This week I was invited to speak to the East Riding Council’s Young Advisors on the subject of entrepreneurship and business planning. This was more in my role as a director of my own company rather than as a Councillor. I really enjoyed the afternoon and I’m sure some of the young people present will go on to become successful entrepreneurs in the future.
It was a somewhat miandering and interactive presentation ranging from Education to Dragon's Den. The following are my notes as promised.
COULD YOU BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?
What are the 12 characteristics of successful entrepreneurs? You needn't possess all of these characteristics; few people do. Many of these can be developed or learnt as you enjoy your journey as a business person – remember business is a journey - it is certainly not a destination. It’s sometimes easier and less painful to learn from the mistakes of others – this is where it can be advantageous going into business in partnership with someone who can bring some of the following characteristics that you perhaps don’t have…. Yet!
Not be confused with cockiness or bragging (remember, the quietest person in the room might also be the most confident).
Confidence refers to having belief in yourself and your ideas. This is essential, especially when things get rough. Most people gain confidence by creating a positive habit. I developed confidence by listening to others, always looking for the positive in any situation. Listen to people who are where you want to be – if you want to be a millionaire should you take advice from your mates at the pub or from someone who’s already a millionaire?
Invest time building your confidence as part of your preparation to embark on the journey of running a business. Always concentrate on positives and successes, take a public speaking course, and spend as much time with business people as possible.
Without the reason why – don’t bother!
It’s the reason why, the dream, the desire is what makes you choose to become an entrepreneur. Personally I like to be in control of my own destiny, I like to do what I want to do, I want the satisfaction of doing it my way, I want to feel proud and I want to be admired – I also want to make some money.
Be aware of what you can and can’t do, recognise your strengths and weaknesses and work to your strengths and work on your weaknesses. If you can’t write get someone to help you, if you can’t handle accounts find someone who can – go out and do what’s productive and if need be - buy the other stuff in.
4. Be Competitive
You don’t have to always be first, biggest or best – you don’t have to smash the competition. It does mean that, in business, there are usually other people trying to do what you do except better, faster or cheaper. The key is to accept this and respond accordingly. Are you willing to put in the time to be successful? Do you use your initiative, can you seize the opportunity and be persistent?
5. Don’t be afraid of hard work
There is a significant time commitment to being an entrepreneur – many work and play very hard. People tell me I’m a workaholic, for me it’s never been about working nine to five especially in the beginning… but it does become a habit that’s difficult to break!
I thrive on hard work, I live with stress, and I never switch off – but I do know how to relax and play.
6. Never Stop Learning
The most important – the day you stop learning is the time to die. Keep up to day – as I said before always try to learn from others – less painful to learn from their mistakes than your own.
Don’t be blown off course, have that strong desire to succeed, to work hard and to overcome difficulties. Nothing ever goes as planned.
8. Be focussed
It's important to be able to face the irritations and aggravations, and to be able to find solutions to the problems and then get on with your business.
Always be on the lookout, see what could be and recognise the need. See the opportunity perhaps it’s for something that’s not be produced before. Train yourself to look out of the box – read and listen to successful inventors
10. Be aware of risk
To be an entrepreneurs will involve a degree of risk – but not overly so. High risk gives high pressure and high stress – and can lead to frustration and disappointment
I’ve not taken a great deal of risk – I’ve weighed the odds, I spread bet with advertising and have people working for me in case I go sick but other than that I calculate risk.
Good preparation (creating a business plan) should demonstrate your exposure to risk and your chances for success, if the calculation gives a disproportionate amount of risk – why would you proceed?
11. The ability to plan
“Those who fail to plan – plan to fail” – never jump in with both feet unless you’ve checked the temperature and depth of the water. Yes there are times to "fly by the seat of your pants" and it can work. But there is less risk to your success if you plan ahead.
12. Develop your communication skills
The essential element, one of the most successful people I know can hardly read or write – but he can communicate like you would not believe. Be able to articulate your dreams and visions to others – but most importantly have people feel comfortable in offering you advice and help – develop the skill of listening…. Very difficult for most politicians I must admit!
Learn to speak clearly and effectively, use humour were appropriate – develop the skills of communicating both one-on-one and in groups.
Learn to use the telephone correctly… Whenever someone asks “how are you ?” - There is the temptation to just say “fine” – why not try something different, how about…. “Never better” or “Hey you wouldn’t believe it, any better and I just couldn’t cope”, or “any better and I’d be twins”… what does that say to the other person on the line??? I’ll leave it up to you to decide!
Writing – always get someone to check any letter or important email - and never send an email after mid-night or when you’re angry or upset – I always wait till the morning and read it through after a night’s sleep!!
I’m a firm believer in making one’s own luck.
There is a great story about Gary Player, the South African golf champion, hitting a hole in one at a tournament.
“Lucky shot!” exclaimed one of the gallery. “Yes,” retorted Player, “and you know what, the more I practice, the luckier I seem to get.”