Businesses often start with a personal calling

19/08/2014

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 a 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.

The 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!

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Small business owners ‘ready to give up’ (what?)

24/01/2012

This was the headline finding of a report compiled by Aviva and covered in today’s Daily Mail. It went on to read “a quarter of small business owners say the economic outlook is so bleak they would rather return to being an employee”. Given the job I do I am more than aware of the pressures and challenges entrepreneurs face, but why is the media constantly pushing out such bad news.

Negativity of this nature can condition ambitious people to hang up their boots up, we must balance all of this with celebrating the successes of many entrepreneurs who have decided not to participate in recession.

Headlines like this do nothing for the spirit or culture of enterprise. A brighter way of looking at the future is looking at the great successes of the past:

General Electric – formed by Edison when US economy faced collapse.

IBM – set up in the middle of a US economy slump

General Motors – went buying spree when the Federal Reserve was approaching melt down

Disney – took off smack bang in the middle of the Great Depression

Microsoft – founded in the middle of a phase of stagflation

CNN – started in a “double dip” recession

Apple– thrived just after the dot-com bubble burst!

These are the messages we should be putting out into the market. One of the key ingredients for business success is the mental toughness of the entrepreneurial team – please can we stop with the doom and gloom – we all know things are tough, stop pushing it in our face. To quote Jim Collins (again) great leaders face the brutal facts but they maintain absolute faith and belief in what they set out to achieve.

Well I am sure Aviva did the research with all best intentions, but this is  my advice to those thinking of packing in:

1. Remember the very reason why you set up on your own

2. Get involved with a network/group and speak to other business owners, ask them for their advice

3. Find a mentor – someone to lean on

4. STOP – take a day off and try to rise above your business situation

5. Surround yourself with positive people

6. Stop listening to enterprising assassins

7. Be aware of negative thinking and reframe with positive thoughts

Challenges are all part of the business growth journey, many of us would be lost without the pain. More success and good news stories PLEASE.


Fear

11/07/2011

Fear is a major barrier faced by individuals thinking about setting up their own business, unless it can be overcome, progressing an entrepreneurial dream will be difficult.  Dipping into savings, re mortgaging the family home, personal guarantees, going without holidays or giving up a social life is a step too far for many. A foray into the unknown can be a very daunting experience, this means anyone taking the plunge should think very carefully about what the journey of self employment holds. Expect the unexpected is a phrase that so many business owners will relate to. Growing a company inevitably becomes a rollercoaster ride with no stop off point, you are swept along with the momentum that builds when, staff, customers, suppliers and the day-to-day running all demand your attention. Be prepared and aim to minimize all the risks associated with going it alone.

Given the current economic challenges faced throughout the world, entrepreneurship has now become a hot topic for debate. My advice to anyone going down this path is prepare yourself emotionally, mentally and commercially. Head, heart and wallet must be aligned. Once you get this, the rewards can be massive both in financial terms and from a sense of personal fulfillment.

My research shows that successful businesses don’t happen over night, they are the exception rather than the norm. The reality is there is no fast track to success, normally it takes over 10 years to create a properly functioning company. The journey involves navigating the forks in the road, where taking the wrong turning could have potentially disastrous consequences. Building a successful company is a bit like trying to get to heaven, you have to go through purgatory before you get there! It almost seems mandatory to have experienced two major setbacks before you get to the desired destination.

Whilst fear is a very sound reason for not moving forward with an idea, the reality is that focusing too much on this negative emotion and its associated outputs will hinder the ability to progress. Having said that a bit of fear can be also a powerful antidote to complacency. It’s all about getting the balance right.


The lure of the red Ferrari

05/01/2011

So often all we see from successful entrepreneurs is the red Ferrari or some other fancy thing they own – an Island in the Caribbean or private jet. Whilst this can be an extremely motivating set of visuals for the aspiring entrepreneur, I don’t think these material items should be driver for going it alone, they should be the outcome. As with all things it’s about balance.

I feel the focus for any new business or wannabe entrepreneur should be launching a differentiated product or great service that delivers customer delighted or solves a problem in the market place. The reason I use the flash car analogy is because of a young lad I was talking to the other week, he’s taking a rather innovative entrepreneurship qualification – I asked him, “so what’s the business idea?” – answer, I don’t know just want a red Ferrari. I certainly hope the course is teaching him the importance of having something to sell! I also pondered on the issue of – do these business/enterprise courses teach what really happens when you are running a company? – Dealing with awkward staff, trying to pull money in to pay the VAT bill, preparing for a large tender or quotation till the early hours, telling someone there is no bonus money in the pot – the reality of running a business I fail to find in any text book. The best advice and teaching comes from people who have been there and done it!

What we so often don’t see from those who can afford the well-earned luxuries of life is – what happened when they where training in the gym – often battered and bruised from the daily hassle that comes with keeping the lights on. Having a commercially viable product or service forms an important part of the equation the other part relates to endurance, mental toughness, going the extra mile, faith, coping with loneliness, self belief – I hope these things get on the curriculum as all too often you need both commercial and mental strength. Without these things the red Ferrari might just remain a dream!

Great quote – “there is no traffic jam on the extra mile” – sometimes being in business can be painful but that’s just life – the great bits are brilliant!