Chairman’s blog: Every entrepreneur needs a first-rate lieutenant
I first met Andrew Scully when he was six years old. His brother James was good friends with my eldest son, Ben, and our two families went for a walk at Ripley Castle. Even as a kid, he was super bright, attending Leeds Grammar School.
Years later, I remember popping in to Pasta Romagna, an Italian restaurant in Leeds, to get my coffee in the morning and seeing him behind the counter doing three things at once. He started working there aged 14 or so and, unlike many teenagers, already had a strong work ethic and a desire to earn. Pasta Romagna was run by a real character, an Italian lady who would suddenly break into song, “Andrew! More cappuccino! More pizza!”
While he was in sixth form, he applied for a summer job at my last company: Masternaut. Over time, he gradually worked across every single department, learning the business from the ground up. I saw a spark in him, and a brilliant mind, and employed him as my personal assistant. Soon, he was helping out on deals and due diligence. He dropped out of his business degree at university because he realised he was learning more working at Masternaut than he ever could in a classroom.
When I started BigChange, I knew I needed a right-hand man to help me grow the business. I asked Andrew to join me. Over the past nine years, he’s grown with the business as a director and shareholder.
Andrew and I have worked together for 17 wonderful years. We make a brilliant team. He’s calm, reasoned, commercially astute, and is excellent with detail. I’ve posted before about my hearing issues, which can make meetings more challenging for me. Andrew always captures every word. Having him as my lieutenant has also given me the ability to step away from some of the day-to-day operations that can swallow an entrepreneur’s time, allowing me to think creatively and focus on high-level strategy. This has ultimately been hugely beneficial to the business. There’s no way that BigChange would be where it is today without Andrew.
I am telling you all of this because it is with a heavy heart that I announce Andrew is leaving BigChange to forge his own path. He’s still very young – in his mid-thirties – and after working with me for almost two decades, he’s ready to strike out on his own. It has been an absolute privilege to be his teacher but now I can say hand on heart that the student has become the master. He has negotiated some of BigChange’s biggest contracts. He has been instrumental in creating the processes that have allowed this company to grow at an extraordinary rate. Since I moved to become chairman, he has been more and more involved in strategy and planning – and he’s gifted at that too. He unfailingly wins the respect of everyone he meets, even those twice his age. I know that whatever Andrew chooses to do next, he’ll be successful. He remains a shareholder and friend, both to BigChange and to me.
I believe that every entrepreneur needs a trusted lieutenant who can help them on their growth journey. Especially solo founders like me. You need someone with complementary skills by your side. Look for people that are great thinkers, commercially aware and numbers orientated, honest and forthright – you need someone who has the guts to say when they disagree with you.
Andrew isn’t my first lieutenant. I’ve been lucky, over the years, to spot individuals who can grow and develop with my businesses. When I started Masternaut, my second hire was a young man called Simon Bellamy. He joined in 2002 and became a shareholder, co-director, and trusted ally. He made sure that I had enough cash in that business to do all the deals I needed to do. He was honest, fair-minded and a brilliant businessman. When I left Masternaut, he stayed on and continued to grow that business. It was a huge coup for me, and BigChange, when Simon agreed to join this business a few years ago.
So, this post goes out to all the entrepreneurs and their first lieutenants out there: the dream teams. I wish you good fortune and success. Remember, together you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. We’ll miss you Andrew!