Q&A: The rise of the silver entrepreneur

While innovative technology start-ups are often associated with the ‘young guns’ of the entrepreneur world, Adrian Hobbs, founder of employee engagement and digital solutions firm, Workvine, proves this is not always the case. At a “youngish” 60 years old Adrian, who is currently on his sixth start-up, has been a serial entrepreneur for all his working life. Accumulating knowledge throughout his years of experience and a constant passion for new business has helped him achieve results. Here, he shares his advice for those looking to start their own business on how to achieve success, overcome challenges and the makings of creating your own company.

  1. What motivated you to start your own business?

In the early days it began with necessity. I was motivated to start my own business with a strong drive for success and the desire to control and govern my own destiny. Creating your own business can offer power and flexibility often with no restriction. Previously I had enjoyed working in various sales roles and I have always maintained if one can sell a product then that’s half the battle in business. The key to remember is that starting your own company is a combination of sales ability, appetite, the desire to succeed and bravery. If you have all of these and the ability to identify opportunity then I think you are heading in the right direction.

  1. What was have been your biggest challenges?

In one start-up I faced a tough decision to make 50% of my staff redundant in order to save the other half, after the financial crisis hit. I felt responsible, but also knew it was a decision we had to make in order to keep the company alive and I have learnt that this is the harsh reality of business sometimes. Another challenge I found was making the exit sale from one business to the acquirer. The financial reward element acts as a large pressure and during the process you’re left not knowing whether a sale will go through right through to completion on three occasions it was very energy sapping,  but practicing patience and trusting the process was a learning curve for me.

  1. What has been your greatest achievement to date?

There are two big achievements to date. One was selling our first business to a FTSE 100 company, Securicor Plc. The second was selling another start-up company to a New York based, NASDAQ listed business. Both were large, reputable global corporations that wanted to buy a company that we created. They saw what we had started from nothing and turned into innovative, admirable, desirable and rapid growth companies, which I am proud of.

  1. What would be your advice for someone looking to start up a business?

Think long and hard about the decision before you make the jump and set-up on your own. If you really are confident in your product or proposition, go for it. The thing with business that I have learned throughout the years is that while you can’t predict the outcome, you can control most of it. Often youth, ambition and money are the characteristics associated with entrepreneurs, but many tend to forget when initially setting up a company there is a large element of hard sales involved. To be successful you need to have the appetite and “get up and go” drive. If not you will be sat waiting for the phone to ring.

  1. How do you define success?

Ultimately, it starts with having some financial choices and freedom to make decisions. At the age I’m at, I have made myself unemployable so I decide when I work, what days and the time I start and it’s the autonomy I enjoy. Of course, it didn’t start out that way, years of extremely hard work have taken me to this point but I certainly couldn’t be sat at home all day. Another way I define success is seeing my employees go from strength to strength and and making decisions that make the new business prosper particularly my current team who have served me loyally for more than 15 years each. I always say to my team “Imagine this is your business, how would you run your own business?” What results do you want? That is what you work to achieve.

  1. What kind of culture do you like to maintain in the workplace?

Two things to me are very important, firstly a culture of ‘empowered employees’ given freedom and not micromanaged. Secondly, a non-political environment where there’s no place for office politics. Focusing on the relationships you have with your employees and ensuring they are engaged will help any organisation increase workplace productivity and attitudes too, as opposed to a ‘command and control style’, which is also what spurred me to create my own business. Some days they will leave early and some days stay later, it’s about the work your staff put in and recognition that it is a two way street. If you offer freedom, your employees will also respect and reciprocate this.

  1. What does the future hold for Workvine and yourself?

So far, Workvine has exceeded my expectations – coming into the market as a brand new start-up and producing a turnover of £1.2 million in its first year. We took on 14 new staff, with the aim to create a high growth digital solutions business but also nurture the team’s development, help them achieve their goals and progress further. Aged 60, I have created six businesses with the help of some very special employees who became Directors, and while I might still have a few working years left in me, I think watching my current employees grow as people and in their careers is something I will enjoy. It allows me to also take more of a backseat, and I want to trust the business is in safe hands. After all, something I’ve learned throughout my career is, if you look after the people then the business will look after you.

Adrian Hobbs, Chairman of employee engagement specialist company, Workvine