My name is Martin and I am an Entrepreneur. It’s been one year since I last started a company.
The anniversary of a new job is always something to celebrate, but for the entrepreneur, the focus is usually on the company rather than the individual anniversary. After all, with 20 % of UK businesses failing before their first anniversary (and a further 50% within the first three years), it’s something of a battle scar to chalk up that tricky first year and get ready to tackle the second.
For me, the anniversary note in my calendar was a prompt to review the year just past and think on the year ahead, and whilst I won’t bore you with all of those details here, it also did cause me to reflect on what makes Entrepreneurs – people like me – do what we do? I first founded a company nearly twenty years ago, and after growing that to a successful acquisition and a very interesting journey into larger companies and various opportunities, I opted – a year ago – to come back and start again in a different industry, with a different business model.
Many of my friends, when I started out first time, asked: “Why do you do it?” with comments like: “it must be great to be your own boss” rather outweighed by comments like “what’s it like being responsible for the livelihood of an entire team?”. This time around, I think going back to startup land has raised even more questions: “really? leaving the security of a big company to start up again from scratch”, just about sums it up!
It’s made me realise that for many of us Entrepreneurs, and certainly for me – being an Entrepreneur isn’t something that I do, it’s something that I am, and as I reflect on the last year, it really comes down to three ways that Entrepreneurs see the world differently from other folks.
Change is the norm.
Let’s take change to start with. A few years back when I had only very limited experience working within large companies, I was very surprised when people said “oh it must be great working in a small team, it’s so easy to change things to adapt the business and make it better” I never had an answer for that because whilst I could see that instinctively change should be easier, for small business – I never felt that I was able to make the small business I worked in respond particularly quickly. Having spent a few years on the other side of the corporate fence, I can now see this from both perspectives, and whilst it is indeed easier to deliver change within a small team, it’s not much easier to change a small business because whilst we think of organisations as being resistant to change, it’s actually people who are resistant to change – we’re comfortable doing the thing we did yesterday – having the same breakfast cereal and sitting in the same chair – and every business has to address that no matter its scale. The difference between large and small businesses, however, is that small businesses must change, and do so more quickly in order to survive and thrive. I started a business because I could see a better way that organisations could use the web to communicate and I wanted to change things, and that same drive is still here today – entrepreneurs not only see the world and need to change it, but successful entrepreneurs drive change all day, every day within their own organisations.
Risk is in the eye of the beholder.
I’ve always been interested in the idea of risk. I mentioned above that people had asked why I’d left the “security” of a bigger company. As an entrepreneur I’m not a thrill-seeking risk taker, I just don’t see the size of the company that I work for as the determining factor in whether it’s a secure position. I’d rather be in a small business that I know is going in the right direction and changing in the right ways, than a big one that’s doing what it did last year or the year before but could leave my career stagnating with an outdated skill set and a struggle to find a great new role when a “restructuring” leaves me a casualty. Entrepreneurs see risk differently from other folks and are comfortable doing the right thing even when it seems risky to others. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who get it right!
Opportunities to be taken.
Sometimes as an entrepreneur it comes down to whether you’re prepared to make a gut decision – one that’s not easily traceable from a logical sequence – that doesn’t fit the usual way things are done. For me, the move out of my previous life and back into the world of a small business wasn’t about 10 point career plan, it was about an opportunity to move to a new industry, gain a new skill set, work with interesting people across the world, and build something really remarkable. Opportunities like that are never “given” to you, they occur. Entrepreneurs recognise opportunities for what they are. Successful Entrepreneurs take opportunities with both hands, and apart for perhaps a brief review of the year, don’t look back.