Things I have Learnt in 15 Years of Running a Business
Nichole Culverwell Chart. PR, MCIPR
Director, Black Vanilla
Creating and running a business isn’t for the fainthearted and it’s gratifying that events like Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrate the people who have the passion and drive to bring an idea to life, set up a business, support the local economy and create jobs.
In the 15 years that I have owned and run businesses, I’ve come to understand that there are some very specific personal qualities that entrepreneurs need for success.
This summary is by no means definitive and comes from my personal experience rather than formal research or an in-depth study, but I’m confident that many of these points will resonate with my fellow entrepreneurs.
Drive – you need to believe that hard work will deliver results. You need to be continuously motivated to achieve your goal. In short, you need to really want to have a business, rather than a job – there is a big difference between the two, and the former requires relentless, Duracell bunny levels of energy and enthusiasm.
Belief – you need to believe that you have something to offer the world, that you have a great idea and faith in your abilities (but not too much – see ego). After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, how will you persuade others to follow you, invest in you or buy what you want to sell?
Purpose – a sense that there is more to your business than profits. Of course, making money might be the only thing that gets you up in the morning, but I think that when the going gets tough, you need a little more raison d’être.
Ego – yes, a little ego goes a long way to give you the confidence you need to be an entrepreneur, but balance is everything. Too much self-belief can make you deaf to the advice and different opinions that you inevitably need to hear.
Self-awareness – this is critical. You need to know yourself, be clear about your qualities and skills and searingly honest about your weaknesses. No one is good at everything. Know what you are good at and surround yourself with people who excel in the things you don’t. I started my first PR agency in London because I had the industry expertise and experience to do so, but I quickly realised I knew nothing about many aspects of running a business. Being honest with myself about those weaknesses meant I could take steps to resolve the challenges I faced.
Collaboration – when people and organisations with different skills come together to share ideas and expertise, great things happen. Work with people you admire and respect, and remember, it is only by sharing your own time and skills that others will return the favour.
Resilience – you need to be able to pick yourself up when you are down, see setbacks as something to learn from, bounce back and generally take the attitude of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
Creativity – entrepreneurs are often people with ideas, but it’s the ability to solve problems that will take an idea on paper to being a living and breathing enterprise. Most business people are problem solvers, but business owners often need to think laterally to find solutions, and never more so than in a small island like Guernsey.
Equanimity – accept success with a pinch of salt, because there will be challenges and setbacks around the corner. Know that failure and mistakes don’t mean the end, they just mean you need to pivot. Stay calm and level-headed.
Keep learning – be responsible for your ongoing professional development. I have found continuing my professional education incredibly satisfying. It makes us better professionals, it improves business skills and if we are not learning, we are in danger of stagnating and becoming irrelevant.
If you are starting a business and would like some marketing advice, please get in touch.