Ever wondered how Entrepreneurs tough it out as they lead the development of their high growth business? Chris Farrance, Business Growth Advisor shares his learning from his experience working with leading entrepreneurs in the Berkshire Business Growth Hub and programmes and events such as Mass Challenge, Digital Leaders UK and Henley Business School.
Actually, entrepreneurs really don’t have time for rules so this article is probably an oxymoron. Let’s say then suggestions, guidelines, thoughts?
In my defence, I’ve been working with real entrepreneurs for the last eighteen months or so and whilst there may be some debate about the genesis of their characteristics – nurture versus nature etc. – I’ve synthesised my experiences into some personal and business observations.
1. Don’t give up your day job
What a really wet thing to start with I hear you say. Well, the fact of the matter is that any income is better than no income and you have to meet your basic needs – food, roof, sleep etc. It’s not romantic, exciting or likely to make you a hero but it will quickly become a huge and debilitating hole in your head if there is no income coming in at all. So hang on to what you’ve got for as long as you can.
Cherish the income you have
2. Be passionate
It’s no good being lukewarm – you have to take the world by storm. You are the embodiment of what you do and it should radiate off you like heat waves. No room for shrinking violets. Promote! Promote! Promote! You should even be talking about it in your sleep! Not many people will swoon or faint at the audacity of your business proposition when you talk to them so you need to be super-charged. Passion gets you through the inevitable emotional highs and lows.
Be prepared to go ten rounds
3. Be unreasonable
As George Bernard Shaw said ‘all progress depends on an unreasonable man’. If you’re an entrepreneur there’s nothing in the status quo that shouldn’t be challenged unless it’s absolutely illegal. Many rules and regulations that are there simply serve to protect vested interests or archaic business models. This is particularly difficult for ‘corporate man’ who tends to have a misplaced respect for so-called ‘professional expertise’ so get over it and push on.
Push and shove
4. The speed of light
Whatever view you have about conventional behaviour in terms of speed of response – junk it! A week becomes a day, an hour becomes a minute, a minute becomes sixty seconds and this is where a true entrepreneur is! Other people not recognising this 999 urgency can cause entrepreneurs paroxysms of negative energy and bile. The people you deal with won’t understand this and will find it extremely aggravating – tough!
It’s your universe not theirs!
5. What’s the real problem?
You need to have a forensically clear idea of what problem you’re solving and it needs to be expressed in the vernacular of your target customer. This is not the whole world and his wife or 0.1% of zillions – it’s probably going to be, say, the first 10/100/500 depending on how you want to scale. Your first move is to dominate a small niche, learn how and why your product meets their needs and iterate accordingly.
There’s no one right answer
6. Give me the money now!
Find someone – ideally in your target market – who will pay you real money for what you’re offering. Until that happens you don’t have a business. Until that happens sufficiently frequently you don’t have a business model that could scale. If you can’t evidence the ability to scale then you won’t be able to attract growth investment – it’s a vicious circle. Once you do get going the only money that counts is money in the bank – if turnover is vanity and profit is sanity then cash is reality!
Cash in hand is all that counts
Say goodbye to the notion of a working day or a working week – it’s for the wage slaves. You’re in an ‘always on’ space as an entrepreneur particularly if you’re using software developers in other parts of the world as many do. Free resources will be thin on the ground and there’s probably only one place for the buck to stop. Don’t imagine it’s a sprint either – many start up businesses have been a round for at least a couple of years before the tadpoles start to wriggle into life.
Be prepared for a marathon
I know as I write this that it will come across as a bit contrary but bear with me. Many entrepreneurs with a little bit of help (mentors et al) can get to a reasonably clear idea of what they want to do. Often what happens, though, is a sort of scope creep – we could do this, we could do that, we could rule the world. So, it’s important in the early stage when resources are minimal, to pursue a singularly focused course of action. However, and here is the contrary bit, what you thought might be a great idea might have to go a bit left or right of your original thinking. This is called a pivot and is an entirely legitimate approach to getting the best fit for what you are offering.
Be Focused Be flexible Be Brave
9. Stay curious
There’s no right answer and there’s no wrong answer but what you get in terms of feedback, results and other people’s points of view will be good data. Data if sweated becomes information and if sweated again becomes insights and this is where the gold dust is. There won’t be any ‘business as usual model’ for you, just continuing sequences of learning. If it’s any consolation most of today’s mega success stories (Facebook, Google, Twitter) are some way away from where their original ideas were – they learnt and developed as they went along.
10. Be really mean
Frankly, it’s better if you can use other people’s time, money and energy. Paradoxically, less money is better than too much. Bootstrapping as it’s called generally leads to lean, mean successful businesses and gives you a nice tall story to tell. There’s no fat for salaries or consultants in the early stages. Any payments you make are likely to have to be justified subsequently to your gimlet eyed investors. If you have to pay people then make sure it’s against clearly defined, tangible business focused outcomes. Make sure people totally understand this upfront so there are no misconceptions, tears or threats of litigation.
This guest article by Chris Farrance (Business growth advisor) is based upon his own experience working with entrepreneurs in the Berkshire Business Growth Hub and programmes and events such as Mass Challenge, Digital Leaders UK and Henley Business School. If you have comments or thoughts then please do share them with him.
More about Chris
- You meet your peer group privately for structured confidential conversations about real business challenges. You meet online for 90 minutes every 3 weeks.
- You attend one of a selection of open workshops led by top professional speakers sharing best practice on a wide range of leadership topics.
- You join our annual conference LeaderFest and our annual ‘Retreat to advance’.