Not everyone is a natural entrepreneur. Some fall into it as a result of stumbling across a business opportunity or perhaps because of redundancy. For others it can be something which starts off as a hobby and grows into a much bigger project.

Some people, though, are almost destined to work for themselves, and it's just a question of finding the right business ideas to channel their natural entrepreneurial instincts. Lee Biggins, founder of CV-Library, is an example of the latter. "My dad ran a reasonably successful business, and we had a comfortable lifestyle so I could see what he'd achieved, and that's how I was bought up," he says. "So I always had that entrepreneurial spirit; if I wanted a new pair of trainers I had to do chores for it, and that was drummed into me."

This soon led to thinking about how he could generate money himself, and the young Biggins could be found selling cans of Coca-Cola to local fishermen in his hometown of Fleet, Hampshire, and washing cars. "I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I've always done things nicely, so I always did a really good job of cleaning cars," he recalls. "I ended up doing massive areas and recruiting other kids to help me. People would pay me up front for almost a year, because they wanted me to come back the next weekend."

So when the time came to leave school, it was only natural to join his father's business, rather than seek out a more conventional job. The business was a carpet retailer called Surefit Carpets, based out of a converted barn which, many years later, would also end up being the office for a fledgling CV-Library. "I used to go there after work and tidy up all the sample books and price up jobs, and do various chores around the showroom," he says. "I had a very short stint at college, and as soon as I finished my dad dragged me straight out to fit carpets." It was a formative experience, he says, which taught him the value of working hard and doing a good job for customers; something he believes laid the foundations for his future business success.

After working with the family firm for a number of years, he became disillusioned with carpet-fitting and decided it was time to branch out on his own. "There were a lot of issues with carpet fitting, and they were never my own fault," he says. "I'd get to someone's house and couldn't get the gripper in the floor, or the carpet turned up short or it was dirty. I just felt I could never turn this into a large success when there were so many issues outside of my control."

Online opportunities

But, in 2000, this was the beginning of the internet era, and Biggins could see the potential opportunities. "I'd heard about Martha Lane Fox and the success of, so I literally signed up for a computer literature course and bought a computer on interest-free credit and a book called The Internet Start-up Bible," he recalls.

At the same time, though, he started to think about looking for a job. "I bought a book on how to write a CV, and then I realised I was going to have to start posting my CV to companies, and dropping them through doors," he says. "I just thought there had to be an easier way." The idea of CV-Library was born, based around using the power of the newly created internet to allow employers to find people looking for jobs, turning the traditional practice on its head; something which still today remains the basis of the business.

There was another motivation behind starting up an online business, he adds, even if he now admits this was slightly naïve. "I had a partner when I started CV-Library, and her step-dad had an offshore accounting company in the Caribbean and a massive, beautiful company house," he says. "I had never really travelled and back then with the internet you just needed a website and an email. I thought this would set me up to be able to live anywhere. Obviously the reality kicked in a few years later, when the internet grew and people realised that you needed customer service departments and technical teams."

At the time, there were just a number of competitors, including Total Jobs and Monster, all trying to figure out how to make a business out of the internet. "I didn't have any particular education, but it didn't matter if you were the managing director of Sony," he says. "When we started we were all learning at the same level, and I really got into the nitty gritty of learning how to run an internet business, and how the internet was evolving."

Biggins was not on his own as he sought to build up the business, having persuaded former schoolmate Brian Wakem to join him as a web developer. "He'd created a car website and I was asking around for a web designer, and someone in the pub told me about this website," recalls Biggins. "We'd known each other from school, so I went and had a look at it and he came onboard. But the first three years were very slow, so I was supporting the business by going out and working in temping and recruitment agencies." The duo managed to get a bank

loan to get the business up and running, and took advantage of local business opportunities such as networking to try and get it off the ground. 

Alongside this, Biggins was also running his dad's carpet business out of the converted barn alongside CV-Library. "I ran Surefit Carpets for about three years," he says. "Dad went out and did all the work, and I did all of the estimates and dealt with all the customers coming in as I ran CV-Library next door." Eventually CV-Library started to command his full-time attention, while his dad sought to scale back the carpet business. "He wanted to run it down a little bit and to only do a few days a week, although he's still fitting carpets at 69," he says. "But it was a really pleasant transition and it was nice to be back down there."

Taking off

By this time CV-Library was starting to take off in a big way. "By year three we'd just got it," he remembers. "We just did a couple of things, like buying mailing lists and creating free trials which meant we got enough people onto the database to make it worthwhile for recruiters to come on there. It just felt like we'd hit a tipping point. We took our first employee on about 2004 and that really accelerated us too. Once we started picking up the phone and trying to sell, we went from zero to hero very quickly."

Today, the business turns over around £24.6 million and employs 156 people, a figure which is increasing at around 10 a month, and operates out of two head offices in Fleet. But the basic model remains the same; clients simply pay to advertise a job or to gain access to a database of jobseekers.

Biggins, too, remains very hands-on, despite heading up such a large operation. "I've always had huge focus and a great deal of drive, and get involved in areas other managing directors would never even consider walking into," he says. "We've stuck very carefully to what we do, and the business model hasn't evolved much in 15 years, because it was so simple and it worked so well the day we invented it." All software has been built in-house, he says, which means the business is able to keep the platform fresh and adapt to new trends without incurring huge costs, while there's also been a focus on keeping marketing costs low.

"I bought the offices too, so we don't have big overheads and if there was a downturn in the market we would own our own buildings," he adds. "All those little things contribute, but the biggest thing that I think has led to our success is that we turn away all third-party advertising on the website. We probably turn away a million in profit a year to not have distracting ads and bad user journeys sending people off to other sites." This goes back to the lessons he learned working with his dad, he says, and the principles of putting customers first, which also sees the business calling customers every week to check they are happy.

Global and local

More recently, his focus has been on building up Resume-Library, a similar concept to CV-Library designed for the US, but with the added notion of licensing software to other jobsites which would otherwise be competitors. "It was an idea I had for a business during the recession," he says. "We don't need to do it in the UK because we own such a large market share, but I wanted to do it somewhere because it was such a good idea."

It was also prompted in part by the need for further investment in the business as a result of Wakem's desire to sell his stake in 2013. "It was a really nice exit for him and we were both very happy with the outcome, which you don't see in business very often," says Biggins. "We had a lot of people trying to buy us at the time, but I didn't want to sell. But a lot of investors said we'd hit this cap because we were just a UK business and didn't have an offering anywhere else. That's what made me think that if I wanted to go to the next level we needed to go global." The new business is a separate company, designed to protect CV-Library should anything go wrong, and is currently growing at around 40% a year, employing 28 people.

Back in the UK, the focus is on growing more of a regional presence. The business has already opened offices in London, Birmingham and Manchester, and is considering doing so in Bristol and Scotland. "We're probably the third biggest jobsite in the UK now, but our revenues aren't the third highest," says Biggins. "So we've turned over around £25 million this year but to put that in perspective the leading players do between £50 and £60 million." The solution is to build more relationships at a local level, with companies that are happy to bypass recruitment agencies altogether; something he believes requires experienced salespeople in those areas.

Yet it's not all been plain sailing for Biggins. "The hardest thing was probably not having a board to lean on in the early days," he says. "My business partner and I bounced off each

other well, but it's making those decisions and having that sounding platform. We actually have been very lucky because we haven't made any really bad decisions."

Ironically, staffing is always a concern, he says, although this has got easier as the business has grown and Biggins has been able to put in place a management structure. "But trying to keep everybody motivated, and make them passionate about your business becomes much more challenging," he says. "I still have many sleepless nights." The company name has also caused issues, he says, by tying the business to being a database of CVs rather than a job-board, but has also given it a unique selling point.

Right reasons

His advice for other entrepreneurs is to make sure that if they do want to start a business, it's for the right reasons. "A lot of people's motivation for running their own business is as a lifestyle choice, but for me that is a massive mistake, because they haven't got the drive or passion to go out there and be massively successful. So don't just start a business for the sake of it; start a business to solve a problem or because you're passionate about a product you want to be involved with."

Focusing on the right product is also important. "Choose your service or products, stick with them and make them work," he says. "If something isn't going to work, then quickly move on from it, but don't try and create a product suite of so many things that you don't know how to handle it. You'll burn through customers very quickly doing that."

His own ambition is to make CV-Library the UK's number one job-board, overtaking, although he's keen to point out that low overheads mean his business is already more profitable than its main competitors. Then there's the international element. "The global ambition is massive; with Resume-Library I'd like to see regional offices across the US and to see us in a couple of other countries within the next 12 months," he says.

He even harbours ambitions of hitting £1 billion turnover, citing the growth of Indeed and LinkedIn as examples. "If you look at CV-Library, it's been 15 years of work and blood, sweat and tears, but the value of that is over £100 million now, so we're already 10% there," he says. "I do think in the next 12 months we will probably make it to second place, but to make it to first place would be a big challenge.

"With CV-Library I want to get it to the point where it's not reliant on me at all," he adds. "I'd want to be here as managing director, but I don't want to have to be leant on as much as I am at the moment. We're also spicing up our brand a little bit, and trying to educate more people about who we are."

He's adamant, though, that he's not tempted to sell up, and clearly still retains the entrepreneurial zeal that is in his blood. "I'm a single guy, so I don't have any family commitments, and I'm 38 at the moment so I can take the stress and I've got the energy," he says. "I push myself as aggressively as possible for those opportunities which I might want to explore later in life."

He's also helped out a couple of other entrepreneurs with their own businesses, including Rob Forkan, founder of Gandys Flip Flops. "I spend a great deal talking to people like him," he says. "I have another friend who started an online estate agency and I helped him get started, and now he's doing very well. But I love talking about business; if I'm down the pub, you'll catch me talking about business, not about football."