Make it or break it: Glyn Cartwright @ The Worshipful Company of Marketors talks top tips for startups

01 Apr 2019 | Interviews

Make it or break it: Glyn Cartwright @ The Worshipful Company of Marketors talks top tips for startups

By Laura Giffard

Glyn Cartwright, owner and major shareholder of four SMEs, lives in Shropshire with his wife, son, daughter, son-in-law, three granddaughters, a dog, a McCaw and a dragon lizard. Glyn is Court Assistant and Chair of the Knowledge Development Committee at The Worshipful Company of Marketors, the City Livery Company for leaders in Marketing. Glyn’s happy place is Thailand, famed as the Land of Smiles.

What does your typical day look like?

In addition to operating as MD for two of the companies I own, I am a non-executive director of a few other businesses, so I have to balance my time carefully.

Most of the organisations are within the building material supply sector, but there is one consultancy business focused on the development of sustainable growth which has worked on projects in partnership with Erasmus, UKCES, the European Regional Fund, the European Bank and the World Bank. Working across the different entities keeps my days varied, so in my world there’s really no such thing as a typical day!

What do you do after work?

I love sport, travel, food and wine, all of which are enhanced by great company.

Tell us about you and your business.

Having built extensive knowledge and expertise across a number of blue chip businesses in the building industry including CRH and Tarmac, I developed a clear, quantified and timed strategy for my own business.

Initially I had just one product, a roofing material with distinct USPs that I knew would stand out, but that was all I needed. In the first year I set up a separate export business, and I spent the next 3 years learning about product strengths and limitations.

Although it was successful, I always knew that scalability would be limited with just one product, so when the company reached a sustainable size, I put my faith in my business and invested in it heavily. I acquired businesses over the next two years so that I could offer four product ranges, and in the last three years we have grown like crazy!

Today all of the businesses are SMEs that have been operating and growing profitably for at least eight years. They are all UK based, but two of them operate
internationally. The export business now trades in over 30 countries globally, but it was extremely valuable to learn in the UK market before selling overseas and I think that was a factor in our success.

They say year 3 is when you make it or break it as a start-up. Have you ever come close to breaking it? What’s your single piece of advice for making it?

Failures are a fact of life, what’s crucial is to learn from them. I have been fortunate enough to only experience one failure in SMEs over 10 years ago, and while it was a very expensive lesson it turned out to be a great learning experience for me.

The key is in accepting that set backs are a part of normal business – you need to have a clear plan and stay focused on your goals, even when things don’t go the way you hoped. This becomes easier with the right team around you, as good people are the greatest differential.

There are so many things that can be done to improve the chances of sustained success in SME that it is hard to identify a single piece of advice, but I do believe that in order to be successful any SME needs an owner who has two essential ingredients – hard work and a commitment to the passion that led to the creation of the business in the first place.

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