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IGNITING THE SPARK with Vernon West

David Farquharson

“In an early stage business you need people who are tenacious and who do not take ‘no’ for an answer. You need people who are creative, but also very cost conscious because capital is scarce. And, of course, you need people who work hard.”

Vernon West is co-founder and chairman of Jump In, a national chain of trampoline parks for people of all ages. Vernon founded Jump In after securing a partnership with Altitude, an international trampoline park operator based in the US. The partnership allows Jump In to combine local expertise with global best practice to cement their place as a leading operator in the UK.

The moment that ignited the spark in me to start a business was…

Studying at Stanford Business School in California, where I soon realised entrepreneurship was a good fit for me. I’m not afraid to be contrarian or to take risks. I don’t mind uncertainty; I know some people really do. In fact, I get a bit bored when things are certain.

Jump In is actually my second entrepreneurial venture after co-founding a fund management company called Skyline. I was on the lookout for businesses with more of a unique feel, which operated in a less competitive market, but which was also supported by a proven model. We were out in the States enjoying a trampoline park with our little one, and my wife mentioned that it might be fun to do this in the UK. I did a lot of research, sold my stake in Skyline and started working full-time on Jump In.

The thing that’s most surprised me since I made that move is…

How much fun it is. Yes, you work to get paid at the end of the day, but I find myself enjoying the days because of the diversity and because of the control I have over my time. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone – some people are much better suited to the security of a good job with an established brand – and good luck to them.

The toughest challenge I’ve faced is…

Starting my first business was really tough at times. The process of raising capital is often arduous, but that wasn’t fun because of our lack of track record and the size of the funding requirement.

Jump In, by comparison, hasn’t been anywhere near as taxing so far. At the moment, the trickiest element is securing properties; it’s difficult to find properties that meet our specific criteria. I suspect this business will get more challenging when we start to face stiffer competition, and that will come, whether it’s this year or the next.

My biggest success has been…

Building a successful team.

I’m very good at…

Recognising what the requirements of the given product in a given sector are – and filling those gaps. You have to be able to identify natural specialisms in key areas. Our CEO at Jump In is much better than me at operations. Could I do the role as well as him? Definitely not. Did I recognise that was a key gap and hire someone who’s absolutely perfect for that role? Yes, of course.

The type of person I look to recruit into my organisation is…

In an early stage business you need people who are tenacious and who do not take ‘no’ for an answer. You need people who are creative, but also very cost conscious because capital is scarce. And, of course, you need people who work hard.

The part of my day I most look forward to is…

Every day is different and there’s no real consistency to it – for me, that’s not a bad thing. What’s important is that you allocate your time properly. People get scared of managing their time; but if you don’t know how you’re deploying your time then you’re probably deploying it wrongly. Time is the only thing in life that you have to allocate: across family, friends, leisure and, of course, work.

The first step is identifying the two or three most important business goals for you. If your time isn’t being allocating and proportioned in lieu of those goals, on a weekly basis, then that is a bad recipe for any entrepreneur.

If I could give my 18-year old self one piece of advice it would be…

Nothing too profound, really, I think my 18-year old self did alright! There is one thing: I did have an opportunity to visit Svalbard, in the Arctic circle, as part of the British Schools Expedition Society. I turned it down because I didn’t know much about the organisation and nobody else from my school had gone. Looking back, I think it would’ve been a really valuable experience.

Outside of work I can be found…

I’ll either be spending time with my family, or on my bike. I still really enjoy trampolining with my wife and daughter in my spare time.

My philosophy on life is…

I’m not dogmatic about things having to be a certain way, but as I said before, it’s so important to allocate your time because it’s our own personal finite resource.

If you find yourself saying, ‘I’m too busy to do it’ – that’s garbage. George W Bush wasn’t too busy to play a game of golf each week… and if the president of the United States isn’t too busy to do that, you’re not too busy either.

If I was asking the questions, I would want to know…

You have to find out what makes people tick. To give a specific example: I know that I far more geared towards helping businesses grow from their infancy rather than helping to maintain the performance of an already established, mature business. Jump In won’t be my last new venture, that’s for sure.

It might sound simple but if you want to get the best out of someone, you need to know where their passion and expertise lies.

What I like about Ignition Law…

We’ve really enjoyed doing business with Ignition, and we’re big fans of their model. You offer tremendous value for money, a high quality service and are fairly priced. Alex is great, too!

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