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Alex Minchin – Advocates Systems, Processes & Metrics

About Alex

I started my business career pretty early; building websites aged 12, generating advertising revenue from 13, and running and selling profit-making websites from 15. In my spare time I love to learn (anything), cook, barbecue, eat, travel, and to spend time with family and friends.

Alex’s business experience

I founded Zest in the summer of 2010, when I was 23 years old with a laptop and a coffee table. Since then we’ve been noted for fast growth, most respected agency, as well as being featured in The Drum Top 100 independent UK agencies census. We have built a sensational team who continue to deliver results time after time, and we’re powering through our next phase of growth with an exciting future ahead.

Personally, I’ve been lucky enough to be recognised in the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Oxfordshire’s Young Business Person of the Year, and in the Cotswolds Top 35 under 35 list.

Having now run a business for almost 10 years, I have built up a number of scars (!) and a wealth of knowledge that I enjoy sharing. I have mentored start-ups for over four years and enjoy geeking out on designing business models.

Five questions, five answers…

What has been your most pivotal moment in business?

The most pivotal moment in business for me was getting a grip on payment terms and cash flow. As a small business, it’s easy to fall victim to unfair payment terms and late payments (because you don’t want to lose the opportunity!).

I switched my mindset to one that values the service and value we deliver to our clients. We charge in advance with zero payment terms. We’re not a bank, and we don’t offer credit. By doing this, we reduced our debtor days from 76 to sub-18 on average, a target we’ve maintained for over 5 years now. This means we only work with clients who can pay us, and we generate cash quickly, meaning we can reinvest when we need to.

Zest has since been featured in The Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, The Oxford Mail, The Oxford Times, and various other publications for our stance on this.

If you could send a text to yourself the day you started out in business what would it say?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was a question. ‘Do you want a business or a lifestyle?’.

Whilst you can achieve both, a business is built around systems and is designed to work without the owner. This is harder to put into place and requires the right processes, systems, documentation, and (most importantly) people to run those systems.

A lifestyle business is built around you and therefore offers more flexibility for your Tuesday afternoon school run or Thursday morning golf round, but you’re locked in. You can’t sell a business where you are the business, and when you want to take a step back you will find it difficult to do so.

So my text message would be just that; ‘Do you want a business or a lifestyle?’.

Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?

My biggest inspiration has been from the many mentors, friends, family, and colleagues, who have given me their time, experience, and wisdom. There is no one person I could single out, and I try to take inspiration from every person I meet.

What book should all business owners read?

Too many to mention! As a business owner I firmly believe that you should be reading/learning weekly, if not daily. I listen to a podcast every day and read at least one business book per month.

If you had to push me for an answer, I would recommend Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. This follows my passion for measuring key metrics to support my decisions.

What is your favourite quote?

“Don’t miss the donut by looking through the hole”. This reminds me to keep view of the bigger picture and both the opportunities and risks that you will face in your life in business.

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