Piper hosted its seventh networking lunch to discuss the challenges of ’Managing Rapid Growth in an Entrepreneurial Business’. Among the guests were the founders of a number of dynamic clothing and accessories companies, while the speaker was Peter Higgins, current chairman of Joe Browns. Higgins, who previously ran Cath Kidston and Charles Tyrwhitt, shared many entertaining and painful lessons he has learned from growing young businesses.
One of his biggest early mistakes, he said, was not investing in the right people: ’When we launched Charles Tyrwhitt in Japan, I had the choice of the best mail order consultant in Japan or an Irish friend of a friend. Of course, I chose the Irishman and it was a complete disaster’.
The pitfalls of not hiring local experts came up again when Higgins attempted to bring Charles Tyrwhitt to Germany, this time on his own. Thousands of catalogues were printed for the German market displaying Charles Tyrwhitt’s distinctive range of shirts, accessorised with Spitfire fighter plane cufflinks.
’Amazingly, we sold about 60 pairs and didn’t get a single complaint,’ said Higgins. ’I think the Germans put their inclusion down to the strange English sense of humour.’
He also recommended that all businesses, of whatever size, should take strategy days away to decide the areas in which they should and, just as crucially, should not be focusing.
Higgins maintained that defining a company’s strengths and differences from its competitors can prove decisive in determining its long-term success.
And a final top tip? ’Keep it simple.’