This article was submitted by Francesca James
Are entrepreneurs the new rockstars? There has been somewhat of an explosion of entrepreneurs’ stories being told on TV, in books and in films over the last decade. Their journeys are often glorified and paraded as more glamorous than they actually are. Couple this coverage with the fact that the UK is unrivalled as a place to start and grow a business and it's no wonder that there has been a cultural shift that says ‘I would like to be in control of my own life and my own destiny’.
Entrepreneurship is a well trodden path and like in any field, professional or otherwise, mistakes can be avoided and advancements made quicker with a little guidance from those who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt, so to speak.
I’m very fortunate to be part of a community within the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards that is bursting with entrepreneurial expertise, success and talent. I recently asked a number of entrepreneurs, who have led businesses that have literally changed the way in which we live and work, what their advice would be to those about to embark on their start-up journey.
Resilience & focus:
To be successful, an entrepreneur must be resilient. Any comment that runs along the lines of “that's not possible” or “that can't be done” should be treated as a challenge to prove wrong.
They must then be prepared to persevere and execute with their original proposal. Chris Ganje, CEO of Cardiff-based AMPLYFI, says that “successful entrepreneurs only pivot if they really have to, or if it's utterly commercially compelling to do so. Others use pivots to justify themselves being distracted from their missions and inevitably fail”.
Decide what's important:
Entrepreneurs need to hold the ability to see through what's not important. Although tempting, swanky office space and sexy branded stationery are vanity progressions.
Stephen Fear, founder of Fear Group, a company with a turnover of £100 million, who is sometimes known as the Phone Box Millionaire, says that he always tells people not to worry about where they’re working from. “Whether that’s from home, meeting people in a café or a hotel; it’s cheaper and it’s flexible. You’re better to spending money on marketing, maybe limited PR”, he told me, adding that “it boils down to the fact that with no sales, you don’t have a business”.
Seek support from industry peers:
Entrepreneurs don’t just need money, they need support. Jenny Campbell, the newest Dragon on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, says that she thinks it is very important for entrepreneurs to have the “encouragement and advice they need to help propel their business forward”.
Attend meetups within your industry or local community and seek out online support via forums and groups. You’ll be surprised just how willing others will be to help and offer advice for free. Signposting, reassurance and sanity checking from peers can be invaluable at all stages of your businesses journey. There will always be someone a little further down the path your taking.
Brian Chernett, the founder of The Academy for Chief Executives which helps thousands of CEOs achieve measurable results for their organisations, now works with leaders of social enterprises through Ella Forums. At 81, Brian has had over 50 years in business and his top tip, which has even become his companies charter, insists that entrepreneurs must “make sure that they understand the purpose of what they are doing”. He adds that it is vital that business owners “stay on purpose and follow through with it in all that they do”.
If you find that you are heading in a direction that doesn't support your businesses purpose, you risk derailing due to potential distractions.
Having said that, pivoting (which generally refers to a shift in strategy) is widely cited as a skill that entrepreneurs ought to possess. Few start-ups will avoid pivoting in their quest to find the right customer, create a clear value proposition, and define positioning. Pivoting methodically with a clear strategy isn't a distraction, but taking a path with no clear metrics for success is a fool's errand.
Starting a business can be exhilarating, rewarding and fun, but can be exhausting, relentless and stressful in equal measure. Just like any endeavour, taking advice from those who have already made mistakes and achieved their own successes despite setbacks is a sure fire way to minimise the risks of lessons being learnt the hard way.
Francesca James is the co-founder of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, which acknowledges the hard work and inspiring stories behind British entrepreneurs and businesses in Great Britain. To find out more, visit https://www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com/