"I spent seven years at Innocent Drinks. I was lucky enough to join when it was small, and what an extraordinary experience it was - especially for me, someone who wanted to be an entrepreneur."
That’s from Anthony Fletcher, CEO of Graze, during his recent VOOM Podcast appearance. You know, the company that does those cool, healthy snacks in those smooth, brown boxes. And if there’s a lesson to be learned in what he’s said there, it’s this: it’s ok to get some experience in business before you become an entrepreneur. So often today you’re told to immediately quit your job, and to follow your passion right now. Anthony is proof that there are other ways.
What you can learn by reading this article:
- Getting business experience before you become an entrepreneur is no bad thing.
- Why resiliency is so important for entrepreneurs.
- How being uncompromising can lead to building a robot.
If you'd like to subscribe to the VOOM Podcast then you can do so by heading over to iTunes.
"I think it’s absolutely key that the people in your company buy into the challenge and are up for it, because there will be lots of barriers you have to push through. When you make your rules about what you stand for, you have to stick to them."
There have been a number of postal strikes while Anthony has been running Graze, and as a business which relies on its products being posted through your letterbox, this is a little bit of a problem. But did Anthony give up? Did he just think this whole thing just wasn’t worth it? No and no. Because he, and the people at Graze, believed in what they were doing. The lesson here? As Anthony says, "you have to be resilient".
Every business needs a clear culture
"I’d say these are the characteristics those people have, the people who survive and thrive at Graze."
Pioneering. Curious. Commercial. Resilient. Helpful. Anthony didn’t try to force a culture into Graze, something a lot of entrepreneurs and corporations do. The lesson here is that instead of that, he hired great people, looked at the who who performed brilliantly, and noticed they had some common characteristics. Isn't that an easier way of embedding a culture?
Branding is more than a logo
"In terms of our brand... again, a moment of honesty... it’s something which took us some time. I don’t think we defined it from day one, but I think a part of your brand is listening to your customers, trying different things, how you’re uniquely going to add value in a market. I think it’s been a work in progress for seven years."
So much wisdom! First, you don’t have to have a perfect idea of what your brand is before you launch. Second, your brand is much more than just your logo - it’s actually listening to your customers about what they like and don’t like.
Build yourself a robot
"We had a problem: it was becoming harder and harder to fold all these boxes by hand. We looked into it, and what came back is we could buy a machine to do it. Unfortunately, this machine would produce something that looks like a cereal box, and so it looked more mainstream. Well, we liked our box as it was, so we hired an engineer and he spent a year building a robot. This robot can manufacture cardboard in 60 ways, and it’s how our boxes are folded today."
How’s that for being uncompromising? This links in with two of the above points. One - branding. The boxes were distinct, and customers loved them, so moving away from those could’ve been disastrous, even though it would've been the easier solution. Two - being resilient. They could’ve gone with the "easier" route and switched to more mainstream boxes... but they didn’t want to do that. They wanted to keep their distinctive box they were proud of and that customers loved.
It sounds simple when written here, but can you imagine how much resilience it took to wait for an entire year for that robot to be made?
What else you can hear on the podcast:
- How experimentation led to the worst tasting Graze product of all time.
- How Farmdrop founder Ben Pugh is disrupting the food industry.
- 2015 VOOM award winner Dan Cluderay, and how he built a business based on products past their sell-by date.
This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.