Ed Wood, Chartered Accountant by training, Entrepreneur by inclination, has worked with many companies over nearly half a century, both for himself and with clients. He now fulfils the role of 'Trusted Advisor and Critical Friend', working with companies from the inside. He is particularly valuable to clients who are navigating moments of change or tackling a crisis. The benefit of his skills and experience, as both an auditor and then entrepreneur, is that he is non-sector specific, allowing him to move across all sectors and remain objective. His greatest strength is getting to the pith of what needs to be done quickly.
Read our About page to find out more about why Ed set up Runway Advisors.
Ed, what inspired you to set up Runway Advisors?
Small businesses are very under-served by professionals in the marketplace. Everything is stacked against them. That’s why helping a business is so exciting for me. I’m a generalist – an accountant and entrepreneur by training, with experience in many different verticals. Through that experience, I’ve learnt who to call to ask for help in different situations – performance coaching, IT, marketing, personal and business finance, law and more. It made sense to pull together the people I have worked with most in the last ten years, who I trust implicitly as people and for whom I have absolute faith in their skills and abilities. Setting up Runway Advisors allows me to amplify and expand what I can offer to clients.
You’ve spent your career helping entrepreneurs, and being an entrepreneur yourself. What do you like about entrepreneurship?
Building something from nothing is hugely exhilarating. If you start a business and make it work, you know you did it. Entrepreneurs drive change, make the world better, and largely do it all on their own, at their own risk, running on their own passion. They are the great unsung heroes. Every entrepreneur needs every possible source of help and back-up from the get-go, to make it in a hostile marketplace that is ultimately unsupportive and unknowledgeable.
Have you experienced that ‘hostile marketplace’ yourself?
I know what it is to fail – and the value of that. I know from my own long entrepreneurial career what the obstacles and potholes are. I know the risks, and I have learnt escape routes and avenues out of difficulties and how to maximise them to grow. Failure is hugely undervalued in the UK – as a blot on the track record, to be covered up. In America, failure, bankruptcy, is a rite of passage. Unless we make mistakes, how are we going to learn? All failure, if you don’t give up, leads to success. The only failure is giving up.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is connecting people with each other. There are always all sorts of opportunities to cross-pollinate, and introducing people to each other and seeing things grow is tremendously exciting. I believe in building long-term relationships with my clients and being alongside them for the long haul. It is hugely rewarding along the way to connect them with other people, or even with each other.
My clients have been great teachers. They’ve shown me the various areas where entrepreneurs and business leaders need help. When I started, I was very much a generalist; I went where the client needed me to go. But over the years I learnt that actually all businesses have more in common than it first appears. I noticed patterns in what clients all needed, no matter the size or sector. And that became the basis for my work.
What have some of your work highlights been?
My ‘hall of fame’ will be crowned by a growing number of mini-successes. My clients are not huge or generally well-known, but I like to think that at the end of my time with them – many long-term – I’ve left them in a much stronger position than when I started. One of the exciting things that comes out of helping other people in business is that the network continuously increases and new opportunities grow and grow.
How have you seen industry change?
Other than IT and online strategy I suspect the work I’m doing could have been done in 1919!
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?
If they find themselves with an idea or a product that they passionately want to turn into a commercial situation – and if they, like me, have a visceral loathing of PAYE – then they absolutely deserve support. Find someone committed to helping small companies. The time to seek advice is not three years or three months after you start. Thrash it all out before the beginning, as you would on Dragon’s Den, or you’ll end up wasting time and money.
You read a lot. What business books would you recommend?
James Altucher is a very clever hedge fund man and author – a great communicator, and a man who celebrates failure. He has written 20 books and puts out a very useful newsletter which I recommend subscribing to. Jack Black, the founder of MindStore, alerted me to the importance of right brain thinking. Chris Voss, an FBI hostage negotiator, wrote ‘Never Split the Difference’ – one of the best books on negotiation. Michael E Gerber’s book ‘The E-Myth’ kicks small business leaders up the backside and teaches them what entrepreneurship is about. And I also recommend ‘How to be Chief Executive of your own Life’ by the late Mike Wilson, founder of St James’s Place and a man for whom I have enormous respect.
You enjoy writing yourself too…
I started blogging on LinkedIn about three years ago and found writing was very important to me. I’ve written one book already – an autobiography called ‘From Acorns’ – and I’m currently in the process of writing a business book designed to help small business owners through the pitfalls they face in establishing their business against a hostile background, characterised by an extraordinary lack of help from just about any quarter. I’m deeply passionate about that and wanted to create a guide to help people navigate potholes without giving up.
You are so passionate about your work, Ed. What drives that passion?
I’m a workaholic. Whether that’s work for a client, for my own business, or work on one of my books, it is all a hobby as well as work. On a spiritual level, work and creativity are love, really. Love, and energy, and all these things, mixed. If you start a business and you make it work, you know you did it. If you are part of a massive team in a massive company, who caught the fish? To build something from nothing – that’s the driver behind it.