John Loveday has a comprehensive CV including soldier, private eye, and heavyweight boxer. But it’s training that turned him into an entrepreneur, and he explains what that has meant to him so far.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Spearhead deliver the UK’s leading online and practical training courses to some of the UK and world’s largest organisations. Founded by two former members of HM Forces, myself and Paul Hood, we scaled from a £15,000 loss to securing multi million-pound contracts nationally.
What did you do before you started this business?
I have never had a ‘normal’ job. I left the military after surviving the fiercest fighting the British Army has seen to date and struggled to find employment. I finally worked as a freelance First Aid trainer and also a private investigator, close protection operative and even travelled the east coast of Africa conducting armed security onboard vessels to stop pirates hijacking them. Finally, I signed as a professional heavyweight boxer with Frank Warren Promotions.
As I say, never a normal job
What inspired you to start up?
After leaving the military I struggled to gain employment because I didn’t have recognised qualifications, I eventually began teaching first aid and set up the training arm of various businesses. My business partner Paul, whom I had met working in security was training to be an instructor too. He called me and said “I think we can do this a lot better than others out there, shall we set up our own business?” The rest, as they say, is history
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We deliver the best training courses to some of the greatest companies across the country. But no knitting courses yet, Grandma!
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Entrepreneurial Spark, the business accelerator helped us develop as entrepreneurs and the guidance of our enabler James Powell really helped us grow. The main people we ask for advice are our business partners. We have some fantastic board members such as Poundland Founder Steve Smith, Leisure Tycoon David Lloyd, Birmingham based Businessman Tim Andrews, Co-Founder of LoveBrum and Hollywood Monster and finally Mathew Kind and Lynsey Moore of Kind Consultancy. All have great experience of scaling and growing businesses. Our success has come from surrounding ourselves with great people.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
We initially bootstrapped and reinvested everything back into the business, Paul and I were living on £40 a week in the early days. We then secured investment from Poundland Founder Steve Smith. After scaling and growing we then conquered the crowd by raising £140,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I certainly feel our biggest achievements are still ahead of us but gaining some large clients, securing the executive level team we have and helping homeless veterans into employment by helping them get qualified and into work; one of those veterans we also took onto our team.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Our industry is saturated with hundreds of training providers so differentiating was something we had to really crack in the early days. We are very competitive on price but one thing I have learnt is that you can’t solely rely on price as your USP. We set ourselves apart by offering leading quality and accredited courses but we also ensure every course we deliver is bespoke. Our training is measurable and we ensure it has a positive impact on either the individual or the client business. Client and retail giant The Range Home and Leisure have seen our training save them £4.4m annually.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It is tough, but it has its own perks. The entrepreneur lifestyle is not as glamorous as people think, I work longer hours and more days now than I ever did in my army days or within any other job in the past. It is, however, very rewarding.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
We have some very exciting news that recently came in that will most likely see us become the UKs largest and most successful training company. I see the business operating in over 134 countries within the next 2 to 3 years. I honestly think we will look to exit the business within 5 years.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
It is tough but keep going, make sure that before you spend any money on your new product, service or business that you confirm people actually want what you are offering, do you have a customer base willing to join your tribe? Biggest tip from me is don’t be afraid to give up part of your company to gain the right people, partnerships build empires. Good luck!