Entrepreneurial Learning

29/06/2012

I spoke at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference earlier this week. The theme was entrepreneurial learning in organisations. It was an extremely thought provoking session, that brought together fantastic academic minds on the theme of entrepreneurship.

As a keen observer of entrepreneurial learning and improvement, my view is that the UK economy will grow faster if more effective leaders are created and nurtured. Enterprise policy makers must recognise the importance of bigger thinking and greater ambition – a key component of leadership. Academic enterprise research needs to investigate in greater depth the emotional needs of entrepreneurs – the spirit and mindset. Setting up and growing a business can be extremely demanding. For entrepreneurial leaders balancing personal and commercial risk can be a debilitating experience – we must look at developing practical coping strategies to help leaders overcome the fear often associated with the stages of growth.

From my discussions with participants I was encouraged to hear that softer issues do appear to be attracting more academic interest. Topics such as developing an entrepreneurial mindset, coping, resilience, mental toughness, personal branding and faith must get on the agenda. These are all essential ingredients for leadership success. Practical tools to help entrepreneurs address these areas would be well received within the community – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Entrepreneurs are courageous individuals who cope well with the lonely rollercoaster existence, helping them to live with high pressure moments would be a well-received antidote for those wanting to make a difference. I am extremely excited about the work ISBE is undertaking.

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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.

 


Building a high growth business – The Essentials

15/11/2011

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.

 


High growth entrepreneurs need a mentor

08/11/2011

A mentor is one of the most important tools in the entrepreneurs kit bag. Growth companies constantly reach forks in the road – so, which way?  As your business gets bigger then hopefully the team you have created will help you to make the decision on which road to take.  However there are often BIG decisions that are outside the scope of the knowledge of the guys sat around the table.  Having a mentor – someone whos experience and judgement you trust can be a serious crutch on these occasions.  Asking those very simple questions like, what would you do?  How would you approach it?  Who should I go and speak to?  Who are the best advisers? – to someone who has experienced the scars of the pain you are feeling is all too often the answer.  Every successful entrepreneur we have worked with (and that’s thousands) lean on someone they respect, all too often that advice comes over a beer or coffee.  It’s not formal, it’s not shrouded in business plans and three-year P & L calculations – its good solid common sense.

The reality is that there are so many individuals out there who have succeeded in business and are more than happy to provide a helping hand – the fact is they have not been asked.  The wisdom, experience and insight to help us make better decisions often comes free, from willing souls who just want to help others overcome the hurdles and challenges they face. The High Growth Foundation we have set up is living proof that members who are much further on in their journey are only too willing to give someone their time, experience and thoughts, without any strings attached!

So the conclusion is, if you are trying to grow your business find someone who has been down your path – invite them for a brew and use the magic words – please can I ask your advice.  It could be the best couple of quid you have ever spent.

Most of the battles in business you have to win are in your mind first. Your mentor can help you work out your game plan and indeed make better informed decisions.


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 Growth Entrepreneurs – The 5P’s of getting things done

04/08/2011

For so many years we have had the 4P’s of marketing thrust upon us – to be honest I have always felt it to be a load of old nonsense. If you are looking to grow your business, explore new opportunities deliver new ideas or drive change try the 5P’s of getting things done:

Passion – believe in what you are trying to achieve and show it. Deliver your thoughts from the heart with both barrels. Be authentic and communicate it with feeling. Nobody likes a thin veneer.

Persuasion – driving change or getting new ideas off the ground means you must convince others to your way or thinking. Whilst you may be passionate about what you want, don’t always think others get it, we all see things through different windows – look at it from the audiences perspective seek the win – win

Persistence – do not assume that people have heard what you have said – keep reinforcing your message till it gains momentum with those you need to influence- your idea, your message, the reason for change. The reality is no one ever hears what you say first time round. Just tell, tell, tell!

Perspiration – building a business can be like participating in  a marathon,  loads of preparation beforehand then keep going till you reach the finishing line. Endurance is a vital quality when running your own company. At times you lose the will and coping with the ups and downs can be draining, when this happens shift your focus to how good it will feel when you get the medal.

Positioning – makes sure your messages are memorable and stand out from the crowd. If you are “me too” then dont be surprised if others either don’t listen or take you serious. Always look to postion what you have with an edge, always seek out the wow factor

So the next time you hear the 4P’s of marketing, think again, great in the classroom, but means very little when you are trying to fill the till or drive change or pitch new ideas. Think about the alternative 5P’s – it will move you on much faster.


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.