10 lessons learnt from 10 years in business

John Morgan Partnership celebrates a decade of client service this month. In this period the business has grown from zero to over £2 million premium income. Company founder and Managing Director John Phillips has been reflecting on the 10 most important business lessons he has learnt along the way.

1. Hard work pays off.

Don’t ever just sit back and wait for things to happen. The old adage is so true – “the harder you work the luckier you will be”. JMP began in 2008, at the start of the financial crisis. The business world was falling apart. There were queues at the banks. Nobody was taking a risk. On paper it was not the right time to start a company. In reality, there was never a better time to start because every door was open. But I still had to get out there. Every organisation was looking to cut their overheads and insurance was one area where they could make a saving. Sometimes timing is everything.

2. Business isn’t 9-5, whatever the business.

My mother ran a civil contracting company when I was young. I can remember the clicking typewriter keys on a Sunday evening when she was pricing tenders and sending invoices. She had a strong character and an equally strong sense of customer service. So from an early age that was ingrained in me and carried through to how I run my business. JMP hasn’t grown just because of the insurance we provide, but the customer service we provide.

3. Value your employees as well as your customers.

Before starting my own business, I worked for the same insurance company for 22 years. During those years if you had cut me in half, I would have bled the company. Despite this, I never felt truly valued. I walked away from that firm, and since starting JMP I’ve always made sure that our employees know how much I appreciate what they do.

4. It is a bumpy ride, so make sure you’ve got support.

When I started my business I should have had ‘naïve’ tattooed on my forehead! I knew how much I wanted to earn and thought I could do it all in four days a week! For any new business it’s the start that’s the hardest. I worked all hours, seven days a week and got paid very little, my experience was no different from all start ups. It was through the help and support from family and friends that got me through the early years, and if you are not afraid of hard graft and effort it eventually gets easier. I work the hours now because I choose to and because I enjoy what I do.

5. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong.

We all learn by making mistakes. No-one has a magic formula. You must never be afraid to try new ideas, but not if it’s a drain on your core business. I opened a second office, but this was not the right move. You can’t afford to dwell on those decisions. I have kissed many frogs along the way, but you have to let them go.

6. Make one new contact a day.

This advice I was given on day one when I started. It has served me well when building this business. I talk about what we do at JMP whenever I can, and seize any opportunity to learn about other people’s organisations too. Good business has come in over the years from these simple conversations and, more importantly listening.

7. Always say yes. Then work out a solution.

We make our client’s lives easier by providing solutions. Never over-promise and make sure you deliver on what you do. Say “yes – we can help’, “yes – we can find a solution” and “yes – we value your business”.

8.  Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to make things happen.

In 2017 we acquired another brokerage – our first acquisition. It came about by a chance conversation. We saw the opportunity and made it happen by picking up the phone. You have nothing to lose by asking the question. The worst that can happen is that nothing has changed.

9. Get advice about business – and insurance!

Fundamentally I want to help people with what we do at JMP. Insurance is a very expensive piece of paper with a promise on it. If you get the good advice upfront, you get the right protection when things go wrong. If you don’t, it can be an expensive lesson to learn. We’re here to help and make sure this doesn’t happen to any of our clients.

Surround yourself with business support. Join networks and ask advice. All established businesses will have been through a similar journey; seek their advice – most will give it freely and it can prove invaluable.

10. Don’t forget why you are doing this.

Business is never easy; very few find fame and fortune overnight. For those on the steady road to success, you mustn’t forget why you started your business. Don’t be scared of having some fun along the way. There are sacrifices though. Your children only get one childhood, and you can’t give that time back if you spend it in the office. If you achieve the right balance, it will shine through and your business will benefit, just as JMP has.