I have such respect for Entrepreneurs. I am in constant awe and wonder at what we, as a tribe, achieve against all odds and even more so in today’s unpredictable environment.
Like everyone, entrepreneurs have important choices to make: crawl under a rock and pray that their ideas, savings, strategy, business efforts and dreams stay safe until “this” is all over, or don their Entrepreneur-armour: something only true Entrepreneurs understand.
And if you’re an entrepreneur who has never owned one, here’s yours: an imaginary full-metal body-suit (give it a colour if that makes it more powerful) that keeps you brave , strong and resilient when everything is uncertain and others are choosing to crumble.
This week I chatted to one of these warriors: Lisa Aspeling of Anago Marketing. She invited me to be on HER weekly Womentrepeneur Wednesday Show on IGTV in my capacity as a Life & Business coach.
She asked that I offer 5 punchy take-outs to our audience.
In 18 years of running a successful business in a volatile industry I had way more than five. But in truth a lot of them could be offered by any business coach with common sense:
Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash
That’s the general ‘stuff’. The secret weaponry I had which enabled me to build a successful business (in addition to my suit of armour), was these next five.
1. NEVER EVER (EVER) MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON A FRIENDSHIP, EMOTION, SYMPATHY OR GUILT.
- Cash Flow is King, Queen and Princess.
- Take advice but trust your instinct.
- Listen. Really listen.
- Have a strategy and stick to it.
- IP and global opportunity are what excites investors.
This comes about when we employ or contract people we love or care about.
This was my toughest lesson as an entrepreneur and everything hangs on it: yes, everything.
So the typical story of the average entrepreneur goes something like this. They get the idea, they put it into action and it starts growing.
Things are going well. Really well.
They are inundated with work and feel overwhelmed: especially in aspects that aren’t their strength. They need someone to help urgently: someone they can trust.
Picture the scenario: Sunday lunch or Friday night drinks, they share their woes with their nearest and dearest and Bam! Before you know it, they’ve recruited help: a best friend, a brother’s wife, or a cousin. Even Mom is offering to take calls.
This is what family and community are about and it’s what we entrepreneurs need in the beginning. Without these people we often don’t make it past year one.
But it’s the short term duration that is important here and the terms upon which you’re accepting this help. Because whether we like it or not, in year 2 or 3, the person gets ill and is off work for a month (Can’t really stop paying her, she’s my sister in law.) Or cousin wins a trip to Thailand: (He’s family: how can I stop him from taking his dream holiday?”)
When you’ve lost control, you start losing your passion. When emotion is in control, friendship, guilt and sympathy are running this business, not you.
2. APPOINT A GREAT (QUALIFIED) FINANCIAL MANAGER – and quickly!
I had been in business for 7 years. Things were great, I had a business partner who was holding the financial fort and we were doing well with an annual turnover close to 8-digits: then things changed.
We secured one of the biggest contracts we were ever to procure. It was an exciting time. Our revenue literally doubled overnight – as did our staff complement. This was when I should have known better – but I didn’t.
Whilst my partner and our junior bookkeeper did a great job of managing the books at the time, the real problems played out around 3 years later when we faced a cash-flow crunch, right at the time that our biggest client was unable to meet their commitments. We discovered our collections weren’t on track and faced what felt like insurmountable challenges. Whilst we survived the crisis, hindsight taught us that having a good numbers person could have prevented much of what we experienced then.
The bottom line is, when your gut instinct is telling you you’re in over your head, you need a financial whizz at your side.
Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash
3. BLUE SKY PLANNING.
In 2012 I was fortunate to be part of a Venture Capital Accelerator programme called Grindstone. I learnt enough there to change the trajectory of our business.
One of my biggest learnings in the Grindstone program was discovering what investors look for in a business; for the day when you need one for growth or sale. And it’s not only what’s happening in the moment – it’s how you’re inventing yourself for the future.
As entrepreneurs, we appoint ourselves chief as bottle washer and cook: but the day you have a viable business (which often happens without you noticing) is the day you should hand over the soap and apron and sit down with your team to look at what you do well and how you’re going to maximise it. Then you leave them to it and look to the future.
Call a different meeting and ask the question – what is the world going to be wanting from us, in five to ten year’s time? What’s our Blue Sky plan?
4. STAY RELEVANT – KEEP LEARNING.
Show me an entrepreneur who does not live, eat, drink, breathe, their business. Before we know it, 10/15 years have gone by. We’re successful because we’ve mostly focussed our energy on what we’re good at and what our business does. We’ve mostly focussed on the present.
However, we need to do more than that. We need to grow vertically, not only horizontally – we need to add left-field skills and knowledge to our toolbox, stuff which ultimately keeps us invested and builds business resilience.
Experts today – both financial and psychological – are constantly reminding us to reinvent ourselves. To do this, many of us must re-skill. Others simply have to upskill. Either way, it takes courage, acceptance of discomfort, and learning.
Don’t wait until crisis forces you into it: the future is all about constant reinvention.
Offer yourself a blank canvas
5. PRACTISE SELF-CARE.
What I love most about my take-outs for entrepreneurs is that they’ve evolved and so have I. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d be recommended self-care as my tip #5 for business leaders or business owners, I would not have believed you.
My own near-nervous breakdown did not happen overnight, but rather over a couple of years. Your meltdown, fast or slow, not only impacts you but also your loved ones, employees, business and the communities you employ from and serve. You haven’t got time to crash.
What is self-care? Spas, retreats and the odd day off isn’t it.
True self-care is a daily practice. Learn mindfulness practices that can nip stress triggers in the bud. Learn to prioritize yourself as much as anything else in your diary. I’ve learnt that it’s the small, constant practices which bring the biggest benefits.
Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash
Maybe I’ll just add a sixth lesson: learn from others. You don’t have to go through the same learning curve – because other entrepreneurs, like me, have done it for you. After all, we’re a tribe – the crazy, the creative, the armoured, the focused and the hopeful: ready to change our worlds.
Get in touch if you feel you may be struggling to piece one or all of these together for yourself. Allow yourself to ask for help. Nobody has to do it alone.