The path from an employee to an entrepreneur can be a bumpy one and does not always end with the raving success every new start-up hopes for. Winston Churchill once said that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” If it is a given, to make it in this highly competitive race a person must be able to keep faith in themselves and in their venture despite the hurdles.
Making a work transition from a secure, paid on a regular basis, job to the role of your own boss cannot be idealised. The rewards are as grand as the obstacles on the way to achieving them, so the decision to take such a choice should not be taken lightly.
To put a spotlight on the subject of career transition and to reflect on what constitutes an entrepreneurial success story, The Choice interviewed Greg Pezzella, the Founder and Group CEO of Blue Ocean Care, which acquires performing care homes in the UK.
Greg once took a bold decision to transition from a structured and highly successful banking career to the unknown and risky land of entrepreneurship. His story consists of many years of trials and learning through different projects, including a takeaway restaurant business. Some projects turned out well and some never went through, but the acquired knowledge proved the journey was worthwhile long-term.
Is there a right time for a career change?
This is a question of personal choice and life circumstances. In my case, moving from investment banking to entrepreneurship coincided with the post-credit crunch era, which triggered thinking of alternative opportunities to the usual high-impact office careers in a big city.
What is the compass to know where to go?
Your passion. This path is so hard that if you are not passionate enough you may give up halfway through. This happens very often, unfortunately.
Does having a passion matter more than a cold calculus then?
Both are key. Passion is to make that vision of yours happen and the calculus to make sure you are on the right track.
How does one make a successful transition, by taking the leap or slower steps?
It depends on the individual, though, some say that haste is not a good adviser. On the other hand, the entrepreneurial idea might come as you close one chapter of your life and you must soon decide what to do next. This was my personal experience since my contract at the bank was coming to an end and I had to decide whether I would continue a career in investment banking or try out a completely new field. Then came the first idea of the restaurant business (Keen), which I co-founded after two years of intensive work, research and learning the business from the kitchen, literally.
Is a business plan the number one priority when starting your own company? What else is crucial?
The business plan matters but it is highly likely your strategy will change over time. A clear and focused mindset and consistent actions that fully focus your attention on your goals are key.
What qualities should a person develop in order to succeed as an entrepreneur?
In terms of professional skills, it depends on which business you choose. As for personal qualities, I would say that stamina and a bit of a thick skin to be able to cope with rejection when another door is shut at you are very important. Most entrepreneurs, by the time they achieve first successes, will have heard many more rejections than approvals. You need to learn how to cope with that. Also, you cannot underestimate the value of hard work and diligence in whatever you do.
Is networking really that important for achieving success?
It is to a certain extent, though some of us are more outgoing than others and it is not necessarily a skill you are born with. There will be ventures where it is that contact you got through networking which helped to put your foot in the door. For some, including myself, it might be that an acquired knowledge and experience together with solid preparation (tens of rewritten presentations and rehearsed interviews) will land the first deals as this might be what the investors and banks look for.
What are the main sacrifices to consider when embarking on an entrepreneurial journey?
The sacrifice of finances, emotions and time when launching a new business is massive. In my case, the burden was heavily felt on my family too. Having said that, there are better and worse days, and with a lot of self-resilience and a bit of luck your life, your professional projects get going.
If you were to start again, what would be your lessons learnt?
I encountered many obstacles since I started my own businesses and I must say they shaped me a great deal. It is true that we learn from our mistakes and we would not be who we are now without them. My 3 lessons to myself would be: never run out of cash, delegate what you do not know yourself and do thorough research as quickly as possible so you don’t waste your time on a project that does not have legs.
What is your vision for Blue Ocean Care for the coming years?
Our vision is to become a recognised leader in the care home industry as measured by our residents’ quality of care and overall experience, while providing an exceptional shareholder value. With that in mind, the company’s aim is to double its portfolio by Q2 2021. At present, Blue Ocean has 6 care homes across Wales and England.
Greg Pezzella is the Founder and Group CEO of Blue Ocean Care, which acquires performing care homes in the UK. Currently fundraising senior and mezzanine debt for his next acquisition.
Previously, Greg co-founded a takeaway restaurant business in Central London, in which he now remains a shareholder.
Before his entrepreneurial ventures, for 7 years, Greg was a successful deal maker and investment banker who structured and sold more than €8bn of public transactions worldwide. He served as Executive Director at Goldman Sachs and previously, as Vice President at Bear Stearns, the youngest promoted at this level at the time.
Greg is an alumnus of ESCP’s Advanced Master in Finance programme (ranked 2nd worldwide by the FT), from which he graduated in 2005. Between 2007 and 2018, Greg was a visiting lecturer at ESCP London Campus for the AMIF programme. Whilst working on the restaurant venture, Greg provided internship opportunities to ESCP students and took part in the School’s company consultancy projects. Greg is also a graduate from Dauphine University of Paris (MSc in Financial Markets – DESS 203), ENSAI (MSc in Statistics) and IGR-IAE (MPhil in Finance).