Earlier this year Hub was welcomed on to the seventh cohort of the London Stock Exchange ELITE programme, designed to help fast-growing private companies get to the next level – namely to list on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) – through training, access to financing opportunities, and, perhaps most importantly, shared experiences.
First Day Nerves
David and I have spent the last decade learning how to run a successful video production business from the ground up and to be accepted on such a prestigious course would be my first taste of structured business training. The prospect of the experience made me curious about what to expect of the programme. Would it be filled with suits that I wouldn't be able to relate to? How should I be? Did I know enough? Would I need to memorise a load of stats, would I be interrogated on them, and what do you wear?
To interject on my own blog, whilst I hadn't experienced structured business training I have received business coaching. Within a leadership role, it's beneficial in holistic development, including calming the inner questions. In the buildup beforehand, I stilled my mind. Within five minutes after entering the Stock Exchange on the first day I discovered the most amazing thing about the programme is actually the people we're sharing it with.
People from a diverse mix of companies, at various levels of their development, including household names such as the UK's largest network for parents, Mumsnet, and online investment management service provider, Nutmeg. The ‘suits', a combination of the programme participants and speakers, turned out to be incredibly relatable, willing to give honest accounts of the struggles that came before their success.
Alastair Lukies told us his story at the end of the first day. A farmer's son from Essex, Alastair left school at 16 with only four GCSEs to his name. He pursued a career in rugby, but his career was cut short when his leg was broken in 17 places during a match. So he returned to Essex to help his dad on the farm, only to find the farm was lost, caught up in the aftermath of the collapse of Lloyd's of London in the 1990s. After a stint in sports hospitality, a friend offered him the opportunity to help put Parliament's The House magazine online. Following on from this, he started a Fintech company, which he built up to 1,100 staff around the world, across four continents. It was listed on the AIM in 2007. By 2014 the company was worth £1bn. During his rise in the business world, Alastair made sure to pay forward his success by buying back his father's farm.
And then there's Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company behind the design and manufacture of the Airlander range of aircraft, whose journey has been anything but smooth. Taking the best from aeroplanes, helicopters and airships to create the world's largest aircraft capable of staying in the air for weeks at a time, the Airlander was originally developed as an army surveillance tool. When the US Army cancelled their backing due to budget cuts, it appeared the company's dream of taking the Airlander's development further afield was grounded. That was until Hybrid Air Vehicles listed their business on equity crowdfunding platform, CrowdCube. The listing was a resounding success, raising 109% of their £2m target. These funds allowed them to continue to develop the airship in the UK. The company is now planning for the Airlander to be used for luxury commercial flights over the world's greatest sights from 2019.
Xavier Rolet, the Chief Executive Officer of the London Stock Exchange, also gave the ELITE programme participants an unexpectedly honest account of his humble beginnings. A child of military parents serving in the French army, following the Algerian war of independence they settled, along with tens of thousands of French Algerians, in one of western Europe's poorest housing developments in Sarcelles, Paris. His saving grace was the blessing of decent state schooling that existed in France in the 1960s. With a voracious thirst for knowledge, at the age of 12, after reading a book on the subject, Xavier decided he would study business at college in the US. A scholarship and his hard-earned holiday job savings saw his dream come true: years later he graduated with an MBA at Columbia University in New York.
Having built up five companies from a variety of sectors by looking at business in a very entrepreneurial way, he is now credited with turning around the once ailing London Stock Exchange. He rejigged the Board, changing the Old Boys' Club by breathing new life into it.
For Xavier Rolet, the ELITE Programme is about helping people and companies grow. So far, we've had the launch day and networking evening in April, followed in June by a session on Managing Talent, focusing on the culture of companies, and already the programme has created a steep and rapid learning curve for us, opening our eyes to how to create investments and make ourselves investment ready.
The programme clearly helps create the right mindset to take a company to the next level; to build great teams whilst inspiring everyone around you, and to ensure you are ready for the challenges that rapid growth brings.
Elite & Hub
Failure is not a bad thing – making mistakes creates opportunities for learning if you're open to it – but it's best to test the waters first to avoid mistakes that could cost you your company. For Hub, we're hoping the ELITE programme will give us the edge to reach the goals we have set ourselves in as pain-free a way as possible and to grow even more quickly. For the next two years, the London Stock Exchange ELITE programme, and all the people involved with it will help guide us on our journey, and we will help guide them on theirs. We don't know if we'll be floatation ready within that time, but what we do know is that we will have built up an amazing network of inspiring people.