‘Biggest challenge starting out was finding my first customer’ - In the company of Martin Haigh

Martin Haigh, founder of Brighouse-based training and development company Lattitude7
Martin Haigh, founder of Brighouse-based training and development company Lattitude7

Taking our business Q&A this week is Martin Haigh, founder of Brighouse-based training and development company Lattitude7.

Why did you start your business in the first place?

I recognised that companies can survive and prosper by having people with the right skills, knowledge and attitude. Therefore, in 2010, I founded Lattitude7 to address this need. Lattitude7 is a learning and development organisation providing personal development, leadership, team building, coaching and mentoring, ethics, employability training, business development and solution finding. We work with public and private sector organisations, schools and higher educational establishments. We also offer psychometric profiling and Appreciative Inquiry events.

What is your business motto?

“Changing Attitudes for Business Success” – I believe that, however talented people are, they may not succeed unless they have the right attitude. During our training programmes a lot of time is spent working on attitude before embarking on leadership or communication skills.

What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?

Just be yourself and make sure that you ‘give’ other people support in the early days. They will remember this and are more likely to reciprocate. Even if self-employment seems a bit daunting at first, it does get easier so don’t give up. Your business may take on a different shape from the one you envisaged, so just keep an open mind and remain flexible.

What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?

Finding my first customer! I initially spent time networking at local business events. I never tried to sell, I simply explained to other people about the kind of work the company did. I carried out some pro bono work in the beginning and that led to a quite lucrative paid contract. Lattitude7 was then underway!

What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?

I love the freedom, variety and the opportunity to provide a first class service for my clients. It is incredibly empowering to see delegates develop during the course of our programmes. The company strives to ensure that learning is embedded and that the client company is sustainable as a result. By being in control of my own time schedule, I have been able to write four books which I would not have had the time to do whilst working in a corporate environment.

What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?

I least enjoy the discipline required to complete accounts and other business processes within a specified time frame. Some of this work I have now outsourced and that has helped enormously, allowing me to focus on customer requirements and business development.

Which business figure do you most admire and why?

There are many, but Sir James Dyson did a good job by thinking outside the box and creating appliances that work well. It will be interesting to see how his electric car ideas develop.

What achievement in your career are you most proud of?

I am particularly proud of having provided solutions for large companies such as: Jaguar Land Rover and Müller. I am especially pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to create and deliver the Personal Development aspects of the BVAA Future Leaders Programme. The BVAA (British Valve and Actuator Association) has a programme where cohorts of around twelve people embark on a 12-month journey to equip them to be senior leaders in their respective companies. I have prepared and delivered around eight sessions per cohort and group number four is just about to start. I also provide coaching for leaders of SMEs and this is highly gratifying. I have won quite a few business and innovation awards and, as corporate social responsibility (CSR) is really important to me, I was delighted to receive an MBE in the Queen’s Honours List in 2017 for Services to the Community and to Charity.

Where do you see your business going in the next five years?

The company has a lot of repeat business from clients who are happy with our work and we therefore intend to maintain these relationships and continue to provide a stellar service. We also have a number of highly-qualified business associates and we are finding more and more opportunities for them to work with us on a wider remit. We will continue to innovate and bring new learning and development products to the market to support our existing and new clients. I am particularly proud of our focus on CSR (work with schools, charities and vulnerable people in the community) and I plan to extend this even further and launch some new initiatives to help others.