Entrepreneurs who think of their lawyers as nothing more than a source of legal advice are missing a trick. They can offer everything from investor introductions and strategic advice to networking opportunities and the occasional glass of wine, says Michael Shapiro, a partner at Nockolds Solicitors.
“Being a lawyer is not just about drafting documents,” he says. “We can offer a much wider understanding of the commercial environment.”
The same is true of accountants, says Kevin Sewell, who has a direct insight into life as an entrepreneur as the director of his own firm, Sewell & Co. He advises SMEs to talk to their accountants about what services and advice they can offer beyond book-keeping and numbers.
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Anyone struggling with a difficult decision or unsure about whether to quit corporate life to set up their own business has a reliable adviser close at hand — their 16-year-old self, according to entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe.
It was a flashback to his teenage years that persuaded the former TV Dragon to set up YO! Sushi after a career that had included roadie, stage designer and television rights salesman, Woodroffe, 62, told an audience of SMEs at the finale of The Times Power in Partnerships project.
“At 16 I was a bit precocious and a bit of a show-off really,” he said. “I would tell [my family] that I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 20. I got to 20 and I thought ‘I will put off being a millionaire until I am 30’.
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Most entrepreneurs start with at least one great idea but a successful long-term business requires ongoing innovation. This is one reason why Postcode Anywhere co-founder Jamie Turner is determined that the company won’t rest on its laurels; too many tech businesses run into strife when they try to protect the past rather than create the future, he says.
For Sachin Bagga and his colleagues at Sabichi Homewares, it has meant growing the company’s own brand alongside the white-label product his business makes for high-street retailers.
Natasha Faith and Zemhal Mikael moved their jewellery business, La Diosa, into a new market when the recession brought new competitors into their niche, while the Classical Comics team found a way to create a popular new product by re-using some of its existing resources.
Long-established traditions need not be a hindrance to fresh ideas, according to the managing director of Anglepoise, the lamp company, and Bell & Loxton, the rapeseed oil business, both of which are family business.
See all the stories in this month’s special, and previous issues, at The Times SME Hub.