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Flashback to 1997: Catching up with Darren Elliott

Fri, 07 December 2012

In 1997 Darren Elliott of Gemini Management Services Ltd. was named Oxfordshire’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year and went through to the South West Regional Final. We caught up with Darren to find out how business has changed...
We caught up with Darren to find out how business has changed...

What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
We were based near Oxford at the time and the head of the business advice centre (TBAC) contacted me and suggested I entered. So I attended a meeting, was told what is was all about and went for it. Having won the Oxfordshire heats, we then went onto the regionals. Shell LiveWIRE contacted me several years later and Gemini were fortunate enough to win a ‘Significant Business Progress Award’. The ceremony coincided with the birth of my son, so in my absence the award and some nappies were presented to someone on my behalf … it was a great touch!

How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
From back bedroom to offices in Bristol and London and a great bunch of people I work with everyday. The business model has changed massively since I first started and at times we were maybe a bit slow in the past in embracing change and what was going on around us. The PR from Shell LiveWIRE was great and helped the business on many different levels.

How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
Learning to manage people and change whilst still keeping the same drive to push on. So learning to juggle and delegate responsibly, not just so the task is no longer on my desk but making sure whoever I have delegated to has the right support and skill set so they succeed. Which is rewarding in itself, seeing someone achieve a task they maybe doubted themselves on.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
Without question the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. When the world ended in September 2008 it took several months before we actually felt the effects because we were so far down the chain, projects already signed off were being worked on. Like so many businesses, no-one is or was recession proof and when people stopped getting married abroad (we have a brand called which provides legal documentation services) a big slice of the pie went. Major projects on the Gemini brand were put on hold and many customers pulled out of product launches around the World (which meant no translation requirements). But the good news was we serviced our top clients even better, improved our marketing mix, stopped being busy on low revenue projects and started to re-define our business.

​I guess at the time it was a huge shock to the system (like for most) but once you get over the shock you start to regain some focus, start thinking and with a good team around you start re-building. The business learnt stuff from the recession and so when strategically planning now we take those lessons into our decision-making process.

What are your top 3 tips for a young entrepreneur about to set up in business?
1.  Take time to think about your business and not just run your business.
2.  Never underestimate planning.
3.  Everyone has an opinion. Listen and take on board advice but ultimately make your own mind up and believe in yourself. If you have planned properly, if things go a bit off course, you can act early and get things back on track.

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