British serial ‘no nonsense’ entrepreneur Lara Morgan says what she thinks and says it loud.
Founder of Pacific Direct in her twenties – a company selling toiletries to the hospitality industry – she sold it recently for £20 million. Cold headed, Lara Morgan preaches – in her down-to earth style – on how Britain is too shy at selling and she believe many do not work hard enough. Driven to help entrepreneurs to grow and grow fast, she is a mover and a mind-shaker. Join Myriam O’Carroll in a conversation that does not beat around the bush.
What is the most important thing you teach your children?
The value of earning money and also the fact that everybody has value to offer in the world – it does not matter who you are, you need to be able to communicate with all types, all shapes, all sizes.
You sold Pacific Direct for £20 million. What was the first thing you did with that money?
I took the family out of school and we went travelling for 5 months.
With hindsight what would you have done differently with your company?
More growth. We may have been the 57th fastest growing company in Britain but we could have done better. I would have had bigger goals and been more ambitious. I would have educated myself in business earlier and been braver at employing more expensive and more talented people sooner. Although I am very privileged to have built a global company, I think we could have been even more assertive about the way we approached the global network.
Pacific Direct sold in 110 countries. Which culture have you learnt from the most?
I am English and grew up in Asia. The Asians have taught me a great deal about work ethics and also being smart about what you should focus on.
The British nation taught me how not to go about doing things.
We don’t have enough ambition and we don’t have enough humility in our role in the global market. We’re arrogant, we’re not very good sales people and I don’t think enough people are willing to make the leadership sacrifices it requires to build a sustainable company.
You’re pretty harsh
I know, but I’ve seen many nations that work a whole lot harder for a lot less. We are very spoilt here. In Britain we are very weak at selling. We have to start becoming a proud sales nation, because nobody owes anybody a living. You’ve got to go out there and ask for it, I never intend to be rude, but I do like assertive professional people whom deliver on their promise. That builds success.
What would you describe your DNA to be?
I am determined and hard-working. I have learnt the value of focus.
I’d like to be considered firm but fair. Some people describe me as aggressive, but I’m very clear about what I expect of people, I always intend to be fair and you will know where you stand, I hope to give a great deal in return. I am open-minded. I have a passion for learning and I hope that never goes away because I find it very energising to learn new things and new ways. I don’t think you can stand still because, if you do, others will overtake.
You have recently co-founded Company Shortcuts? Why?
Because I did not want to see the brilliance and the intelligence of what the wonderful people at Pacific Direct created – frameworks, checklists and templates – put to waste. I built up most of my business knowledge for the first nine years by reading books –
so I’ve just put some of the really good stuff online and said take it!
So what are your golden rules of selling?
First of all you need to qualify your lead, which is about understanding if this is a true decision maker, and establish the pain point, because selling is about solving a problem. I wish people would realise that selling is a conversation… yes there are words in it that matter, but it is ultimately an exchange around ‘Does your company have a problem that we can solve?
What are you currently involved in?
I will soon be launching an amazing range of bodycare toiletries for active people called Activbod. About 2.5m people in Britain damage their backs every year, at zero miles an hour, by sitting in their chair in front of their computer and we are simply not exercising enough. I’d like to get Britain more active. I also have a business interest called Gate8-luggage, which sells a genius luggage solution that avoids baggage check in. And we are bringing to market a brilliant fragrance range, which is about helping people to control and enhance their moods. The range is called Scentered. One of the products is called Mind Over Matter. It’s all about feeling good and building confidence.
Do you have a personal motto?
I have many! I do believe it’s not about the years in your life, but it is the life in your years that counts. I have this bank account of ‘stuff’ that I will do, but only when the body gives out … golf is on that list and so is watching movies but, whilst I am able, I like to get around.
I also love seeing people build companies and I gain great enjoyment out of helping others.
What is your biggest luxury treat?
I am afraid I do not wait for fashion to come round, so either I am fashionable for a few weeks or never at all anymore. I am not a very materialistic kind of person.
My idea of luxury is a large chocolate muffin!
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Myriam is the features editor for our Inspirational Women in business. She is committed to raising the voice of women in media and has met some of the most prolific women (and, dare we say it, is as inspirational as those she interviews!).
Myriam has been working in the industry for over ten years, with CNN and CNBC Europe. She is also the founder of Smart Content, a boutique consultancy helping brands to express their authentic personality and engage with their consumer groups, through compelling content.