So how did Flair Business Growth Consultancy become one of the foremost relationship selling companies in the world?
I’d like to share our story with you because it will help you to understand why we do what we do and appreciate our values and what makes us tick.
Flair has three deep roots that stretch right back to the 1980s.
The first is a love of process, structure, control and order. I started my career in IT which, of course, depends on all of these attributes. I like things to be logical and predictable – computer programs that aren’t can cause all sorts of mayhem.
My belief in order and process also influences how I organise business development functions within companies which makes them so much more effective.
The second stems from my first introduction to sales in 1988 – a real eye-opener but ultimately made Flair what it is today.
The first sales manager I worked for had a system. It was very simple; he hadn’t written it down anywhere and there were no formal training courses for it, but it’s what we did and it worked.
I liked his approach because it was (you guessed it) logical and structured. It allowed him to manage his team and bring in new people, like me, and quickly get them up to speed. It was a very simple way to win new clients and care for established ones and since I had no other sales experience I adopted it with gusto.
We left to form our own recruitment business, Software Knowledge, in April 1989 and of course, the system went with us.
On November 6th 1990 our senior partner and my old boss was tragically killed in a car accident and I had no choice but to take over as MD. These were dark times personally and professionally but working together we pulled through. I also had a very steep learning curve about sales and running businesses.
During these times I was working 12 or sometimes 15 hour days; weekends were dominated by the business. I was involved in every decision and almost every aspect of the business.
Worse still, I never seemed to take any holidays and when I did I spent so much time either on the damn car-phone or worrying about work that I might just as well not bothered! My remaining partner, Andrew, used to say I was “always plugged in and always stressed out”. He was so right.
My family was suffering, my health was suffering and my sanity was beginning to go too! Andrew realised this couldn’t go on and insisted we hire a consultant to help us develop the business.
I was against it because I had no spare time and money was tight but mostly because my ego was screaming “we can do this on our own”. My ego was wrong and Andrew was right –we hired the consultant.
She was brilliant and provided the third root to Flair – it’s not about training it’s about change!
She took time to understand where we were; where we wanted to be and the obstacles in our way. Then she devised a change plan (that did have some training in it) to overcome the obstacles and move us to the promised land. And it worked.
She also drilled into us the importance of quality and innovation and that the best way to measure the former and achieve the latter was to engage with our clients in a completely different way. This was a MAJOR lesson and has stuck with me ever since. Quality sells!
Another thing it taught me was that you can’t make a butterfly by simply making a caterpillar bigger – you need to transition from one to the other.
This is the turnover graph for Software Knowledge from our inception to the date I sold it in 1998. As you can see our transitional year was from 1992 to 93 but after that it was like somebody had put rocket fuel in our growth tank.
We were in the PWC fastest growing companies list for three years in a row peaking at 27th in the UK. That kind of exponential growth had it’s problems but it was exhilarating and exciting.
From about 1996 my life was transformed. I was earning more than ever, worked when I wanted to and took between 2 and 3 months holiday a year. Having achieved my ambition to be in control of my company but not ingrained in it my thoughts turned to other things.
I began to refine our sales system and for the first time, develop some simple training programmes for our new sales people.
We almost always hired rookie sales people because they bought less baggage with them and we could train them to sell in the way we wanted. But to do this we needed a formal and structured approach. A mixture of classroom learning, on-the-job experience and mentoring meant we could rapidly transform our people into effective sales people (as the above graph clearly shows).
My IT experience became useful again as more and more computer systems, and then the Internet, were introduced into business development. I couldn’t get enough of the new technology and could see how, when used properly, it could not only make us more effective but could also differentiate us and ultimately help to win new clients.
By Christmas of 1997 Andrew and I had had enough, and over our usual “robust” Christmas lunch made the decision to sell the business. This took 11 months to achieve but on November 7th 1998 we sold Software Knowledge to a NYSE listed business for a price the size of a large lottery win. One other thing; we also got about 35% more than other similar businesses were being sold for at the time!
Following a couple of years working for the Americans (not a great time, I have to admit) and a year off, becoming more and more depressed by my lack of purpose, I was invited to form a new company with a couple of my old SK senior managers. Crimson was born.
I helped to set it up using the same systems and techniques we’d used in SK but once this was done I began to lose interest. Doing something the second time around is never as exciting as the first time you do it.
Working with the guys was brilliant and I wouldn’t swap those early days for the world but I needed more and then one of our clients asked me if I’d be prepared to do some coaching for his team. A bit left-field but I went for it and suddenly realised it’s what I wanted to do full time.
Using the same techniques and approach as we had in SK we built Crimson into an 8 figure turnover business with some impressive growth behind it – last year they increased their turnover by a staggering £6m – all organic growth! Outstanding work by the guys.
Now, to begin with I did all my work under the umbrella of Crimson but it became obvious to all of us that this wouldn’t work long term so I made the very difficult and painful decision to leave. Whilst I stayed a shareholder and director of Crimson I left the company as an employee in 2010 and the Flair years began.
I started out doing general business coaching but quickly realised my experience and talents lay in sales and business growth so focused on this instead.
We developed a structured method of delivering my knowledge and experience in a way that made it easy for busy people to absorb the new tools and techniques in less time.
I learned really early on in my career that it’s incredibly hard to find high quality experienced sales staff so we also focused on de-skilling the sales process so people with less experience and ability could still deliver some outstanding results.
You know, during the SK and Crimson years I never really “got” marketing. As a salesman it seemed to me to be a huge waste of money. If I wanted a client I found out the name of the decision maker and did all I could to establish a relationship with them – why did I need marketing?
Because of this our business growth model doesn’t need a hefty marketing budget to deliver it’s results – which is an added benefit.
I had a number of requests for help from small businesses who were unable to afford my fees which seemed unfair to me. We overcame this by running Exponential Growth Clubs where up to 6 non-conflicting businesses meet once a month for a year to complete the Flair Business Growth Programme and help each other along the way. They were effectively sharing my fees amongst them.
These have been enormously successful and great fun but there was a problem.
Spending a day with me is fine but what about the rest of the team back at base? How will they get to learn the new tools and techniques when they can’t attend the Club days? The solution was simple – go online.
We created the Online Growth Academy and stocked it with videos, podcasts, templates, notes, how-to guides and examples so that the people who attended the club days could remind themselves of what we covered and the people who didn’t could get access to these proven and powerful tools and techniques.
Of course the next logical step was to sell this directly to the public via the Internet. For the first time ambitious business people on a strict budget or those that can’t physically get access to one of our Exponential Growth Clubs can still benefit from the programme.
So in 2015 we launched mikeamesonline.com which allowed people to buy access to the Online Growth Academy no matter where they were on the planet.
And that brings us to the current time. Flair Business Growth Consultancy provides a logical, structured and proven approach to create a business capable of exponential revenue growth. It also enables the people that own the company to be in control but not necessarily, ingrained in their business. Oh, and it will most likely make it more valuable when you come to sell it too!
We now offer 121 consultancy, the Exponential Growth Clubs and The Online Academy so no matter what your budget and no matter where you’re based you can still use this winning formula to grow your business and achieve your ambitions.