We had the opportunity to turn the tables on Richard Chanter of Growth Rocket. More used to being the interviewer than the interviewee, Richard has heard many entrepreneur stories first hand – and has been able to pull out the key themes, insights and business advice. From the importance of trying, the value of inspiration, to the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs – Richard’s unique position gave us many pearls of wisdom.
Just before we talk about Growth Rocket, could you tell me a little about yourself?
Most of my friends and family would say I’ve got more business ideas than Del Boy, and they’re usually about as successful too. I’ve tried my hand at most things - from art galleries to artisan foods - and I even self-published a sci-fi book on Amazon last year.
I love learning about new businesses and experimenting with new ideas. Recently, I sat down and compiled a list of all the ideas that I’ve experimented with - in other words, any idea that I’d invested money into, even if it was only a few hundred pounds. I got to twenty, and I’m only 35 years old.
Most of these didn’t work out, some worked for a while and a few are still profitable now. Most of the ideas you have will fail, but if you try enough, then eventually something will stick. The key is not to lose too much money, or your sanity, while you’re doing it.
Outside of my constant experimentation, I own a busy wholesale bakery, which consumes most of my time. I’m also in the early stages of a modest property development project, which is a new area for me, but it’s going great so far. When you add in Growth Rocket and the fact that I’m studying for a degree in Literature with the Open University, I suppose it would be fair to say that I like to be busy.
"Most of the ideas you have will fail, but if you try enough then something will stick."
What was the thinking behind setting up Growth Rocket? What is your vision and what would success look like for you?
I’ve been addicted to learning about business since I was 15. I’ve read nearly every business autobiography that I can get my hands on. My favourite is Warren Buffett’s book, Snowball. I think I’ve read that book five times. I set up Growth Rocket because there are so many great stories out there that don’t get told, and I wanted to start telling them. We all need a little inspiration or motivation from time to time, and I’d love Growth Rocket to become the go-to resource for anyone looking for ideas.
Honestly, I’d love to be able to work on Growth Rocket full time. There’s so much that I could do with it, but at the moment, I just can’t give it any more time. It’s such a fun project and I love talking about business, but until I can start to replace some of the income from my other businesses, it’s going to remain a side project. But one day, with enough traffic, we could start working on sponsorship and affiliate deals, and then who knows where it might lead?
"We all need a little inspiration or motivation from time to time."
You describe Growth Rocket as a side project, but you have an impressive range of interviews already published - what have been the main challenges in getting to this point?
Initially, our challenge was being taken seriously. We reached out to dozens of businesses before finding someone interested in taking part in an interview. Everyone assumed it was an attempt to extract money from them. As we started publishing interviews, it became easier to find entrepreneurs who wanted to take part. These days, it’s difficult to keep up with the requests.
You know from putting this together that it can take quite some time to compile a list of relevant questions. We see a lot of interview sites that recycle the same questions, and that must save lots of time, but we take a different approach. We like to research a business before we create our questions because we think that’s the best way to extract the most value from the interview.
You must see a lot of wisdom in your business, and maybe a few recurring themes. Can you share one tip and one pitfall to be avoided for people starting their own ventures?
You’re right - there are patterns that have emerged from the interviews so far.
I think one of the most powerful and recurring parts of our entrepreneurs' stories is that their businesses are born from an unfulfilled need or gap in the market. Lots of people come up with great ideas for new products or services but they don’t spend enough time considering if there’s really a need for them. The most successful businesses are those that are catering for an existing need.
It’s also noticeable that successful entrepreneurs share certain characteristics. All of those we’ve interviewed so far have been dedicated, hard working, passionate and adaptable.
"The most successful businesses are those that are catering to an existing need."
It seems you really enjoy what you do, but does it come with its fair share of frustrations?
I love it. There isn’t anything I’d rather do than talk to entrepreneurs about their businesses. Being able to help spread the word about these great businesses is very rewarding but it can also be very frustrating.
Trying to make yourself heard on the internet is a huge challenge. There are so many great blogs and writers out there putting out some amazing content that it’s easy to get lost in the noise. We’ve got these incredible entrepreneurs that are sharing amazing insights into how they’ve become successful and we believe that there are thousands of people out there that would find it useful, but trying to reach them is tricky.
"Trying to make yourself heard on the internet is a huge challenge."
What is your 4% - the little things that set Growth Rocket apart?
Firstly, I like to think it’s the quality of our interview questions. There are already plenty of sites out there that interview entrepreneurs but they tend to use set questions - which is fine, but we prefer to try to use questions that will extract maximum value from the interviewee. We spend a lot of time looking at businesses and talking to entrepreneurs to really uncover how they’ve become successful. We think this is what our readers are looking for.
Secondly, we interview entrepreneurs from any country, industry or size of business. One of our primary reasons for launching Growth Rocket was sharing the stories of entrepreneurs that might otherwise be overlooked. The larger sites tend not to be interested in smaller businesses, but we think that what they have to share is just as important. After all, everyone starts somewhere.
"What smaller business have to share is important.
Everyone starts somewhere."
What emerging trends are you seeing that will shape the future, both for you and for the businesses you interview?
This is an interesting question, and something I could talk about all day.
I believe that we are on the brink of a massive societal shift. The use of AI and robotic automation are going to continue to rise. It’s inevitable that there will become less need for employees. Did you know that Amazon already uses over 100,000 robots in their organisation?
More and more people are becoming interested in becoming self-employed, and not just for financial reasons either. From our conversations with entrepreneurs, freedom and flexibility are one of the top reasons for starting a business.
Over Christmas, I got chatting to the head teacher of three primary schools. He confessed that he thinks huge parts of the curriculum are rapidly becoming obsolete and that children should be educated on areas like content creation.
"Freedom and flexibility are among the top reasons for starting a business."
How do you go about making decisions? Do you have a process, or is it more based on instinct?
It depends on what the decision is. If I’m investing, then I’ll run it through the usual process of affordability and risk versus reward. If it’s a new idea I’m thinking about trying, then I’ll check out the competition and some Google research like keyword frequency, etc.
Overall, I think I use data and research more often than when I was younger.
I live, eat and breathe my business - it’s really more of a lifestyle than a job. I’m also a fiend for absorbing content. Keeping up with trends and new ideas takes up a lot of my time.
"Keeping up with trends and new ideas takes up a lot of my time."
What has inspired you to get to this stage, and keeps you going?
The Growth Rocket project is incredibly motivational. Every week we meet new entrepreneurs who are incredibly passionate about their projects, it’s very inspirational.
For example, Hugh Thomas, founder of Ugly Drinks, moved thousands of miles to the USA to push their brand over there. Another example is Heather Carley, who gave up her job as a commodities broker to found her winter sports brand, Friski Wear. Those are just two examples, and we have dozens of them now. Their stories make you want to jump up and start something.
"Their stories make you want to jump up and start something."
Being creative is very important in a business like yours, but can sometimes be a challenge. When and where do you find you do your best thinking?
Typically, I come up with my best ideas when I’m busy doing something else. I always carry a notebook with me so I can jot down reminders that I use to remind myself when I’m back in the office.
It’s also important to look at other creator’s work. It doesn’t even have to be related to what you’re doing, you never know what could inspire you to create something incredible.
"I come up with my best ideas when I'm busy doing something else."
What do you think makes a good plan for a business? Is a plan even necessary?
A plan for your business is a great starting point, but don’t be disappointed if it quickly becomes obsolete. Your plan should be a guide, not a set of rigid rules. Build in some flexibility and be prepared for some failures.
More important is knowing exactly what you want to achieve. As long as you keep your goal in mind, how you actually get there doesn’t really matter.
"Your plan should be a guide, not a rigid set of rules.
Build in some flexibility and be prepared for some failures."
Quick Fire Questions
Instinct or facts? Both
Plan or improvise? Improvise
Keep score or play for fun? Fun
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn? Twitter for B2B; Facebook for B2C; Still learning LinkedIn
Sweet or savoury? Savoury
Start early or finish late? Early
Carrot or stick? Carrot
Risk lover or risk averse? Risk lover
Compete or collaborate? Collaborate
Summer or Winter? Summer
Do it on paper or do it on screen? Paper
Cat or dog? Dog
If you’d like to find out more about Growth Rocket and the great work they are doing to build a database of small business experience, you can visit their website here. You'll also find all of their interviews to date to give you plenty of food for thought.