James Sackl: Entrepreneur, innovator and the art of becoming a next gen business leader

Entrepreneurship has been in James Sackl’s blood from a very young age. At just 16 years old James was already dabbling in entrepreneurial enterprise and since then, recognising a need and finding a niche in the market has been part of James’ DNA. From setting up his own events company and successfully hosting live music events, to helping young people gain employment through mentoring and recruitment advice, James has achieved success, faced failure and endured setbacks that have shaped his entrepreneurial journey. 

For any entrepreneur, starting a business is not easy. Hard work, dedication and the drive to be successful has led James on a journey that has had euphoric highs, some disappointing lows and every emotion in between. Being resilient and learning from these emotional rollercoaster moments can mean the difference between failure or reaching the final destination. 

James knows that to be successful, anyone starting a new business should have an experienced hand to guide them through the plethora of issues that can (and often do) arise. Advice from an experienced mentor is one of the most valuable tools in a start-up business kit. He also recommends outsourcing some of the day-to-day activities like design, marketing and accounting to ensure the time of a business owner is focussed on the key drivers and overall success of the business. “No one has the skill sets to do everything on their own, so outsourcing some of the work is sensible and sets you up for the long haul.” says James. The sooner these tasks are dealt with, the quicker the potential to turn revenue.

Building a strong brand presence before launch, is James’ essential first step of any new business journey. Finding a niche and carving out a brand position against competitors is critical to differentiate a new business. It’s extremely important to have a unique offer that the competition cannot copy and a distinctive brand to cut through the market clutter. James believes that many businesses fail because they try to build their brand ‘as they go’ and launch without having any real traction in the market. 

A new business with no venture capital backing needs to be profitable, or at least break even, as quickly as possible. James had an ‘overnight success’ when he saw an opportunity to innovate with Covid-19 diagnostic pens. The product was only a year into production and, at first launch, was not well received. Suddenly, overnight sales took off when Covid-19 hit early in 2020. 

Realising customer service and the product itself needed refinement, James set to work to create a clear strategy for sales engagement and took onboard feedback from customers and suppliers in refining the product itself. Once again, sales started to pick up. Reflecting on this journey it’s clear that a well-defined sales strategy and the ability to be responsive to market needs are key to setting up a successful new business.  

So how do we embrace success and failure to become a better leader? When posed with this question, James has some very firm views on what it takes to be a successful mentor and leader. Being prepared to make hard decisions and being willing to take risks are two defining factors for a successful leader. Having the right attitude also plays a huge part. Becoming complacent when a level of success is achieved is a huge red flag for James. “I’ve seen a lot of people get complacent when they’ve achieved a certain level of success. This makes you lose your drive and direction – the killer instinct that is vital to an entrepreneur. That will cause you to miss opportunities as you’re not ready to strike.” he says.   

The challenges of leading any new business are diverse. The most valuable lessons that James has learnt over his journey are that it’s important to manage stakeholder expectations, keep people as informed as possible and be 100% transparent on every aspect of a business venture. Never give up. If an opportunity to innovate and take a slice of the market is identified, keep working on a solution. Grit, determination, and the drive to keep going, through the hardest of times, is essential. These qualities define the best leaders and will allow businesspeople to reap the rewards of all their hard work. 

Hester Griffith
the authorHester Griffith