Case-study: When two worlds collide for business success

Phllip Davies, Investor with The Funding Room, shares how he has turned his life-long passion for music into the one of the smartest business decisions (and life lessons) he’s made, by investing in a Sussex music studio. 

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
― Bob Dylan

When I was seven (in the late 1950s) my parents bought me a guitar, and then all I wanted to be was Hank Marvin (the lead guitarist of The Shadows). The group were big in their own right but were also Cliff Richard’s backing band. Then the Sixties explosion occurred with The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who and The Small Faces, and all I wanted to be was a Rock Star.

Music, and particularly rock music, has always been part of my life – including a year or so as a professional musician. So, when I sold my business 8 years ago, I suppose it was inevitable that I should get involved in something musical. I’ve always written songs and had an album’s worth that I wanted to record, and so ended up booking a session with a new Eastbourne-based studio called CMP Studios.

It ended up being the most expensive recording session ever, as I bought out one of the founding shareholders. As a customer, I spent 20 days at the studio and it became increasingly obvious that things were tense between the partners. The two-year-old business was on the verge of collapse and in need of some further investment, reorganisation and focus on its core market. I was asked if I would like to provide advice in exchange for free recording sessions, but I didn’t want to become a referee and didn’t have that much material. I had got to know the principal Shareholder, Producer and Recording Engineer of the business (the now 28-year-old Tom Askaroff) pretty well during my sessions, and thought that we could get on as business partners. So I took the plunge and we formalised the relationship.

It’s now 3 years down the road and that old adage ‘never invest in your hobby’ has haunted me a couple of times. However, it is now beginning to make perfect sense as a business, and I have learnt so much about how to connect with a disparate community (such as the musical community in Sussex), as well as how to reach them and get them to consider us for their next project.

I’ve learnt quite a bit about myself as well, for it was the passion to build a successful, sustainable and profitable business that took over (and still persists) – whether it was to do with music or not. This probably explains why I was never a successful rock star but did become a successful businessman.

So what did I bring to the business other than a vital cash injection? A disciplined approach with weekly reports around the buzz numbers of the enterprise, a rigid grip on our core business activity as an Artists Recording Studio and the discovery of how to reach them after many false dawns.

I was also able to help Tom develop his skills as a manager of other people as well as his own time, and overcome the (still) occasional difficult moments that occur in any business. This is where I believe lies an important benefit of angel investing as a model – being able to share business experience and mistakes should help prevent the same thing happening to budding businesses in their early stages of growth. In addition to healthy financial returns, this is real added value, for both the investee and the investor.

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