Personal development is the ultimate source of competitive advantage. When you stop learning you run the risk of your business becoming stagnant. Growing a business is one continuous learning journey and every new experience presents itself as an opportunity to acquire more knowledge. Entrepreneurial high achievers I have worked with are lifetime learners combining both formal and informal means of absorbing new information. What is your strategy for learning? Do you have a personal development plan? Are you open to the advice and guidance of the wisdom of others?
The growth of a business takes many twists and turns and growth comes in chapters, each one presenting its own challenges – you need to be prepared.
Openly speak to mentors, your peer group and trusted colleagues and ask them how they think you can improve. What could you do better? Rate yourself out of 10 in each of these areas:
I have clear business and personal goals, they are pursued with a passion
I am resilient and deal effectively with setbacks when they arise
I take ownership for the decisions I make but I listen carefully to the views of people I trust
I am motivated and just get on with it – success is down to me
I am a strong and effective leader (myself and others)
I work well with others and take a collaborative approach to business
I am innovative and take a creative approach to business
I am a respected individual within my market
I am an effective connector and communicator
I always aim to excel at what I do
By answering these questions honestly you start to build a picture of where your self-development needs to focus. Drill down into the specifics of each of your answer and define very clearly what things you are going to change. Identify the resources that you will need to move you on. Explore courses, new reading material, self-study or one to one coaching to address the shortfalls. Everyone has a preferred learning style, find one that suits you. However there is lots of wisdom in the Confucius philosophy of:
- I hear and I forget
- I see and I remember
- I do and I understand
The minute you think you know it all – complacency sets in and you could quite well be entering into dangerous territory.
You will not advance or achieve your business goals if you don’t commit to constantly learning.
I was really honored to be asked to present the fast growing business award at last weeks North of England Excellence Dinner. The winner was 3P Logistics and at the end of the ceremonies I made a beeline for the winner, Ian Walker, I wanted to get his view on what it takes to build a high growth company. It was clear the moment Ian started talking he had a passion for his business that was off the scale – it created an instant engagement which meant you had to listen to what he had to say. The guts of his story provided a truly fascinating insight into the motivators for setting up and growing a business. As well as passion, courage and bravery feature high on the list of special qualities – leaving a highly paid job when you have dependants can be an extremely scary moment in life, this is what sorts out the true entrepreneurs from the dreamers. This takes an enourmous amount of guts – fear is what holds so many individuals back from taking the leap.
A few years down the line new dilemmas and challenges are presented to entrepreneurs like Ian. They become most profound at the point when the company is providing a comfortable life style – the internal conversations usually goes something like this, do I take more risk and go for it again and build an even bigger business? However, so few are willing to subject themselves to the burdens and stresses that got them to the well deserved position of a regular salary and the associated benefits that come with being your own boss.
Well my advice for those who decide to continue going for growth is, find a mentor first, someone you trust, then together work out how you are going to do it – the following are what I refer to as “The Essentials” –
- Become future focused and prepare a strategy and game plan which sets the course for the next three years
- Understand the best ways of financing growth, one that balances personal risk, commercial gain and control (or loss of control)
- Effective leadership is core to success. Building a team/organisational structure you can rely on to support the business transition is vital
- Embed disciplined management systems to provide an effective barometer of commercial performance – the bigger you get the tighter the controls need to be
- Ensure you have created a customer focused culture, one that delivers innovative product and service propositions carrying higher margins
- Ensure you have a differentiated business model – one that creates real competitive advantage to support domestic and possibly international growth
- Condition your mindset to win and success.
- Ensure you have the support of your partner and immediate family
Having trusted advisers and being part of a network of likeminded people becomes an important part of the journey it also helps to maintain your sanity.