The day I realised The Body Shop was moving away from just being a livelihood to a business, with all that that implies, I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to make it bold and brave and different. Not just big, but brave. I have come across an expressionrecently – ‘Small Giants’ – and that says it all. Small is the new big!
When you are hell-bent on maximising growth, or when you bring in a lot of outside capital, or when you take your company public, you give away much of your freedom. As the head of a public or venture-backed company, you’re responsible to outside shareholders whose interests you must always consider. As the head of a very fast-growing company, you’re a slave to the business, which has tremendous needs. People who choose to keep their companies private and closely held and to place other goals ahead of growth get two things back in return: control and time. The combination equals freedom.
When you are in the start-up phase you have to know what you want out of the business and that is what you focus on. Focus, as I explain later in the magazine, is one of the characteristics of success that is continually kept under the radar screen, but without it you are just not going to happen. Also in this early phase much of what is required is passion. ‘Passion persuades’ is our rallying cry today in The Body Shop. You absolutely have to love whatever it is that the business does and you have to care deeply so as everything you do is done as well as it can be. Keep rooted in the community, have a close connection with the area in which you do business. This is more than the usual conceptof giving back – you will also find that the community helps to mould the character of the business.
Really shape your relationships with employees, customers andsuppliers. Putting an emphasis on personal contact – belly-to-belly communications, one-on-one interactions that will create a sense of common purpose. Great companies, small and large, treat their suppliers and employees with dignity, respect, kindness and generosity.
When you start your own business you will find your role changes almost overnight from 75 per cent entrepreneurial and 25 per cent managerial to the reverse. You will realise then that your major job is finding and hiring people who have skills that are better than yours. That is when you can start getting rid of the demons that say you have to do as much as possible yourself, and start to delegate.