The Business Wales AGP programme provides access to a network of experts in a variety of subject areas, who can advise and help you grow your business.
Here, we talk to Howard Jones, a Business Wales AGP coach who uses his experience and passion for helping businesses grow to support Welsh business founders throughout their entrepreneurship journey.
Can you give us a potted history of your career journey to date?
I started my career at Natwest, where I worked for three years before going to the International Thomson Organisation where I stayed for 20 years, a period which culminated in a strategic management role. I used my experience in the publishing industry to become founder and chief executive of SWA Publications, in partnership with the Royal Institute of British Architects, publishing magazines and handbooks for specifiers.
I joined Business Wales AGP in 2017. I love helping businesses to grow and develop. That was my aim when I joined the programme. I help companies to balance processes and policies with the entrepreneurial attitudes needed to scale a business.
What challenges have you faced during your career?
I haven't encountered barriers, but I've faced many challenges. One of the big things I've learned is that moving from a start-up company into a growth business takes a wide range of skills, knowledge and behaviours from that company's senior leaders and their teams. I use this knowledge as I help others on their business journey, with their own individual set of challenges.
Who have you learned the most from in your career to date?
Working at the International Thomson Organisation provided me with so much experience that I was able to use as I embarked on my business career and which I use now as a business coach. I was fortunate to have a mentor there who helped me look for solutions before raising issues. He was a great coach and someone who taught me so much.
What is your approach to work-life balance?
It's certainly not as good as it should be! I enjoy my work very much, but the result of enjoying it so much is that I end up working long hours.
Who or what inspires you?
I think it's good for the mind and body to exercise. Running, listening to music and walking near the sea – I use all these things to help me sharpen my saw and put things in perspective.
In terms of people, American leadership guru Tom Peters provides regular inspiration. His approach to excellence and what he calls "Brand You" are motivational and practical, as well as inspiring.
What is the best piece of business advice you've been given?
Make sure you understand your values and use them to guide your behaviour – especially when you have difficult decisions to make.
I think that's important and something which guides me in my work, as well as something which I encourage those I'm coaching to follow.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting in business today?
● Go for it! You have to take risks in business if you want to be a success.
● Believe in what you're doing – be passionate and enthusiastic.
What is the best part of being an AGP coach?
It's always an interesting job. I work with such a wide range of people and organisations, which means my work always absorbs me.
I get a massive sense of satisfaction from seeing these business leaders and their businesses grow and develop so they can achieve their aims.
There are some key qualities needed if you are to form a positive and productive relationship with a business, among them honesty, openness and empathy.
What, in your opinion, is the most important thing businesses need to have in place to grow?
I think you need a balance between entrepreneurial flair and that instinctive willingness to take risks and robust processes and internal systems.
It's also essential that chief executives and company founders recognise a need to build a team of people around them who are smarter than they are and delegate to them.