Thursday, 09 July 2020
From army officer to entrepreneur, Suzanne Brock’s career has been characterised by determination and self-belief. In 2013, she set up the now multi-award-winning Nutriment Ltd, making premium raw dog food and reached an £8m turnover in just five years. Here are eight key things we’ve learned from her recent everywomanEntrepreneur webinar about powering ahead, even when times are challenging.
Success is about belief in yourself… and if you don't believe in yourself, you can ‘fake it until you make it’. Starting a business tapped into things I learned in Sandhurst. The army does give you the ability to build a positive team, have faith in your decisions and make those decisions in the right way — considering those around you and asking what your mission is. I did those things every single day in the army, and very quickly they became a way of life as we built Nutriment. I knew what I wanted to achieve each month and it was never just about putting money in the bank; it was always about the product and building a family company.
Surround yourself with a team you know and trust… I employed people with the same ideals who believed in what I wanted to do. And as a result, we’re a very close team at Nutriment; the staff have been here together for quite some time. It's important to have a positive mindset when you come into the office every day. Nutriment is still very young as a company so exciting things continue to occur for us on a daily basis. I try to celebrate those and put positive energy into the working day which makes for a happy environment that people want to come to work in.
Tell your story… I love getting on stage and doing talks and I would do as many as I'm asked to do. It's such a positive feeling to be in a room full of people who are sharing their experiences. I'm not a senior business person — but I've got my story in Nutriment as an experience and I'm happy to share it with anyone who wants to hear me. Events where women are supporting each other and are feeling uplifted and inspired are invaluable. And in telling your own story, I think you can say these are the mistakes you've made but you can also say that you’ve been really good at other things too.
Take good care of yourself… I didn't. I threw myself into work initially and I shouldered everything. And somebody should have told me then that unless I took better care of myself. I wouldn't be the kind of boss I wanted to be. I was lucky in the fact that I'm healthy and well but I really put myself under a lot of stress and never took a minute for myself. I would say to everybody who's building a business to try and carve out time to get your hair done or to go for a walk, see friends or to just walk away from the business for a few hours at a time. And that way I think you'll be a much better boss.
Make other businesses your advocates… Selling online can be a profitable way to do business. However, it's not always the right way. Selling through smaller shops and independent businesses is actually a more positive experience and each one of those shop owners then becomes your advocate. It's a much smarter way to do business, although it may not be initially profitable in the same way. Obviously we sell online, but we also encourage our customers to use their local stores and get to know the shop owners; they're the ones with knowledge, who want to see and talk about your pets with you and really get to understand their specific needs. We found that as a business model that works really well, so we have now have partnerships in 1,500 stores, mostly small independents.
Face everything head-on - and remember you come out the other side… Running a business there are always obstacles and sometimes it's exhausting. But you can never get away from the stress and worry, and that's one of the most difficult things about running a company. Use your contacts and friends to talk it through — it's never so bad. And remember how you’ve dealt with more difficult things in the past. COVID has offered challenges to everyone; we should have been promoting the company in Europe this year, for example. So, you just find ways to do things differently. I spend a lot of time thinking of alternative ways of doing business and making new plans.
Be a woman who is prepared to say, ‘I can’… You need to be that woman to start a business. I had a positive outlook from the beginning because I didn't expect to fail. I was incredibly naive in business. I don't have any business education, or a business background and I didn't have any family money. I just believed I had produced the best product and everything else that happened I saw as a learning curve that the team would face. [Setting up a business] is not easy but It's not that hard and you don't need to be anything special to do it. You just have to know you are going to do it.
Listen to the thing inside you that says you just have to do it… If I listened to negative people I think I would have stopped, and sometimes being passionate is the best way of starting a business. It has to be down to more than, ‘I want to work for myself’, because when you're talking to somebody and asking them to buy into your idea or buy your product that customer has to be able to see the belief in your eyes. If you don't really believe in what you're doing, then it's very easy to give up. On the other hand, if you just don't understand why people aren't buying this incredible product, then you will work really hard to make sure they do.
Listen back to Suzanne Brock’s talk here.