At a very young age, around 10, I was convinced I was going to be a football star and earn a fortune. I even committed to pay part of my wages to my nan. Well, you’ve guessed it. It didn’t work out too well. Being a few stone overweight didn’t help…My plans evolved until I got to the point where I wanted to start my own business. One of the fundamental skills needed here is vision. It was clear in my mind that I will have a multi-million pound turnover company and that I would exit at some point. All entrepreneurs should be a dreamer; that’s how you create and visualise your vision.
Within 12 months of the company starting, I knew the likely purchaser and aligned myself with companies I thought would acquire us. You must have the utmost belief in yourself. If you want others to believe in you then it must be clear to see. Belief is one of the strongest factors determining success or failure in life. You must have some mechanism to bring you back in line when you have moments of self doubt. Even the most successful people in the world have coaches or use meditation techniques to keep them on track. Your desire for your business must be clear for all to see. Your passion got the business where it is today and it will get you to your ultimate vision.
You must have a superior product and know the USPs. You have to stand out from the crowd and add as much value as possible. Your competition should be behind you, not in front. If they’re in front, what are you doing about it?
When I was around 18, my nan used to say to me, “All you can do is learn from your experiences in life”. I used to shrug my shoulders and say, “Whatever, Nan” as I was young and knew very little. I just wanted to get down to the local pub with my mates!
It is not until you start to experience things in life, at an age when you can truly reflect, that these things start to have an impact on how your life evolves. Although I am generalising, the same can be said for business. Until you have been through it, you haven’t experienced it. Everything is raw and new to you, so you must rely on other skills such as instinct, market research, and learning from others.
Without the benefit of experience, you will make mistakes, but that’s how you learn. We all have times when we fail. It’s how you react to failure that matters. I can recall several occasions when we were spending £500,000 a month on marketing campaigns and some failed, but there were more campaigns that were successful. Overall, we continued to grow. I made it clear that I had every confidence in how the business was going and that we were on track. I always kept a clear focus on my vision.
Leadership is critical. Your management team and staff must all be working towards the same common goal. Everyone’s style is different, but mine has always been very inclusive and open. I believe that together everyone achieves more. I also believe in incentivising for achieving and overachieving targets.
To help reduce mistakes, it is vital to surround yourself with a team that can grow at the same pace as the business. If not, they have to accept that you will bring in others to ensure the company achieves its growth objectives.
Throughout life we experience ups and downs. It is always easy to motivate ourselves when everything is going well. You have to be determined whether things are going well or not. Stay focused on your goals.
You will have to make some tough decisions and will at some point be unpopular, but you must always be acting in the best interests of the company. I recall many times when the market turned against us, but I reacted quickly rather than hoping things would get better. In every case, I was right. It had become instinctive.
I have mentioned many skills that are vitally important to help you grow your business. However, the one that really stands out to me is that of experience. If you’re looking to grow your business and ultimately exit, it makes sense to work with someone who has grown a business and sold it. By doing that, you’re ahead of the game, which could make millions of pounds difference. The question you need to ask yourself is, can you afford to make such a costly mistake by not taking advantage of the experience and expertise available?
Having built and sold my SME, I now work with SMEs. I understand their model by embedding myself in the senior management team so I feel the heartbeat of the business. All areas are covered, but the four questions that we work on solving are: How do I grow my business?, How do I achieve client excellence?, How do I make more profit?, and Does my business model deliver?
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