I am surprised. We have just finished the Q+A session at the Hospital Club and a warm glow of smiles and laughter fills the room.
I am surprised because the session has been about business and entrepreneurship, subjects that really do not carry much levity, or so I thought.
Our panel spanned the spectrum of entrepreneurship. On the face of it, the panel were unremarkable; the internet whizz turned business veteran, a corporate finance expert who raised funds for creative businesses, a former CFO turned consultant, a property agent with a growing portfolio and a social entrepreneur working in the community. What was remarkable was their very humanity and how this common thread ran through all of them. This was an exercise in inclusivity and support.
The themes that the panel shared were;
- Values – When starting a business, work out what comes from your heart, what you believe in, what it is that you want people to get from your business. There is no such thing as an identikit entrepreneur, there is no template. What is more important is the mind-set, so what is special about me?
- Advice – Learn to listen, but also ask many questions. When seeking advisers, interview them and find out if they fit your values as well as what you want. Personal recommendation is the best way of finding the financial and legal support needed. A semi structured interview and work sample is best practice. It’s not unlike dating. Trust your gut; if someone feels creepy, they probably are. More generally, start with your idea and ask friends and family what they think, develop paper prototypes, and don’t be afraid to ask them to buy.
- In practice – If something works, go with it. If not, either identify what you can change or move on. Cash flow is the life blood of a business. A profit and loss forecast is not a business plan, it has to involve you in the plan and it usually evolves at least every 3 months. Talk to your customers; they can do a lot of the innovation for you. Create your own time and structure to get the most out of your day, ‘Golden Time’ for sales, quieter time for administration.
It seems to me that a balancing act of three shifting perspectives is a common theme, be passionate and feel from you heart, take the best external advice you can and LISTEN a lot, and to be objective when something is not working, change it quickly and move on.
A great time, with many great people. Let’s do it again sometime.