You can eat the world, if you do it one bite at a time

Iain Shirlaw

There’s something you should know is our bite-sized business advice column. The amount of advice out there can be overwhelming, so we ask the professionals we meet along the way to tell us the one thing that they think every start-up needs to know.

Iain Shirlaw is a money-man, London Business School alum and a believer in helping rare, raw talent shine. His journey has taken him from baking, biomass and Dolly the sheep to an unrelenting mission in business coaching.

His advice is that  – even in a digital world – we need to find (and exploit) good neighbours.

“Start small”, he says. “You’re better off working with people who know your local business community. So put together a strong network of local advisors – like accountants and lawyers – who really know the lay of the land.

“Business is about starting a series of relationships rather than completing a few one-off transactions. So getting these sorts of relationships going is really important.”

You should seek funding from people nearby too. If you’re looking for investors, start with the people who know you.


“If you can’t convince them to invest in your business, you’re not going to be able to convince people across the world.”

When it comes to networking, you don’t necessarily need to go off in search of big-city bosses either  – there are plenty of useful contacts nearby.

“Go networking and improve your elevator pitch by testing it out on people. Lots of us sit down and write a business plan in a darkened room. But this tactic never works – you need to expose it to external people as soon as you can. And get feedback.

“The more local people you know who will sit down and drink coffee with you while poring over the finer details, the better.”

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