The Entrepreneur: Lyndsey Simpson, The Curve Group

The woman who left corporate life to help build a £9m business talks achievements, mistakes and not being the master of everything

Co-owner: Lyndsey Simpson (original founders are Della Wolfe & Jeanette Ramsden)
Company: The Curve Group
Website: www.thecurvegroup.co.uk
Description in one line: Award winning HR Services Group comprising of: Curve Search; Curve Recruiting; Curve HR Consulting; Curve RPO and Curve Contractors
Previous companies: Worked for Barclays
Turnover: £9m
12 month target: £12.5m

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We have a ‘quest’ – “Creating People Solutions That Leave You Feeling Curved”. This is all our team need to know to judge if they’ve done the right thing and added value to our customers and the company every day.
  • We are the one-stop-shop for the people journey through a company – recruitment, induction, training, development and exit/outplacement.
  • Relationship-based where each client has a dedicated account director who leads their relationship with us.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

In a business context, it has been the way we have been able to bring an innovative approach to the market and execute at the highest standards, enabling us to capture market share in a contracting economy. What I’m really proud of is the way we have done this by creating a dynamic team culture that essentially underpins everything we do and everything we are about.

In a personal context, it was making the decision in 2007 to walk away from a successful career within the banking industry to co-own and run what was then a small business.

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

Our “must lands” which are the numbers our leadership teams forecast will land in that month and the next three months. Not so much daily, but certainly weekly I will also review our three, six, nine and 12 month rolling cashflow forecasts – when you’re growing at 187% per annum you need to be in total control of your cash/funding position.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

About 10% of our revenues are non-UK but are all driven from the UK and growing as a proportion of our income. We are organically growing in this space by following our UK customers into other territories but only where we can complete 80% of the fulfillment from the UK using video conferencing, travel etc.

Describe your growth funding path:

From 2004 to 2011, we were entirely self-funded with a small amount of bank funding. Since then, the numbers have grown so we have a much more comprehensive bank funding package in place and still retain 100% equity in the business.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Toss-up between LinkedIn and Skype.

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

Nearer £20m turnover, a deepened presence in our three industry sectors and all of our customers knowing and liking what it means to be “curved”!

Growth challenges

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

Accepting that you can be doing the right things, in the right way, but you can still make a loss if the market conditions are not correct. When we went into the recession in 2008 I had only ever known success so found it difficult to accept that you can’t “make” markets, you can only succeed within them.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Continuing to serve a FTSE 100 customer for 12 months too long when our staff were not enjoying working with them and the effort to reward ratios was out of kilter with our other customers.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Not being able to “smooth-out” VAT & corporation tax payments to avoid massive spikes in outward cash.

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

Trying to make it on their own at the top and then burning out as they have no-one at peer level to rely on so they can never take a break.

How will your market look in three years?

The outsourcing of recruitment solutions will be more commonplace and not the preserve of the FTSE 250. Outsourced recruitment solutions will be scalable (in both directions) to offer benefits to companies of any size and accepted as normal practice in the same way that you would outsource your IT, cleaning or catering to a professional services company.

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

Find the people around you that plug your gaps as no one can be a master of everything.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Lots of holidays to my second home in Valencia.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

I believe in getting a degree level education but think you then need to get out on the job and learn your skills in business. I’m not an advocate of MBAs but think executive education should be about specific technical skills that you can’t easily obtain.

What would make you a better leader?

Having more free time in work to just support and coach on the spot rather than having such a heavy schedule and thus needing to plan time in. I’m working on it…

Business book:

Before I made the leap from corporate life to running my own business I devoured business book after business book. The one that resonated with me and I still go back to now when I’m creating a new business plan is Teach Yourself Entrepreneurship by Alex McMillan. It really gets my creative juices flowing.

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