Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

How to be an entrepreneur

During a talk I gave I was asked about the key lessons that I have learnt from running several businesses. I feel hardly qualified to answer, but I am very clear on a number of aspects:

  1. The cost of understanding your product/service has to be less than the immediately obvious benefit that comes from using your product/ service. People will stay with you (pitch/ marketing message/ website) for as long as their needs being solved are made immediately apparent, are sufficiently significant, and the ways in which your product/ service solves that need are clearly understandable (and the cost of understanding is less than the benefit) [adapted and evolved from SuperConnect]
  2. A CEO should be aiming to only focus on strategy and people development: your head should be 12-18mths hence at first (longer over time), and your heart should be in developing the person better than you. You are the only person in the business whose job it really is to ‘develop the insights/ perceptions/ abilities to detect patterns of change and relate them to your landscape, industries, competition and business’ [adapted from Execution]. You should always be looking to develop the person better than you to be able to take your job. If they don’t yet exist in your company, make sure you hire them. ‘Yes’ or ‘passive no’ people will kill your business.
  3. If the core transactions of your business don’t exist without funding (including your time/cost funding), then your sole focus should be on adjusting your business model to be profitable in its core operation without investment. However well-funded or visionary your plans are, the cash flow monster eats the investment and then chases and kills 99% of its prey.
  4. If you can’t translate what you do into an emotional need solved, your business idea will struggle. I always get my businesses and clients to then translate this further into the company’s mission: its reason for existing. This aligns the owners, team, stakeholders and clients behind a common mission.Compelling needs are fine. Emotional needs take your business to another level. Just make sure you go back to the ‘patterns of change’ point in 2. above, because as soon as a need is solved another tends to appear.
  5. The primary reason for failure (after cash) is a lack of self-awareness. A lack of honesty where the founder/ owner/ MD is doing things which they shouldn’t and others should. An inability to analyse their own blockers and get out-of-the-way of their own business’ success. Only focus on what you and only you can do. Delegate or outsource all else.This is the reason all my current businesses exist to enable entrepreneurs, CEOs and MDs to fulfil their ambitions for their business by removing their own blockers to success.
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