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Flashback to 1990: Catching up with John Rosie

Wed, 30 January 2013

In 1990 John Rosie and David Harpham won top prize in the Staffordshire LiveWIRE In Business Challenge competition with their media company, Maclagan Men.
We caught up with John to find out how business has progressed over the years, and what his advice for other young entrepreneurs would be…

What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
To be honest I can’t remember much about our submission, I seem to remember we gave a presentation, but I’m not sure. At the time there were two of us, myself and David Harpham. We had started the business in 1988 from a back room in our student digs. At the time we really had no idea how to run a business and we took anything we could get. I think there may have been a cash prize for the LiveWIRE competition and that’s probably why we did it.

Part of the prize was an activity weekend but only one of us could go, so I stayed in and David went. I remember the business had to buy him a waterproof jacket and walking boots as he possessed neither!!!

There were couple of days of leadership and team building activities, some assault course stuff, (including a zip wire thing that he was terrified about). There were logistical puzzles to work out and they were competitive against other teams. I seem to remember he had to build a raft and row it over to an island and there was an entertainment bit.

He doesn't remember who won, but has vague recollections of some of the folks he met. Most notably a young man who was building a hotel in Eastern Europe – he was very impressive. I’ve still got the certificate somewhere.
How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
I’m not sure if the LiveWIRE event had a direct influence on the business but it must have given us a lot of confidence at the time. Later that year we moved into offices in Stoke on Trent and took on an employee. We also travelled the world filming Formula One for a client (come to think of it, that may have been why I didn’t go on the activity weekend!). Over the following years the business gradually grew along with our portfolio. Along with the corporate videos we also started to specialise in training videos, notably for Halfords and Michelin Tyre.

In 1997 David decided to leave the business taking up an offer from a bigger production company. I continued the business building on a reputation of quality and creativity. By now the business had begun creating interactive CD Roms and with the increased capacity of broadband internet I was able to deliver video on line. This led to a revolution in e-learning and we enjoyed a long period of growth with clients such as BT, Accenture and Wickes DIY.

I have weathered a few ups and downs in the economy and this period (2010-12) has perhaps been the longest but I’m still going. 2012 has seen the business downsize (batten down the hatches and all that) but I am confident that I can ride the storm.

How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
I’m not conscious of adapting as an entrepreneur, but looking back there are many mistakes and experiences I have learnt from. I do get asked often about how to set up a business and what are the pitfalls and I usually have plenty of experience to draw on. Most of the time I say; “DON’T START YOUR OWN BUSINESS!”

I think the hardest thing has been the mechanics of running a business. I’ve been trained to make films and it’s what I enjoy doing. I hate finance, accounting, marketing, networking, paperwork, managing other people etc. I’m rubbish at it, yet it has to be done. As the business grows you do more of the business side of things and less of the things you are good at and enjoy doing. Sometimes I wish I could just work for someone else, but I’d probably get bored.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
Working out how to make enough money to not worry about it anymore. Not achieved after 25 years!

What are your top 3 tips for a young entrepreneur about to set up in business?

1. Don’t set up your own business.

2. Make sure you have some financial backing (we started with overdrafts).

3. Get someone you trust (preferably a family member) to do the day to day accounts.

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