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A growth conversation with... Mike Murray

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Our latest growth conversation is with Mike Murray. Mike was the founder and chief executive of Blackburn-based bridal and formalwear business Brackenbridge Plc during the 1980s, growing it into a multi-million pound business and floating it on the stock exchange.

At its height, Mike was responsible for three manufacturing sites, 60 retail outlets and 500 employees. Mike has been a long-term advocate of business growth in Lancashire through a number of non-executive, business consulting and mentoring roles. 

What is the biggest challenge you faced when growing your business and how did you overcome this?

Building sales from scratch to a level where I could afford to pay myself a living wage. I overcame this by using savings and government hand outs. After that, the challenge of raising sufficient capital to cope with growth was a constant and ironic measure of my success. The more successful I was the more my overdraft increased – a bit of a shock really.

What qualities must a growing business owner possess to be successful?

My recollection was that my many talents could most often be hired in. However, my leadership, motivational skills and emotional intelligence often far outweighed any intellectual prowess.  In plain English being a good persuader is essential.

You don’t just sell product – you’re selling all the time, whether asking a worker to do overtime, or a bank manager to increase lending or an investor to invest. These are all emotional skills. You can’t fake genuine passion. Evolution has equipped us all with a two-million-year-old nose that can instantly sniff out untrustworthy people. It has to come from the heart. 

What top tip would you give to a business owner embarking on a growth plan? Business is about capital and people and not always in that order. Also it’s important to wise up. If you are naïve about business, people will take advantage, so the sooner you get that the better. All our lives we are taught to behave, follow the rules, get in line and don’t cause trouble. 

All good advice for a normal life, but in business it can be an impediment. So do not be afraid to be awkward, to value your people and your products, and to say no to some requests.  Keep prices up but make a better product, stop dealing with people who do not pay and chase them in the courts if they still refuse. Better still don’t sell on credit unless you absolutely have to.

Which entrepreneur do you admire and why?

Bill Gates because he and his wife give so much of their fortune to charity. He invented a fantastic operating system too! 

Why is Lancashire a great place to grow a business?

Lancashire’s a great place to grow a business because we’re proud of the county, but be under no illusion, the wealth, and therefore customers, tend to be in the south west or even worldwide, so don’t get sentimental. Just enjoy our fine countryside, lovely friendly inhabitants and the support of some hard working local government officers and councillors. 

Why are you supporting Boost Business Lancashire?

I support the Boost program for one simple reason – I know how tough it is to run a small business and I always do my best to pass on any help, because I still remember the little man from the Board of Trade who helped me in 1983 when I was building my first business and I remember how important such economic support and mentoring was to me. We did £36k turnover the first year and within ten years we were doing £500k a week. Happy days indeed!

Find out more:

To find out more about Boost Business Lancashire, and to start your growth conversation complete our online form or call 0800 488 0057.

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