The Big Interview: Chris Manson, Newable CEO

The Big Interview: Chris Manson, Newable CEO
Credit Newable

Located in the heart of the Square Mile, you’ll find Newable, a company dedicated to helping growing businesses across London and beyond. Founded in 1982, Newable has been dedicated to helping other businesses to thrive for more than four decades. To find out more about Newable, we sat down with Chris Manson, Newable CEO and successful entrepreneur himself to find out more what it takes to launch, run and grow a successful business.

Q. Talk us through Newable’s vision.

A. Newable exists to help other businesses to thrive. Our heritage, our experience and our resources allow us to develop the products and services that SMEs really need, filling the gap left behind as the banks have all gone digital (who nowadays can claim to have physically met a local Bank Manager?), and as government funding to support business has been cut.

We identified that SMEs are really focused on accessing the finance that they desperately need, finding the specialist expertise to address their problems, and finding an affordable base to call home.

We do this through our Money, Advice and Workspace divisions. These all operate on a commercial basis, making sustainable profits, but with a real commitment to the ESG ethos which runs right through the business.

Q. How do you plan to execute this?

A. We are already doing this, helping over 20,000 companies a year to thrive, and thereby delivering a real and sustainable impact on the UK economy. We now turn over about £165 million per year and have circa 1100 employees.

We have trebled in size over the course of the last five years, and by continuing to invest and to innovate, we plan to quadruple in size again.

Q. Could you share a pivotal decision that you’ve made as CEO that has impacted Newable’s growth?

A. The most important decision was to sell all of our property portfolio in order to invest in the products and services which SMEs actually need. This has freed up significant capital to invest, and thus enabled us to help more and more businesses.

Q. How do you apply your experience from previous businesses to your role now?

A. I have been lucky to have a varied career, originally qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with PWC, to then building and running (or helping to run) five businesses, two of which were for other people, being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group, and Chelsea Football Club under Ken Bates. Three businesses have been for my own account, the most successful of which was a start-up television shopping channel which I sold to Virgin Media.

The most important thing about my experience is the variety, which is enormously helpful when we are trying to deliver outstanding customer service to a wide range of clients across different industries. Newable itself currently owns and operates 15 vastly different businesses, which is helpful when we try to analyse the pitfalls and problems facing other SME owners.

Q. So, what’s the secret to running a successful business?

A. Everyone has a different angle on this question. I’m not sure that I’m the right person to ask, because my career has not been all plain sailing, but perhaps no-one’s has. Learning from one’s mistakes is important, but for me, the most important thing is making sure that what we deliver is marginally better, on every measure, than the competition. Incremental gains make an enormous difference cumulatively. To do this we have to work harder and think smarter every single day.

Q. Any tips for businesses starting out now in the City?

A. Firstly, understand what it is that your customer actually wants and is prepared to pay for. Secondly, work harder than everyone else.

Q. How has management changed over the years?

A. From my perspective, I feel that managers and senior managers in general have significantly improved their ability to listen to and understand different points of view. There is less deference now, which is a good thing. We don’t always have the right answers on our own, so increasing the diversity of thought means that you arrive at better decisions.

Q. How do you expect employee ownership will change the business over the next five years?

A. The thing that I am most proud of in my career is making Newable an employee-owned business earlier this year. Early signs are that our staff are more engaged, feel more valued, will help their colleagues more and will go the extra mile unasked. I am convinced that the fact that all Newable employees have a stake in the business going forward makes a dramatic difference to the culture of the organisation and to the impact that we can have on our clients, and thereby on the wider UK economy.

Q. Newable has always been a business focused on positive impact. How is the company living this these days?

A. In 1982, our journey began with a focus on fostering economic opportunities for SMEs in London. Over the past forty years, we’ve continuously evolved, driven by the changing needs of SMEs across the UK. In continuation of this journey, we’ve recently partnered with 100% Open to launch the Open London programme on behalf of the Greater London Authority. This initiative actively encourages both London residents and professionals to contribute with their ideas and insights to identify six pressing challenges to solve to enhance the quality of life of city’s inhabitants and workers. Collaborating closely with local authorities and key stakeholders across the city, we will then identify and support London SMEs to develop and implement innovative solutions to address these challenges, ensuring that the benefits extend to all members of the London community.

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