A Week in My Life: Andrew Banks, CEO, Venture Forge
Andrew Banks leads the team at Halifax-based Venture Forge, which helps drive eCommerce growth for clients including Hasbro and Matalan.
Having worked across online commerce throughout his whole career including stints at Digital Welly and Victoria Plum, Banks launched and sold a business to Matalan in rapid succession, and ultimately became the retailer's Head of eCommerce.
His next step was to set up Venture Forge in 2018. Today, the company has a further office in London and is a full-service Amazon growth partner, from account generation and Storefront creation to reporting and analysis.
We saw what a week in Andrew's life looks like...
My Monday starts at 6:30am like most weekdays, with my two kids Jack (7) and Millie (5) bouncing into our bedroom with a spring in their step and their usual ‘Good Morning” smiles and cuddles. Nothing better! Where possible, I always try to start the day with breakfast with the kids and my wife Sarah, before heading into the office.
Although we're a contemporary company, we still believe in Mondays setting the right pulse for the week ahead and getting on top of some of the most important parts of our business - client performance and our own.
For me, that means a finance review at 9am to get a grip on our finances and make sure that we never overlook or become complacent at the basics that make our business tick.
This week it was a brief one, as we'd got a short-notice pitch for a fantastic gin brand - I needed to get straight into reviewing our sales forecast for them and prepping the pitch deck, so we were ready for it later in the week.
A critical part of helping clients grow their sales on Amazon for us is our weekly trading meetings at 11am on Monday. Each week, we review the sales performance of every client and walk through their KPIs, trading and performance to make sure we know our numbers, how each client's performing, and make sure we have appropriate activity planned across the week.
My highlight on a Monday is seeing which one of the team is trying to get first place on the trading call to share their success and results, as it always means we have got something great to share with a client later that day.
After years of making excuses for skipping lunch and thinking that being busy is a badge of honour, I always try to get 30 to 60 minutes away from my desk and a quick wander around town before coming back to focus again in the afternoon.
Monday this week is a non-stop one, and before I know it I'm back from lunch to pitch to a new prospect, and star of Dragons' Den, for their pet snacks business.
I aim to keep Tuesdays free to focus on sales, but this week we've also got two full-day team meetings for a full process review and our Annual Business Review, so I need to take time today to finalise some of the content for them.
My business partner, Jonathan, is taking a lead on the process day, so I'm off the hook on that one, but the annual review is mine and an important part of how we run our business.
Prepping the presentation for the day turns out to be a real moment of reflection, looking back at what we said we would do as a business 12 months ago and realising that we have nailed it, achieving everything we set out to and more.
By the time I've prepped the deck, I'm excited about sharing it with the team and hoping they feel as proud of their achievements as much I do. Over the past year we've doubled turnover, increased our team, fully changed our business model, and faced some big challenges in our business - and come out better for it.
The afternoon comes back on track, and I take some time out over a coffee to prep a whitepaper for our marketing activities. As a relatively young agency, my role is still very hands-on in particular around our marketing and sales activity.
My working day typically wraps up at 5:30pm, and I try my best to stick to this where I can. I'm a big believer in work expanding to fill the time you allow it, and with a young family with many activities outside of school and work, it's important for me to be there as a dad and not just spend time in the office.
So off I go to take Jack to football while Millie has some time with my wife, before heading home and getting into my cycling training at 8pm that night and hitting the roads for a couple of hours.
Wednesday is the first of two full team days this week and something I've been looking forward to for some time. As a fully remote business we are making big efforts to try and close the obvious physical gaps that this creates and today we have guys coming in from York, Leeds, Doncaster, and London, as well as one of the team dialling in from Israel.
This is the first time we've come together in such a way since COVID, and having most people in the same room - most of whom have never met each other before, despite working together - is a great vibe.
Today was all about making sure that the way we grow clients’ businesses was fit for purpose, and seeing the team being candid about where we are good, bad, or indifferent was refreshing and powerful. Permitting the team to throw away anything that was not working opened the thinking, but also highlighted that we're in a good place already.
Now the real hard work begins in introducing some new processes, documenting everything, and improving what we do for clients.
Seeing how important real face time has only encouraged us to do this again, and more often.
Today is another “working on the business” day, with a two-hour meeting with our Non-Executive Advisor, David Crawford. David is someone I have known for some time and was the MD at Branded3 before its sale to St. Ives back in 2013 and he always brings an interesting perspective to our internal conversations and growth ambitions.
Having time with David and my business partner Jonathan makes sure we are being challenged, and his external input is important to us as we are gearing up for more rapid growth in the coming year.
With a head full of ideas, I make sure today is a full hour for lunch. I sometimes feel guilty saying that, but on days like this it;s so important to take time out to let your thoughts settle and refocus, often finding I get my best thinking done in the times like this, where I schedule no “real work”.
Into the afternoon, and it's pitch time for the gin brand we prepped for on Monday. This is a hot lead for us, and a sector we've been keen to work in for some time now. What excites me most about this today is that I am going to be pitching with one of our account managers Freddie, who's relatively new to pitching for work but has been developing in this area.
Needless to say, the pitch goes well. We are immediately shortlisted to two out of four agencies, beating one of our local competitors and the market leader in our sector so far. Freddie pitched amazingly well with me and we finished the day on a high!
Today is the day of our Annual Business Review. At Venture Forge, we run our business on a process called EOS, from the great book 'Traction' by Gino Wickman. As part of this, we always run a two-day annual review and this first day is all about looking back, celebrating success, and then identifying challenges and opportunities for growth in the year ahead.
Different members of the team could join us physically today, so again it was great to get people together in a room and see how new members of the team started to build relationships.
One of our exercises today was “One Thing”, where every member of the team had to give one piece of positive feedback and area for improvement to every other member of the Venture Forge team.
Whether you are an Account Manager or the CEO in Venture Forge, we all live by our brand values of Bold Integrity and One Team, and seeing members of the team who have been with us for two weeks give great critical feedback to the board, was amazing to see.
It was a proud moment to be leading a business where the entire team felt empowered to call something out that could be a blocker to our growth, regardless of where or who that blocker is with.
This was probably one of our biggest weeks in Venture Forge for some time, taking time out to bring the team together, look back, celebrate our successes and plan candidly for our future. Being part of a team that feels they can do that together with such openness and candour makes me proud.