Richard North is a rising star in the world of business. The serial entrepreneur and CEO of WOW Stuff, a Wolverhampton headquartered business that creates blockbuster toys that have ‘Wow! factor’ speaks to Business Report about his personal drive to succeed and how to get some of that entrepreneurial stardust in your own business.
Like many entrepreneurs Richard came from a working class background and quickly learned that if he wanted something he would have to work hard for it.
After studying A levels at a local sixform, Richard approached his first employer, a manufacturing firm specialising in making niche crossbows and slingshots. After going direct to the managing director’s personal assistant, Richard got his first job and first business lesson.
Richard said: “My first job opening taught me that going in at the top of a business or approaching someone who influences the MD can get you a lot further than the usual route.”
This opening alone didn’t get him up the ranks of that business however.
“I remember spending about a year in a back end office role where the only sales calls made were in-bound. There was myself and a girl working in this office, for much of the time it wasn’t especially busy.
“I recall thinking that this can’t be right just doing nothing and would quickly lead to no job unless we make things more productive. I then set up a successful outbound telesales department, which proved to be a real success.
“It wasn’t necessarily the desire to succeed that created this early success but the fear of failure. From speaking with many entrepreneurs this seems to be a common theme.”
For Richard failure is not an option, he has too much to lose. His business success also hides a personal tragedy after his brother suffered a devastating stroke that left him paralysed on one side.
Ironically this is also one of Richard’s biggest motivations.
Coming from an under privileged background Richard knew that he would need to be able to support his brother and the only way to do that was to be successful in business.
Despite his success, Richard did not start his first business until he was in his mid twenties. He spent seven years learning the ropes in sales and management before taking the plunge into his own venture.
The time he spent working in other peoples businesses helped Richard grow as a businessperson and he learnt a lot during those formative years.
Today Richard is clear on the path that has led him to his current acclaim. “It’s about employing great people, and finding the best. In our business we look for ‘bright-sparks’, they need to have intelligence but also common sense. The spark refers to a spark or explosive nature, a dynamic person, explosive piece of energy. “
For Richard his ‘bright sparks’ are not just in the boardroom.
“Everyone in the business should be a ‘bright-spark’ I hear too many people say you need your plodders. But my belief is that you need people with ambition, even if that means you only get them for a couple of years. It’s about hiring great people who can do great things no matter where in the business they are.”
Richard also offers some advice for business owners who are asking when the right time to recruit is and how to pick the right person.
“The best companies never stop hiring but for a recruitment strategy to work you need complimentary skills in a business, like pieces of a jigsaw that fit together. Sometimes you can have people that are similar to yourself and you really get on, but in business that doesn’t equal success.”
In business trust is important but that doesn’t mean taking your eye off the ball as Richard knows too well. “I have worked with some great people, creative geniuses but I’ve also experience the ugly side of management and you need to be able to manage both situations”
“There is a saying that ‘what gets managed gets done’ and that is so true. Its important to have honesty and integrity in the people you work with, as you grow you will need to delegate.”
Richard also speaks of some of the leaders that he admires: “Richard Branson has done tremendously well building up Virgin as a challenger brand, despite their size they are often considered the underdog, the clever separation of the different sectors into different companies has given Virgin the outward appearance as a smaller business.”
Richard is also enthusiastic about the future of his own business after receiving private equity investment from Business Growth Fund. He now aims to further expand upon his global operation that already includes offices in the US, Hong Kong and China.
Company China Industries
Website China Industries
One of the UK's largest in store supplier of branded toys. Outles include Toys R Us, Argos, Harrods and many high street stores. The business was established by current MD Richard North after a successful career in innovating in the toy and leisure industry.