FIVE LESSONS FROM BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. It can challenge you in ways you can’t even imagine when you start out on the journey full of excitement about your ‘big idea’. And sometimes what started out as a passion can feel like purgatory. And yet…I find it hard to conceive of working for someone else now.
In honour of Global Entrepreneurs Week, I thought I’d take a look back over the past decade of my entrepreneurial journey and try and pull out five things that I’ve learnt from my experiences that might be useful to you; that might encourage you when things get tough.
FIND A MENTOR
Immediately. Do not pass ‘Go’. Do not collect £200. Find someone right now who has more experience than you; who has done this before and who can advise you.
So far, so good, right? You’re all nodding and thinking ‘Yup, that’s a good idea.’
Now let me tell you the one KEY thing that will make the difference between a productive mentoring relationship that helps you to grow your business and achieve your goals – and one that doesn’t.
Are you ready?
You have to DO WHAT THEY SAY.
You may think you know better.
You may know yourself to be an intelligent, savvy business person.
You may believe that nobody can know your business as well as you do.
And maybe all of that is true. But here’s what a good mentor has that you don’t: distance. You’re in the weeds every day. You’re so enmeshed in your business…head down…cracking on…pushing through…that you simply aren’t objective. And that is what a mentor can give you: objectivity – combined with experience and insight. So listen to them.
CONSCIOUSLY DESIGN YOUR NETWORK
I used to think that I was a pretty good networker. I work in PR. It’s what we do. And I won’t lie – I can work a room 😊
Then Dr Joanna Martin, the founder of One of Many and now an Actually Partner, explained to me that in order to be a great leader, I needed to nurture and develop every aspect of my life, not just my career, and I needed a network of support to do so. She introduced me to the concept of conscious network design – bringing attention to the four pillars that support our ‘platform of leadership’: love, money, career and health.
I had a great network of support in the area of my career: big TICK in that box. But I was operating without any support it when it came to my money, love-life and health. As a result, my health was deteriorating; I had no pension, no investments and was gradually building up an unsustainable and completely unnecessary credit card debt; and my love-life – well let’s just say that the Sahara desert has more bloom!
Being a great leader doesn’t mean you have to be in great health but it helps. It doesn’t require you to have your money situation sorted – but worrying about how you’re going to pay your bills each month will distract you and have a negative influence on your decision-making. And being happily ensconced in a loving relationship is not a guarantee of entrepreneurial success – but isn’t life just a little bit easier with the right partner? With someone by your side, supporting you and cheering you on?
So, in the same way that having a mentor for your business is a good idea – make sure you have the right support in place in every other area of your life too. I now have a nutritionist: Nicki Williams; a financial advisor: Aaron Eriskin and an accountant: Nicola Deverson. It’s no coincidence that each of these people is now an Actually Partner! They are amazing. I’m still working on the Sahara desert issue!
‘PLAN YOUR WORK AND WORK YOUR PLAN’ (Napoleon Hill)
My business partner in Pagefield is a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of entrepreneur. He is renowned for winging it. He has great instincts and supreme confidence. He hates plans. He hates detail. He dislikes anything that feels like a constraint. And he has business partner who knows how to develop a plan. Me.
Unusually for a creative person, I like plans. I find it reassuring to have a plan. I like to dream big and then have a step by step plan for how to get there. I don’t find it constraining. I find it liberating. I veer off the plan. I get feedback and I revise the plan. But there is always a plan of some kind.
It’s not for everyone but here’s why I think it’s important – a plan means that you won’t forget the details. A plan means you don’t turn up to the event that you’re speaking at and realise there’s no AV and your slides won’t work. A plan means that you know exactly how many people you need on your course in order to cover your costs and how much you can afford to spend on catering. Having a plan is often the difference between a fruitful and profitable business – and one that lurches from one crisis to the next.
In short, make a plan. And if you don’t like plans, find someone who does and work with them.
CHARGE WHAT YOU’RE WORTH
This is a lesson that I am still learning but it’s the reason Pagefield is a profitable business; it’s advice I give my clients all the time; and it’s the latest piece of advice that my mentor has given me. So I guess I’m going to have to take it, right?
You may resist this advice more than every other tip I am giving you here.
Maybe you think that you’re not worth more; maybe you think your clients can’t afford more; maybe you have an aversion to making money; maybe because your work is for ‘good’, it feels wrong somehow to be paid well for it. Yup. I’ve heard all the excuses. And I’ve used them all too. And here’s what I say to my clients: people value what they pay for and they question the value of anything that appears too cheap.
Besides, if you go out of business because you can’t make enough money to sustain yourself, then who will make the change that you are here to make in the world?
THE ONLY REAL FAILURE IS THE FAILURE TO LEARN
You will make a ton of mistakes. You will fail. You will mess things up and have to start all over again. Sometimes it will feel as though the whole entrepreneurial journey is one long series of mistakes punctuated by brief flurries of excitement. And when you’re in the midst of failure or tackling the latest error – you’ll look around you at all the ‘successful’ entrepreneurs and you’ll think that you’re the only one screwing it up. And you’ll be wrong.
It’s a cliché but failure is just an opportunity to learn. The only real failure comes from not paying attention to the mistakes you’re making, not learning the lessons. Make a mistake once, it’s a learning opportunity. Make it twice and you’re careless. Make it three times and I may have to pop round and give you a stern talking to!
Being an entrepreneur – particularly one with a grand, world-changing vision – can be soul-destroying at times. When it doesn’t work, when things go wrong, when this business or organisation that you’ve put your heart and soul into fails – it can feel like the end of the world.
It’s not. It’s just another step towards your eventual success.
And you will succeed. I know you will.
Because you’re going to change the world.
Let’s ACTUALLY change the world!
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