Andrum Consulting specialise in working with fast growing, entrepreneurial businesses. In this article, one of the firm’s partners, Melissa Grafton, shares some insights into what makes entrepreneurs tick – and their businesses fly!
Entrepreneurship is all about being prepared to take risks and accepting the responsibility for their outcome. I’m not saying you have to be a gambler. Indeed there are some clear steps you can take to ensure the risks are minimised and the outcome is more assured…
Big Picture Stuff
Firstly, make sure you understand the whole picture. Work with people in other areas of your business, you’ll learn new skills and you’ll spot opportunities. Encourage your team to do the same. Most importantly, make sure you have a real understanding of the numbers. Be clear of the operational costs, all costs, not just the direct costs and keep track of revenue.
Make sure you have the right behavioural skills to grow the business entrepreneurially. Although it is sometimes hard to change ones habits, it is possible to adapt those that inhibit you and learn to develop new ones.
For instance entrepreneurs think on their feet and make quick decisions under pressure. I’m not saying forget to be objective. Successful entrepreneurs make decisions based on hard facts, as well as intuition and experience. But it is important to avoid procrastination. Positive action is infectious. If you think positively, those around you will too.
Passion and a positive attitude are also key to your success. If you don’t love what you are doing, it will be hard to find the energy and drive to keep going, especially when the times get tough. When Sophi Tranchell became MD of the new business Divine Chocolate in 1999, she truly believed in what the business stood for. Its support of the cocoa farmers in Ghana. Its Fairtrade status and ethical grounding were key points on which the business grew and continues to grow at a healthy 20% year on year. Sophi’s confidence in Divine’s growth potential is rooted in the direction of the market as a whole, especially with the continued growth in Fairtrade chocolate. However she also passionately believes in the farmers’ ability to deliver at the scale required.
If you meet someone in business who you admire, someone who has ‘been there, done it and got the t-shirt’ ask them if they would mind being your mentor. They will be pleased and flattered that you have asked them – and their experience (and candour) could save or earn you a fortune!
Creativity is another key requirement if your business is to grow entrepreneurially. This does not necessarily mean in the artistic sense of the word, but in terms of looking for new opportunities and new ways of doing things. When Karen Mattison set up Women Like Us (WLU) in 2005, the idea was to put women who want to work flexibly in touch with employers who need qualified part-time workers. Karen knew that there were many women out in the workplace who wanted to work, but with flexible hours. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates the number of women in this position at around 500,000. At the same time, many employers were looking for well qualified people to work part-time. The key to success here was that there was a clear need for this service in the market. They started off with low costs and have now expanded to an annual turnover of £1.5milion, employing 60 staff and helping 20,000 women.
When you first started the business, it was most likely because you believed in your product or service and the need for it in the market place. Plus, your reason for self starting met your motivational needs and wants. It is important not to lose this ‘authenticity’ as this is often a key factor of your success. When Priya Lakhani founded the Masala Masala business in 2008, she saw the gap in the market for an Indian equivalent of fresh pasta sauces. She spent weekends and evenings developing a brand and business plan. She designed the product with the suppliers in mind. Within three months, they had deals with Harvey Nichols and Waitrose because these retailers see it as ‘the real deal’. Throughout this initial period, an absolute commitment and belief was required to overcome the barriers that so many people threw at them. It helped convince those sceptics around them and gave real clarity to the brand’s proposition.
Know Your Strengths
The other part to all of this, is know what you are good at and what you are not good at. When Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish launched Notonthehighstreet.com in 2006, building a community of unique and quirky retailers, they started small and had to learn the hard way. Their initial website went live four months later, and although they had over 16,000 unique visitors to the site on launch day there were problems with the e-commerce function. The business hit hard times with cashflow management but after two rounds of funding by 2008 they had over 800 sellers and a transactional turnover of £2.5million. According to Sophie, the key to success was finding a business partner with complimentary skills as businesses need all elements of the business to be working smoothly.
Know Your Place
If you look at business giants who have made it, they have time to do other things – and they are running massive complicated businesses. That’s because they know how to delegate. So constantly check that you’re not doing any tasks that others in your business could do. You’re a crucial asset to your company, make sure you’re only spending time on things that only you can do.
Sadly, there is no secret set formula for being an entrepreneur – for instance luck plays a part, as does timing. But with a grasp of the big picture, passion, delegation, a genuine belief, an ability to spot opportunities, a candour about your weaknesses and a willingness to work on your limiting behaviours you will get a long way down the track.
To find out how Andrum Consulting can help your business become more entrepreneurial email Melissa Grafton firstname.lastname@example.org call 44 (0) 20 7100 9776 or visit www.andrum.co.uk