An Interview with Philip Letts - Tech Entrepreneur and Sustainability Adherent

Philip Letts tech enpreneur

Raised to follow in his father’s footsteps, Philip was expected, per family tradition, to become the CEO of his family’s 200-year-old company, the ubiquitous Letts Diary. But early in his career, he was given a tech project to implement, and he was hooked by technology. He branched out to create one of the first online publishing firms and followed that with a successful string of companies that developed new technologies and business processes. He’s known as an entrepreneur who works at the cutting edge of internet technologies and online innovations.

His latest passion project, however, is building an estate retreat at the Orangery. The Georgian estate, with its Capability Brown garden and lake, rare breed farm, magnificent views and bewitching Lakehouse is a true labour of love. It is now open for short stays, occasional events and private functions. Below Philip talks about the Orangery, leadership, entrepreneurship and start-ups:

Why the Orangery?

I was trying to create a place which would be a natural environment for the next generation technology hub and the Orangery came into the picture. The Orangery combines the old and the new. It is where you can blend technology with traditional things. We have a philosophy of sustainability at the Orangery.
We call it “nature first”. It has meaning with everything we do: like raising our rare breeds according to their natural rhythms. But in a modern context, nature first expands to ourselves and our personal lifestyles - living with concern for the environment, for the health of our animals and ourselves reinforcing a natural harmony.

Your career has seen you span Letts Diaries, to blur (your own tech start up) and now the Orangery, what does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Building successful businesses for me has always been about innovation and long-term sustainability. That is what forms a strong bridge between both my initiatives - the Orangery and blur Group. Sustainability in business has been a concept dear to me all my life. My ancestor invented the commercial diary, Letts, two centuries ago and I cannot think of any better example of building a business that is sustainable and that can stand the test of time. Letts is still the industry’s leader, which is remarkable given how much the context in which they operate has changed.

The Orangery was established in 1740, so as a place, a garden, a farm and landscape, it has already existed for 200 years. Our job is to ensure it evolves and continues to breathe into the next 200 years while respecting its history.

I think the same is true for technology. Technology can be frivolous and short-term, but I am intrigued by taking its innovations and building something that can be a long-term leader. I believe this means taking a more profound approach to your product and building a market for it.

How would you define leadership?

That’s simple. It’s an ethos I try to practice every day in all aspects of my life - leadership is example. 

Below are Philip’s top 5 business tips for a successful business.

I) Sustainability is king -  Businesses are hard work. You need to build with sustainability in mind.

II) Problem, which problem? -  Be very clear on which client’s problem you are solving, not just today but also tomorrow.

III) Worry about cash - Always. Cash is what makes or breaks a company.

IV) Treat customers as you would treat yourself - Serve your customers in the manner you would serve yourself.

V) Passion and business - Ensure that your business is about one of your genuine interests. A start-up takes devotion and sacrifice. It’s easier to give it what it needs if you’re passionate about what you’re doing.

October 20, 2016 by The Orangery
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