What I’ve Learnt: Julian Leighton

April 5, 2017

Don’t get cocky. I had been working with a group of friends organising all-night raves in Bradford in the early 90s, which were really successful, so I thought I’d try a club night in Leeds aimed at the student market. I assumed everything I did would sell out. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the dates properly and it turned out I had arranged the night right in the middle of Leeds University exams. Suffice to say it was a disaster – and an expensive lesson to learn as a student!

Be honest and fair – you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know you’re trying to do the right thing. In business, you’ll often make decisions that people around you might not like (or necessarily understand). You have to be able to validate the reasons and communicate that to your team. I was bullied daily by my boss in my first job out of university and I’ve never forgotten how it felt.

Always believe things could be done better.

Don’t sacrifice everything for your business. It’s easy to forget that life is short and should be enjoyed.

Your business shouldn’t dominate your personality; you’ll become an incredible bore.

There’s a balance to be found between bootstrapping and paying people to do jobs properly. In the early days, I used to do Orange Bus’s cash flow but I was dreadful at it. It took me ages to complete the paperwork meaning I couldn’t concentrate on the the stuff I was actually good at. The subsequent investment in an accountant one day a week gave us accurate information and freed up my time. We were initially nervous about spending the money but it’s paid off many times over.

Keep talking. I still constantly bounce ideas off my co-founder and business partner Mike Parker. We’ve had many external mentors over the years who we can still call upon for a beer or coffee and a chat through things. It’s surprising how many people will offer their time in exchange for a beer!

Empower everyone who works for you. We’ve always tried to let our staff make their own decisions and feel they are responsible for their own success and that of the business. Failure isn’t something to be afraid of either; if you have a culture of fear then innovation will be very hard to achieve.

Orange Bus 

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