when I needed to put a telephone directory down my pants to soften the blow of the whipping.”

Gooch is undeterred. Turnover stands at £5m, she has 50 employees and is relentlessly growing the business, working over 70 hours a week. “These are tough times. With fuel prices and taxes soaring, the UK is a miserable place to live. I’m doing all I can to motivate my employees.”

Elizabeth Gooch was short-listed for the 2008 First Women Awards.

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