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Interview with Andrew Grant Super, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor and Advisor

4th Dec 23
Toby Johncox GROUP MD

Toby Johncox

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Andrew Grant Headshot
GROUP MD

Toby Johncox

Andrew Grant Super is a serial entrepreneur, investor and advisor to SMEs & corporate brands. For 30 years, he has operated within enterprise software, data science, artificial intelligence, immersive technologies, marketing, branding, and commercial development across an array of sectors, from entertainment, travel, and luxury to energy, automotive and retail.

He currently holds several roles, including MD of Berkeley Rand, a leading international travel, experiential design and engineering house, and partner in Seerscapes, an AI engineering design consortium. He also advises companies in the immersive, AI, engineering, and creative industries. 

 

1. Can you share the story of how you decided to become an entrepreneur? What inspired you to embark on this journey?

From the outset, it was inevitable, as I knew early on, that I operated differently from everyone around me in addressing challenges and creating solutions to problems or opportunities. 

I think each corporate or mid-sized company CEO or MD always greeted my departure from them (when I was younger) with, “This day was always going to come.” It was sad to see me go, but they knew the fire in my belly was too much for companies struggling to take on sound ideas quickly and stealthily. The real tell-tale sign was that I felt grossly under-utilised within these organisations. I needed to be in a freer environment to create and execute.

 

2. What’s been the most significant moment or milestone in your entrepreneurial career that has shaped your approach to business?

There was a specific moment where I took on the big guns of management consultancy to win a strategic role at the top, to lead “over” their offering for a major corporate. It was a ballsy move. I had an exceptional team around me. 

Separately and just as powerfully, my experiential yachting design & engineering house makes spectacular experiences and moments for the world's greatest industry titans and their families and guests. Creatively, in such a short time and with limited resources, we have pulled off some incredible adventures and experiences for people who find it hard to be impressed.

 

3. In the dynamic landscape of business, how do you stay adaptable and open to change?

You have to act younger than your age and keep fresh. Understand that the terrain around you is ever-changing, and you want to be part of the change, not the old dog left behind. You have to lean into what the younger generation needs; they can teach you, and with your experience, it’s a dynamic combination to stay ahead of the game.

But to do this, you HAVE to keep learning and adapting. If it’s beyond your understanding, surround yourself with strong colleagues who understand the shift. 

The trick is to be a servant to the entity, company, and brand before yourself. Let your ego go. You’re here to solve problems or build products that people want. Treat that as your centric goal in business, and then focus on who with and the “how” it can be achieved. Adapt, Adapt, adapt, or die. It’s a brutal and true saying. 

 

4. Entrepreneurship often involves taking risks. But what role do you believe risk-taking plays in achieving success?

I’m no more comfortable taking risks today than I was 20 years ago. But “Risk” IS the defining tribute that separates winners from 2nd place. Whether in finance, product development, disrupting an industry or dreaming a bigger dream, you try to make it real. Risk isn’t a guarantee; it’s a confirmation that you’ve decided to swim in the river where you know the crocodile's laze, ready to bite you.

It’s the question I ask most of my peers and mentors and still do…"How do you assess risk?” They calculate in a complex way. I’ve studied it for years and followed their lead in what can be very different circumstances. It's complicated, as a fool's risk of jumping into that river always meets an untimely end or demise. But entrepreneurs agree that we have to get to the other side: the goal, the next milestone. Otherwise, we’re dead, aka, we fail. So, we analyse the levels of risk. Macro versus microenvironments, levels of failure we can tolerate, levels of success we can handle (being successful isn't always maintainable). Assess the risk, adapt accordingly and set reasonable expectations. Then make your move.

 

5. What is your leadership philosophy, and how do you use this to inspire and motivate those around you?

You may be a leader of solitary mavericks or a leader who needs to galvanise and inspire a team to reach the end goal. I’ve been both. My leadership philosophy has evolved, born out of creative and engineering industries; 

  • Service the brand/entity/org first and foremost; we are all servants, equal in our contribution; it’s a team game, not a kill-or-be-killed internal culture. 
  • Watch (or I’ll spend much time showing you) the DNA, the psyche, of how we decide where to focus our attention and set our goals, economies, and investments. It makes you question, “What am I contributing to this goal? Where is my place? Where are my limitations, and how can I make the 1+1=3?" Lean in and play for the team.
  • Start with passion because you’re going to need it. I intend to inspire. I can make people cry with the dream, but it’s a weapon to be used when everyone is feeling “We’re not getting there, are we?”. It's not a cold, clinical surgery. At least not at the point of conception, creation, design, build and launch. 
  • Finally, I like to share and educate with relevance to someone’s role or task with what others did to get through the problem. To not make them feel alone in their task, to make them an equal to people we look up to and to feel it can be done. Having no answer right now isn’t bad, but let's create conditions where you feel inspired to come up with that answer. Building that environment is hard when there is so much remote work, especially in my field. 

 

6. Can you share a specific failure or setback in your career, and how did you use that experience as a learning opportunity to grow and improve?

I wear my scars proudly and often refer to them. Without any outside funding, I built a large start-up in online media that became very well-known internationally. However, two companies I trusted let me down, and it ripped profit from our business and killed our ability to operate effectively. 

This experience was like losing a child. It made me hungry to grow back stronger and build better. I used it to propel a new version of me, a 2.0, to achieve better and protect my brands better. I came through and recognised the signs like a hurt antelope in the Savannah: never switch off; at any moment, failure can come and usurp you. 

 

7. How do you foster a culture of innovation and creativity within Berkeley Rand?

With Berkeley Rand, what I am most proud of is innovation and creativity. We are here to build stories and narratives and sell them to clients, such as billionaires who’ve seen it all.

I excite and inspire clients as much as my team. We are surrounded by people who can dream up what appear to be impossible dream-like scenarios and adventures. We are all students of films and theatre, whether it's cinema or food, the oceans or the geography around us. We are all inspired by nature and technology. We all understand how it can interplay.

But first and foremost, we inspire ourselves, getting into a very inspirational and innovative zone. We remain partners, and they see we’re here to be dream-weavers first and foremost.

We absorb our environment completely - images, videos, art, smells, mountains, lakes, oceans, animals, sounds, taste. We become one with it, sympatico with its energy, whether it’s a yacht, an oceanic coordinate, or an island. We take it to another level. Like we’re a group of scriptwriters. After we’ve developed the narrative in a rich creative environment (no phones, no disturbances, it’s a creative laboratory that we are within), we let the sparks fly and then sleep on them. We visualise, design and research the possibilities and resources versus cost and time.

In the creative phases, even the clients know anything goes, and I mean anything. But we temper the dreams as they can be too big and unrealistic, so pragmatic dream-weaving is in play! 

 

8. Entrepreneurs often face challenges in balancing work and personal life. How do you manage this balance, and what strategies do you use to prevent burnout?

Oh dear, that’s always the toughest question. For many entrepreneurs, work is our life, our passion. But if you lose your family (in the sense they don’t have you in their life in a meaningful way), other than your ego, you’ve failed. Why else have a family?

Everyone places different values on family. For me, it’s a priority. Every waking moment I have to contribute and care, I try. But it's hard, as you’re handling so much stress as an entrepreneur (each of us takes on more as an independent private company versus a corporate one). It’s an area we are forever trying to perfect. We are beholden to our work and client expectations versus what our family needs.

The older we get, the more important family is. It's all that’s left when your career ends or you sell your company. You want to be AS proud of how you helped your family as much as how you built a business up. 

I recall a whole industry at a conference recognising a retiring CEO of a multinational company and his career of serial successes; everyone looked up to him. He gave his speech, took a few questions from the press and was asked the classic “Any regrets?”. He spoke in quiet tones to acknowledge how relationships with those closest had vanished. 

It was a powerful “reflective moment” where people didn’t know what to say. He spoke the brutal truth; he bedazzled an industry and let the people closest to him down when they needed him the most. A lesson to us all.

 

9. What advice do you have for individuals aspiring to become entrepreneurs? Are there key principles or lessons you wish you had known when starting your journey?

It is a massive step-change if you’re coming from the corporate world. Bigger than you can imagine. It’s ALL on you. Everything. You are naked. Bare. You are exposed to the whims of your clients, suppliers, and employees. You have to sell them your dreams, as there’s no company narrative to rely on. 

Security (financially) goes out the window. Your partner is counting on you and you alone to deliver your part of the financial contribution. Cashflow and bad actors become your religion. Unless you’re able to fall nicely into an entrepreneurial role because of conditions being highly amenable to you, you better have nerves of steel and be much stronger, drawing strength from the inside. 

The analogy I use is to imagine a big tennis match, where you’re losing two sets to love, and the 3rd set is at 5-0 in games. You’re in the final game to stop the opponent from winning the match, and you somehow have to draw from somewhere, anywhere, the strength to fight back. But my god, when you do, it’s a victory like no other. You become a bigger person, more powerful, more inspiring. Success just makes you cocky, arrogant and you’re not looking for the crocodiles in the water. Failure and bouncing back is what builds you into a superhero entrepreneur. 

The lesson? Don’t ask for people's advice unless they know THAT particular answer.

Be prepared to drop people around you who can't step up. As the saying goes, “This is not show friends, it's show business”. Constantly look for inspiration and innovation around you from the most unlikely sources. It may just be the answer on a cold Tuesday morning, dropping the kids off, and something catches your eye and inspires you to find out the next step. 

You enjoy freedom, which you don’t get in a world of corporates; embrace the freedom. 

 

10. Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future of your company?

Berkeley Rand has a bright future; after the first two years of inception and launch, we had to ride the COVID wave (no pun intended), but now we have secured new clients and new experiences. We’re doing things our way, and everyone on board loves the opportunity.

We are assessing new formats to take the business and widen the client base. Now we’re tried and tested, and being in another start-up is great. You need it to satisfy the hunger, and we have a great yachting partner who holds our hand all the way in BWA yachting.

 
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not constitute advise or a recommendation.