Getting to know you: Adrian Kingwell

What do you currently do?
I am the MD of Mezzo Labs, one of the UK’s top web analytics agencies. Most of my day is spent recruiting the best talent to support our growth: searching through CVs, interviewing candidates, enrolling new starters… There is a terrific skills shortage in our sector – finding exactly the right people takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s well worth it.

What is your inspiration in business?
I read Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness” and it struck a chord. The way he built Zappos to be a happy business, an incubator for employee talent, gave me the courage to do the same with Mezzo Labs. When I read it, it was like a light went on. At that time, I was really struggling with low staff morale, high attrition rates, but this book showed me I had to dig far deeper in the interview process to attract the right people in the first place. Now that we have happy staff, everything flows. We do smarter things with analytics, we deliver higher value projects for our clients and we are growing at a phenomenal rate.

Who Do You Admire?
I admire anyone who creates value and succeeds by not following the crowd. That takes great courage. I admire many tech entrepreneurs who have built incredible businesses, but the stand-out for me is Elon Musk. I don’t know anyone who is putting a greater ding in the universe than him. Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop… Incredible. And he is only 43!

Looking Back, Would You Have Done Things Differently?
Sure, many things… I would have been braver, I would have focused sooner, I would not have gone into business with friends, I would not have hired staff in haste (only to find they quit on me weeks later). But looking back, I needed to learn those lessons. Failure is a great teacher. And taking a few punches not only toughens you up, but it gives you confidence and courage in the future. Courage is ultimately what it is all about. Fortune favours the brave.

What Defines Your Way of Doing Business?
Trust is core. Everyone tells you it’s all about cashflow or profitability, but if your employees don’t trust you, if your clients don’t believe you are truly doing the right thing for them, you have no cash, no profit, and no business. I have to trust people. Sometimes I get stung, but that’s ok. On balance, 9 times out of 10, I get greater rewards from trusting people than from screwing them into the floor with contracts and process.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Two things: “Be brave” and “Keep at it”. Wins are binary in the early days… One or zero. it doesn’t take much to turn a bad day into a good one. One sale. One customer that says wow, you did a great job. So when you have your bad days, be brave and keep at it. Keep doing the right thing. If you are right, you will get that binary win. And if you don’t, well, you have a lesson that no business school could teach you and you will be much better for it next time.