Entrepreneur interview – Charles Jing

December 1, 2020

1. You are currently an investor and business consultant to numerous businesses. Where did you start your career, and how did you grow your experience so widely to become a trusted adviser to businesses?

I started my career at TMF Group, which is a company no one has ever heard of despite it being a £500m turnover multinational business. I began the journey as the right hand to the COO, before quickly specialising in operational improvement, which involved being on different turnaround projects in the company to improve business performance. I gained an enormous amount of commercial experience during these 3 years by working on unrelated projects which significantly expanded my horizon.

After 3.5 years, I joined forces with a friend who was starting an e-commerce subscription company in London. I was responsible for the entire operations and finance department during my first 2 years and then operations and data analytics. Going from an 8000-strong and 120-country multinational to a 10-man band operating out of WeWork in London came as a bit of a shock to my system but I quickly adjusted and thrived. We grew the turnover of the business by 10-fold and overcame many challenges associated with a start-up company. I was exposed to the intricacies of how a business operates.

To conclude, my broad cross-sector and cross-functional experience has been invaluable to what I am currently doing.

2. When it comes to investing into a business, what are they key requirements that you are looking for that would make you want to invest?

We are fairly niche in terms of our investment model. Unlike a traditional PE fund which focuses more on portfolio management and monitoring, we want to get our hands dirty and run the business. It is akin to the search fund model which has proven to be popular in the US and Spain, but our differentiator is that we are already funded and ready to deploy the capital.

There are 3 key things I look for:

• It must pass a minimum scale threshold to ensure that it’s actually a business rather than providing a job for the owner. This means we usually look at businesses with at least £2m of turnover.
• It must have certain uniqueness and nicheness associated with it. During our search, we’ve come across businesses ranging from wind turbines to adult toy manufacturers.
• The owner must be ready and willing for an exit.

3. In the businesses that you invest in, are you looking at a particular sector or is your search quite broad?

We are fairly sector agnostic and we go low and high in search of the right opportunity. We are willing to speak with anyone who can pass the three tests I outlined above.

4. How have the businesses you are involved with coped during the coronavirus pandemic, and what contingency plans have they put in place to ensure survival through this unsettling time?

My main investment business has not been impacted by the pandemic hugely as we were working remotely beforehand anyway. We all knew each other well and thus it’s never been an issue.

Some of our side investments have been slightly impacted at the early stage where customers were withholding payments. This led to cash flow pressure which meant drastic actions had to be taken. The issue is now largely resolved, but it has left scars in their memory and they are now super vigilant about cash flow management, which is a good thing in my opinion.

  • 5. Throughout your career, have you had much experience with selling businesses or raising funds for businesses?
  • Yes. In my previous role, I was responsible for 3 funding events and raised over £4m of angel and VC capital.

    6. You wrote your first novel in 2018. Where did the inspiration come from for ‘The rage of all fears’ and will there be a second book to look forward to?

    I was on a business trip in Mexico City with TMF Group at the time and spent one weekend in the National Anthropology Museum where I learnt the history of the Aztec civilization and its subsequent conquest by the Spanish. I was also reading a novel by Tom Clancy at the time and decided that it was a good idea to fuse these two themes together to create an action adventure. Funnily enough, the novel actually contained several pandemic themes which are very relevant today.

    I’ve been trying to get inspiration for the sequel for the past 2 years with no avail. Perhaps moving onto a farm might solve that and you’ll see another debut within the next decade.

    7. You have recently used Bluebox Velocity, what was your experience like?

    I was introduced to Bluebox Velocity by my FD, who has many years of experience in the corporate finance arena. Initially I was slightly sceptical as I didn’t really understand the concept that well. However, through my conversation with the Velocity Team, it has really transformed my opinion and I have been impressed with cost-effectiveness as well as the quality of service this product brings. So much so, that I actually co-developed and trialed the subscription product with them.

    8. Post-pandemic, how do you think the world of business and “the way we used to do things” may change?

    From my very humble and limited experience, I would observe the following themes:

    ● A hybrid WFH-WIO (work in office) model will soon emerge. In my opinion that’s a very good thing as it enables a certain level of location-independence, which can alleviate regional inequality.
    ● Business process automation will accelerate. I am a firm believer of doing things simpler, better and cheaper.
    ● Our relationship with mother nature needs to shift fundamentally. We need to treat nature as a cohabiting partner rather than BOMAD (bank of mum and dad).

    9. Quick fire

    If you could win any award what would it be and why?

    Don’t want one. Never believed in these things. Just want to focus and get stuff done in a world-class way.

    First thing you would like to do once the current pandemic is over?

    Host a huge dinner party.

    Who do you admire most?

    Derek Redmond – most of you probably haven’t heard of him. Just Google his 1992 Olympic performance and tell me that you aren’t impressed!

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