You simply can’t buy friendship

This year we, the Clifton businesses, will be celebrating 30 years since our very humble beginnings. Over that time, we have grown steadily, if unspectacularly, from a one-man band ‘kitchen table’ start up, to employing around 100 staff and a group turnover likely to comfortably exceed £7 million this year.
Over the years we have seen so many businesses come and go, and so many ‘new’ new things arrive in the financial world, and often disappear again, that it’s hard not to be just a bit cautious about whatever today’s great new innovation is, as it’s likely that it won’t be around in five years or so.
That said, many things have stood the test of time. Friendship is one of them, with some of our staff having been here almost as long as the business itself.
Our group Managing Director, for instance, Neil Greenaway, joined me straight from school as a 17 year old with no experience and a stack of ambition a mile high. That was some 28 years ago. Over all that time not only has he worked his way up to becoming MD and my equal in shareholding, and business partner in our various ventures, but he has never once wavered in his belief in the business and the people in it, nor have we ever had a cross word.
You simply can’t buy friendship, loyalty and commitment like that.
Or our FD, Ellis Organ, who came to us 18 years ago at a time when we were putting out fires all over the place. To him fell the task of tempering the ambitions of the entrepreneurs on the board with the hard reality of managing the cash available, and often getting us out of scrapes when business ventures that we hadn’t thought through properly blew up in our faces. An unenviable task delivered uncomplainingly over all these years.
Both of these guys go unmentioned in most of our customer-facing comms as their role is to make the business really work, at a nuts and bolts level, but without them, and many others like them, we simply wouldn’t be here.
So when I am asked, as I frequently am, what I think the secret of success in small business might be, I could answer with all the usual stuff about a vision, determination, innovation and the rest. And yes, they are necessary components in delivering your dream.
But you rarely always get it right first time round, so stuff can and will go wrong. And that’s when you need the other must haves, friendship, commitment and loyalty without question, going both ways between you and your colleagues. If you do have that then you actually do have a pretty good shout at making it to the 30 year mark too.