Five minutes with Ben Blomerley. Talking entrepreneurial leaders
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
We continue our "entrepreneurial leader" blog series with our CTO Ben Blomerley.
Ben is the co-founder and COO for @HelloMOHARA, who support start-ups and larger businesses in building tech products in uncertain environments. In addition to his role as COO, he is also involved in various client projects, playing various ‘fractional’ C-suite roles with the businesses MOHARA partners with.
1. Which new venture have you developed, that you most proud of - and why?
There are several here for sure! We grew Quick Release from 10 people (when I joined) to over 200 now, and a successful exit. MOHARA is super-exciting, as we mature our position in the market and the business, we can see what we’re doing start to resonate. And I obviously love Kandu! But I am most proud of my first #startup, AskHerFriends. It was an online gifts marketplace, and in retrospect doomed to failure from the start (it was finally wound up in 2016, after nearly five years), but I did it, I made that leap and walked away from a cushy corporate job.
2. How would you identify an ‘entrepreneurial leader’?
I think #entrepreneurialleaders can actually be found in all walks of life. The #leadership aspect really boils down to how you build and grow a culture, never getting someone in your team to do something that you wouldn’t willingly do yourself, never leaving someone exposed, but also making decisions quickly. I remember when Quick Release was expanding into the US, and we had some hard decisions to make – my brother, who is CEO, went out to the US for a week, and ended up staying for three months (he has a wife and family). Really hard decisions, and wouldn’t have asked anyone else to do it, but he put himself out there as an example.
As for being #entrepreneurial, this really comes from balancing risks, and then being prepared to take them. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you ignore risk, in fact, the good ones are hyper-focused on them. But you’re realistic about risk – if this project has 80% chance of success, but can give me 500% returns, it’s probably worth taking. Reckless entrepreneurs don’t last long, but entrepreneurs are risk-takers – and the good ones are very clear and calculating about those risks.
So, an entrepreneurial leader is one who balances risk, acts on that appraisal, and goes the extra mile – for their team, their customers and their business.
3. What do you think are the most important skills and/or attributes that make up a successful entrepreneurial leader?
So, clearly this is linked to the first question. Firstly, what have they done that’s extraordinary? Where have they gone above and beyond? It’s not just about long hours, it’s about really putting yourself on the line, without hesitation, and without expectation of others. Can you judge if someone would do that? I once worked with someone who talked about the ‘big hairy audacious goal’, and ‘if we’re going to do this, I want to beat Google’ … yet would work 9 to 6 maximum, and wanted to get his beach body ready for the summer.
Secondly, how well can they calculate odds? They don’t need to be a Rain Man, beating the casino, but they need to look dispassionately at the odd and take a calculated chance. It’s no wonder that the Army makes so many good leaders – when you’re really in it, the odds matter, and choosing well, and decisively, is the ballgame.
4. Which of these skills or attributes, speaking from your own experience, are developed through nurture or nature?
I’m such a big believer in nurture. I think all of these mainly grow from nurture.
5. What top tips or ‘hacks’ do you have for anyone wanting to make small changes now to be more entrepreneurial or to create entrepreneurial cultures for their teams?
The biggest hack, by far the biggest, is to really appraise your life, and what you want / how much you need for that. I’ve spoken to lots of people about the ‘number’. If you want to guarantee that you'll have nice holidays and a good car, then being an entrepreneur isn’t for you. I don’t believe you go into being an entrepreneur because you want the biggest house on the street. You want something more than that.
If you want to guarantee that you'll have nice holidays and a good car, then being an entrepreneur isn’t for you.
Above £20k per year (or so – don’t quote my maths) your absolute needs are met, give or take 5 years life expectancy. So if you can deal with that – deal with your old classmate who you hated making 6 figures – then you’ve made the first step. You’ve calculated a risk – security, keeping up with the Jones’ - and taken it.
6. How can big organisations better support their potential entrepreneurial leaders, and why should they do that?
Why would an organisation want more people who can take calculated risks, and inspire those around them, all for a bigger goal? Well, if they can’t work that out for themselves, then they don’t deserve entrepreneurial leaders.
As for the steps to better support entrepreneurial leaders – it’s all about cost of capital, and pay off periods. These simple equations favoured by business schools hold the answer, albeit inverted. Equity investments have the highest returns and require being held for the longest periods. Change your investment appraisal models, make space with investors or stakeholders for different return profiles, then you can give entrepreneurial leaders the chance to develop (and fail, and try again, and eventually win).
Larger businesses are not geared up to deliver in situations where there are uncertain outcomes, because the supporting capital view that poorly. In short, they geared against #innovation. Clearly, there are risks, and new appraisal models are needed to understand whether progress is being made, but, as they say in Norwold, “he who hesitates is frost”.
Find out more about Ben at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-blomerley-04156416/.
Do you know of a fabulous entrepreneurial leader in your organisation, who has achieved a tangible difference to customers and/or colleagues? Then let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And lastly, find out more about Kandu! Visit www.wekandu.io or email us at email@example.com a demo. We can help your organisation to collect objective data to track the progress and return on investment of your #leadership or #change development programmes, track the impact of supporters (such as managers, #mentors and peers) on leadership development, and reduce programme admin time as we provide developing leaders with automated guidance and access to support.