Opinion

11 important lessons we can learn from entrepreneurs

nicola swankie headshotIn this guest column Nicola Swankie discusses key behaviours of successful entrepreneurs and how applying them to your life can help you create success professionally and personally.

Have you, like me, been increasingly curious (and maybe even a little bit jealous) about the rising wave of the entrepreneur?

Start-ups with seemingly endless innovation and ideas for disruption? What is it that is motivating them? Are these the cultures where real breakthrough thinking is happening now?

I’ve been working in marketing and advertising for well over a decade now, and I have always been passionate about what we do, thriving in the innovative and creative nature of our colourful industry. However, last year I did wonder if it might be time to jump over into start-up?

So I enrolled in what I affectionately termed ‘Entrepreneur School’ (aka The Entourage) to learn what it really took to run your own start-up business, in the eyes of Entrepreneur masters like Jack Delosa, who hit the BRW Young Rich List at the age of 27.

I went into the year hoping to have my mind stretched about practical things like how to run a lean business or effectively outsource. I realised about a third of the way through the course that entrepreneurship was much more than running a cost-effective small business.

I grew to appreciate a deeper understanding about the mindset of those who decide to create their own, somewhat challenging path. I learned some important lessons I believe we can all learn from as leaders and people, no matter where we work.

The 11 lessons

  • 1. The key to success? Having an unquestioning confidence in yourself. One that doesn’t come from arrogance, but from knowing and having a belief in your personal purpose. A purpose that is greater than just you and enables you to show up to achieve the greatness required everyday. One that drives you to activate your full power and do things others may think are impossible.
  • 2. Create something people want to be a part of. To attract and retain exceptional talent, you need to have a clear and bold vision, an inspiring journey, one that others want to come on with you. So they can be a part of disruption, the next big thing or something that might just change the world.
  • 3. Your business is a representation of you and your state of mind. If you are not in a good place personally, it’s most likely your business won’t be either. However, most of what gets in our way is our own bullshit. Standing up to our own limiting beliefs is vital for progress.
  • 4. Don’t be afraid to be a challenger. The more rebellious or surprising nature of creative work is something I have always loved being a part of and I feel that the badge of disruptor is going more and more to the start-ups who have the freedom to be bolder and braver.
  • 5. If you don’t understand something, go teach yourself. Believe in yourself that you can adapt with the times and from a leadership point of view – support the fact that your team needs to be continuously learning.
  • 6. Build attraction models for your customers. Create website and content worth visiting to show people how good you are before they sign up. Market through what you do, not just what you say.
  • 7. Keep things moving. Time and resources is not a luxury start-ups have. Effective, honest communication and strong systems to minimise time taken around processes are key to this. For example: If you are going to do something more than once, video the process so others in your team can see how it’s done without you teaching them all. Simple, but incredibly effective.
  • 8. Don’t ‘sell’ to people, create a ‘buy’ mindset. How can you emotionally tune into what is going on in your buyers’ needs and minds? So that you have a conversation with them that gets them thinking that they need whatever you are selling them before you even ask them.
  • 9. The importance of the network, for community support, but also for strategic partnerships.
  • 10. Think lean. Always be looking at ways to spend less or make more money. Never take budget for granted. This helps us stay nimble and agile to invest in the right opportunities when they come along.
  • 11. Success and greatness for anyone is about growth and growth is not easy. It shows up as discomfort which can cause a great deal of perturbation. But to successfully grow we need to recognise those times of discomfort or even if it feels like we are self-destructing as opportunities arise and seek support to get us through. Monthly coaching sessions or creating an advisory board can be game-changing and supporting our people to have the courage to put themselves out there with fearless thinking to help them grow. Cultures where people can be proudly passionate and they aren’t afraid of getting it wrong or being laughed at when they air their ideas.

So today, stop for a moment to think like an entrepreneur. Ask yourself what makes you comes alive? What are you passionate about? What journey are you on with your team? Or quite simply – how could you make the place you work even just that little bit better?

Most importantly for me, taking the time to stop to understand what truly makes us tick is something we can all forget to ‘have time’ to do, being so busy keeping everything in our careers and businesses on track. But a practice of self inquiry, digging deep, connecting to our vision and ensuring we have alignment of our actions to our purpose is where the magic and the breakthrough thinking starts to happen.

Nicola Swankie is former MD of SOCiETY Social and currently freelancing in comms strategy and personal development coaching

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