Getting to know you: Andrew Shaw

What do you currently do?
I am Managing Director of Business Services Growth (BSG), a consulting firm focused exclusively on helping companies in the business services sector to grow. These are companies that provide services such as building maintenance, facilities management, business process outsourcing and IT Services to other organisations. I established BSG to help companies in the sector to overcome the unique challenges that they face and to capture the opportunities that the market offers.

What is your inspiration in business?
I am inspired by the prospect of being able to say: “I built a successful business”. Having worked both as a consultant and in industry for many years, I had become disillusioned by corporate life. I was working with a personal coach (Polly James, a former actress) at the time and she suggested that a clear path for me would be to run my own business.

I became intrigued, the idea took root and I setup on my own, starting BSG with just enough money behind me to pay the bills for a few months. I found my first client quite quickly and am now thrilled to be building a sustainable business from nothing other than ideas and hard work.

Who do you admire?
I don’t have one idol in particular, but I do admire a number of people for different reasons. I love reading biographies and have three particular favourites: “The Snowball”, which is about Warren Buffett, whom I admire for his financial genius, sharp intellect and rational approach; “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, which describes Jobs’ amazing energy, vision and absolute commitment to quality; and “Flying Scotsman”, the story of cyclist Graeme Obree who, through sheer determination, courage and hard work, achieved great things on a bike made of spare parts from a washing machine!

Looking back would you have done things differently?
Only one thing … when I first started my business, my original idea was to help medium-sized companies, in any sector, to grow. It was a good idea, and I’m still passionate about the role of mid-sized businesses in the UK economy, but I wasn’t capitalising enough on my own experience. Therefore, after a few months, I re-branded and re-positioned my business. That took time and money, but proved very worthwhile as we learnt a lot. If I had my time again, I would have chosen a more tightly-defined market from the outset.

What defines your way of doing business?
I have a number of principles that I use for running my business – mostly relating to managing clients. The top three are:

I. Put the client’s business first. Like a doctor, our job is to work with clients, leaving them in better health as a result. That means focusing on their business before thinking about our own.

II. Provide simple, practical solutions. We help clients to overcome complex issues, but that doesn’t mean that the solutions need to be complex too. My prior experience of working in this industry taught me that straightforward solutions work best.

III. Keep your promises. Reliability is key to building trusted advisor relationships. So, I wont make a promise that I can’t keep and, when I do make a promise, I make sure I keep it!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Try different things, and don’t get stuck. For example, we have tried various different marketing tactics, and we are still exploring new ideas, but we are learning what works and what doesn’t. It takes time to find out what really works, so you need to be creative, be bold, experiment and don’t be afraid of change.