Management and the Start Up

I work with businesses and organisations at all stages of the life-cycle. Pre-starts, start-ups and mature businesses. I often see management DNA develop in the start-up phase and it is seldom a pretty site. Habits and relationships are set early and become very difficult to shake off. This is largely because of the mindset of the original founder of the business: This is their baby; They know how they want it to develop; They have exacting standards. Consequently their management style can be brusque, directive, bruising and ultimately damaging to the long term growth of the business. Ideally I get to work with a business pre-start and ensure that the entrepreneurs builds their management team BEFORE the business plan is developed. This way all members of the team can own the plan and a more open and collaborative management DNA can be established from the start. However this is pretty rare. More usually I am working with an owner manager who has already established a pretty controlling management style. Helping them to see a different way of running the business is tough enough. Coaching them to make it happen is even tougher. Often it takes a real shock to the business and the entrepreneur … [Read more...]

New Enterprise Allowance or New Enterprise Alliance?

Another government, another push for another 10 000 small businesses to be created from the ranks of the long term unemployed. To me it seems similar to what we already have under the Flexible New Deal, unless I am missing something: it may be a tad better resourced.  But, I am encouraged that Iain Duncan Smith appears to have a real commitment to social justice, at least, he chairs the cabinet committee on it.   Let's hope that his commitment to social justice rather than newspaper headlines really shapes this New Enterprise Allowance. So what are the chances of success for the New Enterprise Allowance, and what might be the pitfalls? To begin with, although I am a big fan of mentoring, I am not convinced that it is the best way to support people with transitions from unemployment to self employment.  The best mentors (as opposed to coaches) have 'been there, done that, seen the film and got the t-shirt'.  They can offer sage advice and guidance based on practical experience (usually gained over many years in a specific and relevant industry, and importantly should be chosen by the mentee and not assigned to them by a service provider); Mentors should know what it takes and be available to put in the time and … [Read more...]

Dumb Strategy and State Funding

I am hearing a lot at the moment from people and organisations that face a scary future because at some point in the past they chose (consciously or not) to develop a business model dependent to a very great extent, in some cases entirely, on public funding. And right now that looks like a dumb strategy, because the development of mission, the pursuit of purpose, is regulated by a bureaucracy that makes political decisions about what to fund and when.  It decides how success will be measured.  In essence they are in control. They hold the strategic reigns. … [Read more...]

10 Reasons Why You Should Never Start a Business…

I have just been reading Steve Pavlina's post on 10 Reasons Why You Should Never Get a Job.  Although written with, in my opinion, an offensive and patronising tone (people with jobs are morons, bosses are idiots etc) it does raise some interesting points.  Including the one about 'getting paid while you sleep' rather than while you work.  Seductive stuff! But like so much of the self help and entrepreneurship industry it lacks balance and feels manipulative. So, in the interest of balance, here are 10 reasons why you should never start a business. 1  It may lead to debt and misery The stats on business success are not that pretty.  For everyone like Steve that earns $40 000 a month from their website there are hundreds if not thousands who are trapped in a business that does not make enough money.  They work long hours for little or no money.  You talk to a Venture Capitalist and most of them will tell you the same.  For every 20 businesses or so they invest in the majority never make a return on the investment.  A few will just about break even on the investment.  And, if they are lucky, perhaps one or two will make some serious money.  Serious enough to cover the failed investments in those other businesses.  So … [Read more...]

Crib Sheet for The Entrepreneur’s Workshop

A Crib Sheet Workshops are fascinating and dangerous places. In the right hands they can produce things of great beauty and real lasting value.  In the wrong hands they can do great damage and wreck lives. The entrepreneur’s workshop is no different. True enough; the tools in the entrepreneur’s workshop have no sharp edges, burning fires or high speed drills. The entrepreneur’s tools are a set of ideas, principles, practices and habits that, applied with care and passion, can produce a wonderful lifestyle.  Learn to use these tools properly and they will serve you well. Misuse them and the consequences are likely to include debt, damaged relationships and misery. 10 of the most powerful tools in The Entrepreneur’s Workshop: The Truth Detector – How to decide what might work for you Want to or Have to...? The Double Edged Sword Getting Organised – doing what has to be done, and doing it well Entrepreneur Artisan or Artist? Have, Do, Become... Build a Team OR Do it All – the choice is yours The ‘investment ready’ Business Plan Situational Enterprise – the importance of technique and motivation Towards the Total Quality Enterprise – a tool to decide ‘What’s next?’ For more information contact Mike on 07788 … [Read more...]

The Entrepreneur’s Workshop – A Seminar for Entrepreneurs and Their Advisers

Workshops are fascinating and dangerous places. In the right hands they can produce things of great beauty and real lasting value.  In the wrong hands they can do great damage and wreck lives. The Entrepreneur's Workshop is no different. True enough; the tools have no sharp edges, burning furnaces or high-speed drills.  They are a set of ideas, principles, practices and habits that, applied with care and passion, can produce a wonderful lifestyle.  Learn to use these tools properly and they will serve you well.  Misuse them and the consequences are likely to include debt, damaged relationships and misery. This 2 hour session introduces 10 of the most powerful tools that the entrepreneur can use to build a business with real lasting value: The Truth Detector – How to decide what might work for you 'Want to' or 'Have to...'? The Double Edged Sword Getting Organised – doing what has to be done, and doing it well Entrepreneur or Artisan? Have, Do, Become... Build a Team OR Do it All – the choice is yours Writing the ‘investment ready’ Business Plan Situational Enterprise – technique and motivation Towards the Total Quality Enterprise – a tool to decide ‘What’s next?’ The Entrepreneur's Workshop is fast paced, … [Read more...]

Entrepreneurship or Rockin’ Da Vote?

There are a number of competitions out there designed to 'promote enterprise'.   In some of them the key arbiter of success is the ability of the would be entrepreneur to turn out a vote.  Whether it is about getting your pals to turn up at a dinner and vote (old skool) or winning support on the web as in Barclay's One Small Step Competition this is a puzzling phenomenon. Prizes are awarded in part on the 'quality' of your business idea, as established by judges, and on the number of people who you can persuade to 'click or tick'.  Kind of Dragon's Den meets Britain's Got Talent.  A popularity contest with business plans. I would rather see bankers, and others with cash to spare, investing in businesses rather than giving prizes through competitions.  Competitions identify winners and losers. We should be identifying 'investment ready' and 'not yet investment ready' if we are really interested in supporting entrepreneurs.  And what happens if the winner is not yet investment ready?  Or they require investment at a different time or level to the prize?  What if it is not cash that they need? Competitions work well for the publicists and the marketeers.  But I am not sure who else they really serve.  Let's put our time … [Read more...]

Master Class for Creative Entrepreneurs

Last night I found myself in the very wonderful boardroom at Broadcasting Place in Leeds running a masterclass for students on the MA in Creative Enterprise at Leeds Met. In essence I told them not to worry about being too focussed (See Norman Perrin's excellent post on Obliquity).  I introduced them to the 'baited hook' strategy, where you cast out lots of juicy baits and see which ones get a bite.  This seems perfect for 'creatives' who on the evidence of last night seem incapable of not innovating.  They always have new ideas, skills and visions to bring to market.  My advice....don't fight it just find a way to get product to market quickly, and if the bites don't come, then fail cheaply and quickly.  We explored this against a backdrop of '10 000 hours theory' that suggests you never have a really tasty bait until you have served your time and really mastered a craft!  You pay your money and you take your chance.... I also did some stuff with them on the importance of building balanced management teams with people who can look after great product, great marketing and sales and wonderful financial management.  A quick dissection of a few businesses in the room showed them to be packed full of creatives - … [Read more...]

Entrepreneur – Or Entrepreneurial Seizure?

More often than not 'entrepreneur' is used to describe both a passing phase of 'start up' and a lasting role of 'business management and development'.    The two roles overlap to some degree but demand different dispositions and skills. In the start up phase the entrepreneur is frequently working alone developing a personal vision and finding ways to make it work, in theory.  They are finding investors and developing plans.  They are researching and shaping their still very malleable ideas until finally they have something on paper that 'works'.  They talk with advisers and potential customers.  But the business is just an idea.  It is not yet a demanding child; a long term commitment. Sooner rather than later the infant business develops different needs; sales, management (especially financial management) and systems.  The emphasis shifts from the energy and drive of start up to a different vibe of business development.  Energy and drive are still required but so too is discipline and routine.  The business is no longer on paper where numbers can be changed at the stroke of a key.  It is now a real thing where to 'change a number' takes real work and often hard cash.  And the business is there, demanding, all day and … [Read more...]

A Secret that Few Business Planners Know…

“It was not reason that besieged Troy; it was not reason that sent forth the Saracen from the desert to conquer the world; that inspired the crusades; that instituted the monastic orders; it was not reason that produced the Jesuits; above all, it was not reason that created the French Revolution. Man is only great when he acts from the passions; never irresistible but when he appeals to the imagination.” Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister and Novelist, 1804-1881 Nor is it reason, logic and a good business plan that helps a business succeed. So spend less time developing the business plan and more time developing the vision, passion and skills. It's passion, energy, commitment and often a lot of luck that makes a business thrive. With thanks to Andy Maslen for the quote! … [Read more...]

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