Copy, Understand And Innovate, says Serial Entrepreneur
This blog is based on an episode of our podcast, The PathCast. The PathCast is an interview series with tech and business experts, discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of business and aims to provide actionable steps for you to implement from the ground up. You can listen to this episode here.
Charlie Hoult is a serial entrepreneur. He has set up five business, from recruitment to software to a growth network, and even tried his luck at local politics. Currently, he’s a chairman, investor, consultant and trustee at many businesses within his home region, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
One of Hoult’s projects, Dynamo North East, is an initiative aimed at growing the North East IT, digital and tech economy through a focus on innovation, collaboration, skills, and advocacy. Dynamo has recently launched on-the-ground cluster groups to bring together business within the same industry in the hope of further collaboration and growth.
Bring innovation to your city
“I was keen to free myself from one specific day job and work with people I liked on a basis of using my expertise rather than being in the engine room,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in horizon scanning, making something that’s cutting edge and being on the edge even in a small city like Newcastle.”
And this, perhaps, has always been the case. Hoult previously said his career began when he was a boy, directing cousins to pick mushrooms on Holy Island, a small island off the North East coast, for their holiday fruit and veg stall.
“And that’s it about Newcastle – I bet many people are sitting around thinking oh I wish I was part of a big tech or business scene, but instead, make the scene. I wanted to bring bits of London here but didn’t want it to be a copy, I wanted it to be Newcastle’s own thing.”
Hoult believes adjusting your mindset is the key to success here. How can you add value, to ensure the test of time? The answer is continuous evaluation and reevaluation.
Don’t look at something for what it is, look at its potential. While this may seem obvious, it’s very easy to fall into a narrow mindset and just see something at face value. This is particularly important as businesses move towards a more as-a-service model.
Copy, understand and innovate
While Hoult relies on being at the forefront of change, he also describes himself as a traditionalist, in the sense of “if it doesn't work on the back of a fag [cigarette] packet, it won’t work”.
“It’s all about the numbers. All business stuff is about scenario planning. Those scenarios may be wrong but they’ll give you a sense of where you’re going and whether it’s worth leaping into,” he said.
“Be a fast follower rather than a leading-edge innovator. Do things well that other people are doing too. At the moment, we’re planning a very high-level coworking space in Newcastle. We have business parks but coworking hasn’t really gotten here yet, so we’re looking at what WeWork and others are doing and seeing how we can do it better, or with a northern influence.
“But it’s all about metrics. You have to consider what the ratio of closed to open desk and office spaces you need, and how that differs from Newcastle and London.”
Metrics should inform everything
As a business leader you should always be informed, look at what your competitors are doing, or what people are doing who you want to follow and drill down on it – and innovate from there. Copy, understand, innovate.
“One of the challenges I see with startups is that people jump into things that they don’t know or understand. Every sector is different, has its battle scars and pitfalls. You need to pick up experience along the way, and that’s been my principle for the people I’ve backed. They’re mostly 40-somethings working within the sector and I’ve helped them to replicate the business they’re already in with investment so they can then innovate.”
What other advice did Charlie Hoult have to share? Check out our LAST ever episode of The PathCast to find out.
PS. Want to stay in the loop with Charlie's tech ventures?
If you’d like to stay up to date with Charlie and Dynamo, catch them on all of the regular social channels.
- Hoult’s LinkedIn: Here here here.
- Hoult’s Twitter: @CharlieHoult
- Hoult’s Instagram: @charliehoult
- Dynamo’s Instagram: @dynamonortheast