Hi i'm Dan Holloway,

I have been driving growth and scale within venture capital and private equity-backed businesses for over 20 years. Focusing heavily on Business Operations, Tech and Entrepreneurship. I will give you an insight into my story below (maybe grab a coffee!)

You see, I learned how to start, grow and scale businesses... But that learning came with a price and it's a price I don't want other Entrepreneurs (or Intrapreneurs) to suffer, as I did...!

The honest truth is that life is too short to sacrifice more than you need to. And I see budding entrepreneurs sacrificing far far too much in their pursuit of success...

I have made both a career and an entrepreneurial journey, from simply cutting BS!

Every business I have ever worked in, whether my own ventures or those owned by clients... Some of the biggest wins have come from simplification. And simplification almost always came about by cutting out stuff that didn't need to be there. Stuff, AKA, 'the bullsh*t'.

Sacrifice without purpose is insanity!

Sacrificing for the sake of it is obviously not healthy. Far from it... Nor does it doesn't make you a hero!

This idea of 'hustle culture' is reaching dangerous levels.

Now I'm not saying you don't need to work hard to see results...

You do need to work hard. But you need to work smart!

And it's exactly that which has been my mission for my career to date.

To help Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs succeed in business while minimising the pain.

Notice how I said 'minimising'. Because anyone who tells you "Growing a Business is easy", frankly, is either too inexperienced to know better, flat out lying to you, or they have been exceptionally lucky (and is highly unlikely to ever recreate that luck again)!

You see, the truth is. Business is actually very easy, yes. But people. We lovely, complex humans. We are not easy. Far from it in fact...

It's we lovely, complicated humans, who make business harder than it has to be!

I see so many entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs alike, stressed, unhealthy and burnt out.

Usually telling themselves all sorts of stories as to why it's justified. But usually, stories they look back on and regret.

I was called a liar in a job interview...

I had a job interview many years ago where the first thing the interviewer said was:

"You are only here because I hate liars. So I want you to sit here and explain to me, why you think it is ok to lie on your CV to get an interview."

Suffice to say, I was a little confused by that statement!

And I remember thinking at the time, how this guy must be somewhat narcissistic to work for... But I was curious so went with it, asking him to explain.

Turns out, he didn't believe I had achieved the things I had, in a fraction of the time it had taken him to do so.

He was the Managing Director of a firm looking to hire an interim COO. The role of COO was one he had, until recently been performing himself. It had taken him many years to become a COO, working his way up through that same company for most of that time.

If I recall, it was somewhere in the region of 20yrs. And prior to that, he had studied business at university and then went on to do an MBA as a post-grad.

It quickly became apparent that he was judging me, using his own career trajectory as a comparison.

I'll try to remember as much of the conversation as I can. It went pretty much like this:

Interviewer: "Your CV says you were an IT Systems Engineer, by my calculations, at the age of 17yrs old. How's that possible when you should have been in school?"
Me: "I did the first year of A-Levels but academic education was never where I excelled. I didn't want to go to University so I left school and got onto an IT Support Apprenticeship program. After attending a local company for 'Interview Experience', I was called into the office of the CEO of the apprenticeship organisation. He informed me that much to his surprise, the company, a Business Internet Service Provider, wanted to offer me a job. And if I wanted it, I would start a few weeks later".
Interviewer: "Ok, I suppose that makes sense. But what about being an IT Manager by the age of 20yrs old? I highly doubt that!"
Me: "I was actually 19yrs old. It was a few months before my 20th birthday. I was headhunted by another local business that wanted someone to run their internal systems. They had asked a client what kind of person they should be looking for. And turned out, that client was a client of my employer. Someone I had worked closely with on a number of projects. They suggested me. We spoke and found our goals were aligned, so I boarded their business to build out their internal IT function".
Interviewer: "Let's skip forward then. It says here you ran your own business for the best part of your 20's?"
Me: "Yes, that's right. I essentially did my IT Manager job so well, I didn't really have much to do. Contractors that had outsourcing agreements also didn't have much to do as much of the systems were automated... Truth be told, I would play Playstation some days, just waiting for the phone to ring... That didn't sit right with me so I suggested to my employer that I set up my own business, with them as my first client. So that was the foundation of my Managed Services business. It expanded from there mainly via word of mouth".
Interviewer: "I'm getting the impression I owe you an apology here... But do you mind if we carry on?"
Me: "Sure. While it's the first time someone has invited me to interview to justify their thinking I was a liar. It's not the first time someone has had trouble believing my background... Honest truth. I found running my own business very lonely. Especially for someone introverted, in their 20's. And this was before remote working and social media was anywhere near what it is today... I wasn't enjoying my own business at the time. It was running me down. So when I got a call from a recruiter asking me if I wanted to come on board to lead systems and operations for a venture capital-backed business, I jumped at it. I sold off my clients to other firms, aided in their transition, wrapped-up my business and went to get working on a big-scale VC project."
Interviewer: "What did that look like?"
Me: "It was so much fun! My first venture capital interview was quite surreal. It was very informal. I met the exec in charge of the investor's plans in a coffee shop in London. There, they basically told me what they wanted. Which was crazy. I'd never heard of anyone even thinking of crazy plans like this... I knew VC's liked big audacious goals, but theirs seemed a tad nuts, even for a VC! Even so, it was exciting. Honestly, I didn't at the time know if I could even pull it off, but I decided to get stuck in and work hard until I did. So that's what happened."
Interviewer: "What did they want you do to?"
Me: "The goals were: Relocate the head office, with everything that goes with that. Redundancies, hiring new teams, office fit-out, tech systems, infrastructure, telephony, network systems, cloud migration etc. All while multiplying their physical locations by a factor of 10x. And at the same time as that, acquiring/merging with a number of other businesses, absorbing those into the larger organisation, with everything that involves... All of which, we had to get done in 18-24mths... With a heavy emphasis on 18 months! Oh. And we only had a small team of really hard-working, fantastic people, to do it with."
Interviewer: "Well it says here you got it done.. Why did you leave?"
Me: "Well, that's the other side of VC's was a different kind of learning curve. Once the heavy-lifting was done, they wanted to cut costs even further, as they geared up for an exit. They wanted as few executives on the team as possible. The CxOs stayed to handle the exit. And get their big bonuses. The Directors and Heads of Department roles almost entirely went. We knew the cards we were being dealt well ahead of time. We were looked after and given time to find new roles. But it was a little bizarre. But honestly, the fun work was done. And I was a very expensive resource to be sat there, managing a day-to-day process, waiting for accountants to sell the business."
Interviewer: "That was naughty of them! And somewhat illegal, HR wise... Couldn't you have fought it?"
Me: "I could have done, but what was the point? More money? Making them suffer for laying me off? I'm not that way inclined. And I was excited about the next step. Which came in the form of a Head of Operations role for a hosting business. Global presence. Managing global teams. Multiple data centers. Hundreds of staff. Thousands of servers. And an even bigger goal to strive for!"
Interviewer: "Bigger goals than the last one? Ok, spill it, I want to hear this one.."
Me: "This was another 2yr plan. Which ended up taking more like 5-6yrs. But that wasn't my fault! ha. It started with needing to merge 18 newly acquired tech and hosting businesses, into as few 'new brands' as possible. All 18 businesses had already been acquired. And quite frankly, many of them looked shiny from the outside, but 'under the hood', as it were, they were a mess! Shiny from the outside. But shocking on the inside! It took 2 years just to unpick the web of problems and figure out where those problems even started! All while maintaining operations, trying not to lose too many clients. And if we could, gain some growth. Suffice to say with this one, it was a lot of plate juggling!"
Interviewer: "That doesn't sound as fun?"
Me: "Weirdly, it actually was. I learned a lot about internal politics though. That was the hardest part. Everything else was just a lot of long hours, planning and implementation. We eventually got it done, though. And by the time the issues were ironed out, the business had risen in value from $30m to over $110m. Not a bad increase i'd say."
Interviewer: "Did you leave for the same reason as the last one then?"
Me: "Yes, pretty much. Although there were a lot more politics involved with this one, the end result was the same... The heavy-lifting had been done and it was time for me to move on. This time post-acquisition. With the acquirer wanting to install their own teams into 'new executive positions'. It was around that time I also started coaching and mentoring startup organisations. Their founders and their teams. I've lost count of how many now, but they all had similar problems. They didn't have a clear strategy, they didn't have a defined offer, and they didn't have the right people, systems, processes or tech to deliver."
Interviewer: "Do you still do that? The coaching and mentorship?"
Me: "Yes, I have been consulting with a number of startup businesses for a while now. I really enjoy it!"
Interviewer: "Ok, so I'm going to be honest with you. I'm sorry to have thought you were lying. You're clearly not... But i'm also feeling quite bad because the role we have is clearly far too small for you, too. But I would love to stay in touch and maybe work together sometime down the line?"

That conversation was interesting for me for a number of reasons.

Topics for other content another time, for sure!

But since that interview I have worked a number of consultancy and interim roles. COO of a Crypto business. CMO of a martech business and so on.

I have also worked with a number of clients of my own.

When I look back, I realise quite how much I achieved in quite a small amount of time.

And I haven't even talked about how I am a certified lie detector (yes, really. And YES, that's a thing!).

My experiences have led me to what I now love to do.

Consulting & Fractional COO engagements

I have been consulting since 2013. Helping entrepreneurs start, grow and scale their businesses... I always have a strategy in my mind. And a tactical plan by which to reach the goals that strategy is targeted towards.

In my experience, there is a hell of a lot of wasted time within businesses. Even more so in corporations or public sector organisations.

The path I take is, as much as possible, to maximise efficiency, minimise complications, lessen stress and, most importantly, to cut the bullsh*t!

Speaking of which... If you want to read about my views on using profanity in business meetings, I wrote a post on that very topic.

I work in interim roles if there are synergies between myself at the client. Something I have come to feel is best described as a Fractional COO.

So how do I help clients as a Fractional COO?

That's really rather simple. You need to get your bases covered!

Business Operations as I see it is the glue that holds all parts of the business together.

Sales will say there is no business without landing the deals.

Marketing will say there is no business without the world knowing what it is you sell.

Tech will say there is no business unless the systems work and enable the staff to function.

But the truth is all departments are important. All are crucial to success.

And it is the Operations Team who hold it all together.

When looking at the bigger picture, the following core components need to be nailed for a business to be successful.

My 4-step approach is very simple:

And it's done with: No spam. No snake oil. No lies. No crypto scams. No bullying. No sketchy MLM’s. No promises of 6-figure businesses in 90 days. And definitely no selling pieces of your soul!

Step 1) Actually SOLVE a problem for your audience!

It's amazing how many entrepreneurs set up their business for themselves, not their audience... Then are surprised why their audience doesn't seem too interested in buying.

"It's not about you. It's about them..."

Step 2) Create an 'OFFER' so enticing, your audience will kick themselves if they don't buy it there and then!

Your business is made (or broken) on the power of this one core 'offer'.

Get it right and your business will skyrocket! Get it wrong and it'll barely get off the ground...

Step 3) The sale is just the beginning... Your business needs to 'WOW' your customers every step of the way!

Every piece of content. Every deliverable. Every interaction. They all need to remind the customer why they love working with you...

If they feel great. They'll tell their friends... When they tell their friends. You have the cheapest source of scale there is!

Step 4) "GROWTH comes from work. Scale comes from Operations" - (Write that down!)

The greatest increase in profits your business will ever see... Comes not from sales. But from the 'unsexy work' that no one will ever see!

Systems, Processes, Tools, Automation... That is Operations. And it's crucial!

Want to learn more about how to work with me?:

I'm the Founder of Operational Voodoo

What is Operational Voodoo, I hear you ask...?

Great question. And it's a project I have been wanting to start for a while now.

When people think of 'Business Consultancy'. These days, they often think:

  • "I need to get a mentor"
  • "I need to find a Business Coach"
  • "I need some kind of Business Consultant, but not the kind of Management Consultant you'd expect from some Accountancy firm"
  • "I want more than an Interim Operational person, who may or may not actually do what I need them to do"

All of these have problems:

  • A Mentor is more of a guide. They don't get roll up their sleeves. Nor are they necessarily as experienced as many will want you to believe.
  • Don't even get me started about the 'Coaching Pandemic'. It was a problem before COVID, but since then... My oh my!!!!
  • Accountancy firms love to install graduates into businesses and call them management consultants. When they usually have barely a clue what that even means.
  • Interim Operational roles as such a mixed bag. Some are fantastic. Some are really not. And if you pick the wrong one, the cost to the business can be apocalyptic!

My answer to this problem is Operational Voodoo.

I have long seen Business Operations as the glue that holds the various facets of a business together...!

But it is also somewhat of a dark art. Hence the 'voodoo'.

My aim is this:

I want to build a Business Operations Agency, to help small-medium businesses grow and scale.

Focusing on being that stepping stone between those too small for a heavy-hitting COO. But too big to 'figure it out on the go'.