Type of company: We provide finance and advice to help marketing, media and technology businesses grow,
Year founded: 2001
Number of employees: 10
Location: London, Singapore
What is the startup story behind Pembridge Partners LLP?
A bunch of us who’d been there and done it before in terms of building marketing, media and technology businesses were all looking to change direction in early 2001. We got together a series of dinners for people that we liked, then came up with the proposition for Pembridge afterwards based on a match between our skillsets, the kind of working life we wanted and – most important – a market niche that seemed empty.
What is your definition of success and has your company achieved it?
One of my partners used to have a business card that said his name, plus “Helping People Make Their Business Dreams Come True”. I guess that’s still our definition of success. Because we share in the risks and the rewards of our clients and investees’ businesses as we help them to build and realise value, our success is directly linked to theirs.
To what do you attribute your company’s recent achievements?.
I think we are ruthlessly honest with each other and our clients.
How important have good employees and team members been to your success?
The team is everything. We have a mix of skills and experience and over eight years working together we are yet to find a situation where none out of the Partners has not been there and done it before. Some people try – and manage – to do a little of what we do alone but it’s a lot more fun this way.
What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you think you want to run your own business, give it a try and do not fear ‘failure’. The test of a true entrepreneur is when you get up after one business has not worked out and start another one: most people don’t succeed until they get to their third or fourth business. Get some external advice – nobody can see the wood for the trees on their own.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Like all investors we have made duff investments: we believe in every company we back but also recognise that statistically only perhaps one in ten will rocket and at least one in ten will bomb. We’ve learned from that experience that the team is what we invest in – we don’t back ideas, business plans or brilliant bits of technology. It’s a team of people who can follow through and still deliver when the world turns out different from how they expected that matters.
Describe/outline your typical day?
I’m based out of Singapore so I have the luxury of starting my day pretty consistently with warm sunshine. I like to start early, doing anything creative or that needs focussed thought in the morning before the UK folks wake up. It suits my metabolism to take a siesta, so I often do that, then when I get up for round 2 in the day I deal with all the emails and calls to companies that I support as a non executive director during their morning back in the UK.
Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it?
Initially our capital came from the founding Partners, of which I am one. As we’ve helped entrepreneurs to grow and realise the value in their businesses, increasingly they want to come back and invest in the next generation of businesses we are nurturing. That’s great – we hadn’t expected it to work quite as neatly as that.
What stops you from throwing in the towel and giving up during those frustrating days of running your business?
Having Partners and colleagues that I can be honest with, that I know inside out and who know me. It’s so much better than running a business alone as I did previously.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Yes there is a very established growth path for businesses. None of it is rocket science. I’d be happy to share it with anyone interested.
Who has influenced you most and been your greatest inspiration?
No one individual has been a mentor or similar to me but I’ve been lucky enough to meet people who have shared little pearls of wisdom that I have collected. The latest came from a friend and very successful business man here in Singapore – John Bittleston. He taught me to ask clients a very simple question: “What do you want from me?” It’s unbelievably powerful: don’t change the words at all – just say it unthreateningly and it will unlock the information you need to know to make a sale.
What book has inspired you the most?
“A New Earth” by Eckart Tolle
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Virtually all our work comes through referrals, so we do everything we can to encourage that using conversational marketing techniques.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I admire anyone who starts any business whatsoever, whether it’s a market stall or a multinational. We would still be living in caves if nobody was prepared to give something new a try.
How do you achieve balance in your life? Or do you?
I am achieving a better balance by being part of a team that genuinely makes balance a priority. It doesn’t happen on its own and I am lucky enough to have found Partners who balance drive with humanity.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years? 10 years?
I believe we will still be backing entrepreneurs on both those timescales. Along the way some of our investments will have matured, some will have tanked and we’ll have made a lot of new friends.
What’s your exit strategy?
There are elements of our business that could be hived off and that possibility is part of our strategy but the core investment business achieves a continuous run of investment/divestment opportunities so there is no need to force a specific end point.
If we could introduce you to anyone, who would it be and why? (you never know who we know!)
I would like to meet the next generation of entrepreneurs with energy, enthusiasm and passion for their businesses to that we can back them.