What I’ve Learnt: Ian Wilson

July 18, 2018

Ian Wilson joined Mercia Fund Managers (part of Mercia Technologies PLC) in 2017 and is fund principal for the North East Venture Fund, which focuses on early stage and technology investments. A Chartered accountant, Ian is a seasoned investment professional having fulfilled both M&A advisory positions in practice and investment management roles in early-stage funds since 2006. He also assists with the delivery of the venture capital and investment modules at Alliance Manchester Business School

Hard work will always beat talent. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and I observed a lot of successful people that didn’t necessarily have a CV littered with academic achievement, but had the right life skills and intelligence combined with the right work ethic. That’s a powerful formula.
Be confident enough to accept your faults. I make a point of analysing the past so I can work out how I can be better in the future.

Keep focused. The most successful entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with are very disciplined people. They are very good at eliminating distraction and have a clear goal in mind, with the drive to get there.
It’s almost impossible to be successful on your own. Being passionate about your business and what you do is essential in attracting the right people and talent.   

Instinct is very important. In my experience, it’s usually correct so it’s wise to trust it. Sometimes other factors can override your gut feeling, but there are times when I wish I’d listened to mine more. I’ve unearthed issues during the due diligence process in the past that weren’t serious enough to prevent an investment deal from happening, but did start to raise questions. Inevitably, hindsight has told me that I should have walked away.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Starting a business is a very hard thing to do and it can be a lonely place. However, there are usually lots of people around you that can be helpful from both a business and a support perspective. I often think people are very willing to give their time if you are prepared to ask, so make sure you recognise the people around you who are willing to help and offer advice.

Preparation is crucial. Consider both internal and external factors, and have a plan. Try to identify potential risks and work out what elements will be critical to your success. In most instances, investment will be a consideration so make sure you talk to funders early. A good funder will be able to offer more than just cash as they have relevant business experience and extensive networks, which could work to your advantage and be the catalyst that you need.

Treat people how you would want to be treated yourself. In my experience, people perform better if they have an element of freedom in how they do their own job. That still has to exist within a professional framework, but as long as the boundaries are understood, I think people feel more empowered and will naturally give more. Transparent communication is also very important.
People have to understand where they fit within an organisation and how they can contribute to its success.

Ensure that staff feel valued and that their hard work is appreciated, not just by you, but by the wider team. I like to give people specific responsibilities. From that, they can get a sense of ownership, even if it’s only limited to a specific task. It’s then important to give feedback and a reward at the end. The reward is not just monetary but also includes recognition across the business.

Keep an open mind. I’m still learning every day and I think that will continue to be the case. The world is always changing and you must change with it.

Mercia Fund Managers 

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Supporting role: Jon Dudgeon and Steven Robinson