How do you know ?

That is the question that has been playing in my head for the last couple of days.

It was my friend Jason who triggered it. I was spending my usual two days a week at the Idea Engineering Agency office in East London and having a chat with Jason - a very successful 30-something entrepreneur.

Jason was saying,“I am ready to pivot and create a new company”.

’How long ago did you start your current company?’’ I asked, casually.

‘Eleven years ago’’, he replied, without flinching.

I paused.‘’Hold on a second, you started when you were… er… 23?’’

And off I went down memory lane…

At 23… I was just finishing my business degree. I was making my first approach to Arthur Andersen with a view to taking my first step on the corporate ladder. I was far, far from thinking about setting up my own business!

Jason and I have pretty similar backgrounds and personalities, so I started pondering on the following question:

Is entrepreneurship natured or nurtured?

Do some of us have a more natural ability to be entrepreneurial? And if the answer is yes … and in my mind it is a resounding yes…  why is that?Without being too afraid of generalization… let’s look at some possible answers…

Is it because entrepreneurs are inherently more creative?

I would think not. Every corporation will have business development or strategy departments to serve this purpose: to unleash creativity; foster different thinking; promote problem solving in their people. You could challenge whether these actually serve their purpose…but that is for another discussion.

Is it because they are more comfortable with risk taking and more willing to assume the consequences of their actions?

Not exactly. Accountability, delivery and performance are the cornerstones of any Fortune 500 Company culture. Trust me, I have tested quite a lot of them. My last boss, a feisty and incredibly talented 50-something Dutchman had quite a neat way to call on your accountability. ‘’What if it was your bicycle shop? What would you do?”, we would often hear him say.

So what is the answer? Let’s take this one step further…

Is it actually because they are free spirits? Or…

Is it because they aren’t as desperate to conform as anybody else… because they are ‘’different’’?

Or even… (begging their forgiveness…)

Is it because, ultimately, they are control freaks?

Perhaps you have already guessed my answer…

Yes, to all of the above!

I have been around entrepreneurs my entire professional life, watching them with a certain degree of envy at times and with a touch of disdain at others. From my very successful friend, a Luxembourg-based venture capitalist who recently bought Renault F1, to the Russian partners I did business with last year, the entrepreneurs I have known see the world in a different way. They see opportunities, they see what they want to see and they see what they want to achieve. The force of their intent is impressive and above all they need flexibility and a life on their terms.

So how do you know? Or better said what do you think defines an entrepreneur in three main words ?

Start with a little bit of introspection, follows with a little bit of observation, and  then let me know.

published in The Independent- May 2011

  


Tags: Natured vs Nurtured? Entrepreneurs

Super Marmite !

Sell your leftovers to others for dinner? What an eccentric idea ?

Not so much !

This is the winning concept of Super Marmite! (Marmite is the French word for Cooking pot) a French Start-up.

It is aiming at creating the first location based social network for discovering food in your area.

If you ask me…

This is a brilliant alternative to ready made meals for busy city dwellers, or a great test for Gordon Ramsay’ wannabe abilities! If you are not prone to  germaphobia of course.

If one’s can create a business while thinking about… leftovers… we are all entrepreneurs  or better said innovators in the making !

What is innovation after all ?

The ability to bring something new to the world. Contrary to what people could think, it does not have to be complicated, complex or out of the blue.

The best ideas are actually coming from a rather simple recipe

Observation,

Observation,

and  guess what .. Observation !

So get busy now.

Get in tune with you daily environment to identify trends, pain points, problems

Put your thinking hat on to create the simplest solution to the identified problem. Do not over-engineer anything, keep it simple and pragmatic.

Use your research skills to identify competition, define your competitive advantage and assess your chances of financial success….

Everything counts after all…  even the leftovers !

  


Tags: Innovation

The Brick Wall

  

It just happened, though I have been expecting it for the last 3 months.

Really, I have been dreading this moment from the start of my new life.

From the day I left behind the security of a corner office and a regular paycheck to embark on the entrepreneurship adventure, it has been looming.

When will I feel overwhelmed by doubts and fears?

When will I start to question my very own choice?

When will I hit… the first brick wall?

It happened yesterday. It was triggered by something as insignificant as someone postponing a meeting by a week.  It dropped me into a whirlpool of anxiety and exhaustion, almost triggering this compelling urge to pick up the phone to one of my beloved headhunters and literally beg for the safe haven of a ludicrous corporate role.

I had to fight hard against it.

What did I do?

I went to the office of one of the companies I am advising on.

I needed to feel part of something, to reconnect with the buzz of activities, idea sharing and brainstorming meetings that rule the start-up world, and stop the obsessive negative thinking.

I craved a sense of belonging and a sense of community. I needed to feel I was not alone in fighting to make things happen, to create change and value.

What did I learn about myself yesterday?

A lot, actually!

I realized that breaking your mental patterns is much more difficult than one expects. I have learnt that the path to entrepreneurship is a chaotic one, and that one needs both a tremendous level of energy to endlessly plant seeds and the maturity to give them time to grow in their own time, paired with an indefatigable self-confidence in one’s own ability to succeed and reach one’s goals, regardless of the pressure that builds up at time.

I have also learned that, thankfully, this is a very normal stage in the journey.

Every aspiring entrepreneur will go through the same turmoil, the rapid succession of highs and lows.

How do you manage then? What should you do to get out of the dip as quickly as possible and refocus on the tasks at hands?

A couple of tips for you:

Firstly, make sure you have a great support system to share and experience with. A mix of entrepreneurs, friends and family that will soothe your self-doubt and help you recalibrate your perspective.

Secondly, as Simon–Founder of Wazoku nicely advised be, make sure you celebrate every success, from the smallest ones– like signing off your first ten members and buying cupcakes – to the biggest ones – raising the £2.5 million needed to take your business to the next level and celebrating at Kensington Roof gardens.

Finally, make sure you keep yourself honest. Remember why you have chosen this life, how the benefits, whatever they may be –freedom, flexibility, purpose – still immensely outweigh the financial security, certainty and routine.

Remember and hold on, because success is always at the end of the road, and please, be gentle with yourself.

It was a great day yesterday.


Tags: Change