Sherry Coutu: ‘I’m probably on LinkedIn for two hours a day’

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Welcome to the second collection of Small Business Snippets, the podcast from Today’s episode options Sherry Coutu, a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and one of many main names within the UK digital sector.

We discuss suggestions for funding pitches, time administration and difficulties within the tech sector.

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Hello and welcome to Small Business Snippets, the podcast from I’m your host, Anna Jordan.

Today we have now Sherry Coutu, a serial entrepreneur, investor and advisor. She’s additionally on the board of Founders4Schools, Workfinder, Raspberry Pi, the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), Pearson and the London Stock Exchange.

We’ll be discussing the most typical slip-ups that companies make when pitching to buyers and essentially the most urgent points within the digital sector.

Anna: Hello, Sherry.

Sherry: Hello.

Anna: It’s pretty to satisfy you. How are you doing?

Sherry: Yeah, I’m very effectively, thanks. Good to see you.

Great. OK, I’d like to start out off by going again to the start. As the intro suggests, your background is in digital and tech. You had been a developer and programmer earlier than you turned an entrepreneur and an angel investor. What was it like being a feminine developer on the time you began out?

Sherry: Well, I’ve by no means been a male developer. I feel I got here to it considering it wasn’t that uncommon being a feminine developer. I had studied at EF International and another girls had gone into digital after I was on the London School of Economics learning so it didn’t appear that uncommon. I’d joined a giant consulting firm and that enormous consulting firm had a variety of girls in that consumption and we had been all programming. It didn’t appear that irregular to me. I used to be doing issues that I believed had been fascinating and I used to be studying expertise that I didn’t discover that tough and that I loved, so it was fairly simple by and enormous. I didn’t know on the time how uncommon what I used to be doing was or could be seen afterwards.

When did that grow to be obvious?

Sherry: I don’t know. Again, I don’t strategy issues on a gender foundation. I noticed different those who I preferred who had been doing work that I loved, and we had tasks which had been fascinating. When did it grow to be obvious? You do kind of discover that you just’re usually the one lady within the room, and it was probably afterwards that I believed, ‘Oh, that’s odd. It’s not 50/50 – it’s a lot lower than that’. It didn’t hassle me that a lot – I used to be fairly absorbed in what I used to be doing. It was actually fascinating work.

It’s a great way to take a look at it and a few girls thrive on that sort of ambiance as effectively. It’s a comparable state of affairs for buyers. What had been the most typical pitching errors you noticed from companies pitching to you?

Sherry: Well, I feel there are a couple – I used to be fascinated with your query earlier. And I feel there’s a couple of widespread points. One shouldn’t be researching. I’m a member of the Cambridge Angels and have been members of HBS Angels as effectively. And if an investor involves you they usually haven’t researched who they’re within the room with, that’s actually widespread blooper, and it’s not a smart one.

I feel if I had recommendation for them, it’s to analysis who you’re pitching to and know what’s of their portfolio and to know what they’ve what they’ve achieved earlier than. I feel, having any individual clarify to me one thing that, clearly, in the event that they’d checked out my background, they’d perceive that I knew. It’s a waste of their time, whereas you may get into extra detailed issues straight away in any other case.

The different concern, one thing that’s unforgivable to me as an investor shouldn’t be understanding who your buyer is. Or demonstrating your keenness to thrill that buyer. A scarcity of focus on that’s actually annoying to me.

I feel the one purpose we’re given alternatives as entrepreneurs is as a result of we are able to delight prospects and create issues that may assist them of their life in a multitude of the way. And I feel a lack of buyer focus is annoying to me. And it’s normally makes for a pretty quick assembly. And it undoubtedly implies that I received’t comply with up as a result of, it’s like, effectively, why are you doing this? The first query I’m usually asking is why are you attempting to unravel this drawback? Who are your prospects? What does this do for them?

Yeah, precisely. So, encouraging higher work expertise in school is a key focus for you particularly simply now, what sort of limitations do you suppose that small employers face when taking on work expertise pupils?

Sherry: Work expertise for folks at school and in college is one thing that I’m actually eager on. I don’t consider it as limitations. I feel all small companies have tasks that they should get achieved. You can ask a full-time everlasting worker who’s already working full tilt to do a undertaking, or you may suppose, ‘Are there ways that I can get other people from outside my company that might have a fresh view, who I don’t have to supply a everlasting job to, to get this undertaking?’

To me, the largest concern there may be as a small enterprise particular person is discovering folks to do these further tasks that I actually want to do for my prospects. Maybe it’s in order that I may be extra obsessive about my prospects and get them extra focusing on a new product growth or prospects in a new nation or in a new metropolis. But I feel that present college students at college, supplemented probably by college students doing their A Levels, are a smart way of getting tasks achieved rapidly and effectively. And hey, you would possibly even have the ability to rent the scholar who’s doing the work for you afterwards.

But all of us have tasks, we’ve all received dozens of tasks. Maybe it’s sitting down and considering of which of the tasks I’ve that might be appropriate for 5 college students doing a month or 5 college students doing a couple of weeks, breaking it down into one thing that may be achieved that can be significant to me as a enterprise.

Taking it again to the beginning, for an employer that has by no means achieved work expertise earlier than, has by no means provided a sort of programme of types –

Sherry: They don’t want a programme. They’ve received tasks on a regular basis. And all of us have tasks. I feel there are large firm methods of approaching work expertise and there are small firm methods of approaching work expertise.

The large firm methods are usually structured programmes that occur in June or July. And they is perhaps fairly cumbersome on the corporate. What I’ve seen work brilliantly for small corporations, small and medium sized corporations and start-ups and scale-ups are becoming a member of undertaking groups, or all working on a undertaking that the employer desires to get achieved that may’t get achieved another manner.

And that implies that for the supervision of that undertaking, you’ve received 4 folks on it, however you set collectively the transient which may take you a tiny little bit of time, or you possibly can use Workfinder, we’ve received greater than 100 briefs which can be acceptable to ask college students at college. You may take one in all our briefs of, effectively, you is perhaps fascinated with this, right here’s the way you do this sort of undertaking.

You transient them on the primary day, you contact base with them for half an hour simply to guarantee that they’re going alongside the appropriate path for the size of the undertaking, and then you definitely get them to current the undertaking view on the finish. I feel it’s nice. And then you definitely use it, as a result of it’s a undertaking that may show you how to do one thing extra for your prospects that you just haven’t been in a position to do, as a result of everyone’s actually busy. I imply, we at all times are pressed for time in small companies and enormous companies.

Yeah, completely. What’s the sort of state of issues in the mean time when it comes to small companies taking on work experiences? Is it fairly widespread? Or may it’s achieved extra extensively?

Sherry: Well, I might find it irresistible to occur extra extensively. But it occurs extra usually in start-ups and scale-ups than it does in giant corporations. We revealed this on the Gallup Institute earlier this 12 months, that it was it was extra possible that they’d taken on college students each at college and in school to do these further tasks in small and medium-sized corporations.

For me, I’ve received limitless tasks. I’d somewhat have a fixed stream of individuals.

And I feel the opposite one of many different limitations is that enormous corporations are likely to do it in the summertime, however after we spoke to small and medium sized corporations, they’d tasks all 12 months spherical, they usually didn’t wish to be constrained to having to do it in July or one thing like that. With plenty of different small corporations that we work with, it labored high quality round it Founders4Schools fitted in by all year long in order that it really works higher with them.

Anna: I suppose they’ve the benefit as effectively as a result of They don’t have the processes and the departments to undergo that bigger companies do.

Sherry: Yeah, precisely. And they might not they usually’ll have pressing tasks that pop up, possibly it’s a pitch, possibly it’s a pitch for a buyer and what you want is any individual to ask, ‘Well, can you do a bunch of customer research for me?’ We don’t know these folks, use Google, use LinkedIn. Yeah, assist me put collectively this pitch. But there’s plenty of actually good tasks that assist people who find themselves in school and college perceive what work expertise is. It’s deeply significant to the corporate, it additionally offers them a correct sense of what it could be prefer to work for that firm.

But it’s risk-free as a result of possibly it’s a week, possibly it’s two weeks, possibly it’s a month they usually can select, they get the undertaking achieved, they resolve in the event that they find it irresistible, or they hate it. If they find it irresistible, they will hold on speaking in the event that they don’t find it irresistible, they will strive completely different undertaking and a completely different kind of firm and see in the event that they like that trade higher.

Actually, as recently pertains to your experience and for corporations within the digital sector, they usually’re experiencing a lot of upheaval in the mean time – politically, financially in so many various methods. What would you say are essentially the most outstanding points affecting the digital sector proper now?

Sherry: Well, most lately GDPR was a change. I feel was a change for the great as a result of it protected customers and prospects and made certain that each one corporations had been being conscious of whose knowledge it was that they’d the privilege of being a custodian of. So, I feel I feel there’s that.

In the UK, I’m not going to say that phrase [Brexit], but it surely’s been more durable. It’s been more durable to retain folks from Europe for causes which can be exterior of our management, and that’s tough. Attracting individuals who have the appropriate ability set can be actually tough as a result of there’s been a sequencing concern with small corporations, we create plenty of jobs, however they’re jobs in agile administration and knowledge science.

Schools and universities aren’t but churning out individuals who have these expertise. And I feel fixing that concern in order that we small digital corporations don’t undergo from a ability scarcity any longer is definitely very a lot on my thoughts. And I hope to make some contribution to that agenda.

Anna: It feeds again into the work expertise as effectively, doesn’t it? You train them as early as potential and allow them to know what alternatives are on the market.

Sherry: Yeah. And I feel it’s understanding that you just’re not going to have the identical job for 30 years, and really, that actually sounds fairly boring anyway. Let’s kind of simply assume that we want the framework for working right here on this sort of undertaking for this sort of firm for a time frame after which we’ll transfer on and we’ll do one thing else.

The wants of the shoppers will change. And our wants as we undergo our personal lifetime change as effectively. Often we’ll work full time, we’d work very flexibly after we’re having kids. And then as soon as they’re off at college, we’d return as much as full-time or, like me, select a portfolio of issues, which is like having a bunch of part-time jobs, all of which I like.

But I like the flexibleness of this. If you hearken to LinkedIn, the typical particular person now has 25 jobs between commencement and retirement, seven completely different identifiable profession streams. What’s your subsequent profession stream? I imply, it’s sort of neat when you concentrate on it that manner.

What would you say to small enterprise homeowners who possibly have bother establishing what expertise their workforce wants, and possibly the sources effectively, to supply them?

Sherry: Well, I feel there are some nice on-line sources. For workers I exploit LinkedIn Learning fairly a lot. For coding expertise, there’s Coursera, there’s Udacity, there’s Futurelearn, there’s a lot of free on-line programs that permit us to upskill our workers.

I feel all of us should be studying all the time. If we don’t put money into ourselves because the chief of a small enterprise and we don’t put money into our workers then effectively, it is perhaps more durable to retain folks, it may additionally be more durable to meet these buyer orders as a result of they’ll be asking us for stuff that we don’t know learn how to do.

I feel I a dedication to continued studying and permitting and inspiring creativity in ourselves and within the those who work for us as a tradition of studying is actually necessary.

Actually, now that we’re touching on it. You match a lot into your days and clearly, there’s the continuous upskilling as effectively. What sort of time administration suggestions do you’ve gotten for our listeners who could also be struggling and a bit stretched?

Sherry: I’m certain anyone who is aware of me doesn’t essentially suppose that I’m nice at managing my time. But I attempt to. I feel in case you’re a portfolio, it’s fairly useful since you compartmentalise issues and also you’re context switching. That retains you contemporary. It additionally retains you managing fairly intently. Something that I’ve used for a very long time is attempting to be at residence 20 out of 30 nights, particularly when the children had been at residence and youthful, being at residence 20 to 30 nights a month. And in case you’ve received that rule that you may be at residence by 6pm or earlier in case you can, that permits you to present the dedication that you need to your loved ones and to your self.

I attempt to train as a lot as I ought to. I’m unsure I feel probably within the final month, I’ve undoubtedly damaged my rule. But I’ve received I’ve received coaching arrange in January, February and March and it’s scheduled into my diary. I attempt to schedule issues.

I do attempt to evaluate on a weekly and a month-to-month foundation. Am I content material with how I’m spending my time? And after I went to the rule of 20 or 30 nights at residence by 6pm, I discovered that as a result of there’s so many fascinating issues going on on a regular basis. And I needed to do every thing I actually did discover myself out each evening. And then you definitely suppose, ‘My God, I haven’t actually seen my kids. I haven’t spent any time with my husband, and I don’t be ok with that.’ And so I simply kind of put a onerous and quick rule and it’s like, nope, that is how I’m going to do it from now and it really works.

Are you working while you’re residence at 6pm? Or is that a cut-off level while you cease working?

Sherry: I’ll cease working. Not essentially for the day – I’d go in and again on it between 10pm and 11pm and simply kind of plan out the subsequent day. I do are usually crazily busy. Even if it’s simply planning out what you’re presupposed to put on, since you’ve received this little jingle jangle of conferences and also you suppose, ‘Good Lord, what’s going to navigate by that set of conferences of that day, what am I going to put on?’ Just kind of fascinated with the the way you’re going to execute the subsequent day, if it tends to be blended up. I don’t ever go to an workplace and sit at a desk.

I feel, ‘I’m going to be residence with household. I’m not going to have my telephone on, I’m going to focus,’ and that offers them the appropriate message. And it additionally offers me the discharge that you just want as a particular person from work.

Do you rely extra on folks or tech to kind of show you how to organise your schedule?

Sherry: Both. For the tech, I exploit calendar Google Calendar. I’m not making an commercial for Google. But I feel many small companies use it somewhat than a number of the extra conventional ones. And if I’m assembly somebody, I requested them to append in what the agenda is and what the papers are. My name ahead file shouldn’t be a bodily name ahead file that say, it’s actually within the description of that. And I discover that actually useful as I put together for the conferences, I discover the power to ask folks to conferences from inside your diary. And then in case you transfer it, all of them get notified and also you don’t should do all of that’s actually useful.

I do have an government assistant (EA) who I like and he or she’s sort of a magician, as a result of I are likely to wish to do too many issues than would possibly really be potential, and he or she makes it a lot extra potential than it would in any other case be. I do rely on her and revel in the truth that she helps and could be very au fait with and good at utilizing expertise as effectively, which is useful to me.

If you’re a small enterprise proprietor and you possibly can have an entourage of types, what sort of folks would you rent when it comes to, say, a PA or an accountant?

Sherry: Well, I would definitely use LinkedIn very aggressively. I probably am on LinkedIn two hours a day as I put together for conferences as I analysis the those who I wish to pitch these types of issues are the those who I’m about to talk to. I feel it’s actually necessary to make use of instruments which can be there. An accountant? Yes, you undoubtedly want accountants. I feel in small companies, there are nice half time accountants which you could which you could have. And I’m a actual fan of these since you don’t essentially want a full-time one. And there’s a lot of significantly girls returners to work who’ve been full-time finance administrators they usually’re there with youngsters they usually wish to work on a part-time foundation. And I feel they’re a godsend to many, many, many small companies.

Anna: Seems to work for everyone, proper?

Sherry: Yeah, completely. You could also be a small firm of ten folks, you would possibly want somebody who’s doing finance a couple days a week effectively, you want any individual who’s a returner, returning to work for that. And on PA I don’t know if everyone wants me know, there’s plenty of those who I do know that work in giant tech corporations that not have PAs there’s many individuals who’ve the entire senior administration crew has a kind of shares in EA or a PA, I feel many individuals and in reality, it’s been proven that 65 per cent of these jobs have already disappeared as a result of persons are utilizing applied sciences extra aggressively.

If you have a look at the analysis on what jobs are disappearing, sadly, PAs and EAS are undoubtedly far much less prevalent than they had been 5 years in the past, however I couldn’t be with out LinkedIn. I additionally use a service known as Accompany which is able to kind of harvest your diary after which it’ll offer you notes in regards to the backgrounds of the folks that you just’re assembly the day earlier than. And in case you don’t use it, it is best to use it as a result of it’s superb. I discover these I discover these actually, actually useful.

Well, I realise you’re busy woman, so I’ll wrap up by coming again to your experience as an investor. You had been an early investor in companies like LoveFilm and Zoopla noticed for new tech corporations seeking to pitch what would you be trying for of their pitch?

Sherry: Well, for me, fixing a drawback that issues is crucial factor.

I’m significantly keen on the way forward for work. It’s been a actual curiosity for 20 years that the abilities disaster is getting worse. And I’m keen on working with others to repair that drawback, which I feel is the primary drawback that we have now. I’m additionally very within the software of AI and ML within the sphere of well being. And I feel that, simply across the nook, there are some nice options to actually irksome horrible issues of a well being nature, that expertise will assist us clear up. And people who find themselves decided to unravel these issues utilizing expertise will assist themselves, so I’m significantly keen on these two areas.

Some folks draw back from them as a result of they’re sophisticated, and a few folks draw back from them as a result of they’re extremely regulated. They’re actually necessary – the well being of our residents is actually necessary, as is the power to have the appropriate expertise so you may prosper and make a contribution to your group.

I’m not that keen on listening to folks pitch me on issues aside from these two kind of, they’re pretty broad topics. But these are people who what I’m actually keen on and may be an lively in what they name good cash, somewhat than simply dumb cash. I’m and may probably assist in some methods as effectively.

The well being and wellness trade is huge. What would you say to entrepreneurs who’re delay by a great amount of competitors within the within the sphere?

Sherry: Create a improbable product that your prospects love. That’s manner higher than anything, that they’re both getting the best way that, , 40 per cent of our GDP is managed by corporations that didn’t exist 5 years in the past. Think about that. What competitors? There are actually large points which can be completely unsolved. And we entrepreneurs, and the individuals who discover entrepreneurs are the one ones who’re going to unravel it on the time on, on the timeframe that we’ve received out there to us. So, I’d say, clear up them. Do it.

Anna: Fabulous. Well, that looks as if a good place to wrap up. Thank you very a lot for coming on podcast.

Sherry: My pleasure. Thanks very a lot for having me and good luck with every thing.

Anna: You can discover out extra about Sherry at You may also go to for extra on elevating capital and managing your time. Remember to love us on Facebook @SmallBusinessConsultants and comply with us on Twitter @smallbusinessuk, all decrease case. Until subsequent time, thanks for listening.