Nick is director of Nick Henry Consulting Ltd, and works with entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs to help them turn innovative ideas into technical and commercial reality, through engineering expertise, practical processes and engaged people.
This draws on 20 years’ experience of working across multiple industries developing challenging engineering projects, from developing the Halo safety device with the FIA for Formula 1, to maturing automotive carbon fibre components from prototype development to regular production delivery for Mercedes road cars, to leading £15m technical and commercial bids for the development of hardware for the ITER nuclear fusion reactor project.
All this has also been within the context of developing and growing a business and people within it over the last 9 years, from £3m to £18m turnover, and 30 to 200 people.
Nick can bring the problem solving skills of an engineer, the experience of running and growing SMEs, and the compassion and humility of an executive coach, to bring a combined approach to your business and sustainable success.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
My background is as a commercially and operationally astute Technical Director, Business Leader and Executive Coach, who has 20 years’ experience in the fields of high performance engineering and technology development, most recently with Polar Technology Management Group in Eynsham, with the operating businesses SST Technology and Lentus Composites. Subsequently, I have specific technical expertise in the design, development and manufacture of advanced composites, precision metal fabrications, and additive manufacturing, and am highly adaptable to a wide-range of disciplines.
Throughout my career, my role has developed from engineer, to manager, to business leader, and most recently executive coach. I was thrust into an entrepreneurial environment in becoming Engineering Director at SST Technology 9 years ago, where our growth has been rapid, and I have seen the development of many technical projects from idea to a commercial reality across a numerous projects and industries.
I have learnt that delivering a successful project and business is very much multi-faceted, and you need to wear a lot of hats, from being technically competent, to having good business acumen, and being able to work with people from all sorts of backgrounds and who have challenges of their own. It is this experience that I aim to bring to support other businesses at, or near the beginning of their own respective journey.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A passionate drive to achieve results, whilst embracing failure, always learning, and demonstrating integrity and humility.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
Working with colleagues and many businesses over the course of my career so far, I have seen that sometimes the easy part has been thinking of a great idea, but the execution part is where it gets difficult!
Building this into technical reality that fulfils an end-user need, in line with the objectives of becoming functioning business, and bringing people on board with it at the same time, has been a strength of mine over the years, and I wanted to bring this expertise out into supporting other new businesses get to where they want to be.
I’ve thought it a good idea for several years, and it was an idea that just wouldn’t go away. But only now have taken the leap!
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Being comfortable with making decisions without all the information.
Setting a vision that your team can see, and understand their individual contribution to.
Understanding your strengths, and supporting yourself with others who cover your weaknesses.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Control of your own destiny.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
I am fascinated by the parallels between sport and business and the transferable lessons, and the work of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool Football Club in getting so much out of a group of individuals to perform better at a collective level is quite inspiring.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
How do you make each individual player clear on their roles, within an overarching team strategy?
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
Delivering profitable growth from £3m to £10.5m turnover over the course of 6 years, and delivering difficult engineering projects that have made a massive difference to our customers.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Trying to take on too much too quickly that might not in hindsight be a core competence. For me, it’s important to think about what you’re good at, and focus on doing that even better to keep ahead of your competition.
How have you funded your ideas?
So far in the early stages of Nick Henry Consulting, the funding has come directly from me! But in previous businesses I have worked a lot with Innovate UK to win grant funding to support early-stage R&D projects.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Such a wide network of diverse businesses with world-leading technology, with a core of expertise that has come out from Oxford University.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith. It’s a really thought-provoking book that for me really goes to show that you should never rest on your laurels, and always strive to learn and improve.
Any last words of advice?
Your employees will be your single greatest resource – think about what they need as individuals, and weave them together as a team.
Enterprising Oxford is a University of Oxford initiative to help connect people to the entrepreneurship resources they need, and to promote entrepreneurship across Oxfordshire.
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