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……..
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.
It’s a great feeling when you realise what you are really good at and then pursue it as a career, vocation or business. It’s equally sad that so many people go through life without truly allowing their craft to precipitate into a worthy mission and profession. All too often the majority follow a mundane occupation without any enthusiasm or energy – a lack lustre performance seems to dominate each and every day. The reality is money needs to come in to pay the bills…..so very few take the risk, gamble and have the courage to pursue the things they love doing. Building a life and family around the proceeds of your passion can add to the pressure. Not many go for it, I believe less than 5% would be my best guess.
I can only speak from experience – left a well paid job, pay out etc to pursue a dream. The reality of no monthly pay check and insecurity focus’ the mind. The ups and downs that go with the pursuit of a personal mission and ambition can leave individuals feeling lonely and insecure. Well my only advice to anyone reading this blog is work out what you really good at and direct this to your life plan. When you align your energies to your passion the chances of success are far greater and indeed the journey is more fulfilling. If it does not work out then no one can say you did not have a go! Try to anticipate the risks and work out how to mitigate them.
Life is too short to go unrecognised, discover what you are great at, build momentum by talking action and maintain the relentless pursuit of your intentions. Dont look back and say I wish I would have……
So why has Manchester and the surrounding region not created a Facebook, Google, LinkedIn or global giant for a such a long time?
We have so many fantastic stories of success, one of which I was with yesterday JD Sports plc based in Bury. This is just an amazing story from one shop in Bury in the early 80’s to a business today turning over some £800M and employing 10,000 people. They also have made acquisitions and joint ventures in New Zealand, Australia, USA, France and Hong Kong. Having spent an hour with Executive Chairman Peter Cowgill yesterday you see why they have done what they have done – commercial focus, attention to the audience they serve, people development coupled with personal energy, drive, vision and a sense of grounded humility are key ingredients of creating such a success story.
The key for the economy going forward is that we need to create, nurture and support more of these companies. So what is the blocker? Why is the University not creating more companies of this scale – after all Manchester has more Nobel Prize winners than any other university in the UK (after Cambridge, London and Oxford). So what is the problem?
1. Lack of funds
2. Insufficient scaleable business ideas
3. Lack of ambition and big thinking
4. Lack of connectivity between entrepreneurs and funders
5. Poorly developed networks
Well from what I see and hear there is no shortage of funds, an entrepreneurial culture, massive talent and well qualified individuals – something is not right with the infrastructure. We have some fantastic businesses in Manchester, but not enough of the scale such as JD.
So what is the missing bit of the jigsaw?
You must accept that you have far greater control over your life than you realise – who you are, what you want and what you think. Your mental outlook on life as well as your character, and personality remain under your own leadership and guidance. When things don’t go to plan or you feel that you are stalling in your career or personal life its time for doing some different. Successful people recognise the need for constant change. When the results don’t come through a period of reinvention is invariably needed because what you are doing is not working. We can’t excel if we are not aligned to what we want out of life. If you are fed up with your career, not getting the new job or promotion after constantly trying then you must change. Successful people who go the extra mile understand the need to adapt.
The process of reinvention means that you need to critically appraise the status quo – look at your life or career from different angles.
Where is the stale you? Why are things not working or going to plan? Are you feeling fulfilled and happy with what you have and what you are achieving? Ask others for feedback on you and your performance. Open up your surroundings.
Where do you want the new you to be? – Get back to reviewing your intentions are they clear and precise or are they lacking definition and clarity.
List the key transition points? Define what specific things need to change. Draw up an action list. Detail the new partnerships and relationships that are needed to move things. Draw up the new tactics and work out the vital things that will deliver a different result.
Act out the changes – make a conscious effort to implement the changes that you need to make the transition to what you want to become. Without action nothing will happen. Make sure you signal the changes to your stakeholder group.
The ability to remain focused is a key ingredient for anyone who aspires to achieving more. All too often we can be side tracked by ideas or pet projects that don’t contribute in any way to the personal intentions we have chosen to pursue. When presented with set backs or difficult situations that require attention it can be easier to default to tasks that are hassle free or easier to fulfil.
Pet projects often come in the way of achieving what we want. Always remind yourself of:
“Must do” – what are the activities vital to accomplishing your intentions? Implementation must involve doing the things that directly align to your ambitions and desires. By keeping a journal or completing a daily to do list you remain focused on the critical essentials. Such simplicity ensures clarity remains the priority. Your direction becomes very clear and success prevails
“Nice to do”- most of us will be clear on what is required for success. However, all too often we get distracted by more enjoyable activities, equally we can we tempted to pursue things that require less effort. Pursing nice to do projects will move you away from what you set out to achieve, they divert energy and you lose focus. Continuous attention on the wrong things will lead to ineffective performance. You will delay the process of success or as a worst case never get to the destination. Too many people become very easily distracted and forget what is important.
Be aware of what you are doing, keeping asking yourself – is what I am doing going to give me what I want? – Such consciousness allows you to do away with non value added activities. Time is the most precious commodity for anyone who wants to achieve more. Thinking in the must do nice to do way will help you to do the right things at the right time. Momentum results from focusing on the activities critical to success. Don’t be distracted.
The Memorable Principle is a simple creative philosophy that states we acknowledge, notice and remember things that are outstandingly different. Success invariably means that individuals and organisations must work hard to gain a foothold in environments where competition is fierce. For example, getting a job interview with a prestigious employer, breaking into a new customer, winning a place on a high performing sports team. Once we get the break we need to stay in there!
Successful people apply the Memorable Principle on levels, firstly to get the break and secondly to maintain a foothold to secure sustained success:
Getting the break – often the hardest part of the success journey is getting the opportunity. In sport you become memorable by putting in hours and hours of practice and reaching a level of fitness and skill that places you above the competition. In business it’s bringing a high degree of perceived value over and above other players. Maybe it’s an innovative brand or advertising campaign that’s carries with it the wow factor. What’s in your treasure chest of ideas that will deliver a memorable experience?
Maintaining your position when we have been accepted we must continue to use the memorable principle to build our personal reputation and indeed that of the organisation we represent. By doing this we embed ourselves in our community or market place. The simple things often make us memorable – this could be the level of service we offer or just caring about what we do. Delivering something of great value when the recipient was not expecting it can leave an impression. The knock on effect from this is the communication to others how great the experience was
Continually ask yourself how, can I be memorable – maintain a log of great ideas that you view as been really effective in capturing the imagination. What can you learn and use to your own advantage?
Flexibility can improve your effectiveness in many different ways – reputation, building relationships and credibility to name but a few. Individuals that consider their way to be the only way can be extremely difficult to work with on both a professional and personal level. Going the extra mile will frequently require you to display alternative ways of working, one that does away with a single minded viewpoint. Your attitude of mind should be one that accommodates different perspectives to achieve the desired outcome.
We often value more our colleagues who are flexible – this is because they can understand our viewpoint, listen and then work with us to attain mutual satisfaction. If it is your intention to lead or win over the views of others, you must be flexible in your thinking, attitude and work style. In some instances this may feel uncomfortable. As you progress through life and your career, you will come across many different personalities success means that you may have to adapt your approach to suit the situation.
Be conscious of the way in which you interact with others – do you dismiss views too easily or do you embrace them? Even if you do not agree frankness and openness with a respectful reason why, will demonstrate clearly a mindset of flexibility.
Flexibility is also an important element of an engaging personality, it involves being reasonable with an ability to bend your thinking whilst not compromising personal values, self control or composure. Do not subject yourself to the whims of others as this projects the image of being a yes person. When you are flexible you are able to take prompt action in acquiring opportunities. The openness of this mindset also attracts others to you because constantly saying no can be off putting and close doors that could otherwise be opened.
Goal setting has been around for years and there is nothing new about the concept. However, I believe that the term is too easily used and indeed its over used. What I mean by this is, its easy to say that you have a goal but how real is it? How emotionally and spiritually are you connected to it? Is it more of a wish? I am desperately trying to get away from the term because personally I think it’s a bit of a tired phrase. Many individuals say they have a goal, however they remain to convince me that its firstly, really what they want and secondly they are behind its achievement with energy, drive and focused activity.
A more powerful way of thinking about your goals is to define your personal intentions. For me this captures a more potent and motivating way of thinking about what exactly it is you want. The road map to achievement must flow from your personal intentions – it should guide your actions and prioritise the projects that will get you there – wherever there maybe.
When personal intentions have total clarity a set of other invisible, yet highly powerful forces flow – for example:
1. Purpose – you know exactly why you are doing the things you do when your intentions are clear
2. Mental Toughness – you will keep going because what you want is has a meaning
3. Passion – achieving what you want gets you out of bed with gusto, no alarm clock needed
Ask yourself are the targets you set yourself as part of your New Year’s resolution goals or deep-rooted personal intentions – have you delivered on them or have you given up? Monitor your progress against them
Observation tells me that 80% of people want more from their career, life or business. However the two biggest challenges are:
- Defining what more looks like
- The will to change behaviour to achieve more
Here lies the heart of debate – most people are resistant to doing things differently with many not willing to take the necessary steps to initiate the changes – the reality is, only action delivers change. A study of 11,000 of patients in the US who had undergone major heart-by pass surgery revealed that only 11% changed their lifestyle habits to accommodate a new way of living – that means 89% carried on with business as usual even though their life was at risk.
For me Darwinian thinking applies in these instances – its about the survival of the fittest, in other words those willing to change usually enjoy long term success. Big changes do not usually happen overnight, it comes in small steps – a bit like a dimmer switch – slight turns make the light shine brighter. Embracing a mindset that welcomes small changes can have an almost profound impact on personal progression.
Lets draw some insights from Nudge Theory, an area that I don’t claim to have any deep understanding but one where its impact I know has had a profound impact on behaviour. The best example of this was seen in Schipol Airport. Toilet cleaning costs were spiraling out of total control. The problems were attributed to the mess made in the gent’s toilets, usually men rushing to catch their flight obviously late but needing to relieve themselves before departure. Unfortunately their haste led to making a mess on the floor, wall and just everywhere including their shoes. This created a massive demand for additional cleaning – costs started to rise at an unbelievable rate. By applying Nudge Theory to this situation the sanitary ware manufacturers etched what looked like a fly on the urinal – guess what 80% immediate reduction in the cleaning bill – think about it. Something so small with such a profound effect – how can you nudge yourself to getting the change that you want? What small nudges can you make to?
- Think differently
- Act differently
- Deliver you the change you want
So the starting point for any one on a mission, ambitious project or wanting to achieve a big goal is – pull the trigger of personal change, recognise that if you don’t you will at best stand still or at worst go into reverse.
Personal change is likened to the turning of an oil tanker, it takes time, and very few of us are blessed with the ability to change at the pace of a gazelle. However, if we recognise that change is constantly needed we are more likely to take action to get what we want.