Nigel Greenwood is a former Head of Channel Management and Head of Customer Loyalty for HBOS PLC. He has mapped customer journeys and improved customer experience for 28 years.
After 27 years working in large corporates, Nigel launched Simply Customer in 2014 as a customer experience consultancy then used his proven process to develop BuBul.
BuBul is a software platform that asks the questions a well-experienced business adviser would to work out what advice is needed to help someone start or grow their own business. It then delivers a unique set of recommendations for each user, with links to the advice required from over 70 subject matter experts, each of whom will give further advice on request.
He is an international speaker, with 3 books published on customer experience and journey mapping as well as 2 e-learning courses available on Udemy. Nigel is also a Community Fellow at the University Of Bradford where he focuses on bringing the local business community and the University closer together and also mentors entrepreneurs who are starting their own business ventures.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Nigel Greenwood: My parents both ran their own small businesses as I grew up and I saw how hard they had to work! Perhaps subconsciously, I avoided the stress of building my own business for many years, choosing instead to build a career working for large organizations until, in 2013, I grew disillusioned with how difficult it was to get them to focus on improving the customer experience and how slow they were to make changes.
Feeling that I was just earning money rather than really making a difference, I finally set up my own business to focus on working with small companies in the hope that they would be more agile and that I could help them grow. Finding that the process I had developed worked for small businesses, I wanted to grow the business and help more people so tried to train others to do what I did – but failed miserably!
That created the idea that eventually (6 years later) led to BuBul. Initially, it was just an idea to grow by not trading my time for money but it became much more than that!
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Nigel Greenwood: Having spent 6 months researching to make sure nothing like BuBul existed, I created a specification and went to several software developers. Never having done this before, I thought it would cost @£75k and take no more than 2 years. Five developers told me it couldn’t be done. One thought they could do it but it would cost at least £500k – which I didn’t have!
I applied 3 times for grants to help me develop it but failed each time. As I was spending most of my time trying to get the software built, my consultancy business suffered and money started to become an issue – and then one of my clients said he could help me build a prototype in return for me waiving the money he owed me. I spent 4 months working 7 days a week, 14 hours a day with my client giving me instructions and advice until finally, we had a prototype – but there was a problem.
It worked offline but wouldn’t work online – and there was no way to get it to work. That day I decided it was impossible and gave up. Then my phone rang. It was my son-in-law who was one of the developers I had spoken to a year earlier.
- “Hi Nigel, I’ve just ringing about that software idea you had – are you still looking at developing it?”
- “Hi David – no, I’ve given up on the idea”.
- “That’s a shame”.
- “I was intrigued so I’ve spent the last year up-skilling myself and checking out new technology and I think I may be able to build it now. Can I have a go?”.
I sent him 10 sample questions and answers – the next day there was a link to a simple prototype in my in-box. And then the cycle of 14 hour days, 7-day working weeks started again for 6 months as we built the full prototype!
What’s the worst advice you received?
Nigel Greenwood: There was a time when, close to finishing the final product, I ran out of money. I had 4 choices:
- Give up – not an option for me as I had put 5 years into the project by now!
- Put it on hold until I had borrowed or saved up the money I needed.
- Accept an offer from a venture capital firm to invest £500k into the business – but that meant comprising on the ethics and values I wanted to build into the company.
- Accept a smaller investment from some fellow business owners who had supported me for 2 years and believed in what I was trying to do.
I wasn’t sure which route to take, so asked the members of a Peer Board I attended for their advice. One person listened and then said” Nigel, I have years of experience in the software industry. You will never make any money with this unless you take the venture capital money, forget about your ethics and values, build it quickly then spend money to get a huge number of users without worrying about making a profit and then sell it quickly to the first large corporate that shows interest.”
That went against everything I was trying to do – but would have been the easiest route. I decided to ignore them and took Option 4. Interestingly I found that their “years of experience in the software industry” were 3 years working in a local electronics store so I definitely dodged a bullet there!
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Nigel Greenwood: Many people have described me as being resilient – but I don’t see it. I’m just stubborn. At one point, when I had no money and no way I could see developing the software I was offered a 1-year contract that would have solved my issues – but would mean giving up on my idea. I turned the offer down and my wife asked me “when will you give up?”.
I said, “When I know that it won’t work”. She said, “that’s never then”. And maybe that’s true. I describe it as an itch – I have a plan (some call it a dream although occasionally it’s a nightmare!) and I won’t be happy until I have achieved it or know that I’ve failed but have done everything I could.
Resilience is about not giving up on your dream regardless of what life throws at you. It’s about being focused, being prepared to accept setbacks and delays. It’s also about celebrating the small wins, being honest and open, and not being afraid to ask others for help and advice. Sometimes it’s about comprising or being prepared to change and follow a different path as long as you are still traveling in the right direction.
Delegating is part of being a great leader, but what have you found helpful to get your managers to become valiant leaders as well?
Nigel Greenwood: I wouldn’t ever describe myself as a great leader, but I have succeeded in getting a group of people together to help me.
I think you need to have a clear purpose and to be able to communicate it well. You must be open, honest, and authentic and be prepared to be challenged and criticized as well as willing to listen and learn. That way, your managers feel involved and valued and become inspired to behave in the same way toward the staff they manage. Everyone has to feel that what they do matters and is part of the big picture.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Nigel Greenwood: This is fundamental. People buy people – if you lack authenticity you lose trust and, once lost, it is incredibly difficult to win back.
For me, that means walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Every day I have to display the behaviors that I want my business to display. I have to be the role model. That means not pretending to be something or someone that I am not. It would be impossible for me to try to create an image or impression of me that wasn’t really me – the stress would be immense!
How would you define “leadership”?
Nigel Greenwood: For me, leadership is about having a vision, being able to communicate it, and being able to help others feel part of that vision.
It means caring for and supporting your team, even when they fail. It means picking them up when they fall and getting them on their feet again. It means treating people as you would want to be treated and not stepping on or using them to get where you want to go.
I often describe authentic leadership as pull rather than push. Think of a piece of string laid out at the edge of a table. If you want to move it to the other side of the table you can either try to push or pull it there. Pushing it requires much more effort and takes longer as it will not go in a straight line to where you want it to go. Pulling it is much easier and faster!
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Nigel Greenwood: Don’t be an entrepeneur just to make money – you will never be really content. Do something you are passionate about – it’s much more fun and satisfying! Don’t worry if you fail – everyone does, just pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and try again.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – everyone needs it from time to time and you will be amazed at how helpful other business owners can be (especially owners of small businesses!. Don’t read about other people’s success stories and compare yourself to them – they have struggled for years but won’t tell you that!
Lastly – build a network of other business owners that you trust. You will be able to help each other. Always be willing to listen and help someone – you will get much more back in return!
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Nigel Greenwood: My favourite quote is from Maya Angelou:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel“.
I first read this many years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. Every time before I say or do something, I think about how that would make someone feel – and if it would be negative, I don’t say or do it!
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Nigel Greenwood: We’re just starting on our business journey with BuBul, so this may seem ambitious, but my vision is that in the next 5 years we have a small team of @20 people helping tens of thousands of people worldwide start and grow their own businesses.
The business would have become an Employee Ownership Trust so every employee effectively has a share in the business and profits – but most of the profits would be split between continual innovation and improvement of various software products and donations to charities that help people set up and run their own small businesses.
I would like to remain involved in an advisory capacity (although I would have to avoid my tendency to interfere!).
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Nigel Greenwood for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Nigel Greenwood or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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