Q & A: Ian Hargreaves

What’s your background?

I left college at 18 intending to work for a year and then take up my place at Leeds University to study law, but I discovered I loved working in business so I decided to carry on. Since then I’ve had roles ranging from sales executive to managing director and I have worked in businesses from start-ups to a global Plc, but predominantly I’ve spent my time helping to run owner managed SMEs.

What’s your area of expertise?

Whilst I grew up in sales, I believe my greatest asset is my genuinely broad commercial experience. The nature of running SMEs is such that even if you have a clearly defined role in one area you are ultimately involved in every aspect of the business.

How do you help others develop their businesses?

I’ve always been involved in businesses at a time when they wanted to change the way they operate and I have been responsible for leading much of that change. What I have learnt from this is that whilst generally accepted commercial principles should apply to every business, the specific detail of how to implement them is always very different. So now I help business owners create and implement business development plans that are tailor-made for them.

What’s it like working with you?

I am very passionate about what I do, and that’s always obvious to any client. I’m a hard task master, it’s about results first and foremost. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable.
One client described it as like being on a rollercoaster ride – exciting, full of ups and downs, scary at times, lots of fun, but ultimately very rewarding. I’m happy with that analogy!

Who are your clients?

Since 2007 we have worked with over 150 businesses as diverse as design agencies and specialist industrial machinery manufacturers. The smallest is £100k turnover and the largest to date £30 million, but most are between £1 million to £10 million.

What do you expect from your clients?

Commitment, integrity and honesty.

What do you think is the key to business development?

Having a plan and taking consistent focused activity against it.

What do you dream of doing?

I’m originally from Burnley, so one dream would be to own Burnley Football Club and run it like a ’proper’ business. I would also like to be a genuine business angel, someone who invests time and money in worthwhile businesses without taking equity or reward. Oh and be fluent in Italian!

What is your approach?

My approach is really quite simple. Firstly I talk to the business owners in order to find out exactly what it is they want to achieve, and then we look at their business to find out what is currently happening. Next we write a detailed action plan and finally I support them through delivering on their plan.

The first step is usually for the business owner to take our business healthcheck, my unique diagnostic tool, so that we can then chat through their results.