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2 Nov 2016

Michael Hayman – The Power of the Pitch

In Britain today, entrepreneurs are creating 80 companies per hour. It’s a record achievement, reflecting a phenomenal transformation in the nation’s commercial appetite and ambition.

In 2011, when I co-founded the early-stage enterprise campaign StartUp Britain, the economy was still struggling and prospects looked far less rosy. Since then, we have witnessed a dramatic turnaround, both in our entrepreneurial ambitions and the wider health and resilience of the economy.

The UK now has a thriving enterprise culture and the opportunity that follows is to move many of these companies from start-up to scale-up. That is why Pitch@Palace is such an important initiative: one that has a key part to play in supercharging the prospects of high potential businesses. It has a vital role in building a culture of belief around high-potential firms at the growth end of the economy.

The importance of belief is easily undersold, but few things are more central to commercial success. Anyone starting a business has to believe in it, believe in themselves and they then have to franchise that belief among teams, customers, supporters and investors. As Churchill said, attitude is a small thing that can make a very big difference. For firms dealing with the challenges of survival and then scale, it can make all the difference.

And that is where the power of the pitch comes in. I have seen businesses tell their story at Pitch@Palace since the very beginning and they keep on getting better and better. It fills you with hope about how many talented people we have in Britain, many who just need that early push to help turn their dreams into realities.

When we wrote our book Mission, we met entrepreneurs from all around the world who had built their businesses on the belief that their idea could be a world-changer. From Airbnb to Amazon, many of today’s success stories were built by small teams with the ambition to go for it, and the guts to get out there and pitch it to market.

A previous boss of mine used to say that if you’re pitching, you’re winning. For those starting out in business, a key first step is getting your proposition to a point when you’re ready to pitch it. Creating something you can start to build interest, confidence and advocacy around. The American marketeer Seth Godin said that ideas are like viruses, and you need sneezers to spread the message. Once you’re pitching, you’re in the market for others to champion and lift your cause.

After all, a pitch is fundamentally about purpose. Your chance to communicate what you stand for and why it matters. It’s a skill that you hone over time and you use it in everything from selling products, to persuading people to come and work for you, to raising funding to grow or a price to exit.

I have spent many years in the business of pitching – preparing them, presenting them and listening to them. You absolutely know when you see a great one. Clear and singular in expression. A distillation of a multitude of ideas into a something breathtakingly simple.

By focussing on the power of the pitch, Pitch@Palace provides entrepreneurs with a vital life skill: exactly what is needed as British business gears up for the challenges ahead.

And while there are good reasons for many in the commercial world to take a sober view on the obstacles ahead, I also think that there is a great deal more to be excited about.

Business is a vital force for change and its innovation and ideas will set the pace for the way that we live and work in the future.

At Tech City’s Future Fifty launch in 2013, the then Chancellor George Osborne observed that two thirds of the companies that will make up the S&P 500 in ten years’ time don’t yet exist.

Over three years later, you get a sense of just how quick the pace of change is. It’s ripe for those who want to seize the day and make a difference.

It’s why Pitch@Palace is such a brilliant contribution to, and celebration of, the firms of the future.

Michael Hayman MBE is co-founder of Seven Hills. Co-founder of StartUp Britain. Co-author of Mission: How The Best In Business Break Through

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