I was recently asked to reflect on my life as a serial entrepreneur thus far…what are some of the lessons that I learned?
Upon reflection, an image of the well-known Joan of Arc came to mind. Joan of Arc, a peasant girl, believing that she was acting under divine guidance, led the French army at a tender age of 18 to victory over the English at Orléans. Captured a year later, Joan was burned at the stake as a heretic by the English and their French collaborators.
Joan of Arc, national heroine of France was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint more than 500 years later, on May 16, 1920
So why the reference to Joan of Arc?
I believe that to succeed as an entrepreneur one has to become one’s own ‘Joan of Arc’ – a warrior at business!
Winning at the game of business is similar to winning a war and fighting many small battles on a daily basis. In the process becoming your own heroine!
This journey as a serial entrepreneur and becoming my own Joan of Arc has taught me many lessons. Herewith some lessons learned:
Lesson #1 – Take council from others, but always listen to your own voice
“The person that says it can’t be done, should not interrupt the person that is doing it” – Chinese Proverb
In making important decisions, it is always wise to ask advice, to conduct some detailed research, listen to others opinions, etc. All part of a due diligence process to mitigate any potential risk and gather enough relevant information.
Yet, thinking back to my personal journey, the best decisions have always been those that served me best. Have an honest conversation with ‘self’, defining a desired future with specific outcomes and then listen to your own voice and ‘follow your heart’.
Lesson #2 – No fear, just courage
All new directions, decisions and actions lead to the unknown, unchartered territory. There is always a measure of uncertainty mixed with feelings of fear and doubt. As in battle, so in business, the only way is forward with courage.
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour.” – Elon Musk
Lesson #3 – Invest in your own skill
A warrior in battle prepares, practices and spends hours and hours honing skill and ‘sharpening their sword’.
Winning at business require skill, knowledge, understanding, training, practice, etc. In the famous words of Keith Cunningham, The Road less Stupid: “There is no such thing as a natural business owner. Successful business owners and entrepreneurs are not born with an innate set of skills that produce business excellence and success. Great business owners work hard, practice, study, test, think, correct, and practice some more” (pg. 5)
Some areas of focus are strategic planning, financial management, optimizing operational processes, effective marketing and sales, leadership and building effective teams, understanding the changing nature of business, digitization, etc.
Now, more than ever, value should be put on investing in life-long learning and personal development. Options include working with an experienced business coach, continued professional training and certification, reading, participating in mastermind groups, etc
Lesson #4 – Lead from the front
Inspirational leadership of the team and business has become not negotiable. Defining some core values of the company culture, the rules for conducting business, guideline for decision making, mandating and trusting team with ownership and accountability – all important in self-leadership and developing leadership throughout the business on all levels.
A successful business owner should be leading by example, with intense daily focus and setting the pace with a sense of urgency. It has been said that we, as business owners, ‘get the team we deserve’!
Lesson #5 – Giving up is no option – KEEP GOING!
There are countless examples of entrepreneurs failing at numerous attempts before they succeed. The story of Elon Musk failing at his attempts to launch his first rocket to space has been well documented. Others are Sir Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, etc.
Even in failure, important lessons are learned. Adversity tests resilience and all success stories in business took years and years of hard work, repeated failures, bankruptcy, starting over and repeated attempts at success.
The importance of continued movement and forward momentum is obvious. As often said, we under estimate what we can achieve over several years of diligence and over estimate what we can achieve in a short period of time.
Lesson #6 – Default answer is always ‘yes’, and then find a way to ‘make it happen’
The principle of following ‘the money’ with continued innovation applies. Designing thinking and creating new solutions to challenges and needs in the market should be an on-going focus of all successful business owners. This calls for agility and ability to respond and adapt to an ever changing world of business. No ‘one’ business or person has all the answers. Collaborating and interacting in eco systems, a sense of community and sustainable prosperity are all fundamental to Entrepreneur 5.0.
Successful businesses of the future will have to find a balance between purpose and profits, champion democracy and leads in the sharing of resources and power. The answer should therefore always be ‘yes’ because a collective ‘we’ will be able to deliver!
Lesson #7 – Make a decision, right or wrong!
Procrastination – not being able to make a decision – may result in missed opportunities. We never have all the facts; information is never 100% complete or accurate. Best is to make a decision based on all the known facts and information and then review the results. Corrective measure can always be implemented or a different course of action can be taken…again we never know for sure until we decide and proceed. We all know the saying ‘one does not have to be perfect before one start, you just have to start to be perfect’.
In closing, the famous quote of Joan of Arc:
“A warrior conquers more in one day than a coward in a life time”
If one had the courage to start a business, one has the courage to succeed at business… but one will be tested! Become your own Joan of Arc, a warrior at business!