Paying It Forward

Sometimes when you come across random good advice the best thing you can do is pay it forward. So that’s what I’m doing.

Mind you it comes from a man called Siimon Reynolds. And yes that is how he spells his name. I am always a bit dubious about men who spell their name in that completely fake manner. But his advice looks like the real deal.

Australia, and in all probability pretty much everywhere else in the world, is gripped by start up company fever. There are companies that accelerate, incubate, mentor and educate. Young entrepreneurs are being given the opportunity to win coaching sessions and seed money for their next big, bright business idea.

Enter Siimon Reynolds, advertising guru. Well he would be with a name like that. He offers advice that can be divided up along the following lines:

  1. Fake it until you make it. Reynolds says one of the most common mistakes made by business people is to focus on building a business without building a strong self-image. You won’t get anywhere with just a vision of what your company is going to look like you need to be able to see yourself as a great future entrepreneur. You can’t build a company without building you, so fake it until you make it. In other words choose a future version of yourself and then behave as if you already have those qualities.
  2. Forget about the furniture. The most common mistake made by new business owners is they don’t spend enough time marketing their business and the best way to attract customers. Reynolds says a start up needs to spend 70 percent of its time trying to get customers, instead of choosing office furniture or getting the website up and running. According to a study by research company, Dunn & Bradstreet, the main reason why businesses fail across most industries in because of low sales. In other words if you don’t spend most of your time working on ways to generate sales you are going to fail.
  3. Online start-ups rarely get it right. Too many businesses focus on their platform instead of their brand. Start with your brand and work backwards. What is your proposition? point of difference? How can you compete? Here’s an example of getting it right. A fashion retailer partners with a shopping center to offer a click and collect service.
  4. Learn to fail forwards. The risk of doing nothing is always greater than the risk of doing something. Reynolds says the cost of failure now is much lower than it was in the past so literally there is no excuse not to have a go. But that’s doesn’t mean taking a cowboy attitude, a second mortgage or betting the farm. Reynolds says every journey leads somewhere. It might not necessarily be where you want to go at the time but success is rarely a straight line either. Failure is part of that journey. Apparently in Silicon Valley they call it failing forwards. The way to get into the game is to get into the game. Some of the great businesses in the 21st century, like Facebook, Google or Twitter are a long, long, long way from where they started out.
  5. Focus on doing one thing well. Another big barrier for startups is a lack of focus. They start a business with 20 products or try to have multiple businesses at once. They look at people like Richard Branson running 400 companies but they don’t realize Branson had just one company for a decade. Reynolds says the successful entrepreneur is not necessarily the one who chases the shiny object or the shiny market. You have to ask yourself this question. If I were to pick one thing and become the best in the world at it, what would it be?
  6. Throw out the Schoolbook. In order to be a successful entrepreneur you need to throw away everything you’ve learned in traditional education. University degrees don’t build successful businesses. The rules of the game have changed. The rule is there are no rules for how to start a successful business. An MBA prepares you to think in an entrepreneurial way but it won’t prepare you for starting your own business. It won’t ever show you how to market a product with no money. The world is changing fast. You’ve got to change with it and adapt.

So there you go. My gratuitous advice for the day but it carries this disclaimer. I have not personally followed any of these tips or suggestions yet. But if you have or do and it worked let me know. With all the doom and gloom in the world it would be nice to hear about something good.

 

 

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