Building businesses is like a highly addictive drug - Julie Meyers, CEO - AriadNE Capital
06/04/2009

You had me at ‘hello’, says Renee Zellweger’s character to Tom Cruise after he proclaims his love for her in Jerry Maguire. Love at first sight should be savoured; I fall in love once decade and relish it. But, like most entrepreneurs, I fall in love with my business too- only every day. Like Zellweger, I can remember the moment when my rational side left me and it was love from there on out.


Lots of entrepreneurs take a punt on ventures that are closely tied to their identities. One well known British entrepreneur I know recently told me of the huge difficulties he had as he was building his firm: he had 104 credit cards and 52 loans to keep the firm afloat. And his wife was working at the private school for free in order to keep their children there.


They weren’t defeated though. They kept going. Now profitable, no one knows or would believe how they would survive. Many entrepreneurs have scars from business ventures they barely escaped from. I had dinner with Bill Grodnik who runs Davinci Virtual PA recently. He recounted how his second business in traffic lights really was a space he didn’t know anything about. I could see that he survived - just. Virtual PA is a company whose time has come; since launching earlier this year, Davinci now represents over 200 companies in the UK, forecasting to hit 600 by the end of 2009. Consider: 99 per cent of UK companies employ fewer than 49 people.

Entrepreneurs and SMEs account for £1.4 trillion turnover - more than half UK GDP. Davinci says ’tear up your lease contract and fire your receptionist; they can reduce work place overheads from 40 per cent to as little a four per cent’.


For as little as £150 a month, businesses can enjoy the benefits of a complete virtual office package including support services, including a live receptionist. Why would someone like Bill Grodnik, who has made money in earlier businesses, continue to build new ones? Is the virtual PA market really that fascinating?

The truth is that building businesses is a drug. It is highly addictive to try to control the odds.


Newspapers have been full of MPs saying they were unaware that their expense claims were problematic. The average entrepreneur may not take out 104 credit cards, but they certainly don’t have a sugar daddy to pay the expenses when times are tough. Contrast the passion of betting it all with “I didn’t think anyone would mind; it’s within the rules”.

And therein lies the reason why government must be downsized.

Don’t waste a good scandal. Revolution may not be in your nature, people of Great Britain, but an opportunity of this order top shrink government may not come again for a while. Use it wisely.


Julie Meyer is chief executive of Ariadne Capital. She is a client of Davinci Virtual PA.