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.

 


You get what you focus on…

02/01/2012

The importance of having a plan sounds like such a statement of the obvious, but how many of us in our business or personal life have one? At this time of year New Years resolutions are made – in my view nothing more than a wish list. By February most will have given up on them with an estimated 80% not even remembering what their goals were in the first place.

Whilst it is hard to move away from the term goal, I am trying my best to do so. People think they have goals but they don’t – why? – because are not hard wired into daily actions, this is why I prefer to use the term personal intention. This defines more precisely what you WANT!

Personal intentions have momentum and are limited to a vital few, rather than a trivial many. It’s impossible to focus on many things, so my advice is work out what 2 or 3 things you want to achieve and really focus on them. For 2012 I will be focused on 2 measurable intentions and the action plan to achieve them will benefit from a laser beam approach.

So my advice is, define your vital few intentions, write them down, create a plan, set KPI’s and review them daily and weekly. Get them hard wired into your system and focus – its amazing what happens.


Organisational effectiveness dictates the rate of growth

21/12/2011

It’s really sad to see how many businesses fail to realise their full potential. Is it down to poorly defined value propositions, bad design, poor sales and marketing or financial control…sometimes it is. My view is that a company’s growth prospects are inextricably linked to the rate at which the founder, team and leaders can develop themselves. Businesses make transitions at key points of their journey and if the management fail to personally address these changes and the extra demands placed on them then the “growth ceiling” very quickly presents itself.

It starts with the leader’s ability to undergo personal change and continuously adapt their style and approach to overcome the challenges faced along the journey – self awareness is a must have for all entrepreneurs. In a high growth business the founder has to be clear on what they are good and bad at and build a team around them that compensates for their own personal shortcomings. The inability to delegate is the classic dilemma faced by so many individuals running their own business. This is the very reason why so few companies go on to employ more than 25 employees.  Organisational development is a pivotal part of achieving growth, and what do the VCs keep telling us – it’s all about the team.

My advice to any high growth business/entrepreneur is get the right people in the right seats doing the right things. Having the wrong people doing the right job is so common, and if we are honest with ourselves virtually all of us have been there and got it wrong, big time! A company without an effective team delivers sluggish performance at best – gazelle performance? Not a chance.

Embracing a learning culture and environment where personal improvement is encouraged and supported is non negotiable, but of course this takes time. Staff and the team are the most important component of any business. When we get the right team in place almost anything is possible. Without it growth is stunted and blockages appear – these blockages manifest in long working hours, customers being let down, poorly managed contracts, finances going off the rails, quality dipping, disgruntled staff, poor communications – a feeling of rabbit in the headlights, can’t see the wood for the tress, all familiar clichés entrepreneurs have come to live with. The antidote is investing in people and staff.

Getting the organisational structure and team right is a difficult job and perfection is challenging to say the least. Your organisation is only as good as the people who are part of it and remember the organisational and team effectiveness will dictate your rate of growth.


Livercool Business Awards

18/11/2011

I experienced another great celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit that lives in Liverpool at last nights Downtown’s Livercool Business Awards. It was a packed house, great laugh, met many old mates as well as new contacts.

If the other major cities in the UK could replicate this energy…..then growth would most certainly follow. Celebrate success, acknowledge the winners, give recognition to those who are making a difference – turn off the news and lets stop conditioning our minds to doom and gloom. From what I saw last night there are some fantastic things going on in Liverpool and the North.

A great example of public and private sector working together for the benefit of the City and its people and employers – top stuff.

Well done Frank!


Getting Your Head In Gear – Ideal Performing State

11/08/2011

The ideal performing state is the point when your mind is perfectly aligned to the task you need to undertake  – it’s a positive state of readiness that manifests itself into high levels of personal confidence. It is vital that we get our mind and body into the ideal performing state before we take on any challenging situations. All actions  flow from our state of mind, so it is important to condition our thoughts to the outcome we want. By doing this, we programme our self to deliver a highly tuned and positive performance. Any successful person will tell you that before they embark on a major goal – they think things through!

Getting into the ideal performing state takes practice and as we move towards our goals we need to be constantly aware of the need to get into the zone. It maybe an interview for a new job or promotion, a big pitch, a marathon run or a speech you have to deliver – whatever the challenge you must connect thought and action to get the best result. Getting your head in gear means following some mind practices:

  • Visualise and define very clearly what a great performance looks like for you
  • Work through the start, middle and ending of the task you are going to perform
  • Look in the mirror and tell yourself that the performance will be fantastic
  • Be sure to have practiced and rehearsed – winners don’t wing it
  • Breathing can help immensely – sit upright and still, close your eyes, take a deep breath and count to seven – slowly release and count to eleven. Repeat for a couple of minutes
  • Concentrate on the task at hand and avoid having your mind cluttered with other thoughts

Your ability to access the ideal performing state will increase your success rate. Keep practicing in the mind gym and watch yourself grow in confidence. Success becomes a habit! Getting your head in gear


High Performers Need To Have Confidence

09/08/2011

Confidence is a key element to high performance and going the extra mile. When you have confidence you feel that you can take on the world – but be careful that this confidence does not come across as arrogance – always underpin outward facing high energy with humility.

Confidence can be viewed in context of three dimensions – inner self, external you and your profession or vocation:

Inner confidence – your game plan for life should be clear and you are comfortable with the direction in which you are heading. By setting personal intentions and putting energy into moving towards them you achieve a clear sense of purpose, it makes getting out of bed a pleasure. When you have a real meaning to what you do, you feel energised and motivated to get on with things

Outer confidence – physical well-being and feeling comfortable with our appearance does away with any inhibitions that we may have about ourself. If you feel over weight, unfit then this can have a negative impact on confidence. Take time for regular exercise, this is both mentally and physically stimulating.

Professional confidence – being the master of your trade, career, vocation or profession makes you confident when interacting with others. When you know your stuff and you are well prepared with your knowledge and expertise you do away with nerves associated with lack of understanding.

Communication with others whether that be one to one or to a group becomes easier when we can tick each of the confidence boxes. When any element is out of sync we end up with an uncomfortable feeling that manifests itself into lack of confidence. When these three areas are aligned we become comfortable with who we are and we reach a state of being confident in our own skin. We connect more effectively with others and take on new challenges far more easily.


Smart Operator – High Growth Individuals

19/07/2011

Recent economic challenges have placed serious pressure on people to think very differently. Business as usual is not an option, its time for something completely different. Cuts in public and private sector budgets have taken their toll – redundancies, lost revenue, projects going on hold…the story goes on. So what’s the answer? Manage decline and depression or look for the opportunities. As one delegate at an event I spoke at the other week put it….”recession, I have decided not to participate”. A very refreshing approach and outlook, the very opposite to the doom and gloom the media encourages us to embrace.

The answer is to practice and develop the Smart Operator Mindset – this ultimately leads to the creation of the high growth individual. We should draw parallels from the world of enterprise and create our own personal business plan, one that maps out a destination with the prioritized tasks to get us there. Here are some pointers for the Smart Operator Mindset:

1. Smart Proposition – define your unique talents, what you love doing, what you want, what gets out of bed. Aligning a future to a basic purpose really does help to accelerate the way forward.

2. Smart Vision – write down your personal intentions for 6 months, 1 year, and 2-years. Base this on your Smart Proposition. Include earnings and other components that make up the life you want

3. Smart Plan – remember a vision without tactics is hallucination. List the things you need to do and get on with it. The right path will emerge when activity is initiated.  Avoid procrastination. Set yourself KPI’s to check whether you are on track.

4. Smart Brand – you are selling yourself, so work out what mental imprints you want to leave on those you meet. Be memorable, deliver on your promises and become the master of your trade. This is what you will become known for.

5. Smart Collaborator – work out who you need to engage and team up with. Alliances and partnerships are a critical part of the Smart Operators DNA.

6. Smart Communicator – master the art of getting messages across, think win-win and live in the world of your audience. Clarity and concise messages that considers both your needs and those of others lead to positive relationships that go somewhere.

7. Smart Connector – work out a plan for finding, reaching and locking into to those individuals and organisations that are important to your personal progression. The connectors and influencers could include suppliers, banks, associates, partners, customers, other departments.

Practice makes perfect, another cliché that I hate, but its true. As Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours to become successful, so that means blood, sweat and tears, I still don’t think there are any short cuts to getting want you want. A combination of being really good at what you love doing, combined with taking ownership of your life fused with determination and persistence help pave the way forward. The Smart Operator Mindset is a framework for you to hang your thinking on.

 


High Growth Companies – The Transition Points

13/07/2011

I am speaking at an event this morning about high growth and the leadership characteristics that go with driving a company forward. It’s really very interesting that being at the helm of a high growth business is similar yet also very different to that of leading in the corporate world. Having a vision, game plan and great team are common must haves for leaders.

Having said all of that in a growth company the Founder has many more grass-roots issues to consider, ones that in the corporate world are generally looked after by someone else. Starting up and growing a business is a bit like spinning plates. What comes with growth is the Founders need to continuously develop him or herself – quite often they “don’t know what they don’t know”. If the ambition is to grow then the commitment to self development is vital.

What is interesting to observe is the transition points that come with growth, these transition points usually relate to the head count of the business:

Point 1 – Setting up the business is the first transition point, being alone and its all down to you – you make the decisions – so sort yourself out. Self discipline is vital

Point 2 – You start to employ people. You are now responsible for someone else’s life in part. PAYE, HMRC,  employment stuff, rules and regulations start to occupy your time and energy. In many instances this red tape is viewed as non value adding – but you must get it right.

Point 3 – You are heading for 7 employees and the hassle really starts to kick in. The Founder now becomes a social worker. The need for structure organisation and processes becomes a must have.

Point 4 – Leading up to 25 employees. Be careful because the team can rapidly become a mob. Values and a rule book must be established. Devolving responsibilities and letting go to those trusted individuals becomes a necessity. A healthy mix of thinkers, doers, sellers and controllers is vital. A culture is emerging….

Point 5 – Heading for 50 people. This almost becomes a corporate entity, usually what comes with this is size of company is devolved P & L responsibility, tight financial control, lean operations and well embedded systems and process. KPI’s dashboard is paramount (it is at all points) because leakage can happen very easily. The leader now has a very different beast on his/her hands.

So what’s the point – the leadership style at point 1 is very different to that at point 5. Very few individuals commit to the self development necessary to get to point 5. Added to this many don’t want the hassle either. It explains why some 95% of UK business stock has a turnover of less than £5M.

 


High Growth Foundation – ambition into revenue

23/06/2011

I am delighted by the feedback from our High Growth Foundation forays. There is so much energy, ambition and desire from many entrepreneurs to build bigger and better businesses, even in the face of the current economic challenges. With such deeply rooted personal intentions I hope the HGF will trigger the necessary game plans to move dreams into revenue reality. My vision for the High Growth Foundation is to provide a vehicle to support ambitious individuals on their growth journey. Many of us are motivated by the stories and experiences of others, they help to rewire old thinking and give way to new possibilities, ones we may have thought were out of our grasp. Facilitating conversations between likeminded individuals will deliver a breeding ground for the next generation of global and companies of scale. The HGF will be the catalyst for experience sharing and learning new ways of solving the challenges that come with growth. Any movement or community of significance started with individuals who had a common goal – Manchester music scene, Impressionists in Paris, Motown in Detroit..

I am keen for members to get involved by sharing their stories and experiences, I am also encouraging participants to gain insight and seek advice from other members who may have experienced similar problems.  With over 60 members so far I am really chuffed that this new forum will start to address the gritty, granular and complex matters of growth – the text books often don’t get anywhere near the real issues, this is because people and their associated emotions often hinder growth and at a worst case hold it back.

The High Growth Foundation marks the dawn of a new beginning for busy (and lonely) people wanting business advice – guidance that is founded on experience and empathy with the journey. Equally it is my wish for members to be a voice for the growth community.  This will help to inform many of the policymakers on how difficult growing a business can be and indeed what support is needed at the coalface.

SME’s are the unsung hero’s of the economy and will drive new jobs over the coming years – they need all the support they can get – however, this must be quality. By collaborating with our friends, trusted partners, and individuals with the credibility to help gazelles, my crusade is to build energy and momentum in this valuable space of the UK economy.

Individuals who take risk deserve to enjoy the success that comes with the hard graft and dedication of setting up and running their own business. Please contact me if you want to join the crusade……..


Resilience – A characteristic of ambitious entrepreneurs

19/06/2011

The last five years of reviewing and observing how high growth entrepreneurs go about their job has revealed many interesting behaviours. One of the most valuable is the power of resilience – an ability to maintain momentum when everything seems to be going pear-shaped. When you listen to the stories of those who have achieved something of significance in business, it almost seems mandatory to have suffered financial, commercial and emotional hardship. Many I speak to recite their story of misfortune with total clarity and passion. They talk with great pride how they turned difficult times into prosperity and growth.Without having gone through the pain of managing difficult times business wisdom is hard to acquire.

 

I believe the underlying force that enables people to keep going is the power of purpose and having faith in their mission. Whilst many had a realistic view of the reality of difficult times ahead, whether that be running out of cash, revenues declining or challenging economic conditions they never lost sight of what they set out to achieve. The burning sense of purpose and intention creates resilience and an ability to keep plodding on. Without a clear sense of what you want to achieve and deep-rooted desire, falling at the first hurdle is almost inevitable.

Success is underpinned by a strong sense of purpose and clarity of intention. This creates resilience in those dark times.