5 Jun 2020



Men falling off bikes during race

Some genuinely useful thoughts to get you through a crisis from Ultimate’s CEO: a pretty ordinary entrepreneur who found success, but did it the hard way.—

Genuinely Useful Thoughts – Part 2!’Don’t limit your challenges. Challenge your limits’.


Today marks the day I was meant to be riding the first stage of the entire 2020 Tour de France. Yes, every single stage of this year’s Tour de France. Not one or two but all 21, departing from Nice and riding the 3,500-kilometre course one day ahead of the professional race. All part of a hand-picked team aiming to raise £1M for the incredible charity Cure Leukaemia. Anyone close to me will know that up until April this year, I was fully focussed on 3+ hours a day of intense training, most of which was in the wind, rain, snow, ice and floods (remember the floods?). Veganism and fundraising were in full swing, and quite frankly, it was all going pretty well. Business was booming, and life seemed under control. Just how I like it.


I’ve remained pretty positive and motivated throughout lockdown, but I have to admit that the day it was officially pulled was a particularly tough one. That said, I very quickly dusted myself down and focussed. All was not lost as the event has been postponed, not cancelled (we’re now riding the 2021 Tour de France), and my mind turned to tackling head-on the challenges of business, and not to mention home-schooling!


The above episode outlines my own personal experience of the havoc and disruption caused by the pandemic, with everyone having their own personal story to tell. However, it made me reflect on the brutal truths of what’s involved in business ownership and a life of entrepreneurship. Running a business can be tough even without Covid-19, and unfortunately, I think a lot of people go into it oblivious to the fact. But why is this?


Maybe it’s something to do with a misconception that all entrepreneurs are super-rich and super-successful like you see on television? If it is, it’s no wonder there’s a disconnect. I’m not knocking the media’s interpretation, but it doesn’t take long to realise when you start on the road to business ownership or executive leadership, that the hard work is just about to begin. And it’s likely to take over your entire life.


I think what I’m trying to say is that there are less ‘overnight successes’ in business than you’d think. The overnight successes are often the ones you hear about, but the majority of businesses take years to develop. Often tens of years. And coupled with this, it takes hard, unbelievably hard work and resilience to succeed. This is my experience, and this is how I’ve found the world of business.


Now that we’ve looked at the realities of entrepreneurship , let’s take a look at what it’s going to take to make a success of business in today’s climate.


“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”

In the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken’. In today’s world, this couldn’t be truer and there’s a widening gap in the market for those who strive to be unique. Virtually everyone seems to spend their time comparing themselves to other people and trying to be like everyone else. But there’s actually never been a better time to stand out, be unique and do things your way. If you study the most successful businesses of our generation closely enough, you’ll see that the people at the heart of them aren’t conformists, they’re disruptors. It’s incredibly exciting to see robots and artificial intelligence enter our daily lives for real, improving productivity and the accuracy of service delivery, but again, this makes it all the more important to express your individuality, talents and outlook.


If you take this thought process and consider it in the context of business strategy and entrepreneurship, then I believe the same rules apply. Today’s big winners are the ones operating unique, new business models, that turn everything on its head and most importantly, put the customer at the centre of their world. Ensuring you have a user-centric business model is the out-and-out number one thing you need to focus on right now. The customer really is now king.


For example, long queues, lengthy forms requiring the same information ten times, opening hours that correspond exactly with your office hours – many high street services gave surprising little thought to the user. But things have changed. Take the banking industry. The days of queuing to withdraw money now look positively medieval. Even withdrawing cash is fast becoming an oddity in an increasingly cashless society. The old model simply doesn’t work – it was based around the convenience for the bank, not the customer. Remember swinging into the car park at the bank, only to be met with a sign that read ‘strictly staff parking only’. Banks have had to adapt to new customer demands for mobile and online-based banking services. Enter Monzo, Atom Bank, and Revolut to shake up the world of personal finance.


Similarly, take airports for example. The difference between the world’s best airports and the world’s worst is the customer experience. The worst airports centre their operations around the needs of the aircraft and airlines, whilst the best focus their models on the needs of the passenger. And with it creates an experience far safer and smoother, with more relaxed people spending more money, be it on food, drinks, or gifts. Get them through security faster, and they’ve more time to do so. Simple.

In summary, if you couple a resilient and a hard working attitude with a unique persona and a customer-centric business model, you’ll be a fair way along the journey to success in a rapidly changing business world. So, if you asked me to teach you how to run a business like me. I’d tell you it’s far more important to understand and learn how to do business like YOU! Start your individual journey NOW and begin to discover how to do business like YOU. It’s pretty easy to do and I’ll cover some of my tips on how to do this in my next article.


Written by Matt Townsend June of 2020