#TRADETALK with Carl Reader

  1. Jas Sensi

    Jas Sensi UKBF Newcomer

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    Serial entrepreneur, business adviser, and author of Boss It, Carl Reader chats all things business, the highs and lows of COVID and inspiring others to take the plunge into owning their own business.

    What is your background in business?

    “I actually started out at the age of 15. I left school before my GCSEs and did a course in hairdressing, I then realised I needed to get a proper job and ended up falling into accountancy.

    “I realised within about six months to a year that accountancy was really not for me and I really enjoyed going out and speaking to business owners, so I just went out and started asking the awkward questions, and over time I ended up gaining the knowledge of thousands of business owners.”

    So, what is it about the business you actually enjoy?

    “It sounds really silly, but what I love about business is that it's like Lego. You can keep building and playing.

    “When you run a business, you have control over your time, your efforts and whether or not you can't be bothered to get out of bed that day.

    “You have so many options when it comes to financials as well. It’s all about control and being able to build something for yourself.”

    When and why did you make the decision to start your own business?

    “I initially started at the age of 26, but before then I was effectively on commission only. So I was only based on performance. I guess I have had my neck on the line with business since 2003/04.

    “However, in 2007 I made the proper step by putting my money where my mouth is and driving it forwards.”

    Starting your own business is a success in itself, but what is your biggest achievement so far?

    “It’s very hard to pick out just one highlight, but a few of my greatest achievements include the launch of my book 'Boss It'. The book hit the charts in WH Smiths and all major bookstores, so that’s pretty huge.”

    “I think, if I was to pick one, it is probably the fact my son has decided to start his own business. He was not cut out for the academic world, so having seen what I have done, he could do it himself. That was massive and actually quite rewarding on the whole.”

    From the peak to the pits, have you got any regrets?

    “None at all.

    “There are things that I look back on and would have done differently and I think if I was to go back and tell myself to do something differently, it would be to put my foot down harder, put more effort in and just go for it.

    “But in terms of individual regrets, no. Don't get me wrong, I have made some catastrophic cock-ups along the way and think "what the hell have I done", but it is all a learning exercise and if I had not made the mistakes back then, I would have made them now and in the future – and I would rather they were behind me than in front. “

    How do you overcome problems?

    “For me the biggest thing to remember is not to sweat the small stuff, but to try and look at every challenge logically rather than emotionally. Often, when there is a challenge or difficulty, we tend to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and let negative thoughts get in the way, but if you look at it objectively there is normally a route forward.

    “It may not be the route you want to go down,  and you might be using those emotions to try and hide from it, but whatever it is, try to look at it objectively. Take outside advice if needs be and go for whatever the right way is.”

    Speaking about problems, how has COVID affected your life and your business?


    “So, from a personal perspective, I am very much a social being, and I don't like being stuck indoors.

    “But from a business perspective, every single business has been impacted in some way or another and mine is no exception. Although we are not on the front line being a restaurant, retailer or bar, we are in the supply chain and I can say that there has been an impact. It has massively distorted our capacity for service and we have had the challenge, like any other business, to become fully remote as well.

    “We had the tools, but we didn't necessarily have the culture and the way of doing things remotely, so we had to learn on the job to some extent.

    “It decimated my speaking career, too. I have never had as many of my gigs cancelled over a two-week period as I did in March.

    “But there have also been some positive stories about businesses that have flourished during this time, so it's been a rollercoaster. There have been highs and lows.”

    Where do you see the industry post-COVID and post-Brexit?

    “I have mixed feelings about those periods.

    “I would love to be positive about it, but the economic impact of the virus is going to sit around for a longer period of time and I think it is much more devastating than Brexit or any other external matter.

    “Businesses have an unusual level of debt that they have never had before. The Government 100% believes businesses are sat on pots of cash, which they are not. It is just another ticking time bomb.

    “Government schemes are ending this year too, so I think if it is not managed carefully, it’s going to be a very difficult time for British businesses around Q1/Q2 next year.

    “As far as Brexit is concerned, all businesses will have a small impact, but only one in 10 businesses do any importing or exporting anyway and a good portion of them import and export outside the EU as well as within it. 

    The financial market will have a wobble, but paired with the pandemic there is going to be a storm unfortunately. “

    Have you received any advice which has stuck? If so, what was it?

    “The best piece of advice I have received is actually from my dad and it was when I had my first job. He said I should keep details of everyone I meet in a Filofax.

    “Clearly, I don't have a Filofax anymore, but just by keeping contact details for people you meet along the way, it is amazing what your network can do for you. To be able to pick up the phone to someone who might know the answer to a problem you may have is quite valuable.

    “There is a cheesy saying that your network is your net-worth. Even if you stay in contact with them and keep your connections warm, that is quite powerful in itself.”

    And finally, have you got any tips for people who are starting their own business?

    “Owning a business is not something you learn in school – it's not on the curriculum. You have to learn on the job, so my advice would genuinely be to do your research, spend more time planning than doing to begin with and make sure your business model works.

    “Don't rely on well-wishing from friends and family because they don't pay the bills. Rely on orders when people are paying you money.

    “I would say get educated and be prepared to do anything and everything within your business to make it into a success.

    “Measure twice, cut once.”

    #TRADETALK is our new series of interviews with UK-based small business owners. If you’d like to be featured, get in touch with Jas on UKBF or email [email protected].