Q:What’s the biggest mistake you see business owners making?
A: Apart from not listening to their Mentor you mean?
Eddie Woolf has been to the University of Business life, there and back and there again as a Clothing Pioneer and Entrepreneur! Joining the Family Retail Clothing business aged 16, by 21 he was running it, expanding it from 9 shops to over 50 super stores. The Family were early pioneers of direct purchasing from the Far East as retailers. When the recession hit he decided to capitalise on the properties and took a break.
Within 3 months he had discovered a niche Clothing underwear item “Mens Funky Boxer Shorts”, it sounded crazy. Over the next 3 years the business had made over £1 million pa ebitda in UK and Europe, he then took it to the USA, using his Far East suppliers for funding. The business developed from a cold start into the biggest Mens Underwear and Sleepwear licensing business in the US, carrying all the top known character brands. Not wishing to emigrate, Eddie exited the business on the way up, the business has sales today in the region of $250 million with over 100 staff!
Since that time Eddie has looked at “turnaround and distressed” retail situations and was leading a syndicate to buy Woolworths UK with a highly profitable turnaround exit strategy. The competition in this whole area from leading US Funds proved to be overwhelming and after being outbid several times he turned his hand to steering smaller businesses towards profitable expansion, which has proven to be a highly successful challenge using all the experience he has attained over his years in all aspects of the industry
Eddie has some key points when evaluating a business:
- He views any business as he would his own, not becoming emotional and only caring for the success of that business and the board.
- He believes that the key player/s must be totalling concentrated on driving the business and given the maximum support to get there as nothing should distract them or stand in the way of creating sales and profitability.
- Margin margin margin, whatever it takes, profit is sanity as the clichés say.
- Finding the incisive product for success and capitalise on it worldwide
- Brand potential.
Eddie believes most businesses are the same, the same hopes and opportunities and the same errors and failings and he has the ability to quickly recognize these and concentrate speedily upon addressing them. One of his favourite quotes being “I like to think I’m the man standing next to the Captain with a pair of expert binoculars, viewing what is way up ahead on the ocean, well before we get there”.
Why did you become a mentor?
To help young entrepreneurs overcome the types of problems and issues I had to face on my way to achieving the success that I had.
Were you/have you ever been mentored? What was your experience? Do you still have mentors now?
My mentoring was the University of Business Life, ie out in the jungle. I was Mentored in my youth by my Father who was a very successful trader, being the first retailer to discover Hong Kong back in 1958, and was also the first vertical retailer, buying directly. After that I had to discover new challenges on my own, including the USA which was a huge one!
What one piece of advice that you’ve been given has made the biggest impact on your business career?
There are a few, turnover v profitability, being a poignant one. Always enjoy your business another.
In your experience, what’s the biggest benefit of being mentored?
The ability for somebody to be holding the binoculars to see that iceberg that you’ve missed!
What’s your most recent success story from one of your mentees?
Helping him double the business in sales and profitablility within the first year!
What’s the biggest mistake you see business owners making?
Apart from not listening to their Mentor you mean? Poor financial information and poor admin, also doing it all themselves and not delegating, to enable them to grow the business.
Why should more business owners seek a mentor like you?
They do not see what they are doing wrong because their staff will not tell them and their ego wont either!
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