So what are the ingredients of a high growth business or gazelle as they are commonly referred to? This is a question that I must be asked at least twice a week. As both a founder of several and adviser to loads I am still learning every day. As an obsessive researcher of their behavior, tactics and strategies, one conclusion is gazelles are not just the stereotypical university high technology spin –out, they are also well established organisations from mature sectors – with fire in their belly.
So how do entrepreneurs unearth the Gazelle spot for their business? This is the point at which rapid growth ensues, new markets open up, customers display a strong desire to buy and value is created for both the founder and stakeholders. For the economy they become job generators and employers of skilled individuals. The challenge is there are only a small proportion of these businesses, nationally and globally – why? because its really hard to grow a business, get the right people on board pointing in the same direction, raise and manage finance….the list goes. This G-spot takes time to find, as one member of the High Growth Foundation® muttered the other night – it has taken me 10 years to become an overnight success – or as Malcolm Gladwell puts it 10,000 hours of effort and practice are needed to become an expert at anything.
Lots of entrepreneurs talk a good game but many fail to cope with the roller coaster ride that so often accompanies growth – the high and the lows can be quite debilitating and at times the problems just “do your head in”. Having a resilient and positive mindset able to cope with uncertainty and unforeseen challenges is an ability too few have. High growth will usually equate to high risk (that’s why banks are scared stiff of high growth entrepreneurs), embracing fear and having the courage to see through immediate and longer term challenges is a skill high growth entrepreneurs have honed.
The Entrepreneurial G-Spot is a complex framework involving an eclectic mix of business, commercial and emotional components. Put very simply it’s the fusion of a sound business model with propositions and service that carry a market place edge – disciplined doers not talkers execute the plan to achieve the vision and everyone knows their role. The active ingredient is brilliant leadership, more specifically a culture of ambition underpinned by mental toughness and an ability to cope. All too often it’s the latter that is missing, so many entrepreneurs fail to truly realise their potential, they run out of steam and to put it frankly cant be bothered with the hassle.
You’re a long time dead, get stuck in, have a go, fail fast move on, get your head in gear and unlock the potential of your business. Only practice and iteration makes perfect!
This morning I experienced a great example of public sector entrepreneurship. We recently moved to Salford Quays next to Media City (new location of the BBC) – one of the key attractions was to be close to the digital expertise located in the area and indeed the Media department of Salford University. Why? can any business overlook the benefits this new digital age will bring?
All well and good, however business growth only takes place when conversations and personal relationships gather momentum, trust is built and mutual respect results. Critical non essentials such as courtesy, humility and just caring are so often overlooked in the teaching in business schools and the books they encourage us to read.
Back to the point, having been in our new office for only 1 week a call came into us from Salford City Council – Matthew Lynn, one of the Economic Development Officers. Can I come in and talk to you about how we can help? Firstly, I was astounded that they knew we were coming and secondly, today a meeting with Matthew clearly demonstrated:
– Customer focus
– An interest in what we do
– An explanation of what services the Council can offer
– The introductions they can make to partners
– Details of networking opportunities
– Opportunities to work together (win-win)
I was left with an overwhelming sense of entrepreneurial flair and what I call living in the “Customers World”. Top stuff, I was inspired to see that both an individual and the Council had a genuine interest in us. The start of a great relationship (I hope) – who said the public sector is not entrepreneurial!
A breath of fresh air entered the business support arena at this mornings launch of the Manchester Business Survey. Frank McKenna led a great debate, much of which focused around the support for growth businesses in the GM Region. At last we are getting to the real issues and I am so pleased that Scott Fletcher, Chairman and Founder of ANS has started to unearth the paucity and confusion that sits within the business support arena.
The number of quango’s that still exist is causing enormous confusion within the business world and if we are going to create more “ANS Types” then its time to raise the bar, leave delivery to the private sector and provide the much-needed hands on help for risk takers. In particular advice from people who have been there and done it, inputs that drive strategy into action, executes plans, embed innovation, provides route to market, delivers an introduction to trusted advisers not just fee chasers, develops winning teams and leaders and provides well crafted business plans that hit the mark with the finance community.
Interesting comments about the Growth Hub and relations of the Family.
Well done Frank for getting on the table this long overdue debate. Fingers crossed that Scott’s forays to getting it sorted will create the desired changes and he doesn’t get ground down by non value added debates driven by committee, sub committees, talking shops, steering groups……
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.
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!