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Unlocking Success in the Asian Market: The Role of Relationships and Reputation with Jim James


Unlocking Success in the Asian Market: The Role of Relationships and Reputation with Jim James

By , October 20, 2023



A British entrepreneur fights to build trust and relationships in Asian business, facing cultural barriers and the absence of a rule of law, in his quest for success and sustainability.

Jim James, a seasoned entrepreneur and business owner, shares his captivating journey of venturing into the Asian market. As an Englishman who had lived in Africa and the United States, Jim’s fascination with Asia led him to Singapore in 1995, where he founded East West Public Relations, his first business endeavor. From there, he expanded his presence to China, establishing offices in Beijing and delving into various ventures, including importing Morgan Sports cars and launching the prestigious British Business Awards in China. Throughout his 25-year journey in Asia, Jim emphasises the paramount importance of building strong relationships and trust in the Asian business landscape. He highlights the concept of “guanxi,” the Chinese term for relationship-building, which is crucial in a region where the rule of law may differ from Western standards. Jim’s experience offers valuable insights to entrepreneurs and business owners seeking success in the Asian market, emphasising the significance of reliability, reputation, and commitment to long-term partnerships. Jim’s story serves as a reminder that establishing trust and nurturing relationships are fundamental pillars of triumph in the Asian business world. By embracing the cultural nuances and investing in building connections, entrepreneurs can pave their path to success in this dynamic and thriving market.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Build strong relationships and trust to unlock the potential of the Asian market.
  • Discover the benefits of starting a business in Singapore and tap into its strategic location and business-friendly environment.
  • Overcome the challenges of building a PR business in Asia and learn how to navigate cultural differences to achieve success.
  • Understand the significance of building systems and a strong brand to ensure long-term sustainability and scalability in your business venture.
  • Gain valuable insights from the lessons learned in transitioning and selling a business, including the importance of aligning personal values with business decisions.

Watch the episode here:

Welcome to the podcast it’s dedicated to helping business owners prepare for exit so you can maximise value and exit on your terms. This is the Exit Insights podcast presented by succession plus I’m Darryl Bates-Brownsword, and today I’m talking to Jim James. Welcome, Jim, and thanks for joining us today.

Darryl, thank you for inviting me to be on the show. I’m looking forward to it.

Yeah, well, look, Jim, look, we’ve had a couple of chats and ah, interesting, you live not too far from me, just down the road, but that hasn’t always been the case. You’re a Brit who ended off wandering off abroad for for a number of years, running your business the exact opposite direction to me. Why don’t you give us a bit of a background? You ran a PR back business, you ran it in a number of countries. Where did it start and where did it finish, I guess is where we want to get to?

Yeah, okay. Yeah, I mean, you and I crossed Geographies, right? So I’m an Englishman who lived as a young man in Africa and also went to the States and studied there. And then in 1995, I went to Singapore to start East West public relations. That was my first business venture, really. I was 27 at the time. So I started that business there, lived in Singapore until 2004, went to China to take a bit of time out and study some Chinese, and then went back to China 2006 to start the offices of East West Public Relations in Beijing. And while I was there, I met my wife and also had two amazing daughters. Also started a couple of other companies, so including importing Morgan Sports cars to China and started the British Business Awards in China and was the CEO for Lotus Cars in China for a little while. Also while keeping the PR firm in Singapore and in China, and also opened a PR office in India, 2019, came back to the UK. So that’s my little history. And then in terms of the agency, sold the Singapore operating company just last Year to the next generation of PR leaders.

Okay, so the first one was the PR agency moved to Singapore. Was there anything special about Singapore that attracted you to Singapore or how did that come about?

Yeah, Singapore really is a gateway to Asia and in the early 90’s we had the Asian Tigers, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore is really at the center of that group of ASEAN countries. And Singapore is 3 hours flight from nearly a third of the world’s population. So you can get India and you can get to China. Right. So geographically it was fantastic. And also professionally and as an entrepreneur Singapore was really Asia light because of the English language, English rule of law, the airport is very easy to manage. So all in all, Singapore is really a great place to explore Asia and to explore starting a business.

Singapore is a great country. I’ve been there several times myself, but I’ve not worked there. But it feels like east meets west, doesn’t it? It’s the best of both worlds.

Yeah. And from a professional point of view and I know for listeners today that are business owners, Singapore is one of the easiest places to start a business. One of the most transparent in terms of sort of accountability and contract law, banking and finance, and also importantly, there’s no capital gains tax. So if you are residing there as a permanent resident and you build a business, you sell a business, you get to keep it all. So it’s brilliant as an entrepreneur’s hub.

Okay. And it is known as an entrepreneur’s hub, isn’t it?

Very much so. Very much so. And it’s got a little bit more expensive, Darryl in the last number of years, my friends now that have been there for a long time are starting to move to either to Bali or to Bangkok or even up to Ho Chi Minh and to Hanoi to, you know. Singapore’s become really a center for now sort of wealthy people from all over the world, actually. And that’s driven up prices. So it’s still a great place for all those reasons we’ve discussed. But now to do a business, you can be in Bali or in Ho Chi Min Hanoi or Bangkok and get benefits of scale and lower costs that back in the 90’s, Singapore had.

Okay, so a question is, as someone who grew up in the UK, and all of your network and your contacts and relationships are UK based, how hard was it to get started in what is primarily a relationship business, the PR industry? How hard was it to get started with, I guess the culture shock happening At the same time?

Yeah, at the time, in the early 90’s, we didn’t have the internet, obviously. We had the beginnings of CompuServe, actually, and I used to dial up Australia on a 24K modem, so really it was all about going and being. For example, I joined the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, so there was really a fantastic expat community in Singapore and in the Southeast Asia still is. So it was a matter of, know, going out and meeting people and no social media, as I mentioned. So we just did a lot of events and trade shows and so on. So actually I was so excited and I’m passioned about being in my own business and about being in Asia and frankly, being out of the UK because in the early 90’s, as you ay remember, the UK wasn’t a great place to be. We had high interest rates, we’d had kind of a recession after mThatcher’s boom. And let’s not forget the English weather. So having a pool in the apartment, get up at 6:30, go for a swim at seven, be in the office at nine. Is that a culture shock? It all felt like just an amazing adventure and I loved it.

Yeah, well, the early 90’s, I just finished Uni and it started life on working as an engineer. So slightly different. What about doing business in Asia? Was that any different to Western world?

Well, although it’s an old sort of sore about business in Asia, really, relationships are super important in Asia, and that’s true amongst expats, but also as an expat living in Asia, doing business with Asians in the market. So one of the key things really  was about the importance of relationships and people sometimes misunderstand Darryl, why that is one of the fundamental reasons that relationships in Asia are important and in China they call it Guanxi, is because the rule of law is not the same as it is, for example, in the UK. So actually trust is a fundamental tenet of business in Asia and that’s built by people meeting each other because legal recourse or financial recourse isn’t there. It’s got much better in the last decade. But doing business in Asia has been very much about being there. And the other dimension of doing business in Asia is as a foreigner, that many locals would expect you to leave. I was in Asia for 25 years and I’d see so many companies come in to Singapore or when I was in China, to China, and they would make big promises and then the minute business got hard, they would leave. And we saw this especially we had the Asian, we had the currency crisis when the Thai bar fell apart, we had SARS, we had red tide right there were. Succession of times when business in Asia was really difficult. Some of us stayed, and those of us that stayed built relationships, but also reputation for being reliable. That was key. Consistency and commitment to Asia was key for anybody going out there to do business. And I think that’s probably the same. As it is if you’re a foreigner coming to do business here. People want to know that they can trust you longer than the contract is going to take to expire.

Yeah. So we’re following, I guess, normal business principles. You’ve built a business up you’ve built a business up in a relationship heavy culture. How many people in your business at this stage? How many employees did you yeah, so.

By 97, I’d been there since June 1495. By the middle of 1997, I was up to twelve people. So it was the largest, one of the largest independent PR firms in Southeast. Asia, actually, Hong Kong was the other big hub. People were not doing anything in China until 2001 right? So I already had expanded the team. Well beyond my skill set, I don’t mind to tell you. But I got more business and hired more people. So we’re twelve plus people.

Okay, so you’ve built this business in a relationship heavy culture, relationship based culture, build a reputation and building that credibility of trust that you’re going to be in the market, in and around for a while. But at some point you extracted yourself from the business. You still owned it at this stage, but you’d extracted yourself from the business. And if I understood correctly, you picked up and ran with other interests and started some other businesses in the region. So what happened to the business, the PR business, once you started to extract yourself out of it? And I guess what was the process of, I guess the thinking of keeping the business going and growing without your daily input in an operational role?

Okay, so in 97, 98, I realised  that I was finding another business and that was the provision of event information to all my clients because a big driver for PR were trade shows, conferences and so on. So the business I started, Darryl, on. The side, my side hustle was called And I raised money actually for that business because in those heady days you could raise money and I raised like quarter of a million dollars on an eight  million valuation off a PowerPoint. But I already had the beginnings of a content syndication model based on event listings. But I knew that I needed to make my PR business sustain without me before I could step out. And the key is, as you know Darryl, with what you’re doing is that you have to build a couple of things. One is you have to build systems so that the business might have me as a brand ambassador, but it has systems when it comes to delivery. My mantra became that I’d have a knowledge driven, geography independent company in the PR business. And so I built out a platform which put the entire business online. So this was a little bit early, but what actually did was I used ASP for the database and I used a Wiki platform and actually I built what I called East West Connect, which was a platform that had all the media contacts or the client contacts or the media clippings and everything online. And what that meant was that the team that came into the company were able to really access the wisdom of the entire organisation. Now we have whether it’s or Zoho or Monday or any of these other collaborative platforms, but back then it was fairly early days for this kind of knowledge management. So one part of it was to put in place a system, literally a system that I built that would enable anyone who joined the company to access the entire knowledge of the company. That was the first part. And the second part was about the remuneration for the people that then ran the company. So what I did was to create at the time slightly overly complicated sort f points system where people could earn money depending on not only what they did, but how well the company performed. So there were a number of points in the company and the shares got divided according to the number of points. And the longer people were there or the better they performed, they got points and that translated cash. So the idea I spent a lot of time reading people like David Meister’s book, David Meister, and he and I had some conversations. He’s a brilliant guy, the Trusted Advisor he wrote as one of his books. But I really tried to work on a model that was almost like a law firm, a law practice, for example, an accounting practice, where the rewards were shared with the team. So the systems and the remuneration and the final part is the branding. And what I realised was that if I was the sole brand of the business, then I couldn’t ever leave the business. I called the company East West Public Relations rather than Jim James PR because I knew that if it was Jim James PR, people would always want to see me. And that’s not a bad thing. But until you want to sell yeah, it is. If you want to sell the business, you’re trying to build a brand, right? Not necessarily promote yourself. So I built a brand under East West PR and really spent a lot of time on the website, but also on articles on SEO. And I also built a lot of partnerships with PR networks around the world so that the brand, the organisation became the magnet for a new business rather than me. So there were the systems, there was the remuneration, and then there was the brand.

Okay, so a couple of key things that I’m hearing from here is first thing, if you want a business to run without you, you need to extract all of the knowledge and have it easily accessible and easily understood. And then ideally, some sort of framework where you can train people in all the knowledge as well as know how to access it. So we’ve got all of the knowledge in a central system or hub or resource somehow that anyone can access. That means that any buyer can access the business as well. So that makes the business sustainable and less dependent on the owner. So pretty savvy thing to do that early on in your career. Then you said, hey, the people are the key asset here. And the key thing I like what I think you were saying, make sure I understand it correctly, was I wanted to reward people for their success and not just the success in their job, but the contribution that the success that they do in their job makes to the overall business. So that we’re all aligned to the same things, which is business success rather than my job success. And that way we’ve got some sort of we’re de-risking it from a perspective of ensuring that the business is going to keep growing as a whole. And we’ve got a team-based culture rather than a me based culture. Now, the other thing is, Jim, did you say that if simplify things, turned it into a profit share, but did you release or share any of the equity in the business at this point?

I didn’t share the equity in the business. I did share the performance of the company, though. I was transparent about the books, which we’re talking about, 1990’s. This is a little bit radical to be doing that. I read the Ricardo Semler Maverick.

He had another book with five something, wasn’t it?

Anyway, so Ricardo Semler wrote a book called Maverick, and he inherited a business in, I want to say Argentina or Brazil. And he was very inspirational to me because he talked about trusting your team. So I shared that but I didn’t share equity because equity is a risk. And I offered people to buy into the company, but actually most people couldn’t afford to because they would rather have the money in their pockets. But also, most people didn’t see themselves being in a business that long. right? And you sell equity to a member of staff, and they want either a profit share for that or a vote. For that, or they want an exit at some stage. And so I had some partners in Hong Kong who bought into the PR firm they were a member of. And actually, Darryl, it just created huge complications because there really wasn’t an exit strategy. So then it was about valuation of the shares. And so I decided that was too complicated. What people wanted was cash and I wanted control. So that’s how I structured it. And the concept that you talk about earlier on is what McKinsey calls the one firm, firm. And this is something David Meister wrote about in his book about the concept that you know the company succeeds by individuals succeeding and individuals succeed by the company succeeding. And it was really important. I had strategy sessions every three months with the team, and offsite, we used to go to islands in the South China Sea. We went to some amazing sort of mangroves places. But we discussed strategy, and getting engagement from everybody on what we were doing was really key.

And so, again, it’s about aligning everyone so that their interests, everyone’s interests are aligned to the same outcomes, which sometimes people say, we’re all paddling in the dame direction, or what have you. And people were looking you talked about they wanting cash. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, I find, and they want to be recognised and and acknowledged for the efforts they they contribute. And you did that via cash. And at the end of the day, people underestimate the risk it takes to build a business, and you were able to address that as well so fair play. So the business is evolving, it’s growing your interest. You’ve managed to extract yourself operationally now, by the sounds of it, by having these systemised methodology and thinking in place and empowering I think that was probably even the word of the day in the 90’s, empowering people to know what they’re meant to do, which freed you up to chase other interests and get some other businesses up and running. How often when we see absent owners, when the cat’s away, the mice will play? The sort of approach I’ve seen business owners extract themselves from businesses and just live off the dividends, so to speak. And they think that once they’ve built the business, that they’ll be able to move into their retirement with this mindset. And all too often it works great for two or three years, and then at some point, the employees start to think, well, we’re doing all the work. Why are we doing all this work? All of the business growth is down to us. They get certain their perceptions change and think that they’re doing all the work and become disgruntled with doing all the work and all the profits being distributed to the owners. How did you avoid that or address that or cope with that if that’s what happened to you as well?

Yeah, I think absolutely great point, and I suffered at the hands of that it went fine for a while. And one of the lessons I learned is that as long as you are the shareholder, you do need to at some stage, whether it’s quarterly, monthly or whatever, still be turning up, because especially in the service business, people see themselves doing the work, and quite quickly, they see themselves as the business. So what actually happened was I went to China to start the business there. And I became a dad, which is great, but as a result, I didn’t travel as much. And in the end, one of the members of the team know, and this is actually really where I made one of my biggest mistakes. She said, you know, well, that she wanted to buy the you know, I was too proud, aggressive. I thought, well, I’ve started the business in Singapore, I’ve now got a business started in China. And I said, well, I want to keep growing the business myself. I think it’s worth more. And as a result, she decided to leave and take a lot of the team with here came to me and said she wanted to buy the business. With hindsight, I should have said, that’s great, because what I also know now, after 25 years of running businesses, is that buyers come along, very few and far between, right?

She had a vested interest. She knew the business.

She knew the business. Let’s face it. They say, well, we’re doing the business, we’re getting a salary, and we’re getting some profit. Actually, they’re getting a great salary, getting a great profit share. But at some stage, people then move up, if you like Maslow’s hierarchy becomes control, right? And so it wasn’t money, it being enough anymore. It was about authority and about being seen to be in charge. I played that hand really badly, Darryl because I didn’t really recognise my vulnerability. The business actually survived. I managed to go down and triage the business, but it really took the wind out of the sails. And so I think that if I  had the time again, I would recognise that if we liberate and train people, because, in effect, this person had worked with me from arriving from India. Had kind of learned how to do budgeting, how to negotiate, right? I mean, I’d really trained her how to be a great business owner. I was too arrogant to go, you know, actually, the next thing I need to do is let them go. I now need to, in sort of parenting terms, let them become an adult and take the business from me. So I kind of really well, I did fail that test, and at the time I was preoccupied with fatherhood and with China, and I was starting a business in India, and I thought, wow. I’m growing great guns. So I missed that trick altogether. So I think the systems and the brand and their remuneration enabled the business to continue until for another 15 years, it carried on. Right? So the systems that I put in place actually made the business resilient. But from an equity and a business leadership perspective, I should have recognised that once you’ve created and empowered people to run a business, the opportunity, actually, that if I’d known you back then, I’d have known how to do this properly. Right? I’d known the conversation to have about. Well, let’s talk about how we do that exit. I didn’t know how to do that conversation. I absolutely failed that test. But I think that as we go forward, if we do empower people and show them how business works, we have to be prepared for them to either buy the company or to set up their own company, because that is the trajectory. But if you don’t do it this way, you’ll always be a parent in the business. And for those of us that are parents, your children need to leave home at some stage, right. Your role is to help grow them, not to control them. And I only realise that now, Darryl. And at the time, I didn’t, but that is the inevitable consequence of the management strategy that I took.

Yeah, well, the thing is, Jim, I think what we get to the point of understanding is, as entrepreneurs, we make a truckload of mistakes. And if we could capitalise financially on every learning we’ve made from our mistake, it’d be a wonderful thing. In hindsight is always wonderful. Your confidence was sky high. Your employees confidence, after being trained so well, her confidence was sky high. And it sounds like a classic late teenager and parent clash almost in hindsight. And then once your kids do leave home, it’s great having them back. You love it when they come back and visit and have dinner and what have you. So the business kept on, I think you mentioned like another 15 OD years. So during that 15 years, we’re now getting to the point where you’re running it via remote control by the sounds of it. How often did you touch it and revisit? And what sort of involvement did you have over those 15 years?

Yeah, Darryl, what I did was I had moved from Singapore to China in 2006 and kept the Singapore business, the India business was a bit of a false start. So people applied to run the business. And we did the legal and so on but it became a bit of a money pit, to be honest. Anyone that’s ever tried to do business in India will know how time consuming that is as a market. One of the best practices that I have learned was through Verne Harnish. And I’m sure you know, Scaling, you know, Verne Harnish is an amazing know. He started the EO Organization, the Entrepreneurs Organization, and I had the good fortune to meet Verne in Beijing and I started with a good mate called Rich Robinson. We started the EO chapter in Beijing. And what I learned from Verne and the Scaling Up was about data and priorities and rhythm and that routine sets you free. So what I did with the team. Initially, I did a daily huddle with everybody. And then when I moved out, I got to do a weekly huddle, a Friday huddle, which is key tasks, successes and learnings, and then quarterlies. So Verne’s Scaling Up practice and I’m sure some other people have now sort of got iterations of that, but this idea of consistency, whether it’s daily or weekly or quarterly or monthly, but also knowing what we were tracking. So we had a dashboard number of clients, billable hours, capacity, obviously, cash flow. number of clippings, number of press releases being sent out. So I had kind of a dashboard. That was applicable to each company, each. agency, so I could see if things were happening. So I think sometimes it’s a mistake, Darryl, that people think that they own. A company and not day to day in the company. Unless you’re just a shareholder, right, and there’s a management team in place, it doesn’t mean you can release yourself from the well being of the company. It just means that you need to have some controls and some levers. And Verne Harnish’s Scaling know, he has a sort of a dashboard you can change. That is a really good control framework, I think.

So you got a mechanism now for taking the pulse of the business. You’ve extracted yourself from an operational role, but you weren’t disappeared altogether. You’re still present in the business. They’re aware of you, of your involvement. You’re just not required on an operational role. And that’s critical to business owners who want to maximise the value of the business and where do you see a lot of small to medium businesses? The business owners are critical in either sales roles or delivery roles. They’re the most expensive person, most experienced person in the delivery of whatever their product is, which makes them key people operationally in the business, which is great for their ego, but not great for their valuation. So you’re now operating the business via remote control. You get a sense, you get a pulse, you’re running like this for a number of years. What happened for you to decide now? It’s time for me to extract myself fully from an equity perspective, from the business. In other words, sell it. What happened and what was the process for identifying the valuation and how did that go?

Yeah, so Darryl 2019 moved back from China and to the UK. And I ran East Coast public relations UK. I set up a new business here and then was corresponding with the guys in Singapore and really a couple of things. One was a sense that my life in Asia was wonderful, but I needed to build a life here in Europe. And so I recognised that my knowledge and my wisdom about Asia was on a half life. So whilst I was an expat in know, I was one of the kind of the few expats who knew tech and media in Asia. I knew a few other things, but in Beijing, I was one of the Only foreigners that was doing this in Singapore as well. But based in Wiltshire, what do I know about the trends in Singapore? What do I know about what’s happening in Thailand? I used to go to these places, I used to meet people. So I felt that my value was on a half life every day I was away, Asia was moving on and I was not. So I saw long term that I needed to do something that reflected where I wanted to be, not where I have been. Then I did some work for some clients, including like Ineo’s Grenadier, the new car, and I launched that in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. It was great, but it meant being up 06:00 in the morning. And one of the things I’ve always done is take my children to school and I drive them to school, ridden them to school, pushed them to school. Ever since they were toddlers. And I couldn’t do that when I was trying to be on the phone from sort of six in the morning through till eleven in Asia. So I decided it wasn’t in alignment with my life values and where I wanted to be. So those are the realisations. And then, although financially it was great, because actually you can make money in Singapore, arbitrage the costs you could sell in the UK and the US. So commercially it was great, but from an emotional, practical point of view, it wasn’t in terms of what I then did was I put the word out informally through my network. That’s still in Southeast Asia and actually a woman who used to work for me, who worked for me in 97 through 2008 and then worked with me again from like, 2019 through till 2022. Grace her name is I asked her, I said, do you know anyone? And I asked my accountant, and I asked some people in the media business. And one of the young men who had worked with me a decade ago had an ambition to start an agency but didn’t really have all of the skill sets for brand building and finance and operations and building partnerships and all things I had in place. Darryl and he had a friend who also wanted to start an agency. And so we got chatting about them basically taking over the agency, because I had all the infrastructure, I had the things that would take them, frankly, years. To build brand bank account. I had partners all over the world at existing client base, and so it really made sense for us to find a way for them to take it over. Your second question was about valuation. The first thing I really did was I asked them what they could afford because I’ve had a great run with East West Public Relations. And one of the lessons I learned from that experience all those years ago, when this woman offered to buy the company and I had a price and she had a price, and we were a long way away, the question I should have asked was, what does she want to pay for it? And as business owners, we get our egos involved in what we think the business is worth. It’s only worth what someone’s willing to pay for it. And because of these objectives I had sort of financially, but also socially and morally, it was as important to me to pass the business on as it was to optimise the price, because more than one business, as you know, has died on the vine. So I really said to the guys, what can you afford? We looked at the turnover, and then I structured it, which is obviously important for this conversation. I structured it where they bought 100%. of the company at the beginning with a small down payment, right? And then I said, It’s important that you own 100% of the equity at the beginning. So it’s your business. It’s not my business. And you’re doing an earn in. It’s your business you become directors. And that meant I had to trust them all the way back to trust, right? Darryl had to trust them to do that. I said, you guys that own all. The shares, you’re the directors, you give me a deposit. And then here’s a 24 month payment schedule. And I structured it so that if they paid this quicker, it was cheaper. And if it was over 24 months and It would get more expensive. So I put a premium on time. And so we really structured a deal that they could afford, where basically they used the business to buy the business.


Because they didn’t have the cash, but they have the potential.

So you created a deal that worked and met your requirements. What you wanted as an outcome, your goals and aspirations worked for them. You left the business is still going, you’ve left a legacy and you created a deal that worked for everyone, all of the players.

Yeah, and I think your point about maximising. The valuation, I think that can I use the word optimise the valuation? Because maximise implies you’re going to get the most price. But actually, it’s not just about money, is it? It’s about The role that you can play. So I’m chairman for twelve months. It’s about being able to pass on the clients that we had, the relations that we got. So I would say it’s an overall portfolio of benefits to think about. If you think about it just as the price, then I think you might be inclined to do a deal or even not get a deal because you’re so worried about the ticket, you’re not thinking about the other things.

So you’ve created everything. You’ve created a deal that worked for both parties and the framework of the deal was such that everyone was happy and it worked. So in your scenario, because some business owners are really keen on just going, I want to get the most out of this business as I can, and other business owners are going, hey, look, I want to leave a legacy, and there’s a whole lot of range of options in between. So it’s now to 2019, we’re now 2023. You gave them a two year head start. There was a penalty if they took more than two years. What happened? Where are we at?

Yeah, now, so Raymond and Naveen are doing a brilliant job of running the business, right? So payments are coming in on schedule and we did a handover, obviously, over time to them, training, introductions and so on. Raymond’s been to the UK, to a partner meeting with a group of public relations agencies that I’ve been a partner with for 20 years, and he’s taken over that relationship. And the brand is moving into some slightly different spaces where they want to take it, which is great. And they’re working on a brand refresh on a new website. And it’s really wonderful because the vehicle that I built that has generated income for me for 25 years is now generating income for the next generation of entrepreneurs. So it’s fantastic.

And the business lives on.

And the brand lives on which from a personal point of view, you put in so many years into a brand and a business, it’s wonderful. And also there’s a continuity in the marketplace which is also kind of special. So, yeah, I think that overall. The decision to leave a business or to exit a business really has to be approached with some humility because as I learned, it was the second time someone offered to buy into the business. The first time I kind of overpriced It, the second time I overpriced it and the third time I went, you know what? It’s worth a lot to me, but I need to listen to what it’s worth to somebody else.


And they’re not always the same thing, but the opportunity cost of being in a business, Darryl, that you don’t want To be in is very high. Right. So the way I looked at it was that if I’m not in that business and I might not get as much money, but if I’ve got the time to build a new business or do something else, then that’s where the real value comes from in exiting the business.

So Jim, I really appreciate you spending time with us and sharing this story because clearly it’s one that’s got deep, I guess, emotional connection to you and that came out in our conversation. So if I can ask you just one more question and I think I know what the answer is, but what’s the one key message from this conversation and the story that you’ve shared with us today? What’s the one key message you really want other business owners to take away from your experience?

I think it would be to understand what your life is going to be on the other side of the business that you’re currently running. We can be in a business and be so wrapped up, as you said earlier, Darryl, to be the key man or key woman and to get our ego involved in that role and to identify ourselves in that role. But if you want to find new ways to challenge yourself to be with people that you love, to stay fit and healthy later on in life, having this in your mind’s eye makes it so much easier to let go of the business that you’ve built and loved. So there’s a key message. It’s about understanding what you’d like to do with your life that’s outside of the business. Because once you’ve understood that and seen how valuable that is, you can see your own business within the context of your overall life plan and the people that you live and love with and that, I think, would be my key message. So think about what life could be for you on the other side of owning your business. That’s such a powerful observation there because we know that entrepreneurs, if they know what’s next, if they got a vision about what they’re moving on to next, they’ll run to it and it’ll make the exit a whole lot easier.

Jim, thanks for sharing your exit insights with us. It’s a powerful story and an experience that a lot of business owners go through and experience.

Darryl, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity. I don’t to be honest, get many chances to talk about the East story. And I think it’s a success story. It’s not a know, huge business, but it’s the kind of story that I think hopefully will resonate with people listening today, that it’s possible to build a business and to find a way for It to carry on and you to carry on both successfully but independently. Thank you for inviting me to share that.

Jim James, Thanks

Darryl, thank you for having me on the show.


About Jim James

Jim James, based in the UK and the Champion of the UnNoticed Entrepreneur. That’s because he’s been one since 1995 when he set up EASTWEST Public Relations in Singapore. Living in Beijing, China, from 2006 to 2019 he set up a number of other businesses including the import of Morgan Motor company cars, the Beijing chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, and played a role as Vice Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce. He also set up the British Business Awards in China in 2008 and played the role of interim CEO of Lotus Cars in China. As a youngster, he lived in Africa and America and studied in America as an undergraduate. As a result of his wonderful life he has friends and associates around the world, and this is reflected in the guests and listeners of the show.

Now he’s back in the UK, and in pursuit of the next round of being an entrepreneur. He had sold his PR Agency, playing the role of Chairman, and he’s focused on The UnNoticed Entrepreneur project. The genesis was helping fellow entrepreneurs during COVID, including his sister. He’s the proud father of two amazing daughters and a handsome beagle called Binkie, who ensures that they go for walks no matter what time they finish in the studio.

If you would like to learn more about how to start preparing your business, then you can get more information here: It All Begins with Insights.

Darryl Bates-Brownsword

Darryl Bates-Brownsword

CEO | Succession Plus UK

Darryl is a dynamic, driven Business Mentor and Coach with over 20 years of experience and passion for creating successful outcomes for founder-led businesses. He is a great connector, team builder, problem solver, and inspirer – showing the way through complexity to simplicity.

He has built 2 international multi-million turnover businesses; one now operating in 16 countries. His quick and analytical approach cuts through to the core issues quickly and identifying the context. He challenges the status quo and gets consistent, repeatable and reliable business results.

Originating in Australia, Darryl’s first career was as an Engineer in the Power Industry. Building businesses bought him to the UK in 2003 where he quickly developed a reputation for combining systems thinking with great creativity to get results in challenging situations.

A keen competitive cyclist, he also has a B Eng (Mech) Engineering and an MBA.