Would you pay to attend an event and hear what successful entrepreneurs say helped them get where they are? Like many others, I would, because as an ambitious business owner, I don’t believe that you should ever stop learning.
I was privileged to be able to get just that insight at a recent complementary event, and what I heard is more than worthy of sharing. It was hosted by Sally Roberts on behalf of the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce and featured a panel conversation with seven successful entrepreneurs from the area who have built brands such as Slingsby Gin and H2K Cosmetics of Harrogate.
Sally posed questions around how they had got to where they were, and the key to their success. Five key themes stood out as the foundations of their success that resonated with me. I’m sharing them with you here as they very much chime with my own approach to business:
1. Be nice to your team and don’t become an arsehole
For me this is about leadership and modelling what you want to see in your team. Being nice doesn’t cost anything, and it will make people more likely to want to do their best work for you. There’s also that salient quote about being nice to the people you meet on the way up, because they are the same ones you’ll meet on the way down! As the saying goes, people don’t leave a bad company, they leave a bad boss.
2. Adapt quickly
Quite frankly, in business shit will happen. That’s life and when it does you have two options. One story told was of a threat from a large competitor that had the potential to crush their business. The only way to deal with it was to reassess their strengths and how they could compete rather than accept defeat. When the worst happens you can either roll over and let it beat you, or you can stand up straight and figure out how you’re going to meet it head on.
3. Surround yourself with the right people
This has a broad context – from getting your team, suppliers and cheerleaders right, to making sure your home support network is also on side. It took me a while to realise that you are never going to achieve the results you want if you have naysayers in your circle of influence – there is always a way forward; those around you need to help you find it and provide unwavering support.
Your team needs to be brighter, smarter and better than you at the things they deliver. Recruiting for attitude first and skills second will help ensure your people are value-aligned, so will naturally strive to help you succeed.
4. Don’t get complacent
Clients move on, your team will look for new challenges. In business things just don’t stand still and you have to expect and anticipate that nothing stays the same. Would losing one major client sink your business? Do you have a key member of your team with all of the knowledge in their heads? These are both huge risks, but they are manageable if you admit them to yourself and plan to be able to mitigate them.
To reduce the risk of clients leaving, strive to turn them into advocates. The best example of this I’ve ever heard was a story told by the marketing director of Green & Blacks about the launch of their first Easter eggs. Due to the choices they had made about packaging many were ending up broken by the time they were on the shelves. Their biggest advocates went out and bought the broken ones so that potential new customers only saw the whole ones. What are you doing to make sure that your customers would put themselves out for your business?
5. Listen and learn all the time
Customers and staff will tell you what you need to know but you’ll only be able to do something with that information if you’re truly listening. Often the gold dust is there if you care to actively listen rather than simply waiting for your turn to speak. It’s easy to tune out of this available feedback because you haven’t got time or you think you know it all, but there will be a day when it goes wrong. You’d be missing the kind of insight that could create new products or services, or help you adapt your existing ones to meet the market’s needs, and if that happens, your business will eventually be dead in the water.
Whether you’re learning about trends in your industry, reading business books, doing traditional personal development or working with a coach/ business mentor, continuous learning will be critical to your entrepreneurial journey to help you stay one step ahead.
There was plenty more food for thought during the evening. Sally also asked the panel what nearly stopped them from having such success, and I’ll share some thoughts on that in a future post.
The full panel included:
- Neil Richards-Smith, of NCI Vehicle Rescue
- Marcus Black, Spirit of Harrogate and InterContinental Brands
- Hazel Barry, H2K Cosmetics of Harrogate
- Jaqui Hall, CNG Ltd
- Neil Addley, JudgeService Research
- Peter Bates, Ellis Bates Financial Advisers
- Scott Mackintosh, Think Methodology
Thank you Sally for the invite and for being a wonderful facilitator.
- Six lessons in avoiding failure from successful Harrogate entrepreneurs
- Why lead with purpose
- Why small habits mean big results
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