The Business Show 2014! 

On Thursday we descended on ExCeL in London with an estimated 25,000 other business owners, entrepreneurs and start-up fanatics for the Business Show 2014. With more than 250 seminars and 350 exhibitors to choose from we had a lot to see over the two day event. As ever, we were on the hunt for some gems of advice that we could pass on to our followers and with so many keynote speakers we were sure to uncover some!

Last year’s Catalyst Centre tenants soon understood that pitching to investors is something you have to be fully prepared for. It could be the one and only opportunity you have to change your, and your business’s, fortunes in an instant. So, when we came across Angels Den at the Business Show we couldn’t resist taking a peek.

Bill Morrow, CEO of Angels Den, kicked off the session with an interesting talk on ‘what not to do when trying to secure investment’. He gave some great insights into exactly what Angels look for which we’ve summarised as:

  1. Your business plan should be no more than two pages – keep it simple and focused.
  2. You need to have a driving passion for your idea.
  3. You need a sense of owning and learning from your mistakes.
  4. You shouldn’t set unrealistic figures although it is highly unlikely that any start-up would know what its cash-flow will look like in three months, let alone three years’ time!

Prior to the show, businesses were asked to apply for the chance to pitch to Angels Den investors at ExCeL. The brave entrepreneurs who were successful would have the added pressure of pitching in front of a live audience at the show in the hope of getting financial backing for their businesses.

The angels were in their element when pitching began and it reminded us that we mustn’t forget that investors won’t make it easy for you – you need to be fully prepared and really know your stuff if they are going to part with their hard-earned cash. Their questions all seemed to focus on aspects that we’ve discussed here at the Catalyst Centre before, such as: having a viable business idea, the route to market, financials and leveraging growth, planning, intellectual property and how it will be protected, customer satisfaction and service delivery. They also wanted to know why business owners preferred the idea of angel investment instead of a traditional bank loan. Of course, it all amounted to whether the business was viable and going to make money. Sometimes, it was difficult to watch those who were a little less prepared for their pitch but we take our hats off to all who got involved and wish them the best of luck!

We also enjoyed hearing how supermodel Caprice knew she had little knowledge of business at the start but her good old Californian optimism was enough to convince her that her business would be a success. And we also found a talk by Faisal Butt, Shell Livewire’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, really inspiring. As Co-founder of venture capital firm HBRE with celebrity entrepreneur and former Dragon James Caan, he shared his thoughts on how it was ok to fail but so important to learn from your mistakes.

To finish, here are some more hints and tips that we picked up during our busy and fun packed two days at Excel. We hope they provide you with some food for thought and some good advice for networking.

  1. Your product or service needs to be driven by the customer.
  2. Evolve – make sure you have a plan.
  3. Can you sum up what you do in a simple sentence? Keep your message simple – if you don’t get it your customers certainly won’t.
  4. Talk TO, don’t talk AT when networking – it’s about having a conversation, not touting for business.
  5. Ask yourself: do I have a good story?
  6. Effective networking isn’t a numbers game. Having one valuable conversation is better than cruising the room trying to talk to everyone and achieving nothing.
  7. Always remember your USP – what is it that makes you different?
  8. Head, Hearts and Minds!
  9. Hard work is a given.
  10. Live and breathe your brand.
  11. Put pressure on your team to always deliver your promise.
  12. Be transparent.
  13. Make mistakes – but learn from them.
  14. Understand your market well and know how to reach it.
  15. Having a strategy is important.
  16. It’s all about Give and Take. For every pearl of wisdom you receive, give one of your own away.
  17. If the event calls for you to make a 60 second elevator pitch, practise, practise, practise!
  18. It takes longer to recover the damage you do with a weak handshake than it does to learn to give a firm one!

Well if all this has got you thinking, don’t forget – there are only a few weeks left until Catalyst Centre applications close!