Meet the MD: James Sinclair

Meet the MD: James Sinclair

Between the Partyman Company and the Entrepreneur’s Network, we can only assume that James Sinclair is not a man who values sleep…

What is it the company does?


The Partyman Company is a family entertainment empire made up of a portfolio that now includes eight indoor playcentres, five day nurseries, three laser kombat arenas, Fort Fun – a family fun adventure park in Eastbourne, Marsh Farm - a children’s farm in Essex and TeddyTastic – a teddy bear making company.  I also run The Entrepreneur’s Network which is a mentoring and support network for entrepreneurs seeking to grow their businesses.


Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I am the founder of the Partyman Company and as the business has grown, my role has changed.  Although I still get out and visit Partyman Company sites around the UK, a lot of my time is now spent working with my management team growing and managing the business and on raising finance.  It is important that I also continue to build a network of business owners around me for my own growth and I also continue to generate sales for the Group. 


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?


I started my first business as a children’s entertainer when I was 15 and I set up the Partyman Company when I was just 20.  Twelve years on, I have grown The Partyman Company into a family entertainment brand that turns over £10 million a year.   My life is immersed in the business world and through hard work, determination and a clear vision of where I want to get to, I have achieved this growth knowing that my challenge was to generate cash flow all year round.  Initially I started off with two indoor play centres but soon realised that they stood empty when it was sunny so I looked for outdoor venues to enhance my offering thus guaranteeing consistent income whatever the weather.  The next problem to overcome was how to generate a good income all year round, not just at weekends and in school holidays.  I therefore added children’s nurseries to Partyman World of Play venues to guarantee income during term time weekdays. Gradually I built a portfolio of businesses that complemented each other and generated a constant stream of income all year round, whatever the weather.


What do you believe makes a great leader?


It is important to have a vision of where you want to go and to have a good management support team around you.  I have a great team of senior managers without whom, I couldn’t run the Partyman Company.  All of them buy into the the Partyman Company vision where we focus on providing a great customer experience and an “entertainment ethos.”  Our business is all about making sure people have fun, doing it better than anyone else and ensuring that philosophy permeates into everything that we do.   Create a great team around you that shares your vision and it will transform your business.

Ultimately it is my vision that drives the business forward -  I will always be an entertainer at heart and this runs through the Partyman Company’s  DNA and is key to our success.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

You don’t grow a business as fast as I have without problems and my stumbling block was finance. In the early days, my solution was to take out loans to buy venues and improve them. The 2008 financial crisis made this impossible so I had to be more innovative in attaining finance for the business in order to grow.  We had some tough times financially, I nearly lost the business, but I kept it alive and learned from my mistakes.  My biggest learning is that failure makes you stronger, you can learn from it and use it to drive the business forward.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?


I recognise that stress comes with running a business and part of this is the responsibility for my staff.  However, with a strong management team around me I have the confidence that they will manage the day to day stresses so I don’t have to worry or stress about these.  I then focus all my energy on managing the stresses that I am responsible for such as financing the business and assessing new opportunities.

As an entertainer at heart, I find that being on stage and entertaining is a great stress buster for me, so my work presenting and talking with the Entrepreneurs Network, and very occasionally when I become Jimbo the Partyman as a children's entertainer, is a great balance and escape from the stress of owning and running a £10 million business.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I knew from a very early age that I wanted to entertain and I started doing this professionally as a teenager. I have built a family entertainment based business from  humble beginnings as a children’s entertainer and  I still feel that I maintain an element of entertainment within my current role,  particularly when speaking at Entrepreneurs Network events and other conferences and in my daily vlog Backstage Business.  


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

Inconsistency, things taking too long, a lack of customer focus from staff, a lack of enthusiasm….there is a long list and as my business has grown I have had to find ways to communicate the high standards we must meet through delivering my  vision to the workforce and customer focused training.  This is something I work on with my senior management team who then cascade down to the staff.


Where do you see the company in five years’ time?


I plan to continue to grow the Partyman Company and am constantly looking for the next opportunity to drive the business forward.  My vision is to be the largest and the best family entertainment brand in the UK and I see no reason why that can’t be achieved.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?


 In order to grow, you must have a clear vision of your destination.  My vision is to be the largest and the best family entertainment brand in the UK and that is what I constantly work towards. Although you need to have an end point in mind, try breaking it into chunks to make it seem more achievable.  For example, when I was 15 and set my first business up, my goal was to have earned enough money to buy a house by the time I was 20.  I achieved that and then moved on to my next goal.  I find that writing my goals down helps them to become more concrete and therefore more achievable.  As I reach each goal, I cross it off my list and move onto the next one.  

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

That you will over estimate what can be done in one year but under estimate what can be done in 10.