Unlikely advice: Do not sell

Denys Shortt has built a £120m-turnover business that’s one of Stratford’s largest employers (not far behind the Shakespeare industry). DCS does everything from distribute toiletries to developing software. Denys started life as an international hockey player and has taken those competitive instincts to the world of business with ferocious success. He’s a multi award-winner for business and a qualified helicopter pilot.

A few years back, Denys met an ambitious 16-year-old called Andrew Butt. Together they hatched a plan for a business software company. That was it, the idea: a business software company. Andrew knew software; Denys knew business.

First, they needed some customers. So Denys launched into his hockey connections. A friend from the local hockey club needed some software developing. Denys and Andrew were off. Now Enable is a £3m business.

Looking back into how this new business, and indeed the rest of the DCS group, accumulated business, Denys made a surprising discovery: that very little of business won over the years has come from what you’d call traditional selling. Breaking down the Enable numbers reveals that 50 per cent of incoming business has come directly from networking; 20 per cent from referrals; and another ten from formalised business speed-dating. DCS enjoys clients such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and the Olympics

“How do you grow a software business from scratch,” ponders Denys. “Revisit your network.”

Business logic from a man who’s got the T-shirt.

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