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5 min read

AMA: Jennie Bayliss, founder of J Bayliss Consulting

AMA: Jennie Bayliss, founder of J Bayliss Consulting

Table of Contents

We met with multi-business owner Jennie Bayliss who shared the importance of keeping your employees happy and the challenges all startups face.  

Hi Jennie! Could you share the story behind your startup, including the problem you set out to solve and the inspiration that led to its creation?

My project management company developed as an offshoot of my first company, more out of luck than planning. I seemed to be picking up more and more consultancy opportunities and the clientele was moving away from wanting virtual assistance work and into project management requirements.

One day I had a phone call asking if I would be interested in running a project for a council where I had just completed another project. The only catch was I needed to start the next day. I said yes and that was the start of the new company.

Since that day we have specialised in telecom and tech programmes and helped to deliver over £50m of social value into London.

We now run a wide range of tech projects with a human focus – projects that give something back as well as provide flexible employment for our team. People-focussed is part of our strapline and the golden thread through our company.

This summer, I acquired another business.

As a family, we wanted to do something together we could all be a part of. After several months of looking, Letterbox Cocktails came up and it felt like the right fit for us.

We could see how this business could also be very people-focussed – providing excellent customer service with the highest quality products to ensure a first-class customer journey.

Both companies focus on people first, and products and services second, which is great for the customer, the team, and the project overall.

What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Both businesses have faced similar initial challenges – learning something new, building the right team, ongoing brand development, building the customer base, problem-solving, and poor cash flow.

Most challenges continue to be challenges. We also get new challenges thrown in - failing partners, poor-quality products, and changes in the tech investment landscape.

Launching the cocktail business posed some challenges specific to this type of business - the intricate web of licensing, permits and regulations in the alcohol industry was a significant challenge. We did research, partnered with legal experts and ensured compliance at every step.

With brand recognition, we needed to get noticed in a competitive market. We focused on engaging social media campaigns, collaborations with influencers, and local events to foster connections in the world of digital marketing with our brand-new website.

With the logistics and delivery, we wanted a safe and seamless experience for the customer. We tackled this by optimising our delivery process and investing in packaging solutions to maintain drink quality and reliable delivery services.

Each challenge we have is like a stepping stone to help us toward innovation and growth. We had a vision, and with the expertise of the team, we overcame all these obstacles and are excited for the future of Letterbox Cocktails.

Could you tell me a bit more about your team, and how you've grown the business?

We have achieved huge growth in the last 18 months, going from three members of the J Bayliss Consulting team to now employing eight people. We offer completely flexible contracts and hours, excellent healthcare benefits, paid sick leave, and time off at very short notice.

We employ based on the person, not the qualifications. We can train people in the required qualifications but what really matters is team fit and finding people who align with our company values. When I speak to potential team members, I want them to understand the business first and then decide if it is an environment that works for them. We all work remotely, and this doesn’t suit everyone.

As a business owner, my primary position is one of trust. Team members are trusted in their roles and have the authority to run the projects to the requirements of the client, without reverting back for permission.

They need to know we have confidence in them as project managers, that they are safe to make mistakes, and that we support them in their decision-making.

First and foremost, we are a team who care about each other and the work we do, everything else comes as a result of wanting to be a part of the team.

If you could only choose one metric to help guide your business success, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose one metric to help steer my business success, it would unquestionably be customer/client satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is the compass of every aspect of my business.

By keeping the person at the heart of the project or product, we keep our focus on delivering what they want and expect from us. When our customers/clients are satisfied it makes the journey worthwhile.

Can you share a unique tradition, celebration, or inside joke that's become a part of your startup's culture? 

We keep everything we do very personal. As well as regular team meetings, we include sessions to support self-development and improve their life outside work.

We celebrate everything - weddings, babies, passing exams, finding new contracts, moving home...

Anything that matters to the team is appreciated and acknowledged.

We schedule in ‘share your wins’ sessions and give everyone time to talk about what they are most proud of that week. We also have money masterclasses every month to talk about ways they can improve their finances.

Work should be more than just the job – we want people to find ways to make money through side hustles or investments and to be exposed to ways to make the most of the money they earn with us.

We also send gifts on birthdays as well as give them the day off and have at least two fun days out a year where we can get to know each other and just have a good time. And at Christmas, we do Secret Santa and the theme is always ‘as rude as possible’.

Do you have a share scheme in place? If so, what does that do for your company?

We don't have a share scheme yet, but it's something we will consider in the future.

Could you share a challenging moment or setback in your journey along with the lessons you learned?

Cash flow has always been one of the hardest challenges in each of my companies. When your main income is only from one or two sources, if they pay late, it can be very difficult to make sure everything else can be paid.

Paying the team is the number one priority and a big team equals a high wage bill – when a couple of invoices are delayed, there have been some pretty close calls. In the past, I have not paid myself or I have used a loan to boost the cash flow.

Nowadays, as we are more established, I try to hold enough in reserves to cover three to six months of running costs, ideally, I would like this to be six to 12 months but we are working on that. We are also moving into new markets which should broaden our income streams and the types of companies we work with.

What’s your dream dinner party line-up?

Easy question - my dad, Queen Elizabeth II, Simon Cowell, Steve Jobs, and Terry Venables.

Interesting! If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, it would be...

It’s very hard to answer this, there are so many amazing artists and I like to shuffle my playlist across lots of songs and albums and not play one album at a time. If I had to pick an artist I would probably say Ed Sheeran, but to restrict it to just one album is a challenge I don’t think I can meet!

Thanks for your time Jennie, and good luck with your businesses. 
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