Jewson, Simon Sinek and Me.
My story so far and how it led me to my ‘Why’.
Last week I wrote an article on the lessons I had learned as a founder so far and the response was fantastic. I received so many positive comments from people who found it useful, which is exactly why I wrote it, so I was delighted!
More specifically I was really happy to hear from so many people who are either thinking about starting a business or already in the process of putting it together. Times are uncertain at the moment, but it doesn’t seem to be deterring people from chasing their dream, which is brilliant to hear.
In total I received messages from 56 people and 7 of them asked me the same question in their response, which went along these lines:
“Hi Liam, I’m thinking about starting a business and found your article really useful. I’ve been reading a lot lately about start-ups and how important it is to know the’ ‘why’. Do you yours?”
It sounds like all 7 of these people have been reading ‘Simon Sinek – Start with Why’, great book by the way. The answer is yes, I do know the ‘why’ for Foursquare. And for the benefit of at least 7 people who are interested, I’m going to share it with you.
The ‘why’ for Foursquare comes directly from my own experiences. My career has been the opposite way around to almost everybody else I’ve ever met. The most common career path is to start at the bottom, move through several jobs and roles until eventually you become so good at a certain role that you get thrust into management to supervise others who do that role (usually with no management training or skills but that’s another story).
I started the other way around because my very first job was in management, or training to be a manager to be specific. Aged 18 when I left education, I joined Jewson Builders Merchant on a two-year management trainee programme. I was part of a group of about a dozen or so other ‘youngsters’ from across the country who spent two out of every four weeks travelling around the country learning about management styles, profit and loss, balance sheets, engagement techniques etc etc.
Jewson is a huge company. It’s a national organisation with revenues of nearly £2 billion (with a b). It’s also fairly well established in the market, opening its first branch in 1836.
As a result, they know what they’re doing, in every respect. For the duration of my two-year training programme and the further two years I spent in the business afterwards, I couldn’t believe the level of structure and organisation involved.
At a company like Jewson you’re very aware that you’re a tiny cog in a huge machine, your job is to carry out quite a specific part of the machine. Even as a branch manager, there are dozens of business factors that you don’t need to consider because it’s taken care of by head office.
In my mid-twenties I moved from Jewson, and big business in general, to work in smaller independently owned businesses – and it was a shock to the system.
My colleagues would often hear me say things such as “speak to the HR department”, “Doesn’t marketing cover that?”, “Do we have a budget from the tendering department for this quarter?”, “Which field sales team member is with us this month?” – if you work in a small independent business you won’t be surprised to hear that most of these questions were laughed away. I learned, quickly, that independent business owners and senior managers often wear several or even all of the hats in the business. There is often no separate department for marketing, purchasing or health and safety.
Yet these businesses are compelled to compete in the same market as the industry big hitters, with a fraction of the resources available to them. When I first experienced this, it didn’t seem right to me and I thought there must be support out there for these smaller businesses to help them compete, or even keep up. But to my surprise, there is not much. Not much business help that is specifically made for independent businesses – so I decided I would create it.
During my mid-late twenties, I was working in the health and safety compliance industry, in various different management roles. The more I got involved in this industry I realised two things:
- The vast majority of health and safety companies offer services for the ‘higher risk’ industries of manufacturing, construction and engineering. Not many at all focussed on the hospitality/entertainment industries.
- The vast majority of health and safety companies targeted the industry big hitters. They built systems that were designed for large organisations with hundreds of sites and thousands of employees.
So, I decided to build a compliance company that would do the opposite of both of those things. Foursquare is a company which focusses solely on hospitality/entertainment and solely on smaller independent business. It’s a huge section of the economy which has so far been failed by the industry.
Our service is ideal for independents for two reasons.
- It’s based around a compliance diary which is 100% tailored to each and every venue we work with. This is important because every venue is different, it faces its own challenges and obstacles to overcome.
- We provide a hands-on regular audit of the system, either monthly or quarterly to make sure it’s working effectively and make changes where necessary.
From a personal point of view, I have a passion for independents. I’ve always made a point of shopping in local stores, drinking in local bars and eating in local cafes. Not because I have a disdain for chains, but because local businesses add more to the local area. They set a city or town apart from other locations by providing a window into the personality and creativity of its residents. So to me, supporting independents isn’t a new thing, but the way I’m doing it is.
In summary, using Simon Sinek’s model, here is our why.
- Everything we do is to help independents compete better with industry big hitters.
- The way we do this is by creating products which save them time and money.
- We just happen to make compliance diaries.
If you manage or own a hospitality venue, we guarantee that our compliance diaries will be easiest way to manage your day-to-day operations, food safety, fire safety and health and safety.
If you’re looking to roll out training to a number of staff or carry out refreshers, our ROSPA approved e-learning courses are a great way to do it.
From first aid to food safety – we deliver a selection of courses suited to different working environments and roles.