How much energy do you need to be an entrepreneur?

It’s interesting to look back on your career and see the moments or people that made a difference. I do it a lot these days. We are in the early stages of an exciting growth plan at Saberr and I’m always looking for inspiration.

One of the people who inspired me was my old boss. Rosaleen Blair is the CEO of Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS). She disrupted the recruitment industry on a significant scale. Recruitment is usually provided on a case-by-case basis. You need a role. You engage an agent. They fill it (you hope). Goodbye.

This can be transactional for both parties. Rosaleen saw there was a space in the market for longer-term partnerships. She created a business that has gone through three successful management buyouts. AMS recently secured new partners in New Mountain Capital valuing the company at £260 million. Growth continues at over 30 per cent. The success is undeniable.

What do I take away from working with her?  

You need energy. A ton of energy.

If you are starting a business you need to be relentless. I didn’t realise just how much until I took a driving seat. The cliché about highs and low when starting a business are true. The way you manage this is by having lots of energy. I’ll never have the same natural levels as Rosaleen. She can keep 50 plates spinning at any one time. But I’m conscious of keeping my energy levels high.

Ask forgiveness not permission.

This was one of the most common phrases uttered by Rosaleen. It has stayed with me. Luckily, in my new role I don’t have complex governance processes to follow. But it’s also stayed with me as I think about empowering others. For example our CTO, Nik, is Serbian. He had an intuition that there may be good tech talent in Serbia. We encouraged Nik to spend time meeting people in Belgrade. Rosaleen’s expression “ask forgiveness not permission” was ringing in my ears. The result? Nik found the “Serbian Sealz” -  a crack unit of high quality technologists that now work with us. Great job Nik - keep asking forgiveness.

Hire the best and listen.

One of the characteristics that matters to me in colleagues is the ability to reflect and reconsider. I knew that when I had conversations with Rosaleen she reflected on them. She listened. Sometimes she didn’t follow my advice but she listened. This enabled her to attract great people. It was always clear that she wanted to attract the best. She aimed high. I’m aware that the skills to deliver our strategy go well beyond mine. If we continue to attract great people and we listen - that’s another useful lesson.

My family has a favourite Japanese restaurant - Akari. There’s a poster that always strikes me on the way downstairs. It states: "Work Hard and Be Nice to People". It’s not that simple but I think Rosaleen would agree with the sentiment.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms  for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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