Pop Quiz, Monday with Neil Elliot

Neil Elliot

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Neil Elliot

What is your job role?
Founder of http://www.SirGordonBennett.com

Tell us about your company?
We are a content driven, specially curated online store. That purveys goods that look beautiful, are made well, work as intended and all made in Great Britain.

What do you love most about your job?
The great unknown. I left a 20-year advertising career to start a business in a sector I pretty much know nothing about, retail. Every day is an adventure of learning. I have never felt comfortable with being comfortable.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
Helping smaller, great British brands are found by a wider public. And helping new audiences discover brands they may not know but make products that are very special.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
We are a two-person outfit at present, but I am inspired by the brands we work with. Be them brands who have been around for decades and how they still create beautiful products without kowtowing to the bad habits of the modern world. Or modern brands that believe that craftsmanship and making things the correct way is the way forward. Our throwaway society is wrong in so many ways, and the brands we work with don’t deny they are selling products, but they make them properly, to work better and last longer. So, are better for the world we live in. They inspire me that there is a better way to consume.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
Team building and culture is an important part of any company. My partner is my brother-in-law, who I have known for a very long time. So we spend a lot of time in the pub, discussing beer generally, very British I know.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
Building a business is full of challenges. To lay them out here would take too long. But I find that finance is the biggest challenge. We are a self-funded business at present and running lean whilst still creating traction is key to our success in the long run. As previously stated I pretty much know nothing about the retail business, so it is a steep learning curve. But challenges in business are what drives a business person, solving problems are part and parcel of the job. The main challenge at present is driving enough qualified and quality traffic to the site to hit our sales targets. So building a robust A/B testing system is key and using the learnings to grow the business, which isn’t the easiest for me. My analytical skills are more creative than numerical as I was previously Executive Creative Director of an international Ad agency.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
I have learned so much. It’s a cliche, but things do take twice the money and take the twice the time. This is so true. The human mind has a great ability to overestimate short term actions. Hiring professionals who know what they are doing will save you time and pain. I have fallen into the trap of thinking ‘I can do that,’ and essentially it was just a waste of time and money. There are specialised experts for a reason. If it is financially viable, always use them. As a business owner, you are the guiding light and vision, and you don’t have to be the person in the trenches of every job. If you do, I guarantee you will fail and fail exhausted.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
Know more than I did. Retail is tough. The margins are tight. The competition is fierce. Don’t get sucked into price wars, a race to the bottom only ends in everyone losing. Add value to your customers, try and make them brand advocates or raging fans. De-couple as much of the business you can. Unless you come from a fulfilment background, we guarantee you won’t enjoy the pain that delivery and returns can be. Find yourself a trusted fulfilment distributor they will make your life so much more enjoyable. Keep re-evaluating your model, and retail also moves fast.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:


Author: Ricky Singh, MBA

Editor of The Startup Growth.

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