In conversation with Ed Bussey: top business tips from last year’s Great British Entrepreneur

Business news and opinion

17 November 2016

From the Royal Navy to the written word to being named Great British Entrepreneur of the Year, Ed Bussey has had a varied career.

Upon leaving public service, he forged a path as a serial entrepreneur, first founding Figleaves and then technology company ZYB, which has since been acquired by Vodafone. In 2011 he launched Quill, a content marketing company that works with global businesses to create engaging digital content.

The winner of last year’s Great British Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Ed Bussey knows what it takes to run a successful business. So whether you employ a team of 20 or go it alone in your business, you'll find his start-up advice practical, truthful and inspiring.

Test your offer

"You’ve got to answer a customer’s need. Quill specialises in producing digital content for business websites. What’s unique about our model is the speed and scale with which we deliver content, which is impossible in-house or through traditional agencies. So having identified this need, our first year was focussed on testing our model in the market. How do we deliver and sell that offer to companies? How do we price it? How can the effectiveness be measured? These are all important tests for any business."

Learn and develop

"I’m still learning about entrepreneurship. I’ve started two businesses before, and I think you learn as you go; the intensity of that learning is quite high. It’s a marathon, not a sprint; and you need a lot of stamina and resilience to ride out the peaks and troughs as you build a business from scratch."

Overcome obstacles

"The biggest challenge for new businesses like ours is to educate the potential client about the value to them. We need to get in the right room with the right people, and explain the benefits clearly. When we do this, our conversion rates from pitch to close are very high. We continue to get better at this, by getting really excellent sales and marketing people, being focussed about the offer, and using data such as case studies."

Be brutally honest

"You need to be honest with yourself, and you need to be honest with the people you’re seeking support from. One of the best ways of building an effective team is to have a very honest view of your own weaknesses in order to plug these areas. One of the reasons entrepreneurs fail is that they think they can do everything. You also need to be honest about your plan: is it really viable?"

Stay focussed from the start

"Stay really focussed. This does involve saying no to revenue – that’s when it becomes difficult for new businesses. If I could travel back in time to the start of Quill, I would definitely stay really focussed on the e-commerce opportunity and not get distracted by other forms of content."

Celebrate success

"You start off with a team of one, and it’s quite a lonely position to be in through the early years. So, when you receive recognition from the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, that means a lot. Quill is only possible because I spent time building up a really good team, so I do think the award is a reflection on them."

Remember that you’re vital!

"Small businesses are the backbone of this country’s economy. Most people are working for small businesses, and that’s also where the vast majority of job creation is. So anything that helps to empower that sector and recognise its value, like the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, is a really positive thing for the wider economy."

The 2016 Great British Entrepreneur Awards take place in London and AXA are proud sponsors of this year’s event. For more information about celebrating British entrepreneurship, visit