The Passion Group

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					The Passion Group                                                                        1 x

                                    The Passion Group
                                      Alison Jones

                             Be passionate about your work

What service or product does the company provide?
It’s very much a culture-based organisation. We help companies create great
company cultures and fabulous leaders. We do it by designing our own
products and services so we have a range of workshops and various products
that will help businesses create great cultures. For instance we offer an
employee opinion survey, an electronic database where we can survey from
ten to ten thousand staff in an organisation. It goes out by email and then
comes back and feeds into our database so we can analyze all the results
and tell a company what they do fabulously well and maybe what they don’t
do so well. Then we can help them put some things in place to improve
business performance.

We can be seen as a training company, a HR Consultancy, occasionally a
management consultancy although I try to avoid using the word consultancy
because I think that’s just about people going in and giving advice. We are
very much about delivering tangible products rather than just pure

Is there a particular type of company that you have carried out these
surveys on?
The companies that I am targeting are ideally between 100 and 250 staff
because that’s the size of company where I can go in and really feel like we
can make a difference. They are also the sort of companies that probably
haven’t experienced something like that as well.

How do you find your business?
I’m a member of eight networking groups in Leeds. I joined them all when I
established my business and it’s proving good for me getting the brand out
there. Also, I’m finding that I am getting referrals from delivering a workshop
to a business who then refer me to somebody else. We have a website

Who else is involved in the company?
I’ve got no full time employees but I have a few people working on an
associate basis so when I’ve got particular piece of work to do I can draw on
them. One guy is a product developer who’s created my database because I
leave the technical stuff to somebody else. I have a girl who has done a lot of
market research for me and another who helps me deliver some of the face to
face training. My long term plan is to have six staff, minimum. I don’t intend to
be a one-man band for very long.

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                                                                    Young Businesses 1 x
This case was researched and written with funding from WR CETL Enterprise at Leeds. It may be used
freely with HE students. Suggestions, enquires and updates should be directed to                                                        Page 1 of 5
The Passion Group                                                                        1 x

Can you provide a brief history of the business?
I worked for the National Australia Group for 23 years and specialised for
most of that time in Human Resources. During the last couple of years I
headed up the Operations Team so that gave me leadership responsibility
and an understanding of how a business operates. I also trained as an Interior
Designer and a Fitness Instructor and I have coaching skills. I drew on all of
those skills to build what I think The Passion Group is all about. I left the
National Australia Group, gave up a 23 year corporate career and a pension
scheme but that’s one of those things! It was an over-night decision. There
was something niggling away at me, you must do it, you must do it and to be
perfectly honest with you I was 40 last year and when I hit my 40 th birthday I’d
said I would do something radically different with my life. I was one week
away from being 41 and I thought, you haven’t done it! So I woke up one day
and I thought right, go in, tell your boss you are leaving and get on and do it
and as soon I’d done that I felt fantastic but making the decision was the hard

Can you tell us a bit more about your plans for the next few years?
The business has evolved much faster than I imagined it would do. The
business leads are coming in, the pipeline is building nicely for next year. My
desire is to have a business where people absolutely love their job because
that’s what this business is all about. I’m not in this to make a fortune, I’m in
this to make a real difference. My vision is a team of people working in a
fantastic location who love coming to work, are extremely motivated and are
getting a lot out of it in terms of job satisfaction. I’m already in discussion with
people who are going to come to work for me because it’s important that I get
the right people working for The Passion Group.

Can you describe your educational background?
I did Business Studies, Maths and Biology at school, not knowing what I was
going to do. I won a National Award for Business Studies which probably
indicated that I had a bit of a business head. I went to work for Yorkshire Bank
to get some money to go to university and then I fell in love and never went!

What skills do you think are essential for an entrepreneur?
You need to be prepared to take risks and you need to be able to make some
instant good decisions. You have to be creative and innovative because you
need to stay ahead of the market, you have to evolve constantly. I think you
also need good organisational skills.

Who do you see as your major competitors?
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                                                                    Young Businesses 1 x
This case was researched and written with funding from WR CETL Enterprise at Leeds. It may be used
freely with HE students. Suggestions, enquires and updates should be directed to                                                        Page 2 of 5
The Passion Group                                                                        1 x
To be honest, I haven’t come across one yet, it’s a niche market. There are
some companies that offer Team Building type motivation which touches on
some of my products but I haven’t found one company who is really focused
on Team Leadership in the way that I am. The products that I am designing
are unique. My ideas are my ideas and they won’t be the same for someone
who tries to copy them.

What are your weaknesses?
Sales…I’m learning fast but I’ve never been in a sales environment and that’s
where West Yorkshire Ventures have stepped in and helped out because they
see it as a potential high growth business and I’ve got a sales and marketing
mentor working with me. He has great confidence and has proved to me how
easy it is to develop your confidence. When I first set up in business I had
never been to a networking event so I went on a networking course for a full
day and the following day I was out there and it was fabulous and I’m loving it.
I did it the right way by getting the training first.

What threats are there for your business?
I am very small fry at the moment and I am very conscious about intellectual
property but I don’t have a huge amount of money to throw at that sort of
thing. So I’m living a little bit on a knife edge in so much as someone could
come and take my ideas. Finding like-minded people is a concern as I need to
know that the staff I employ will be able to deliver our product effectively.

What facilities are available to you here at the university?
The university post box provides a bit of Kudos in that it’s a business address.
I’m a virtual client at the incubation stage but if I did need a desk or
somewhere to work then that facility is available to me. People have been
fantastic and very encouraging which is what you need in the early days of
business because you are just sitting there thinking have I really got a
business here? Have I got an idea? There are lots of mentoring facilities but I
have not needed them so far as I’ve got a mentor. I speak with them a lot,
they started in business at the same time as me. We’re riding the same roller-
coaster if you like. We work fantastically well together. We bounce ideas off
each other and motivate each other. Also, if you share information you have
only got fifty percent of the work to do. It’s healthy competition for you as well
because when they win their first contract then you are determined that you
are going to win yours. I also speak to a guy I used to work with at the
National Australia Group who I have a huge amount of respect for. I get
together with him maybe once every three weeks for a two hour session and
he pushes me and challenges me really hard about various things.

My dad ran his own marketing and advertising business for twenty years
before he retired. He has a very different outlook on things, perhaps a fairly
                                                    inspiring enterprise 4 all

                                                                    Young Businesses 1 x
This case was researched and written with funding from WR CETL Enterprise at Leeds. It may be used
freely with HE students. Suggestions, enquires and updates should be directed to                                                        Page 3 of 5
The Passion Group                                                                        1 x
old-fashioned view of business really but sometimes the old fashioned
approach works best.

Where did you get your start-up capital and resources?
I had a lump sum of money on one side that I was going to put into the
business. I’ve kept within this sum so far which is good. An added boost was
the business start-up grant although I haven’t quite got the funds yet. There
are also consultancy grants available where you get 70% of some of your
consultancy fees paid. There’s a lot of red tape involved and I probably won’t
carry on with it in the future but from a financial perspective it has allowed me
to do a lot more with my business than I could have done without it.

What do you like best about what you do?
It’s just very exciting. I had 23 years experience of working in the corporate
world where you don’t have a huge amount of influence, and you can’t make a
lot of the decisions. Then suddenly everything is given to you and you have a
blank sheet of paper, you can select your own brand, your own colours,
design your own website, select your own people to work with you, design
your own products, market it how you like, call it what you like.
All quite selfish really but I love it! The down side is the scary moment when
your tummy leaps in the air and you say oh my god what am I doing? That’s
the other side of the coin but it only happens very, very occasionally. The
highs definitely outweigh the lows. I’d definitely do it all over again.

Would you do it differently?
That’s a good question, I’ve not really reflected on that. What would I have
done differently? I don’t think that I would do anything differently, I can’t say I
have missed out on any opportunities. The only problem I have at the moment
is work/life balance. I’m just working far too much but I think that you have to
be obsessed about your business for the first couple of years at least to make
it work.

What did other people around you think when you decided to start your
own business?
I’d talked about it for a number of years and I had never had any positive
vibes or any encouragement from anybody. That didn’t help me make the
decision because it was as if nobody actually believed that I could do this. The
day that I actually made the decision and told people I did get a huge amount
of encouragement and enthusiasm. It was interesting really because what
they were doing was trying not to influence my decision. It had to be totally my
own decision. But from the moment I said I was going for it everyone around
me said, great idea, you’ll be fantastic and gave me a huge amount of help
and support. It’s a good thing actually because ultimately it was my decision
and I can’t blame anybody else.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a
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                                                                    Young Businesses 1 x
This case was researched and written with funding from WR CETL Enterprise at Leeds. It may be used
freely with HE students. Suggestions, enquires and updates should be directed to                                                        Page 4 of 5
The Passion Group                                                                        1 x
Research your market. Don’t rely on your own intuition that everyone will want
to buy it. And don’t get scared by the word Market Research. Market
Research is just about talking to people and asking people what they think.
It’s vital to ask yourself the question, is this just something that you would like
to do or is this something that you are extremely passionate and obsessed
about? Because unless you are passionate and obsessed about it you will not
get through the first year as there will be so many hurdles to jump. Once you
have made your decision it’s a case of getting out there and making it work. I
do a little exercise in my workshops; I light a candle and we all stare at it and
the room goes deadly quiet. Then I stand up and blow it out and say, there is
no point thinking about it, you have to get up off your backside and do
something about it. The thinking is over, just get on and do it.

                                                                  inspiring enterprise 4 all

                                                                    Young Businesses 1 x
This case was researched and written with funding from WR CETL Enterprise at Leeds. It may be used
freely with HE students. Suggestions, enquires and updates should be directed to                                                        Page 5 of 5

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