Straight Talking Entrepreneur Takes to the Stage
Jonathan Straight is a long term supporter of the Buy Yorkshire Conference and we were delighted to welcome him back for a further year. As a businessman who has worked for 21 years to build a recycling company that he then floated on the stock exchange before selling it many years later, he certainly knows his stuff.
Speaking about his departure from Straight Plc, Jonathan laid bare an honest account of the decisions, challenges and humorous occurrences that can only come from such a roller coaster journey.
Having spoken for several years as the CEO of Straight this was one of the first occasions that Jonathan was taking to the stage as a former member of the company. Taking us right back to the beginning he references his departure from school in 1965 with an A Level in Business to his name.
“Being an entrepreneur was never a real option back in those days. The idea was that you went to university and you got yourself a proper job. I had seen my Grandfather run his own business but he left nothing behind, no legacy or real social impact. I didn’t want to be like that.”
Jonathan had a number of jobs before taking the plunge and choosing to launch Straight. The journey was far from a depiction of the businessman’s surname and came with many a battle not least the fact that recycling was a relatively new concept.
“It was after reading a book one day which included the sentence ‘We pay to buy our waste and put it in a hole in the ground and yet this material we bury has a value and so we pay for it twice’ It was a real lightbulb moment for me. How could we possibly go on buying something twice and why hadn’t anyone done anything about it?”
Fuelled by the enthusiasm and passion that Jonathan had for both his business idea and the need to recycle, Straight soon became a £1m turnover business with 4 employees and that is when he decided that in order to be taken seriously he would have to get a listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Never one to give up, Jonathan got his listing in 2003 but was aware that the challenge had only just begun as he now had to ‘deliver for the shareholders’. Times still weren’t easy for the business and the next challenge was to purchase his main competitor Blackwell, which he did in 2004.
Still this didn’t stop him and once again he rolled his sleeves up and built the business back to its former glory – not thanks he explains to the faceless bast*rd banks.
The tale doesn’t end there however as despite its ongoing success Jonathan left the company in 2014 for an 8 figure sum. It wasn’t about the money though, he explains, it was the right thing to do and at the right time.
So, has Jonathan hung up his glasses and combed out his much-loved moustache? Of course not!
As a true entrepreneur he is working on a number of projects and there is no doubt that he will be back, in time, with another exciting business that he can call his own and make a success all over again.
Leaving the audience with 10 missions (which are actually 11) he says:
- Know where you’re going
- Communicate effectively
- Tell the truth
- Never give up
- Be memorable
- Dare to be different
- Know your competition
- Keep reinventing
- Help others
- Lead by example
- Plan the exit first
We wish Jonathan every success with his future ventures and look forward to him sharing his next exciting journey with us next year.