The Entrepreneur: Lara Morgan, Company Shortcuts

The woman who sold Pacific Direct for over £20m shares the key metrics she follows, her biggest mistake, and market predictions

Founder: Lara Morgan
Company: Company Shortcuts
Description in one line: If you want to accelerate the pace of growth in your business through building or improving a sales engine and sales leadership Company Shortcuts will help!
Previous companies: Founder Pacific Direct Limited, also interests in Kit Brix, GATE8-, Global Amenities Direct, Activbod under the Functional Fragrances.
Pacific Direct turnover at exit: £18.5m making £3.3m EBITDA
Value of Pacific Direct exit: £20.2m

Describe the Pacific Direct business model and how you made it unique:

  • Niche manufacturer and provider of luxury licensed branded toiletries and accessories to luxury hotels , cruise lines and airlines
  • Our niche was through having exclusive licensed collections only available through us and distributed delivered duty paid to hotels in 110 country locations

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Building – and ultimately selling – Pacific Direct as a niche brand boutique concept which lead the field for a number of years globally.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Cash available, debtors and creditors, sales sum towards target by sales person each day globally and also profitability per product and invoice value raised.

To what extent did your business trade internationally and how did you achieve it?

110 countries we delivered to – through a hideous amount of travel and through winning global contracts with Accor Sofitel, Inter-Continental Hotels Group and other leading luxury hotels world-wide. 68% of our goods were exported.

The manufacturing platforms we owned and built in both Czech Republic and China aided us immensely in our ability to serve hotels world-wide – without the genius of employing great people none of this would have been achievable.

Describe your growth funding path:

Self-funded first two years out of savings and living off a bootstrap wage, whilst reinvesting every penny through meticulous cash management.

Then we gained a £10,000 HSBC overdraft having forecasted £880,000 sales for year three – after which we negotiated factoring our invoices and then after a period took back invoice control by moving to invoice discounting.

During significant growth periods and in fact from very early days we maintained constant communication with supporting banks and over a period extended our over draft facility to a maximum at one stage of £270,000.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Grasping all kind of tech is critical but actually I would suggest having the best possible customer relationship management approach and a solid accounting platform have to be the best returns on investment.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

In three countries and £1m plus billings.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Fire people, it is never easy and we all make mistakes however hard we try to recruit right. The hardest thing is to learn early lessons when we make employment mistakes. The other toughest lesson, the learn the value of focus.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Not recognising the value of great data and milking that asset in my first company.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

No idea, nothing slows us down but I object to new paternity and maternity rules. They can destroy small companies as a burden and should be made different for companies with under 20 people.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Lack of genuine and relentless focus on ONE key objective of being the best at something in their sector and sticking to it, living it, breathing it and not being distracted.

How will your market look in three years?

I hope significantly different as I remain saddened, disappointed and somewhat horrified by the lack of investment people put in themselves as leaders and as sales professionals – madness given both are critical to success. Without selling – a business has no reason for being.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Bootstrap where possible whilst remaining generous to people.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

My handbag – Bown. I can run for trains, planes and cars

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Stupidly took too long to invest in myself, then Cranfield Business Growth and Development Programme and since, any training that takes my fancy.

What would make you a better leader?

Yet more focus!

Business book:

How to become a Rainmaker by Jeffrey J Fox – big words, huge value, (when applied).


(will not be published)