NICK and Tim Green are executive director and chief executive respectively of Tangent Communications, an alternative investment market (AIM)-listed digital printing and marketing company. They have gone against the old adage that you should never go into business with family to set up businesses that have made waves within their industries.
Indeed, having made plans to extend their reach beyond British and European shores, the Green brothers have invited Michael Green – founder of Carlton Television and their uncle – to join the board as non-executive director. And the familial drive for entrepreneurship doesn’t stop there – Nick’s wife is Thea Green, founder of Nails Inc.
Milestones are being reached this year, with Tangent – which only had a handful of staff when they joined in 2005 – growing 100 per cent in the past six months. Meanwhile, Printed.com – Nick Green’s brainchild and the part of the business he is most excited about – will soon celebrate its first anniversary.
Both brothers started their careers in a similar marketplace – online advertising. When they were approached by their uncle to join Tangent, they were happy to hop aboard. “Having a commercial background meant we could jump in at the deep end and learn the rest on the job”, says Tim. Which is why they recommend going into an industry you already understand. “It is also key to focus on one thing to begin with – one product or idea”.
So can the brutal honesty that exists between siblings really be applied to business? “Certainly you can be more honest and direct”, Nick responds. They have never felt competitive with one another, which might have helped. “We have completely different personalities and skill sets”. But having complementary skills – Nick “does the sales”, Tim “does the shares” – has been instrumental in their growth, along with a fierce ambition. “We want to make more money, for shares to go higher, to expand our reach”, says Nick.
Their ability to grow, acquire, and diversify is at the route of their success. They are not concerned about industry competition, Printed.com has just taken over Goodprint and “we want our business to be a market leader”, says Nick. They weren’t afraid to expand and develop. Tangent initially worked for corporates directly helping brands to protect themselves, and “it was only two years ago that we started to look at doing it for ourselves from a retail point of view”, says Nick. They don’t worry about people becoming more tech savvy, one day rendering some aspects of their industry obsolete. On the contrary, they want to help people and businesses learn to do-it-themselves. Which is why they’re launching a new editing tool that will allow people to do things like logo building.
But starting up a business, especially a public company listed on Aim, is no mean feat. “What’s difficult is providing a long-term view of what the business can do. And some people won’t give you much time to prove yourself – especially if you’re a small business”, warns Tim. They had a tricky period two years ago when they questioned how far their business could go in a difficult economic climate. But they are now optimistic of the future and focusing on getting new customers “sooner rather than later”.
Indeed, customers are at the heart of their business, and Tangent is one of many companies adhering to the John Lewis customer service ethos. “Think about your online experiences. The moment it becomes difficult, you go to a different website. People will use a company and a website that they like”. This is of particular importance for a company that does most of its customer feedback online. “You’re only as good as your last job”, says Tim.
So what next? “We want to expand our global reach. The US has the biggest market for our industry,” says Nick. Which is why their next business meeting is in New York.
CV NICK GREEN
Company Name: Printed.com
Company Turnover: £4m (2012 estimate)
Job Title: Founder
Number of staff: 9
Studied: GCSEs at Mill Hill
Reading: Re-work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanson
Talents: Sport’s coach at son’s school
Motto: “Done is better than perfect”
First ambition: Wall Street trader
CV TIM GREEN
Company Name: Tangent Communications
Company Turnover: £28m
Job Title: Chief executive
Number of staff: 260
Studied: Social studies at Nottingham
Favourite Business Book: The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Heroes: Ian Wright
First ambition: Snooker player