Meet the Boss: Jonathan Lamb, founder of strategy consulting company SPURR and soon-to-be chief executive at North-East business membership organisation the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. 


THIS summer, Jonathan Lamb will take over from the retiring Gillian Marshall at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, which represents more than 300 individual member companies with a combined turnover of more than £2.3 billion and 25,000 employees,

Gillian has led the organisation since 2014, helping to grow the Forum’s membership, engage with new corporate partners and enhance entrepreneurs’ standing at the heart of the North East’s growth agenda.

Jonathan joins the Entrepreneurs’ Forum following a career spanning more than 20 years in marketing and business strategy.

He established Stockton-based consulting company SPURR in 2016, which works with a diverse range of companies and business leaders.

He is also a grant panel member on the Tees Valley Combined Authority and was previously the executive director of business development at BE Group.

“I am passionate about the North-East and supporting businesses to be the best they can be, which I hope to reflect in my role as chief executive across our membership,” says Jonathan, who talked to Andy Richardson about his life and career.


Where did you grow up and what did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in Hartlepool, in a house a street away from Camerons Brewery, so I can vividly remember the smell of roasted hops filling the air. Initially I wanted to be a ballet dancer - my uncles distracted me by buying me boxing gloves, then a vet, and in my teens, I wanted to be the guitarist Angus Young in AC/DC. I think I still do actually.


What did your parents do for a living? 

My mam was a psychiatric nurse based in County Durham. She had me very young, aged just 17, and didn’t really settle on a career until I was in secondary school. She then decided to retrain, which meant years of studying while working, so it was tough, but she was a brilliant role model.


Who have been the biggest influences on your career and what key lessons did they teach you?

I think there have been a number of influences during my career rather than one overriding one. Along the way I have worked for and with people who have taught me about the importance of sincerity in business, leadership by example, different measures of success and most importantly that opportunity should be for all.


Tell me about your early career.

Like many people I had a number of jobs in the early stages of my career, not really having a burning desire for a distinct path, but simply doing things I thought were interesting. So, in the early 1990s I was as a product manager in Janssen Pharmaceutical, restaurant manager in Hong Kong, field marketing for a company in Oxford, then para-legal clerk for a solicitors in Hartlepool.


What has been your career highlight so far?

Winning the first contract with SPURR. Mainly because when you create something so personal as your own company, the satisfaction of a client understanding the value you will bring to them and wanting to work with you is amazing.


Why did you set up SPURR and describe in simple terms how you help your clients?

From the early 2000s, following my MBA at Durham University, I was interested in the fact that there didn’t seem to be anyone offering high-end strategy consulting to medium-sized businesses in the North-East. There were many companies and people offering mentoring, non-executive director services and financial plans, but not true strategic planning. 

I understood why, it’s very hard work. The owners of the businesses I encounter have invested their own money and have for many years considered that they are the ‘strategist in chief’ and thus it can be tricky to convince them of the value. I thought these clients deserved more respect and a higher quality serve, so SPURR was born. In practical terms this means helping clients develop a plan which creates a competitive advantage and works with everyone in the company to live it.


What are the risks for a business that neglects strategy or fails to implement one correctly? 

Business strategy involves decisions about three things: the markets to serve; the competitive advantage and the means to achieve it such as organic growth or acquisitions etc. If your business is complacent in any one area, performance will suffer and the true potential of the company will not be realised. 

Developing a strategy is one thing but implementation can be neglected, which is such a shame as again the full value of the business to the customers is unfulfilled. A good plan brilliantly executed will win every time over great ideas poorly implemented.


Why did you agree to become the new chief executive of Entrepreneurs’ Forum and what will be your strategic focus for the organisation?

The Forum is a unique organisation with a track record of helping ambitious entrepreneurs across the region achieve their business goals through an inspirational events calendar, a highly regarded scale up academy, and a successful mentoring programme. I was excited by the opportunity to build on this success by leading the Entrepreneurs’ Forum in a direction that helps members find and capture opportunities in an increasingly dynamic business environment. 


What do you believe to be the North-East's biggest strength and greatest weakness?

Determination and a strong sense of independence have always been the region’s strengths. If that was matched by a belief that anything is possible and an appetite to open up to wider opportunities, the economy would improve even more.


Which of the region's businesses and businesses owners impress you most and why?

All of the current Entrepreneurs’ Forum members, obviously. Aside from that, anyone who takes the decision to found or lead a company has my respect, especially the ones who want to achieve great things. That doesn’t have to be financially driven, just that sense they are not content with the status quo and are passionate about changing it.


And finally, what would you tell the 18-year-old you that might help their career?

Believe in yourself, enjoy your youth; the direction, experience and knowledge will come.  


To find out how SPURR can help your business, contact:

T: 0330 3337433