Following his book ‘The Money Train’ winning the Business Book Awards’ Startup / Scaleup 2022 category, we spoke to David Pattison about the book, his role as a business ‘wingman’ and his transition from CEO to professional racing driver.
What’s your reaction to winning your category at the Business Book Awards?
It was a tough category and there were a lot of other very good books. They had a highly commended award and a winning award. In my head I thought that I would do well if I won highly commended. When I didn’t get it – bearing in mind we were the first category – I thought “goodness me this is going to be a long night”.
When they announced that I’d won I was so surprised. My publisher, who was sitting at the same table, said “your face was an absolute picture – your jaw hit the floor”. It was amazing, I got a real rush because it was so unexpected – and I was incredibly proud and pleased.
Why did you decide to write the book?
It has always struck me as a little unfair that young businesses, at the point where they are the most inexperienced that they’re ever going to be, are negotiating with very experienced investors and negotiators.
Having seen a lot of this I wondered how I could share some thoughts and landed on a preparatory book, helping people prepare rather than “here’s 15 things you should’ve done” because it’s too late by that point. I’m at the stage of my life where my job is to help people, it’s not to build my own career it’s to help other people build their careers. I felt that this was a useful tool.
There is also the old adage that everyone’s got a book in them, and writing a book was on my list of things to do. I had no idea I was going to write a business book. I also enjoy writing so it fulfilled that aspect as well. I was starting to write it just as lockdown happened – so it gave me plenty of time to do it.
What do you hope people reading the book learn from it?
You must make sure that you go into the fundraising process very well prepared, be the best business you can be and make sure that you’ve got the best help you can. It is always a good thing to remember that you should do a lot of due diligence on the people or companies who are investing in you.
The book is quite iterative: it takes you through the journey and sets out the things you need to think about. It also highlights that you should never take fundraising for granted, it is difficult to raise money. There’s a lot of money out there in the market, but it’s quite hard to get your hands on and you must be a good business to get the best deals. You can’t just roll up and shake the money tree in the bottom of your garden and it lands in your lap – it doesn’t work like that.
The book combines your personal experiences with insight from a range of industry experts. What is the one key experience, quote or anecdote included in the book which really stood out to you?
I spoke to a range of people, and they were all incredibly helpful and very insightful. There were a couple of things that really resonated with me and were linked.
The first was that the whole process is an extended interview. If someone asks to “see someone for a quick coffee” or “fancy meeting up for a drink”, that is part of the interview – they will make notes and put them on your file.
The second is that you mustn’t run out of energy in the process. Don’t succumb to deal fatigue. The end of the process is where things appear that you weren’t expecting, or investors hope you’ll just agree to because you want to get the deal done.
Following day-to-day running of businesses, you’re now a self-described ‘wingman’. What does being a wingman mean in the business world?
I don’t love the term non-executive and I like to think that I offer a bit more than a traditional NED. I am not looking to build another career and therefore I was trying to think of a different descriptor.
What I mean by wingman is that I watch the backs of companies and their CEOs. As examples it can mean I am there to help with investor relations, or I act to help a CEO through certain situations that they haven’t come across before, and I probably have.
Being a CEO is quite a lonely job – it could even be that moment where they kick the door shut and say: “I really don’t know what to do about this”. I’m the person who sits there and says: “Well I don’t know either, but a problem shared is a problem doubled! We’ll work it out.”
Part of this support includes your role as chairman of Relative Insight. What is it that attracted you to the company?
I have three criteria when I decide on who I want to work with. The first one, and probably the most important one, is: Can I spend two hours in a room with these people? The second one is: Is it an interesting product? The third one is: Can I make a difference?
With Relative Insight there were big ticks in each of those boxes.
It’s a very interesting product, it’s in a space that I understand – marketing services – and I could only see a growth future.
Could I make a difference? That’s probably for other people to say. I initially consulted for three months to help the team understand the marketing services market – clearly I could help make a difference there. My general business experience has also become useful to the company and, without being immodest, having me as part of the team when we’ve been raising money has been helpful.
What do you envisage the future looks like for Relative Insight?
Providing we continue to do the right things in the right ways, I can only see growth and huge opportunity. We’ve only just scratched the surface in the US and already the US is a huge chunk of our business, plus we’ve got plenty of places to go in the UK and elsewhere.
Finally, as well as a successful businessman, you also transitioned to become a winning racing driver. What drove your decision to take up racing and how difficult was it to make that switch?
If you’d asked five-year-old David Pattison what he wanted to do, he would’ve said “be a racing driver”. When I reached my mid-fifties and was no longer doing a full-time CEO role I got involved in a motorsport business. They asked me why I’d got involved and I said, “it’s too late for me to be a racing driver but I thought I’d live vicariously through this business.”
They said: “It’s never too late” and they arranged for me to go out and do a test drive at Silverstone – I span on the first corner! From then on I had six brilliant years. I used a lot of business disciplines in terms of preparation, putting the right amount of money in and getting the right team around me. I had an absolute blast.
I used to drive in a Pro-Am series where I would drive for an hour and the professional would drive for an hour. He’d set me targets on how close to his time I would need to get – I achieved them all.
I’ve got a load of very ugly trophies. I’ve won races, including a 24-hour race in Austin, and it was absolutely fantastic. It was the fulfilment of a lifetime’s ambition.
Relative Insight’s inaugural one-day event dedicated to talking all things text analytics takes place in June, and tickets are free.
This event is a one-of-a-kind day where the focus is to reimagine qualitative data analysis techniques. We will discuss the importance of new analysis methodology and wax lyrical about language and to talk serious unstructured data – sign up now.