Working for yourself and running a successful business is a dream shared by many. You call the shots, command an increased salary and get satisfaction from seeing something you’ve created perform successfully on the world stage.
But if you’ve never run a business before, or you’re a creative type but have no idea how to actually get your product to market, how do you transition from a small, lifestyle business into a fully-fledged large-scale operation?
It’s safe to say, Ben is the perfect candidate to answer the aforementioned question, having founded his company in 2012 while still at university and delivering pizzas. Underestimating the level of success he would achieve, it wasn’t long before Ben (and former co-founder Lewis Morgan) dropped out of uni to focus on it full time.
Today, Gymshark is valued at over £1 billion, and Francis himself has an estimated net worth of £700 million (thanks to his 70% stake in the business). Just a reminder, he’s only 28 years old. Let that sink in.
But his success hasn’t been easy. As he says in his LinkedIn post, Ben reveals that the key to the stratospheric rise of Gymshark is “hiring great people”. Initially, Ben believed he could, and would have to, do everything himself.
“It’s very easy to get caught up in your own hype and believe that you can do everything right. After a bit of a reality check, I had to check my ego and leave others to it.”
“Genuinely, if you want to grow your business, that is the most important thing you can do.”
“When you’re hiring people, you have to trust others to do things. Inevitably things will go wrong and it’s incredibly tough to start with, looking back, it was difficult for me in the beginning.”
“I’m glad to say I’ve since managed to control my ego somewhat more, trying to become the best person I can be.”
“Genuinely, if you want to grow your business you need to make yourself redundant in areas you’re not as good at.”
Ben adds that “hiring great people” isn’t as simple as just hiring the most qualified, or the ones that look best on paper. “It’s tough to find talented and humble people, that care, who see a vision for the company,” he relates.
“One ‘bad apple’ can damage a team, we’ve had that in the past and had to deal with it very quickly.”
“Although our staff turnover may be low, if someone does something against our values, we have to say goodbye in the most amicable way possible.”
Once you have your team in place, you can start to think about making the leap into a much larger scale operation. Again, never expect it to be easy, “…it can come with a lot more risks, stress and longer hours,” says Ben.
“You will find your profits will decrease because you’ve got a higher cost base within the business. It’s a transition you will need to think long and hard about.”
Ben rests much of the success of Gymshark on bringing in two particular members of staff that have been able to mentor him, while guiding Gymshark towards a brand that receives incredible global recognition today.
“I brought in Steve and Paul. Steve is the CEO and Paul the Chairman, leading me to understand the way to run a larger scale company and teaching me to trust others.”
“It’s very difficult as a person that hadn’t done this before but gaining knowledge from others that have experience in a sizable business will really help with the process.”
It’s well publicised that a great deal of Gymshark’s success can be attributed to its heavy use of influencer marketing, recruiting over 100 social media influencers to advertise their product. When the brand launched, platforms such as Instagram were still in their infancy, and so opting to use it as a primary platform for marketing could easily be considered a risky move. Clearly, it paid off.
Naturally, any successful business needs a million-dollar idea to begin with, but once you figure out that niche, or stumble upon a product or service people can benefit from, then it’s simply a matter of steering it along the path to success.