Introduction and Interview of Sammy Verghese by David Wagstaff
This interview with Sammy is part of a series of articles from entrepreneurs, compiled with the goal of providing other business owners and soon-to-be business owners with a realistic view of what it takes to run a business and some of the challenges commonly faced.
When reviewing applications for membership in the Entrepreneur’s Network, I saw Sammy’s profile. I liked how he said he was a “young trailblazer with a proven record of strategic planning to penetrate new markets and explode revenue for growth.” I could visualize a trailblazer. A proven record is much more powerful than just saying “I’m good at something.” Exploding growth was also visual and compelling. I wanted to learn more. As I read more, I saw he works with startups and maximizes profitability. Both topics are near to my heart. I saw he turned around a failed business and had specific metrics to support the value he claimed. As a small business financial consultant, all of those resonated with me.
In the interview, a different side of Sammy developed. I loved the story. It’s a story of the good guy finishing first. He was able to turn around a business by developing personal relationships and by changing negative relationships into positive ones. Sammy talks about developing personal relationships.
For many business owners, that is their secret sauce. They are very likeable people and people want to do business with them as a result. I have a small business financial consulting client who runs a high-end preschool run by teachers with PhDs. One of the founders personally makes time to greet every child as they arrive in the morning and comments on something unique to them. Likewise, she spends Friday night sending messages home to the parents to let them know how their child is doing.
With a business like the Entrepreneur’s Network having 56,000 members, it’s hard to develop personal relationships. One thing I think is going very well and does help us succeed is that I personally try to welcome all new members into the group. For over 80% of the people, I’m able to find something in their profile that resonates with me, so I write a personal note. It’s not as personal as when Sammy meets face to face and builds a friendship, but in the online world, it seems unusual that someone actually connects and spends the time to get to know another person, especially in a large group like the Entrepreneur’s Network. These stories and interviews are a way for me to get to know our members and for them to get to know one another.
What led you to become an entrepreneur?
Chance and right place, right time. I cannot say, unlike many others, that I wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age, or that my motivation is to specifically be an entrepreneur currently. I believe I am more of an opportunist with a willingness to take a calculated risk and to work to ensure whatever I am involved in succeeds. On a deeper level, I believe that civilization only moves forward with those who are willing to develop new things or to take existing products / services and make them better. We wouldn’t be able to live and enjoy our lives the way we do if it wasn’t ingrained in us to strive for better.
A brief description of your business and what are your aspirations for it?
I’ve been involved in the founding / executive-level roles of multiple businesses across many different industries. My current business is nightclub ownership in the music industry. Unlike many operators, we own the brick & mortar of our venues and operate them in-house. We then specifically cater for the electronic music scene and book international headline artists to perform week in and week out, as well as develop and incubate future talent. We’ve previously been nominated in the Top 5 in the UK for one of the venues. I’ve also been involved in many other businesses, so I guess my personal aspiration would be to be involved in other businesses which can add positive social impact – whether it be on a founding level or to join others in an executive capacity.
What things have you done with your business that you are proud of or work really well?
I have scaled previous businesses from conception to multi-million-pound ventures. However, to take my latest businesses as an example (the nightclubs), we took over a failing venue with an awful reputation. After putting a robust structure in place and developing key relationships, we were able to turn around the fortunes of the venue and, as previously stated, were nominated in the Top 5 in the UK.
What were some of your biggest challenges along the way?
A turnaround procedure for a nightclub in the music industry isn’t as easy as one may think. Artists, agents, and managers won’t touch your venue if it has a bad reputation. Booking the required talent to sell tickets was impossible, so we had to go back to the drawing board. Also, operating a venue with minimal cash flow and in a long-term loss scenario meant that we had to be extremely careful with budgets and investments.
Have you overcome the challenges? If so how?
Yes. If you have a business without challenges, then you’re either superhuman or not real. We overcame the stigma of the venue by networking and developing relationships. If you’re actually a good person and have a good team around you, the best thing you can do is get in front of your clients / partners / stakeholders and discuss openly with them, face-to-face. It’s painstaking and I’ve even heard it called ‘old fashioned’ due to the rapid rise of digital communication, but people do business with people. That will never change.
What have you learned and what would you like to share with other entrepreneurs?
People are just people, and nice guys in the current professional market do actually finish first. If you’re true to your word, appreciate others around you and are patient, anything can happen. I was doing multi-million-dollar deals before my 21st birthday – just because I was able to get in front of people and treat them like a friend. Also – build the best in-house team possible. You’ll get nowhere without the support of others. Hire people who are better than you at your job!
Is there someone or a group of people you would like to meet? For example, investors in the electrical industry, mentors in the publishing industry. A knowledgeable SEO person. Specific is helpful.
Executives in the music / live music / events industry.