Entrepreneurial success means starting at the end

By Peter Kerr 07/05/2014

Start at the end and work backwards.

This was the ultimate, underlying piece of advice from Laura Humphreys, who has started and successfully exited two businesses in Wellington, and now among other things is relaunching herself as a business author and mentor under the Liber8me label.

Speaking to Wellington’s Entrepreneurs Club, Humphreys described how she worked her way up the advertising copywriter ladder in London, Singapore and then Wellington.

Having an “early mid-life crisis” in her late 20s, she studied other peoples’ success, (including a stint of following Robert Kiyosaki of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ fame, as he lectured around the world), she decided to create her own advertising agency.

Red Rocks, as she’d planned, was very successful, and she sold it to a multinational nine years later. One advantage was being the only woman CEO in an industry that then was dominated by male bosses (and egos!).

Her next venture was Pet Angels – a brokerage, with end to end automation between pet owners, pet carers and the whole booking, billing and payment system. It grew to having 150 angels across New Zealand, and that was sold to a competitor (as planned) two years ago.

I’ve followed the formula in a business plan. Start at the end and work backwards,” says Laura.

Approach what you’re doing as building an asset, something that can provide you with financial freedom.”

She broke the formula down to the following steps.

  1. Start with the exit in mind (think about who might want to buy it).

  2. Set your end goal(s) (how much do you want to sell it for)

  3. Paint your end picture (what are you selling, what is your model)

  4. Plan backwards with milestones (this is a map, concentrate on the first 12-18 months, then review)

  5. Plan your first and next milestone

You’ve got to think like a big dog, about what is possible, about being a big organisation from the start,” she says.

Laura a big fan of using an advisory board – and early on in her Red Rock business brought on two directors. Even though they were comparatively costly, the fact of having to monthly report to them was a hugely important discipline.