Start Up Stories - Blackmore Four

Blackmore Four are an independent consulting company offering specialist advice and tailored solutions to businesses looking to perform more effectively. We spoke to founder and director Matthew Emerson to find out more about his start up story.

1. What made you become an entrepreneur?

I had an itch to guide businesses in making their organisations as effective as possible and wanted to develop my own approach for putting this into practice. I had also received feedback from respected ex-colleagues that I had developed a skillset that would be suited to running my own business – so this seemed like the obvious next step for me to take.

There are many ways in which businesses can improve performance through the organisation and leadership of people but these topics are too often considered the domain of 'big business' when in fact large organisations often don't have the co-ordinated ambition to effectively address them. I felt like there was a clear opportunity to develop some simple tools and methods that work with local, growing businesses to ensure they didn't overlook these vital aspects and didn't replicate the mistakes of others.

2. What was the most memorable lesson learned being a business director?

It is very useful to solicit feedback from a variety of sources, particular from people who have relevant or related experience. However, I learned that you need to carefully balance this with maintaining clarity about what you're personally trying to achieve and ensure you're not unduly influenced by other people’s good intentions. You have to be mindful of what you're asking of others and take responsibility for your own decision making based on all of the information available as it can become easy to bounce from one conversation to another re-plotting the course for your business at every stage and that can quickly become unsettling for yourself as much as anyone else involved in the business. I can point to at least three occasions where other people’s expectations of what my business should be has clouded my thinking but I have now learnt how to take advice, guidance or opinion and use that as a single point of reference.

3. What do you look for in an employee?

In most small businesses, it is hard to define exactly what any job will entail but there are three specific attributes that I appreciate in colleagues in this context:

  • sufficient interest in our business to have an opinion or develop a point of view that is based on some form of experience or research
  • a growth mindset – the belief in yourself (and others) that abilities and intelligence can be developed and that through resilience and learning we can achieve great things
  • a desire, imagination and resourcefulness in finding new ways of solving problems... most problems have been solved somewhere before but we often need to apply learning from elsewhere to a new set of circumstances. Being able to think creatively is important in most entrepreneurial environments!

4. What advice would you give someone that is thinking about setting up their own business?

I think anyone setting up their own business has to be 'OK' for it not to be successful. That doesn't mean you should be pessimistic from the start, but you should carefully assess the personal risk involved and your own resilience to things not working out. That isn't just financial - I suspect most people looking to set up their own business have an idea of the financial runway they are giving themselves - it's also important to think about your personal levels of determination and perseverance coupled with your typical response to failure, should the business not work out (most don't!). This might also be important if your business takes off but not in the way that you had planned - it's important to establish what you want your role to be and when to re-assess that. I regularly remind myself of my personal aspirations and of the alternative options I have, in part to keep myself grounded but also to remind myself that I have a choice.