The Power List | Nigel Mills CBE, Chairman, The Lakes Distillery

Named as one of the Entrepreneurs on the 2019 Walpole Power List, Nigel Mills CBE, the Chairman of The Lakes Distillery, discusses entrepreneurship, the art of taking calculated risks, and the key strategies to improve leadership skills…

Walpole Power List 

For 25 years Nigel was Managing Director of Mills Group, a North-East based business with more than £80m turnover and 2,200 staff. In 2012 Nigel met Paul Currie, who had obtained planning consent to build the largest whisky distillery in England. Today this is known as The Lakes Distillery, and is located in the heart of the Lake District National Park.

Entrepreneurship involves an element of risk. Why is risk a necessary component of success?

The scholarly definition of entrepreneurship is “the process by which individuals pursue opportunities without regard to the resources they currently control”. Similarly, an entrepreneur is categorised as “someone who organises and operates a business, taking on greater than the normal financial risk in order to do so.”

Both definitions explicitly demand an element of risk but in my experience, the most common characteristics of a successful entrepreneur are that they are forward-thinking, able to anticipate trends, see opportunities, identify future organisational challenges, and they are hard-working.

Entrepreneurship is having the courage to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you.

Entrepreneurs love putting in the hours so they can realise a sense of satisfaction when they accomplish their goals.

While risk-taking is naturally a big part of taking advantage of any new opportunity, in order to be successful and maximise this, it must be a calculated risk.

How can entrepreneurs also become great leaders?

Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.

As the leader of a business, you must be the person in that group who has the ability and personality to inspire those around you to want to follow your cause and help you achieve your vision.

Not all entrepreneurs have these skills when they start out, but they can be learned and developed over time.

To improve leadership skills I believe there are two key learning strategies. You can either talk to successful leaders, listen to their inspiring business journeys and learn from their past failures and successes, or you can find a number of trusted and experienced mentors who will support you by constantly discussing your business challenges, using their expertise to help you avoid making mistakes that can be damaging to your business.