Founder Series: Russell Wardrop, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Kissing with Confidence

Russell Wardrop, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Kissing with Confidence
Russell Wardrop, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Kissing with Confidence

What does your company do?

We create Rainmakers: rainmakers grow businesses by using their skills and behaviours. 

We do this is the legal, professional and finance sectors.

What is your background?

I studied architecture at Strathclyde University and was a practising architect before becoming an academic. 

I became Director of Placements at West of Scotland University and that got me interested in the skills people needed to get on in business and life. 

I started Kissing with Confidence 20 years ago with my co founder Sharon McLellan, teaching presentation skills.

What was the aha moment that led you to the company?

My dad started his business at 35 and that’s the age I was when we stated KWC; I needed to start a business and at the time was doing a lot of speaking and debating.

Where did you get assistance when you started?

40k redundancy money from my job at the university.

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company?

We got to £750k and kind of stuck there. Then to £900k. We are now embarking on a growth strategy and are heading for £1.2million this year with plans for significant organic growth in the next three years to take us about £2million.

After that, who knows?

Have you taken any external funding?

No. For example our Rainmaker offerings were funded by ourselves, with cash from the business.

What does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover

12 staff, some trusted associates, £1.2million this year (up from 900k).

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?

The use of technology particularly that we can now collect data and show clients a return on their investment. This is proving very powerful. 

What are the USPs that make you different from other offerings in the market?

We concentrate on changing skills and behaviours rather than process and show both qualitative and quantitative improvements to clients.

What is your target market – who is buying your services?

Legal, professional and finance are our main sectors.

What are your goals for the business?

To be the go to business for professionals who want to be star performing rainmakers and to take the business to £5m turnover before I chuck it.

What are your biggest current challenges?

My own impatience and that there are not enough hours in the day.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

The financial crash was a big challenge, but ironically it inspired us to start developing a sales programme for professionals, which became Rainmaker.

What do you do outside work?

Cook while watching my huge telly. Especially frittata, soup, fish and curry.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier?

That you really can grow a business in a non-technology sector where, due to the low cost of entry, there are a huge number of one person operations. 

What is the secret to good leadership?

“If you need to find me, l’ll be in the lead tank.” – General George Patten.

Where do you see the company in five years?

Headings towards £5m turnover, with me moving to an elder statesman role.

How can the Scottish entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more to start up and grow?

I don’t know the answer but my MD and I spend huge amounts of time on things that are not about growing the business.

Can you give us some numbers, turnover, growth rate etc?

Most compelling number I can give you other than the turnover figures above, is that we have, essentially, turned 3k conversations with clients into 25k conversations. With data to show they get huge returns from investing in our programmes. 

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