What Franchise’s resident business agony aunt Angie Coates, founder and CEO of Monkey Music, answers your business and entrepreneurial conundrums
With Brexit uncertainties continuing, should I delay starting my own business?
No - go for it now. You’ve heard
the expression ‘No time like the present’, but it’s the proverb’s less famous second line that explains why you should act now: ‘A thousand unforeseen circumstances may interrupt you at a future time’. There will always be a reason to delay. Businesses have faced a multitude of unknowns since the referendum and there will be further uncertainty for years to come as trade deals are negotiated. For some people, this may be frightening and create a feeling of helplessness and uncertainty. As a small business owner, you have to accept there is much beyond your control and channel your energy and ideas into areas where you can make an impact.
I opened Monkey Music in 1992: the year of Black Wednesday and its accompanying soaring interest rates, tumbling pound and crashing housing market. People told me daily I was mad, but I knew I had something special to share that would make a positive change to people’s lives and that inner belief made me carry on regardless.
To feel confident I’m making the best possible decisions, I still go through list-making exercises, weighing up my options and looking at my resources. I review existing plans against performance, reevaluate future growth plans, fuss over investment levels and save dozens of versions of the same spreadsheet reflecting different scenarios. After several potentially sleepless nights, I settle on a plan that makes me feel safer and more secure. Decision made, I’m quick to put the wheels in motion, full of energy and impatient to try out fresh ideas during the journey ahead.
There will be bumps in the road, even an occasional detour, but avoid the urge to change destination without good reason. Business owners who succumb to that temptation never feel in control. Setting up when times were challenging actually gave me discipline and confidence. I had to be strategic in my approach, disciplined with resources and resilient. Knowing Monkey Music could survive challenging times meant it would thrive when the market was easier.
What’s your best advice for keeping staff happy?
I believe staff happiness starts with consistently applied policies that reflect company values, so that staff and franchisees are confident they know what’s expected and what’s allowed.
Our strapline at Monkey Music is ‘Sharing precious time together’. It’s become a mantra that underpins everything we do and now defines our company ethos.
Everyone, whether they are at head office, a franchisee, a consultant or a customer, is encouraged to treasure how they spend their time with colleagues and their families - and company policies reflect that. It also nurtures an incredible environment because it encourages everyone to value themselves and one another, focusing minds on making the most of every minute. It works for us.
Consistently applied policies don’t make us prescriptive, however, as we make a point of finding out what our staff, franchisees and customers want. And we go as far as we can to deliver that.
For example, our staff value flexible working, opportunities to work from home and organised flexibility during school holidays to ensure everyone gets a proper break with their families. Franchisees value the freedom we give them to operate their businesses so it works around their families, so that is how we’ve set it up. But it only works because we have clear policies that are consistently applied.