Simon Morton, Eyeful Presentations
Starting two businesses at the same time and never borrowing any money has been a winning strategy for Simon Morton, the Founder of presentation consultancy Eyeful Presentations.
- What does your business do?
We help businesses make better presentations to employees, customers and investors by helping them craft the right stories to resonate and connect with their audience. We provide consultancy, design and training.
- Why did you decide to start your business?
Two reasons – the first one was personal, in that we were just about to start a family, and my previous role meant that I was on planes most of my life and I didn’t want to miss my daughter growing up. There was also a gap in the market because most presentations and communications weren’t as good as they should be.
I actually started two businesses at the same time – Eyeful Presentations and Earful Productions, which was a
podcasting business. But I was 10-15 years too early with the podcasting business so that died a death and Eyeful Presentations took off. We’ve now got 35 employees and a £3 million turnover.
- How did you finance the growth of your business?
It was bootstrapped. We had saved a few quid over the years which we lived off until we start getting some invoices paid and I spent around £2000 on getting the business off the ground. And that was it. I bought a Dummies book on how to create your own website and at weekends I would create our own website, for example. We have always been very careful with the money and we don’t spend what we don’t have. To date we have never had to borrow a penny.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
Having the right people on the bus. You can load up the bus with the wrong people and it just doesn’t work. We have
been lucky; we haven’t kiss too many frogs but we have had a few frogs along the way. When you get the right people on the bus, it is amazing; the difference it makes is just remarkable.
- What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?
The value of naivety. I am so glad that when I started I didn’t know what I know now. I would have been so petrified that I probably wouldn’t have done it. Being naïve meant that I just threw myself into it. I got a few bruises along the way but it was fine; we have got a nice business now.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business and how have you dealt with this?
Revenue went down and profitability was really hit, but we also learnt a really valuable lesson, which is you have
got to have a culture where you can be honest and open with your team. We were a very open book; we explained the profits we had made previously and how those had been eroded, and we recognised that everyone was scared, and that regular communication was absolutely key. We are definitely a stronger business having gone through that process.
- What has been your biggest mistake?
Not reading the small print and trusting people too much. We rented an office for eight years and when we wanted to move to bigger premises an unscrupulous agent made life very difficult and expensive for us. We also had a bizarre situation when the 0845 phone number we had for customers was changed overnight to the Tesco smoothie
and yoghurt helpline. We had customers trying to get through to us who were being asked what they thought about strawberry yoghurt. It turned out that in the small print it said we didn’t own the phone number so it could be
reallocated anywhere. I can laugh about it now but it really wasn’t funny at the time.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
Having a good support network both inside and outside the business. I have a network of people I can turn to when
I don’t know what to do, who can look at things from a different angle and give me advice, and who are willing to hear me cry or stamp my feet when things aren’t going well.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
If it feels right, go for it. But don’t borrow money or get into invoice discounting to do it. I have seen some great
businesses get into a real pickle because they have been caught out with cash flow issues and living beyond their means.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?
Sense of humour.