C-suite career advice: Chirag Shah, Nucleus Commercial Finance

What tips would the c-suite give to the next generation?

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Chirag Shah

Company: Nucleus Commercial Finance

Job Title: CEO

Location: London, UK


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?

I live by the mantra that you should never take no for an answer – it just means you have to approach and sort out the situation or problem in a different way. Change is difficult, and any new idea will battle inertia and hesitance. You have to work through it and educate your audience. No is always maybe. My team will tell you that my favourite phrase is “it is possible”.


What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?

Without a doubt, the worst advice I was ever given was to focus on the top line. It’s never just about the revenue. When you’re managing a business, particularly one that is scaling quickly, you need to have a constant eye on the overall picture. It’s about having a sustainable plan, and delivering.

I’ve seen this ‘top line’ focus mistake multiple times with the businesses I have worked with throughout my career. You’d be astonished at the number of owners and directors who think their business is doing well because the revenues are going up. Of course, it’s a healthy sign, but there’s a real gap between true growth, and buying growth.

Everybody thinks they have ‘the next Facebook’, and so plough all their time into getting people signed up in a quest for billions of users. This strategy is only viable if you have the capital to burn through to follow this approach until you have a meaningful business. However, 99 times out of 100, this is not the answer.  Take this idea to the extreme, and you’d be paying people to use your service or product. Anyone can buy growth.


What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?

Be careful of falling into the trap of having tunnel vision. With a single-minded focus on the product or service and company mission, it can be tempting to become so focused on delivering the task at hand that you forget to take a step back and analyse the big picture and how the ecosystem is evolving. It is critical to remember to take the time to verify that your product has a purpose, and solves a real problem for a real audience. Innovation without clear sight of these facts is pointless – and not true innovation, in my mind.


What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?

Surround yourself with a brilliant team. I learnt early in my career that people are the most valuable asset of any business. You have to be patient – it can take time to hire the right person, rather than simply filling the role. Often, success hinges on taking the time to really clearly define the job role and what you’re looking for, before opening conversations with potential candidates. Once you have this team on board, the next task is to think carefully about how you nurture and scale the company culture as you grow.

You must also be sure that you’re giving them the freedom to explore their full potential. Don’t micro manage them. Remember, you can only rise up with business if someone is ready to replace you in your current position. Empower your team to want your role, and to be striving to fill your shoes. When someone is fulfilling your role, it’s time to move up.


Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?

I always encourage staff to have an idea of where they want to go in their careers. Without a vision for what their role and capabilities might look like in three to five years’ time, it’s difficult to map the milestones and stepping stones that will be important along the way to achieve these goals. You need to have the destination in mind before you can map the journey.


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