Angela Spang: Growth doesn’t come without a cost

Angela Spang: Growth doesn’t come without a cost

Angela Spang learned early on in life that everyone had to pull their weight when it comes to making business a success. When her family needed to pack boxes on the weekend, that’s what they did.

Born in Sweden, Spang grew up with cookies, milk and VAT reports, being raised by parents who both started and ran their own companies.

Today she still lives with the same lesson—and tells First Women when there are boxes that need packing, you pack boxes, no matter who you are in the company.

What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?

My previous role saw me running the international division for a large medical device company, and I was travelling across the world. When the board decided to move the UK to a distribution model, I put my hand up and suggested I’d be that distributor. After some initial objections, they finally let me go, and we went live only four months later. Quite a hectic time: 2013 I started a company, moved house, moved country, renovated a house, moved house again and had a baby!

What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?

Cash flow is my biggest challenge right now. Growth doesn’t come without a cost, and we have started 20 new accounts for JUNE MEDICAL in the last 6 months, each at a cost of approximately £13.000. Having the medical education company in that first (expensive) Startup phase doesn’t make my bank reconciliations fun experiences. I don’t want to use external funding if I can help it, as I don’t want to give up any control, so it will be interesting to see if I can get through this dip without it.

The opportunity is enormous: if doctors would stop training on patients tomorrow, all surgical healthcare education would come to a halt. We can provide an alternative, as soon as the funding is there to support it.

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?

I am tremendously proud of the way we managed a manufacturer challenge we had last year for June Medical. 

At the time, 65 per cent of our turnover came from one manufacturer, and we had 60 days to find a new supplier for a highly complex implant, sign a deal and support customers if they had run out of stock. Not the most ethical of decision from a manufacturer, but we managed it as well as we possibly could.

The most important thing for me was that we didn’t crumble in fear, which would have been very easy to do when someone tugs the rug from under you. We came together as a team, and we absolutely rocked it. I was blown away by the teams attitude, and extremely grateful for their trust.

Mistakes are interesting, especially when it comes to leadership. Getting the balance right between giving people freedom to learn and make their own mistakes, knowing when to step in, and when to just let things progress–whilst knowing things are going to go south–is hard.

I draw the line at where there is potential harm or legal risk, but other than that I am pretty hands off. However, last year, I made a mistake, because I waited too long, and it was more damaging than teaching to the teams confidence than I had expected. I should have stepped in earlier, and I should have been more directive.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?

I love that I get to do things they way I think is right. I have always been more interesting in making good than making money, so I see making money as a tool to help those who are less fortunate. We do a lot of charity work in many different forms, perhaps most notably our collaboration with Direct Relief and The Fistula Foundation who we donate our Galaxy surgical retractors to.

I also love the opportunity I have to bring in talent and watch them grow. I am passionate about giving people a chance, and when I hire, I am just looking for the right person. The practical skills we can teach.

What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”

I am creative and I am competitive, in combination with being a relentless improver. That makes me a brilliant problem solver, but the downside is that my brain never stops! Couple that with my conviction that one can be both successful and kind, and I think that sums me up fairly well.

Which entrepreneur do you admire?

I am really impressed with a lady close by who has built a trampoline park, and turned it into a huge success. The conviction and up front investment must have been enormous, so I admire her courage and initiative. I nominated her for Best New Business in Buckinghamshire, and I hope she becomes a finalist (one of my startups is in the same category so I won’t say winner!). I like good competition! And also: she is good. She deserves recognition. And I have nominated several people who I think would benefit from doing the application work, getting some recognition and publicity.

What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?

Ive grown out of being annoyed at the gender discrimination. Now I just give back: Once a man in business class on British Airways turned to me and asked me to hang up his coat. I did. He turned very pink when I then sat down in the window seat on 2A and accepted a newspaper from the stewardess.

I also give back by making it really easy for women with young families to work with me: ultra flexible hours, flexible roles, job share, child care vouchers, you name it. I have just signed off on a policy change that everyone gets their birthday as an extra day off. We have implemented statutory pension 18 months before our registered date, and from April 1, we will write in a parental policy that gives men and women equal time off when having a baby (or adopting, obviously).  

What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

“Your handshake is more important than any contract. Always, always keep your promises.” My dad.

Do you have a motto you live by?

“No guts, no glory”. It sums up bravery for me.

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