So what are the ingredients of a high growth business or gazelle as they are commonly referred to? This is a question that I must be asked at least twice a week. As both a founder of several and adviser to loads I am still learning every day. As an obsessive researcher of their behavior, tactics and strategies, one conclusion is gazelles are not just the stereotypical university high technology spin –out, they are also well established organisations from mature sectors – with fire in their belly.
So how do entrepreneurs unearth the Gazelle spot for their business? This is the point at which rapid growth ensues, new markets open up, customers display a strong desire to buy and value is created for both the founder and stakeholders. For the economy they become job generators and employers of skilled individuals. The challenge is there are only a small proportion of these businesses, nationally and globally – why? because its really hard to grow a business, get the right people on board pointing in the same direction, raise and manage finance….the list goes. This G-spot takes time to find, as one member of the High Growth Foundation® muttered the other night – it has taken me 10 years to become an overnight success – or as Malcolm Gladwell puts it 10,000 hours of effort and practice are needed to become an expert at anything.
Lots of entrepreneurs talk a good game but many fail to cope with the roller coaster ride that so often accompanies growth – the high and the lows can be quite debilitating and at times the problems just “do your head in”. Having a resilient and positive mindset able to cope with uncertainty and unforeseen challenges is an ability too few have. High growth will usually equate to high risk (that’s why banks are scared stiff of high growth entrepreneurs), embracing fear and having the courage to see through immediate and longer term challenges is a skill high growth entrepreneurs have honed.
The Entrepreneurial G-Spot is a complex framework involving an eclectic mix of business, commercial and emotional components. Put very simply it’s the fusion of a sound business model with propositions and service that carry a market place edge – disciplined doers not talkers execute the plan to achieve the vision and everyone knows their role. The active ingredient is brilliant leadership, more specifically a culture of ambition underpinned by mental toughness and an ability to cope. All too often it’s the latter that is missing, so many entrepreneurs fail to truly realise their potential, they run out of steam and to put it frankly cant be bothered with the hassle.
You’re a long time dead, get stuck in, have a go, fail fast move on, get your head in gear and unlock the potential of your business. Only practice and iteration makes perfect!
I spoke at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference earlier this week. The theme was entrepreneurial learning in organisations. It was an extremely thought provoking session, that brought together fantastic academic minds on the theme of entrepreneurship.
As a keen observer of entrepreneurial learning and improvement, my view is that the UK economy will grow faster if more effective leaders are created and nurtured. Enterprise policy makers must recognise the importance of bigger thinking and greater ambition – a key component of leadership. Academic enterprise research needs to investigate in greater depth the emotional needs of entrepreneurs – the spirit and mindset. Setting up and growing a business can be extremely demanding. For entrepreneurial leaders balancing personal and commercial risk can be a debilitating experience – we must look at developing practical coping strategies to help leaders overcome the fear often associated with the stages of growth.
From my discussions with participants I was encouraged to hear that softer issues do appear to be attracting more academic interest. Topics such as developing an entrepreneurial mindset, coping, resilience, mental toughness, personal branding and faith must get on the agenda. These are all essential ingredients for leadership success. Practical tools to help entrepreneurs address these areas would be well received within the community – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Entrepreneurs are courageous individuals who cope well with the lonely rollercoaster existence, helping them to live with high pressure moments would be a well-received antidote for those wanting to make a difference. I am extremely excited about the work ISBE is undertaking.
This was probably one of the best events I have been to for a long time. Sometime fantastic speakers, for me Lord Heseltine did the business, what an incredible man. His own entrepreneurial story was highly engaging, it came straight from the heart. He talked about how lucky he had been in his career, one that led to the creation of Haymarket Publishing, a global business with 2,000 employees.
Well on the note of luck, Harvard Business School have done their research and some really interesting findings have emerged. They claim that luck in business can be cultivated, through what they call lucky attitudes and lucky networks. They found that a lot of their entrepreneurs believed in and are extremely open to the power of serendipity – in other words a lucky attitude. They also have a wide network of relationships that at first glance may have little to do with business but somehow later come into great relevance.
Richard Branson’s off the scale mindset of creativity is testament to the power of being different. A common theme around loving what you do was woven throughout the day – passion lies of the heart of success, it keeps you going and is a vital ingredient to mental toughness. The Black Farmer Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, hit the spot as well – going into business or growing a company means you have to overcome your fear, and you only live once, so go for it and be brave.
An amazing job done by Liverpool Vision and the broader Liverpool Community – so many other cities could learn from their ambition and visionary leadership. An example of public sector practicing what they preach.
A breath of fresh air entered the business support arena at this mornings launch of the Manchester Business Survey. Frank McKenna led a great debate, much of which focused around the support for growth businesses in the GM Region. At last we are getting to the real issues and I am so pleased that Scott Fletcher, Chairman and Founder of ANS has started to unearth the paucity and confusion that sits within the business support arena.
The number of quango’s that still exist is causing enormous confusion within the business world and if we are going to create more “ANS Types” then its time to raise the bar, leave delivery to the private sector and provide the much-needed hands on help for risk takers. In particular advice from people who have been there and done it, inputs that drive strategy into action, executes plans, embed innovation, provides route to market, delivers an introduction to trusted advisers not just fee chasers, develops winning teams and leaders and provides well crafted business plans that hit the mark with the finance community.
Interesting comments about the Growth Hub and relations of the Family.
Well done Frank for getting on the table this long overdue debate. Fingers crossed that Scott’s forays to getting it sorted will create the desired changes and he doesn’t get ground down by non value added debates driven by committee, sub committees, talking shops, steering groups……
Today’s headlines of the North West Insider Bulletin reads – Leese stresses importance of ‘family’ ties. This was one of the core themes of yesterday’s Manchester Economic Forum. What a great job the Sir’s Howard and Richard have done in placing Manchester as the UK’s second city. The City has a brand that spans every corner of the globe and the investment attracted and regeneration projects completed must be applauded – a fantastic job. The work on the graphene hub also provides bags of excitement for the Region.
My concern lie at the heart of how the Manchester Family can be perceived – can it portray an image of “closed shop”. This particularly relates to business support in the Greater Manchester Region. Every aspect of Manchester is world-class – however its business support infrastructure is outdated and out of touch with the real needs of growth SME’s. The Business Growth Hub needs passionate leadership that reflects the needs of the coal face, not world domination and self interest.
Still some work to be done here!