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The Happy Entrepreneur – Dominic Monkhouse (and why it’s relevant to schools)!

Sep 24, 2012

It was a great pleasure recently to attend a Wow Network event with keynote speaker Dom.  Billed as ‘The Happy Entrepreneur’ his talk promised to give us some insights into how he has managed to improve the results of many organisations and it delivered that in spades.

As one of the founders of Rackspace, the market-leading hosting provider, Dom grew the business from 4 to 150 staff in just a few years before leaving to become the MD of IT Lab. When Dom joined the business it was losing £65,000 per month, but just 24 months later it was making profit and winning awards for its customer service.
Now UK Managing Director of global web hosting provider, PEER1, Dom has again been instrumental in the successful growth of the business, seeing it increase to almost 100 employees in just 3 years and achieving annual revenue of £22m.

There were so many excellent ideas meaning that there was ‘something for everyone’ that came along.  However, what I found particularly poignant was that when I looked back on the points raised each one of them is as applicable to a school as it is to a commercial business.

The particular points that resonated most with me though were as follows:

  • Accept responsibility for a situation or issue because until you do that you can’t deal with it.  I think we’ve all been faced with a person who simply wishes to apportion blame at anyone else’s doorstep but their own and, whilst they’re busy doing that, they’re not dealing with resolving the problem.  Focus on dealing with the matter in hand.
  • Not losing customers (pupils) is the best way to increase profits.  Sounds ridiculously simple, when put like that, but it’s true isn’t it?  It’s a well-known statistic that it costs you three times as much to gain a new customer than it does to retain an existing one and, due to things I’ll cover in a moment, the existing ones can be even more valuable than just the business they place with you.
  • Who are your apostles?  Who are the customers (parents) who are out there telling others about the fantastic product or service you have to offer?  They may not, and in fact often aren’t, your biggest customers but the amount of business they can bring your way could make them more valuable than you imagined.
  • Empowerment, coaching and having high standards all impact massively on the financial performance of a company.  It was my biggest frustration at Barclays that they talked incessantly about empowering the front-line, customer facing, staff but the reality was nothing like the rhetoric.
  • Attention to detail.  I’m not suggesting you need to be OCD about things but how often do you go into someone’s offices to see boxes lying around, things not working and no one playing a blind bit of notice?  If you pay attention and care about your surroundings, people will notice.
  • One of the most interesting points Dom raised was with regard to staff and who should stay and who should go.  The two questions Dom asks himself are 1) knowing what I know now about person A would I still hire them and 2) if he/she left tomorrow would I re-hire them?  If you answer ‘no’ to either or both of those questions then get rid of them – now!  Be brutally honest with yourself and them.  You never know they might thank you for it!
  • Dom gave an interesting anecdote from the book ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell which gave me pause for thought.  “Doing something for 10,000 hours makes you an expert”.  I still have some way to go to be expert in some of the areas I’d like to be!
  • One area Dom talked about which was of particular interest to me was about the set of values they have at Peer1.
  •  Enable others to succeed
  • Every interaction matters
  • Strive for excellence
  • Sense of fun and play
  • Anything is possible

The reason this is of interest to me is that even though Minerva is relatively small at this point I do feel it’s extremely important to have a set of values which I and all the future employees can look to.  I’m about to embark on a Skillshare course run by Jenn Lim, CEO of the DH Movement,  in order to work with a number of like-minded individuals to draw up Minerva’s set of values.  Watch this space on that!

  • One final point Dom made was with regard to triangulation – it just doesn’t happen in Peer1.  In other words there are no 3-way conversations.  No gossiping or bitching behind people’s backs.  If you have something to say you say it to someone directly.

Overall this was yet another informative, fun and fact packed event from the Wow Company and my thanks go to Dom Monkhouse who gave me pause for thought on many aspects of my business as well as reassurance that I was on the right lines with others.  Indeed, looking back at the advice given it is clear to me that, as I mentioned out the outset, these words of wisdom are as applicable to schools as they are to the wider business community.  Food for thought……

Category: Events

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