I-MAGAZINE Interviews James Sutcliffe, Founder and CEO, The Founding Network

Tell us a bit about yourself and your business.

I’ve always been obsessed with entrepreneurship! As a child I’d make money any way possible and study the most successful founders. Today, I run The Founding Network – the leading community of high growth founders to come together to share challenges, experiences and advice, enabling them to scale as efficiently as possible. 

Can you tell us a little about your inspirational journey and how you got to where you are today?
Following university I worked around the world for one of the leading global membership organisations. I saw the power of bringing like-minded people together and couldn’t help but think how impactful this would be for founders who wear so many hats to scale their businesses. You can’t be an expert in everything, but we can create a community that is!

Why did you start The Founding Network and what is the company’s mission?
I started The Founding Network to provide a platform and community for those driving purpose led innovation. Particularly as we recover from the pandemic, SMEs are more important than ever in driving the economy. I’m proud that we can play a part in helping founders reach their full growth potential. 

How does someone get membership at The Founding Network?
We carefully handpick high growth founders that are willing to put into the community as much as they take out. It’s completely free for founders to join, we just ask that they contribute their support and advice to others in the network.

What type of businesses do you work with?

The founders in our community are innovative and highly ambitious. As they scale the majority are going through their series A/B funding rounds and facing all the challenges that come with it. Not just raising but also delivering on all the promises they have made to investors. 

What’s one of your most recent accomplishments?
We are so proud to have recently released Founders Changing The World – our four-part documentary exploring the mindsets, ambitions and realities of some of the UK’s most innovative founders.

We were determined to give a very raw insight into life as a high growth, innovative founder. The sacrifices these people make does not act as an advertisement for entrepreneurship but they make the way they are truly trying to change the world that much more inspiring.

How did The Founding Network evolve or adapt during the pandemic?
Prior to the pandemic our programme was largely made up of in person events – this had to change quickly overnight to bring as much as possible online. We are now going back through a transition to live events, but we are keeping virtual elements such as our documentary and online mentoring.

Like so many others, the pandemic forced us to explore different ways of working – some good, some bad, but we are coming out the other side much stronger.

Are there any challenges you’ve faced while running The Founding Network?
Like many founders I seem to face a new challenge everyday and the toughest (but most exciting) part is how varying it can be – so I lean on our network of founders as much as anyone.

My background is in marketing, so I definitely seek advice when it comes to accounts, legal, HR etc.

Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?

The Founding Network has quickly become the leading community of high growth founders in the UK. We now set our sights globally to truly support our founders as they expand their own businesses internationally. We are in the early stages of growing our network in the UAE.

We have also put the wheels in motion for Season 2 of ‘Founders Changing The World’ – watch this space!

What are some interesting facts about you that people may not know?
Having grown up moving around the world (living in Barbados and Texas), I seem to get itchy feet living anywhere for too long. My wife, Mel and I met while working in California – so the dream would be to launch an arm of TFN there, and split our years between California and the UK.

How do you juggle time between your family and business?
This is a really tough balance and one I don’t think you can ever get 100% right. As a founder your mind is constantly on the business which comes with the guilt of never been fully present with family and friends.

I learned early on just how time consuming starting a business is, and you start to feel like you are always in the wrong place at the wrong time, home life needs your attention while at work and vice versa (particularly with a young child). Today, rather than focusing on a balance of time, I aim to be 100% present in each moment (either at work or with family) – this is much easier said than done, something I’m still working on. 

If there were three pieces of advice you could give other founders, what would they be?

·  What ever it is, do it now: It’s the hardest point in your life to make the leap, but it’s the easiest it will ever be.

·  Never compromise on your end goal, but be flexible on how you get there.

·  Don’t underestimate the importance of your team. You can only be at your very best if everyone around you is performing at their best.

What’s it like running your own business? Describe your typical day.

The highs and lows of founder life are far more intense and frequent than most people would imagine – but when you are having real impact, it’s all worth it. 

No two days are the same – you have to be flexible to give your attention to where it’s needed.

TFN’s Website: thefoundingnetwork.com