Earlier this year I was asked to contribute to a book entitled ‘Entrepreneurship: A Practical Guide’ (www.entrepreneurship-book.net) by Alison and David Price. The book is available from Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk). The interview with Alison, who is a Chartered Psychologist and a semi-finalist in ‘Britain’s Next Top Coach’, really made me think about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur and run a successful business.
Looking at all the fantastic women who run businesses, who look terrific and have enviable lives, it is easy to think that they have it all. I can testify that this is not the case; it involves very long hours, very high maintenance, and steely determination that gets them to the top. Basically, it is an endless series of tragedies, obscured by the occasional miracle, which keeps you trying to break the glass ceiling. My heroine has to be Arianna Huffington, who founded the first online newspaper after running against Arnold Schwarzenegger and losing her fight to be Governor of California. Most people would have just given up, but not Arianna; she dusted herself down and then formed the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.co.uk), selling it to AOL for £200 million. She displayed a steely determination to succeed and have it all.
Arianna realised that working herself into the ground and depriving herself of sleep to achieve her goals was the fast track to ill health. Through The Third Metric (www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/news/third-metric), which gets millions of hits each month, Arianna is now campaigning for reducing the 24/7 culture for both men and women, and to prioritise time to sleep. I agree with Arianna – the current model of success measured by long hours and driving yourself into the ground is not a recipe for long-term success or quality of life. This fact Alison managed to drag out of me during the interview. On page 206 of the book, I admit that achievement is not without its sacrifice: “Numerous early starts and late nights, losing precious time with friends and family, and missing out on the real pleasures in life…” is now in black and white and on Amazon!
Every cloud has a silver lining and, by reading the book, you can avoid making some of the classic mistakes often made as an entrepreneur. In my opinion, one of the most important things is to think of yourself as a brand and to guard your own personal brand. Be everything you expect from a ‘top brand’: dress like it, act like it, and think of your brand as something people will buy. As Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.
To be a great entrepreneur, you have to be a player. You have to leave the safe four walls of the office and get out there and network. E-mail is a fabulous tool but – meeting people, sharing ideas, remembering their names, and keeping in touch with them on a regular basis are the basic ingredients for building a business. If people don’t know you, they can’t buy from you.
Never over-promise and never under-achieve. Hire good people who have different skills to you and perhaps love the idea of working for an entrepreneur but don’t want to be one themselves. Most of all, just like Arianna, love what you are doing; this is what leads to career success.
Take out a subscription to the Huffington Post and read Alison and David Price’s book, which is no more than the price of a couple of cups of coffee, for a whole load of good advice.