140. In 3 – Ten Years of Tectona Partnership

This month Tectona celebrates its 10th Anniversary. It has been an interesting (what an all-encompassing word that is!) journey with probably more downs than ups to be honest. Until the last 6 months, that is, where it seems the world has started smiling on us as the 10-year milestone came into sight.

Running your own small business will give you some hugely challenging moments and I guess the key messages are “stick with it” and “don’t be afraid to do different things”.

I wanted to share with you some of those moments, the learning points and how it felt – to give those of you in a similar position some support, encouragement and, perhaps, hope.

Let’s break it down into what I see as 3 distinct phases:

  1. In the Beginning

  2. Getting Established

  3. Looking Forward

  1. In the Beginning

Starting my own business – well it seemed like a sensible idea at the time but had I known the journey I was about to embark on, perhaps I would have thought twice.

I was full of hope, full of optimism and feeling pretty much that we could and would conquer the world.

(I even remember, well cringe to recall, saying to a colleague running a similar business in the same sector that we would be buying them out within 3 years – really?? It, of course, never happened).

Building a totally new brand from scratch should never be underestimated – it is a very time-consuming process and you will be running from pillar to post.

Learning points:

  • Outsource almost everything – There is a huge amount of stuff (company name, brand, website, banking, registrations like the ICO, emails, insurance, shareholders agreements, premises, accounting system, appointing accountants, the list goes on … and on) that needs to be done to set up a new business and we spent far too much time doing it all ourselves. Rubbish idea to do it all yourself – get others to do it wherever possible.

  • Free up your time to focus on what really matters in your business; and to start with, this is probably going to be actually generating new business.

  1. Getting Established

This was the interesting phase. Money was very tight, business certainly was not flooding in. We were scraping by at best; some feast and a lot of famine.

At that time, we had a team of 10 Finance Directors who were looking to me to feed them leads.

And leads don’t just happen like that – yes, you can turn the tap on by throwing money at it (LinkedIn, Google AdWords and the rest); we tried it but the leads tended to be of very poor quality.

A quick review of our last 35 opportunities to pitch:


% age




Direct approaches – LI reach outs



Ad campaigns





I am not a marketer. But what I do know – and it took me far too long to recognise this – is that referrals and targeted direct reach out are the only real way to build a professional practice business.

And it turns out that nurturing referrals is horribly slow burn – some of our introductions have been over five years in gestation. But once you have that network of trusted colleagues (clients, other professionals and, yes, friends) then, over time and with deep nurturing you will hopefully experience what I experienced – a trickle of high quality introductions.

Then, just as things were looking promising, along came Covid and dealt Tectona a vicious blow with new work all but drying up.

Learning points:

  • Never, ever sell when networking.

  • Do focus on building your network – however you feel comfortable doing it.

  • Invest time, lots of time, in really getting to know people – I am talking about regular and multiple interactions (often it takes over 20). That is why Tectona run a networking group that gets together every month without fail for beers and pizzas. As well as being great fun, these people are your support network when you need it. Tectona also facilitate a smaller group of professionals who regularly refer work to each other – over £200k of business generated since just before Covid took hold.

  • Have a Plan B to decamp to when times get tough – lowering your cost base. When Covid-19 hit, I was so glad we had not taken on premises.

  1. Looking Forward

At the moment, it feels like we are in a pretty good place.

Leads continue to come in, not all convert into clients.

A big challenge is finding the right person in the team who has the capacity to take on that new client.

I have set myself a couple of early objectives:

  1. An urgent need to extend the Tectona talent pool -we have a capacity issue and I am very conscious that looking at our team pictures on the website we do look a bit like we conform to the cliché “male, pale and stale” (tbf, not the stale bit!). I want to address that by getting younger and more diverse people on board to take the Tectona team forward.

  2. Using technology better. We have been slow to embrace new AI driven products out there. When we grasp this nettle properly it will mean that we spend less time crunching numbers and more time doing the real value-add strategic piece.

In Summary

10 years is quite a milestone in any business – especially as of over 50% of new businesses starting in the UK don’t last more than 3 years.

We are very proud of having got this far – given some of the challenges we have mentioned above.

We could not have done this without our clients, our contacts and all those who have been there to support us when needed – and there are many!

So, a huge thank you to you all.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

(Note to self – must start to get that succession plan in place …)

About Tectona

Tectona Partnership helps business owners sleep at night by embedding one of our 15 commercially minded finance directors in your management team. Very often, a part time solution is the most effective solution.

We make sure you have the necessary management information and strategic insight to make informed decisions and reduce risk; and we will absolutely tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it.

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