Getting to know you: Ryan Kohn

What do you currently do?
Running a business like PROPERCORN which is still very much in its infancy stage means that my role is hugely varied. Day to day, I look after the business aspect of the company managing cash flow, analysing sales data, measuring targets, calculating spend and overseeing operations. These allow me to gain a really good understanding of where the business is at any given time which enables me to evaluate the business strategy on a regular basis. Beyond this, my time will always be shared on important issues over seeing things like recruitment, managing existing employees, marketing strategy, production etc. All in all, every day is pretty full on but I love every minute of it.

What is your inspiration in business?
I get my inspiration in business from wanting to be successful so that I can give back to the world and focus my attention on doing something that makes a difference. I feel very fortunate to be the co-founder of a great start up like Propercorn and it excites me to think about the things we are doing to give back. However, even beyond my Propercorn years, I have further ideas that I would love to implement in the charitable sector that really drive me.

Who do you admire?
The four people that spring to mind instantly can be split in to two categories, two people who you will no doubt have heard of and two people who are every day heroes for me. Starting with the well known individuals, I have always been in complete awe of Nelson Mandela. I read his auto-biography at an early age and I was fascinated that someone could give up everything including his own life for what he believed in. As humans I think this is one of the hardest things we can do. This might be a business cliche but Richard Branson is another person I really admire. He is an example of someone who is hugely successful but also does things the right way and has married his success with giving things back to society in a number of ways. This for me is the way that businesses should be run.

Finally my everyday heroes who I admire are my parents. They are both testament to the ‘power of nice’ in business and they have always encouraged me to do the right thing in life. They have supported me in every way possible and I feel truly grateful for that.

Looking back would you have done things differently?
I can’t say that I would have done things differently, not because I haven’t made mistakes, I have made plenty, but because if it wasn’t for those mistakes, I wouldn’t have learnt from them. Also, happiness in work is such an important thing and to be able to say that I look forward to going to work every day is not something I would risk losing by doing something different in my past.

What defines your way of doing business?
I really believe that businesses success and good morals can go hand in hand. I have been fortunate enough to experience good and bad moments in business but whether my experience was a good one or not, has only served to shape this belief further. It would give me no personal satisfaction to build a business based on immoral conduct in whatever form and I really think a business should not only be honest in the way it acts but also have an awareness for society and where possible give back. To know that something you are building is also affecting others in a good way is such a great motivation and will not only increase you personal desire to succeed but also that of your employees.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I would offer three pieces of early advice to someone starting out. One, do your best to speak to people in your chosen industry and take them for a coffee if possible to pick their brains. You can learn so much from mistakes they might have already made which will save you time and money. We were lucky enough to have met some great people in our industry with out whom, we would not be where we are today as a business.

Two, make sure you don’t get too bogged down in the admin, day to day jobs. Build a structure that means you can always focus a good portion of your week to strategy and driving the business forward. Day to day work is inevitable but if you can’t find some time to think about your strategy and targets, then no one else will and this will undoubtedly hold your business back.

Three, when you get to the stage of employing people, be picky and make sure when you find the right person, you look after them. Building a team of people who believe and share in your vision is invaluable. Your business is only going to be as good as the team who runs it.