UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture 2011/12 : Lara Morgan
By Wendy J Tester, on 17 October 2011
UCL Classics student Carolina Mostert summarises the talk below.
It starts with selling
Lara Morgan was introduced to the full lecture theatre as the “star entrepreneur”. Lara comes across as a determined, strong woman right from the very beginning – her vibe is that of someone who knows how far they’ve got and is still pushing further. Were I asked to describe the one-hour entrepreneurship lecture of Thursday 13 October in one sentence, I’d use Lara’s very first words to the students: “It starts with selling”.
Lara Morgan admitted that she had no idea she would become an entrepreneur: she started her first business by selling a sewing machine and a showercap at the age of 23. As strategic adviser, her grandmother told her to start off by selling at the top of the industry. The business Lara began was called Pacific Direct: it sold toiletries to high quality hotels. The business she founded and launched relying on nothing but her own hard work grew competitive on an international level and was at a certain point the fastest running company in England. Yet, “I believe it could have gone faster”, Lara commented.
In 2008 a majority share 99% holding of the company was sold for £20 million. Lara is now head of the four-month-old Company Shortcuts, the aim of which is to help mid-size businesses develop.
Four keys to being a successful entrepreneur
In Lara’s view, there are four keys to being a successful entrepreneur. Humility in leadership is the first. It is necessary to be brave, take a stand and “be mean” in her own words, when necessary. When there is need to fire, fire. At the same time, be humble in leading. The company, in the end, will be made up of a group. Treat money as a team-game in order to grow faster as a whole.
Secondly, see business as a race: accept challenges, aim to become flexible and “stretch out your ambition”. The third key is to have something outstanding, that makes you stand out in some way – in her case, Lara smiled, it was being only 23. Lastly, one should and must strive for improvement from the very beginning. To invest in the best technology, for instance, in Lara’s view is the best way to start.
What is important in the life of an entrepreneur?
“I want all of you to take out your mobile phones and give them to the person sitting in the row behind or before you”. Judging from the others’ expressions, I wasn’t the only one to know nobody in the room, not the only one to be slightly uncomfortable with this abrupt and unexpected test. Trust, the speaker went on to tell us, is what makes evolution happen. Learning how and when to delegate responsibility and being cheerful with what might slip from one’s control is essential to play the team game.
Furthermore, in describing the life of an entrepreneur, one aspect Lara stressed several times and holds dear is that of family. Usually, for entrepreneurs and businessmen, family life comes second, family life is a series of events which are hard to attend. “Practice taking the stretch and choose the life you wish to lead”; Lara stopped – she is aware, of course, of the sacrifices entrepreneurship forces one to undertake. However, she strongly believes in “culture within the business”, in putting family first in the priority list people make for themselves. Family will always be there for support – and to have support at the heart of the business will bring victory. In Lara’s own words, “entrepreneurs are successful because they are brilliant people”, not the other way round.
Lara, leading entrepreneur and athlete
Lara never stops. She has recently published More Balls Than Most, Amazon’s best-selling business book. To take a break from her job, she trained in Triathlon and participated in the World Championships representing Great Britain in September 2010. She works on a regular basis for Sky and BBC News: as a speaker, she shines. The truth is, Lara Morgan concluded: “I like to be as good as I can be at whatever I do”.
Written by Carolina Mostert, UCL Second year student studying Classics.