James Denny is director at Sales Geek, an award-winning sales training and consultancy firm based in Blackburn which has partnered with Two Zero to deliver the Scale to Sale programme.
Sales Geek is itself a scaleup business. It has grown rapidly in recent years and took part in Two Zero’s Scaleup Resurgence programme, helping it to return to full strength quickly during the pandemic.
In the first of a new Two Zero series understanding the mindset and ambitions of Lancashire’s scaleup leaders, James shares his thoughts on helping to lead a scaleup business, and advice for business owners and managers currently scaling or considering doing so.
What is the most important quality of a scaleup business leader and why?
Growth mindset. No matter what level of career and business journey people have been on, the leaders we work with who achieve the most are those who are proactively seeking to learn every single day, pass those learnings on to their team, and also empower and encourage their teams to learn every day themselves.
How have you grown and developed as a scaleup leader?
Sales Geek has been running Scale to Sale as part of Two Zero for four months. Every session we have run has enabled us (and myself) to learn as much as the leaders on our course. By that, I mean we have learned what has worked well in terms of our delivery, what could be improved for future sessions, and what the outcomes that really make an impact to businesses we work with are.
How do you inspire and empower your people?
- Learning every day and encouraging others to do the same then sharing that learning between us.
- Allowing people to make mistakes (we all learn that way, right)?
- Saying yes more than we say no is important – allowing people to have ideas, their own projects and giving them a go is key to our relentless business growth.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received and why?
When you feel like you can take a break the least is when you need one the most.
This might be as simple as 15 minute walk round the block, a day off or maybe even a week off. If you’re fit, healthy and happy, the work will take care of itself. It’s funny how in work we assume the world will stop turning the minute we step away, but going for a walk or sitting on a sun lounger for a week quickly reminds us everything is okay.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned on your business journey, and how has this impacted you?
Honesty and ethics are everything. Be clear on your own (and your business’s) and live them as well as preaching them. If you are in it for the long term and deliver what you say you will when you say you will, your relationships, partnerships and successes will grow continuously.
Treat customers and suppliers the way you would want to be treated. Do not try to squeeze them – treat them fairly.
What scaleup business do you admire the most and why?
For me, its less about the name and brand. There are many businesses that are scaling right now across the UK and abroad. What I like about them is their similarities. Regardless of what company you look at, or your definition of scale, there are some consistent themes across them all.
- Consistency and evidence of a strategic plan being actioned
- A leadership team zeroed in on a common purpose and direction, and that might include hiring for the purpose of direction, not the job at hand
- A sales, marketing, and product plan to support a one, three and five year plan
- Consistently reviewing that plan and not afraid to challenge and adapt
- Finally, agility! No company scales because it does the same thing time and time again.
What key metrics do you look at everyday in your business?
Pipeline is as important as financial figures. We know our business and if the pipeline is strong we know it feeds the figures we have planned for.
Retention of people / clients / franchisees is as key as acquisition of all of the same.
What is the legacy you want to create?
Sales Geek exists in order to change the way the world perceives sales.
We want to do that for professionals already in sales roles, by inspiring the next generation to aspire to working in the function of sales (and what an incredible opportunity it can be to change your life, travel the world, get involved in wonderful projects).
Through doing this we want to leave a legacy of changing the way the world perceives sales (and I do mean worldwide. We are growing throughout the UK currently and will launch in the USA and Australia in 2022).