High growth entrepreneurs have an innovation department

26/08/2014

Business incubators have become a common feature of public sector enterprise support in recent years; many of these establishments have proved to be highly effective in nurturing early stage entrepreneurs. They don’t just provide a desk and somewhere to turn up every morning, their added value comprises: a place to network, share ideas and collaborate. The really good ones offer mentoring and coaching, this is often what makes the real difference between success and me too performance. In many UK regions, incubators have become a hot bed of exciting new businesses, the potential employers of graduate talent – Autonomy in Cambridge is a fantastic example.

This concept of incubation needs to feature prominently in the culture and mindset of winning businesses – any ambitious entrepreneurial company should have a “department” or function responsible for building a pipeline of new thinking that delivers potential new revenue streams or adds value to existing customer experiences. I don’t mean a department literally – it’s about having an organisational process that brings together thinkers, doers, sellers and controllers, one that not only develops new ideas but also implements the commercially viable nuggets that emerge from the process of discovery. The concept of incubation delivers a major thrust for gaining an edge in the market place.

It is my opinion that creative intelligence is the ultimate source of competitive advantage – high growth companies tend to be disproportionately more innovative than the rest of the SME population. They explore, embrace diversity, live in their customer’s world, experiment with new possibilities and avoid complacency by making creative thought a habit, not something they do once a fortnight on a Friday afternoon. It must form part of an organisations “soul”. 


Sort out your credo

28/01/2014

I have seen some fantastic academic work in recent years on leadership – Jim Collins, Stephen Covey and all the other usual names. A plethora of tools, techniques and matrices aimed at helping the ambitious entrepreneur become a better leader. I am guilty of being one of the many individuals to come up with new thinking on how to excel at leading others!

The reality is, it’s so damn difficult pulling everyone in the same direction, getting people to buy into your vision, aligning individual skills with the needs of the business, expecting everyone to be as passionate as the founder – just accept it, no one is ever going to be as passionate as the founder of a business. One thing for sure is that as a company grows, a leader/leaders must develop a rulebook – it should be a concise set of statements that defines – how we do things around here! If an employee does not like the rules – it does not make them a bad person, it just means they don’t belong to the community. Modern management science talks about values and behaviours in my own world I call this a rulebook – golf clubs have them, religious societies have them…and many more. Organisations that have been around for hundreds of years have a rulebook of some description! I can almost hear readers cringing at this phrase.

As companies grow – a rulebook is needed to define what is and what is not acceptable. As a company heads towards 7, 20 and 50 employees the people dynamics change and a “way of doing things” needs to be established – if not you end up with a tribe and not a team.  For me this is one of biggest challenges leaders of growing businesses face – embedding an ethos/philosophy of what is and what is not acceptable.  Managing people, emotions, needs, desires and aspirations, then connecting them with the purpose of a business is so difficult.

Try putting together a rulebook then sharing this with senior managers and staff. Institutionalisation (you may wish to use other words) is a necessary part of creating a long tem sustainable business – a challenge for any leader! Don’t forget you must live by the rule book yourself, if not why should colleagues and staff?

See our company values here >>>


Faith is important for entrepreneurs

26/06/2012

The life of an entrepreneur is full of ups and downs. The high’s are fantastic and the feeling of jubilation when you move closer to your intentions provides a clear sense of accomplishment – it delivers the impetus to keep pushing on. It’s a great place to be because motivation and energy helps to build an important ingredient for success – momentum.

However, we all know, building a business can likened to a roller coaster ride, the journey very rarely proceeds along a smooth path. Obstacles are just part of the game, these force us to create diversions and look for alternative ways of getting to our destination.

Constantly being forced to deal with the need to explore alternative roads to the end point can have a wearing effect on  mindset. The danger is when it stimulates negative self talk – what’s the point in doing this? Is it really worth it?  Many entrepreneurs will have at some point internally deliberated these issues. Only you can answer these questions, only you can decide whether to keep going or not.

The power of autosuggestion brought to us many years ago is a vital antidote. Autosuggestion is a psychological technique  developed by  Emile Coue in the late 19th century. It’s an important tool in conditioning our mind to achieve our goals. It can be as destructive and constructive. At the heart of autosuggestion lies conditioning ourselves, through our senses to achieve what we want.

Through observational research, I have come up with other practical tools to help at critical points where emotional support is vital for the entrepreneur. The reality is, it can be easier to give up than to carry on – winners in all walks of life dig deep, maintain focus and continue with their mission, they accept setbacks are just part of the game.  The old adage when the going gets tough the tough get going is one you should reflect on when these feelings kick in.

Mental toughness differentiates winners from losers, your sense of purpose ebbs away when you listen to negative self talk, phrases such as why am I doing this? are symptomatic of the condition, in turn it weakens the endurance of the mind thereby resulting in I give up. Successful people have an insatiable desire and internalised motivation to succeed – you have really got to want it!

Having faith in what your are trying to achieve is a vital ingredient for success. If you dont believe then dont expect others to. It’s important to condition your mind to becoming resilient. Without faith and mental toughness the reality is, winning becomes more difficult. When things are not going your way, embrace the principles of R.A.F

Rewind – and go back to your vision, picture success and hold this image in your mind. Quiet contemplation is vital to aiding this process. This activity will move you out of the negative state and refresh your mind then get you back “on purpose”

Accept – that things will not always go your way. Avoid long drawn out dissections of why things turned out the way they did. Coming runner up is sometimes a wake up call for us. Accept the position and move on otherwise negative self talk will hinder progression.

Have Faith in yourself and your ability to achieve what you want out of your business. When you develop faith, bouncing back when things go wrong is far easier. By having faith you convince your mind that anything is possible

Practice, practice and practice this philosophy and see your success improve dramatically.

 


Businesses with soul and purpose

21/02/2012

I spoke at the Business Conference for Childcare Providers this morning – it was a fantastic group. The audience comprised a mix of private sector, social enterprise and volunteer groups. One thing that struck me was the passion and enthusiasm and giving nature of the people who turned up. They were individuals with a passion for what they do – a soul and purpose which focused on looking after children.

The theme was leadership in a changing economic environment, my messages revolved around the 10 principles of getting it right:

  1. Changing times need a change of mindset
  2. Create the right mental imprints with stakeholders and staff
  3. Be future focused
  4. Performance measurement & monitoring is vital
  5. Build a great team
  6. Put a credo in place
  7. Live in the “customers” world
  8. Gain the edge through innovation & creativity
  9. Great leaders have a mentor
  10. Practice the 4C’s (Condition, Coach, Communicate, Conform)

It confirmed my belief that businesses with a higher purpose have a greater chance of success. Many of us are searching for meaning in life and a sense of belonging. When we translate this quest into a commercial idea and balance it with good business practice then the results are amazing. Moreover, a business with a cause deals with the harder times much easier than those that don’t. Its so easy to pack up when things get tough – I feel that those companies with a soul and purpose have a greater chance of success!

 


Your Business – An “asset” or “calling”

10/12/2011

It never ceases to amaze me how passionate and animated entrepreneurs become when they talk about their business and what they do. To those listening it can come across as “in your face”, however, the reality is, most founders are just so proud of what they have achieved. Business and personal time are inextricably linked feeding each off every minute of the day.

The successful high growth entrepreneurs I have worked with often started their business because of a “calling” – this means putting something right, fixing a problem, chasing a dream of freedom, pursue a passion, wanting to make a difference or proving to others they can achieve something quite amazing.

So many entrepreneurs often forget that their business is also an asset with value. The danger is when the founders view their company solely as an asset. This creates inward focused strategies, lack of customer focus, greed, ultimately this will lead to only one place  – a disconnection with the real world and decline. My advice is when the voice of the “calling”  gets overshadowed by the asset, its time for rethink. A danger zone is just around the corner. Its about balance, of course a business must generate wealth, however it works far better and in my view becomes more profitable when its game plan is linked to a purpose.

That feeling of doing what you do because it makes a difference to others is probably one of the best you can have in your career, long may it last!


High Growth Foundation Wow Event – Insights from Google

02/12/2011

What an absolutely fantastic High Growth Foundation event the other night at the Imperial War Museum. Led by Michael Taylor with his usual charm, wit and insight, we had a great line up of speakers who had fantastic and inspirational stories to tell. Steve Oliver and his Music Magpie venture is a real one to watch in the Region, and success could not be more deserved, a really nice bloke. Steve speaks from the heart and his views on creating a loyal workforce with a culture of graft were well received. Deepak Jayaraman from Goldman Sachs articulated the benefits of mentoring and how the 10,000 small business programme can help in this regard.

Alexis Giles delivered a fantastic key-note and shared with over 200 delegates Google’s rules for building an innovative culture and gosh were they powerful, here they are:

  1. Ideas come from everywhere – everyone has a place at the table
  2. Share everything you can – create a culture of sharing new thoughts, no idea is a bad idea
  3. Hire smart people – they create a challenging culture
  4. Chase your dreams – create 20% thinking time
  5. Innovation is not instant perfection – have a go and refine
  6. Data is apolitical – provide the fact to evidence potential
  7. Creativity loves constraint – draws out new ideas quick
  8. Users not money – money follows the eyes
  9. Don’t kill projects, morph them – iterate till you get it right

Alexis was a real star performer and delivered some real value to businesses with a passion to grow. One of the nuggets I took away was the importance of embedding processes and systems as a company grows. Google are a shining example of how an innovative culture fused with discipline delivers excellence. The lack of processes and systems is what so often stunts growth, innovation on its own is not enough.

Alexis and the Google story was an inspiration for ambitious people – so chuffed she will be hosting our  study tour at Google’s Mountain View complex in March 2012 – what an experience that will be. Its not all doom and gloom.


Google comes to the High Growth Foundation

29/11/2011

Creating innovative high performance cultures is what Alexis Giles from Google’s Mountain View HQ (San Francisco) will talk about tomorrow evening. Alexis will share her insights and provide over 250 delegates with a preview of what made Google the global phenomenon it is today. We are also delighted to have Steve Oliver CEO from Music Magpie, one of the North’s potential global stars. Deepak Jayaraman, from Goldman Sachs will provide his highly valued opinion on what his organisation is doing to create more high growth businesses – the importance of leadership, differentiated value propositions, mindset and attitude.

Hopefully this event will stimulate big thinking in the Region and get entrepreneurs to remember “we have one life, give it a go, aim for the big time and avoid any regrets in years to come”. How many times have I heard people say “I wish I would have……….”

Implementing big thinking often means risk, however, if growth decisions are made within a framework of insight and peer-to-peer networks then it creates some degree of comfort to those who have a burning desire to make a difference.

Most successful entrepreneurs I have met have been inspired by someone, something or an event in their life – one that drives change and a new path. I certainly hope this showcase and the study tour we are taking to the West Coast of the States (Silicon Valley) in early 2012, will stimulate individuals to embrace a truly limitless view on where they can take their business. High growth takes courage, determination and balls – this event is for doers not dreamers……


Scary Strategies

02/10/2011

Bravery and courage are important traits of successful entrepreneurs. All too often there is a very fine dividing line between success and failure, the implications on either outcome can equally profound. Rene Carayol, a leading management thinker and person I truly admire talks about the need to sometimes practice “scary strategies”. These are methodologies that need to be employed in order to achieve a breakthrough or pursue big personal/business intention. They often involve raising the bar and extension of our natural comfort zones. Scary strategies are particularly appropriate in difficult selling situations where there is a real need to demonstrate competitive advantage e.g. dislodging an incumbent supplier from a long-standing relationship or as a small business pitching against a global brand.

In considering the deployment of a scary strategy we must pay due recognition to:

– Challenging the status quo and encouraging the customer to change their outlook, in other words try to change their mindset

– Bringing a different approach or one that is unconventional but truly brings benefit (however, there is a fine dividing line between genius and madness)

-Challenge existing practices that are old-fashioned and out of date

Scary strategies should be considered when all traditional methods of winning business have failed. Doing something memorable that is innovative, inspiring and displays a real sense imagination can sometimes win the day.

An approach taken by major London ad agency in the 90’s is one of the best examples I have come across.  In the days of British Rail, the top management turned up at the agency ready to be pitched to. An uninterested receptionist, filing her nails, made them wait in the foyer, which was decorated with coffee-stained tables and overflowing ashtrays. The minutes ticked by and nobody came to meet them. Furious at their treatment, the BR managers were about to storm out when an agency Director and his team appeared. “That’s how the public sees BR,” the Director told them. “Now let’s see what we can do to put it right.”


High Growth Companies Are Innovative

26/07/2011

This was one of the conclusions of a recent NESTA report looking at the performance of high growth businesses – but what does this really mean? Is it about product development? New technology? Working with a University? Well its all of these but it starts with the way you think and the way you view the world, it about exploring possibilities and promoting diverse thinking. Allowing different worlds and ideas to come together to create something very different and memorable. That’s what high growth companies do. I would encourage any ambitious business person to start looking at their environments through different windows because you then see things you never knew existed. You avoid the rut that so many organisations find themselves in, this leads to blind spots and inertia. New ideas are only stimulated when your mind is given the opportunity to think differently – this is why the Think, Do, Review approach to strategy and execution is so effective…so many people in business just keep doing with giving themselves time to rise above and see whats going on.

Give yourself space and time to open your mind to new possibilities, keep your antennae switched on to whats going on around you. More specifically try some of these practical things to get you thinking in a new way:

1. Go on an overseas trade mission to look at what your industry is doing – get a global perspective. It’s as cheap to go to New York as it is to travel from Manchester to London on the train

2. California in the US is the home to innovation – have a look at what is happening there. Can you learn anything from similar companies to you? – just do a Google search

3. Speak to a University or spend some time with leading academics in your field to see whats coming over the horizon

4. Arrange a brainstorming session with customers to understand their problems and challenges.

5. Arrange for you and your team to hold a strategy day in somewhere completely different – somewhere were you can’t get a mobile signal

6. Explore collaborative opportunities with companies and individuals or activities that could give your company a boost and stand out e.g. Gary Lineker and Walkers Crisps, Innocent Drink Fruitstock, Daley Thomspon and Lucozade, BP Garages and Subway Franchise

7. Encourage staff to come up with two new ideas per month

8. Spend time looking at the trade press to see whats going on, give yourself the space to read the press covering parallel industries e.g if you are an engineering business and you want to improve customers service – look at tourism and hospitality magazines

9.Commission a University student to research an idea you have

10. Spend an hour a day in the open air – if you have not got the time, get up an hour earlier or go to bed one hour later.

11. Get involved with industry networks and forums – speak to like-minded people and share ideas. Get to spend time with individuals who’s achievements you admire

Innovation is all about conditioning the mind to think differently, practice and discipline leads to a new way of thinking. The outcome is you view the world, market and your life from a more exciting angle. Innovative companies do the above things unconsciously. Be aware and get closer to the power of innovation.



Authenticity

08/07/2011

Authenticity is such a powerful word – just being who we are, not pretending to be something or someone else and just doing what we promise to do.

No one likes a fake as this can deliver very disappointing outcomes. Personally I often question whether I go around with the word MUG stamped across my forehead, why?……. because I always believe what people tell me. If someone says they are going to do something, then why should I believe differently. We can all forget from time to time to do something we promised, I think that’s excusable, to a certain extent. However, every now and then we are let down, worst case ripped off, or left with a feeling of what happened there.

Generally speaking I believe that most people are authentic, thinking otherwise can lead to cynicism, judging others too early and intolerance.

It’s a massive area and so much has been written on the subject, thinkers, philosophers, historians and scientists. As with most things I like to keep things simple – being comfortable in your own skin and who you are is a great place to be – for many it takes a long time to get there. When we align, what we believe with what we do and who we are, then behave in that way – the resultant effect is authenticity.