Starting a business can be a confusing time. There's always one guru or another that has a 'golden nugget' of advice that will ensure your venture becomes successful. Some of them are right and some are, well, snake oil in a new box. The trouble is as an entrepreneur you may not always be able to see the wood for the trees.
However, I was introduced to a TV programme that reminded me of a belief I've held for many years and one that, subconsciously at least, shapes the way i approach business. And whilst watching TV isn't always advisable when starting a business, the principals at play here could prove valuable to your business.
Now, firstly, let me qualify what I'm about to say. I haven't yet seen said programme but the synopsis as explained by someone who has was enough to inspire this post. The synopsis is (and I'm paraphrasing here) that a chap is sent to a remote location with a single item of his choosing and has to survive for 30 days. However, the protagonist, an ex-SAS soldier, turns that around and dismisses surviving in favour of thriving. And using his environment and it's natural laws and parameters builds the ecosystem that will support his thriving. The programme is called Marooned with Ed Stafford.
Now this appeals to me on two levels. Firstly, I agree with Michael Gerber who, in his book The E-Myth Revisited, explains that business is simply a collection of systems that coexist and that by systemising your business ultimately makes it predictable, scalable and no longer dependant upon the people within it. Something that anyone who has been exposed to the Lion King's circle of life concept would agree is what nature teaches us.
Secondly, that by working with your environment, adapting to your surroundings and finding ways to coexist with the natural laws that are around you, you remove at least one frcition that could hold your venture back.
There are so many ques in nature about what it takes to be successful, cues that are often overlooked because they aren't obvious or written in a business success manual. But by realising that success is a natural thing (tree's strive to be the biggest they can be, Lion's tend not to wake up one morning and attempt to 'just get by today') and operating in a way that embraces natures laws we can all help our ventures to become successful and for the long term.
I recently read an article that stated there was evidence to suggest that the simple act of creating a Plan B would ultimately hinder your achievement of a Plan A (article here) and that got me thinking.
One of the traits I believe sets entrepreneurs apart is their ability to quickly make the best of a bad situation or turn a bad situation around. They analyse at thought-speed, decide instantaneously and set about the activity that will lead to the outcome they want.
So, if the article is indeed true that the simple existence of a Plan B increases the chances of Plan A failing then think like an entrepreneur and 'know' that whatever happens to Plan A, you will make the best of it. You will find the silver lining and reach your success.
Create your Plan A and then put the blinkers on, focus on the execution of that plan, review accordingly, make the necessary adjustments and get back to work on Plan A. What you'll also find is that there never is a Plan B, just a reworked Plan A, improved with the new data.
I'm not sure if you noticed but on June 23rd 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU, an organisation it was embroiled in a love-hate relationship with for the last 40 years.
Whilst the fall out from this is still to be fully understood and the timescale for change is still to be set out. One thing is certain though and that is the need for the UK's entrepreneurs to step up to the plate and create the growth an independent UK needs.
As an entrepreneur we often look on with bemusement as others seek to apportion blame as we naturally accept responsibility. Not necessarily for being in the situation we're in (we may not have had a hand in it at all) but a responsibility to get to where we want to be. It is this sense of responsibility that sets us apart and gives us the tools to get busy building the future we (and the rest of the UK) needs.
Whatever your reasons for voting the way you did, however you're feeling in the post referendum hangover and whatever the political and economic ramifications of what just happened will be, it's up to us as entrepreneurs to accept what must be accepted and set our course for the future we want. The rest of the UK will follow on in their own good time and by that time we'll have created the jobs they need.
Whether it's a New Year's resolution or a business goal, you need to ensure that you make them achievable but aspirational. If it doesn't stretch you then why bother? When I set goals I always use the following 3 point formula...
1) Decide what is is you want.
2) Establish what the cost will be.
And 3) Resolve to pay the price.
So let's explore each stage a little further.
Stage 1 - Deciding what you want. Easy isn't it? Or is it? Surely you just sit back and daydream about what you want to achieve. A new house or car, a new job or even a new you but with a few less lbs? But when I follow this process I go a little further. It's not just a new car, it's a Range Rover Evoke 2.2 diesel 5-door 2wd in black with privacy glass and black interior trim.
I could continue to detail the other options but I think you get the point. The devil's in the detail. See your objective in your minds eye, imagine yourself owning it. How does it make you feel? What would it be like living with your achievement? Your goal is likely to be a challenge and you will probably need to make sacrifices to get there so this vision of success needs to motivate you when you're at a low ebb and pull you through the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.For my goal, I'd even be cheeky enough to arrange a test drive. Having something, even for the briefest of moments and then having to give it back can be painful and could just be enough of a motivator to make you do what it takes to have it again but a little more permanently.
Stage 2 - Establishing the cost. And this isn't just the monetary cost. Keeping with my previous example, the amount of money I'll have to part with will be around £35k (or circa £450 per month on a lease) so in itself that's a significant challenge but that's not the only price I'll have to pay. There's the sacrifices I'll have to make like making do with my current car for longer than I wanted and giving up some treats like regular trips to the premium coffee shops, scaling back on holiday plans, putting in extra hours on my projects, etc. I may even need to learn some new skills in order to make my goal a reality. Make sure you think it all through here and establish all the costs. Don't shortchange your dream by ignoring costs as it'll cause an avoidable obstacle in your way. If you're goal is to start up a business but your budget does not allow for any marketing then how are you going to win new customers? If you have a small budget then scale your goals or source more funding as it's better to build a solid foundation more slowly and gradually build from there.
This stage is also a way of sorting and filtering goals. It may be that once the actual cost has been established you realise that the ultimate achievement isn't worth the cost. Maybe spending £35k on a car and forcing my family to make do with a tiny ramshackle home isn't a price worth paying and you find a new goal.
And Stage 3 - Resolving to pay the price. It does exactly what it says. This stage is the bones of the plan to achieve your goal. You've dreamed the dream in stage 1 and worked out whether the cost is worth paying for all stakeholders (family, friends, colleagues, etc) in stage 2 so now you're working out how you're going to make it happen. What you need to do and when you're going to do it. Again, realism is the key. If you have to work 40+-hours per week in your job to pay the bills, commute, have 8-hours sleep per night then you've already committed over 100 hours of your weekly budget of 168 before you factor in family, friends and relaxation time. So a plan requires that you spend another 40-60 hours per week working towards your goal isn't going to happen. Be realistic. You're body needs downtime to function properly and your family needs you to be involved and engaged with them.
I once read that the brain is the biggest consumer of glucose and has an optimum performance period of 60-90 minutes so why not factor this into your plan? Also, if the only time you have available each day is 2-hours before you go to bed then this period for brain function can be significantly reduced. Is your goal really worth risking burnout for?
Whatever goals you set yourself for the New Year and whatever system you use to set them and work out the plan remember thwhat Napolean Hill said - “The primary reason for failure is that people do not develop new plans to replace those plans that didn’t work.”
Here's to your happy and prosperous New Year.