Getting to know you: James Constant

What do you currently do?
I’m MD of Business Juice, the business to business energy broker and Chair of, the education website for businesses to improve understanding of the long term impact of changes in the energy market

What is your inspiration in business?
To shake things up a bit! My background is energy so my experience is a market dominated by a number of large players. Having run independent energy supply businesses I have first hand knowledge of how challenging it is to break that stranglehold and how, ultimately, the customer loses out through lack of competition, innovation and quality.

I was inspired to establish Business Juice and to help businesses themselves create competition and quality in the market by exercising their right to choose winners and losers. In addition the market we operate in is too complicated, unnecessarily so, and this has led to my lobbying the regulator, the suppliers, parliament, and other parties for change to help make UK business more competitive.

Who do you admire?
As a child Sir John Harvey Jones is the person who opened my eyes to business being more than just a job. He wasn’t a role model as such, but he taught me very clearly that it can be a small change or a massive overhaul that makes the difference to a business but, regardless of that it’s about objective and dispassionate analysis and strong decision making.

In terms of actual role models James Hunt, the former F1 champion, was and remains a person I much admire hugely. That is mainly for his tenacity and determination, but also for his conviction to do things his way, and to not conform to bogus forms.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
In 2008, putting BizzEnergy – which at the time was a £180m turnover business with 220 employees and the largest independent business energy supply – into administration was a difficult time.

The business was probably beyond redemption given the economic sentiment of the time, but what rankles to this day is that if it smells wrong, it is. Don’t allow the question to go unanswered is a mantra that all my guys have suffered from ever since!

What defines your way of doing business?
I thought one of my guys summed it up brilliantly recently when they questioned whether the pile of handwritten paper diagrams, analyses and commentary on my desk was the work of a madman or a genius!

In truth though, my approach is to smile whenever possible, bring a personality to business, to challenge and be happy to be challenged, to think the business before doing the business, and ultimately to strive for improvement all the while.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

There’s an immense amount of advice I would give to anyone, at any stage in his or her working life but critically I would say:

  • Be yourself
  • Don’t chase salary, chase experience
  • The most valuable bosses to learn from are the worst bosses, suffer them, learn from them, and put in place steps to avoid repeating their pitfalls. Sadly, the vast majority of managers share those pitfalls; happily it only takes a little effort to stand out from the crowd
  • Inspiration is all around you, read about the things you are passionate about, leadership will spring out at you whether it’s snowboarding, theatre, football or gardening. There is inspiration everywhere and true leadership doesn’t come in a suit, a management fable or an MBA.
  • Avoid politics and business buzzwords, if you find you spend most of your day critiquing your colleagues or using formulaic language it is never too late to take a break, reinvent, and allow yourself to blossom.
  • Smile, be nice, embrace innocent mistakes and failures and learn, learn, learn