The first thing anyone who wishes to start a business has to do is pull the pull from the back of their head and escape the Matrix. Since we were children, we have been told to sit in our seats, do as we are told, and colour inside the lines.
MY EXPERIENCE OF BUSINESS is radically different from this. Not only do you set your own rules, but usually the path you tread is one you cut fresh for yourself. The biggest business victories I had over the years involved people ardently telling me I was wrong, and then doing it anyway. You have to go the opposite direction to everyone else, but then also be correct.
Starting a business in London
I’m lucky enough to know a lot of London based entrepreneurs, actually, all of my close friends are self-employed or founder / CEOs. This gives me a fantastic opportunity to observe commonalities between entrepreneurial types. Each one of them is rebellious and sees the rules as an optional factor entirely open to being negotiated with. Despite this, they are each intensely interested in helping their community and oriented to serving others. All of the directors I know to talk of charity often and put time and money into charitable projects.
Read, discuss and listen
Every single entrepreneur I know takes personal development extremely seriously – they all read regularly, listen to podcasts and openly enjoy discussing principles of personal development. Actually, when I and my friends are together, half of what we discuss is the nuances of how to better ourselves. Every entrepreneur I know exercises regularly and intensely and keeps to a well-researched diet.
Starting a business is hard, hard, hard. In the beginning, I arrogantly thought I could get around the hard work principle – how painfully wrong I was. I believe this hard work principle is just as important in London as it is anywhere else in the world. As a business owner, you must accept that you are going to work harder and longer than everybody else. The funny thing is that most of these long, hard hours are actually fun! It’s a completely different kind of energy when you are working towards a worthy goal that you set yourself then if you are cajoled into doing a task to build someone else’s dream. Yes, you will work longer hours than everyone else, but those hours will be fun.
No boss to blame
Running your own business is an excellent antidote to complaining. At some point in every entrepreneur’s career, he realises that the activities he fills his day with are all there by his own planning. Without a boss, there is no one to blame for your failures and pain but yourself, and once you realise this, it becomes one of the most empowering insights of your life. If you’re stressed, tired, underpaid, uninspired, or unappreciated, you have the power to fix it. How good life gets becomes limited only by your imagination and capacity to master yourself.
There are two ways to climb a hierarchy – by ability or by privilege. Growing up in a relatively poor family, the privilege card was never in my hand. If I wanted to climb society, I had to leverage my ability. As a business owner, you can’t hide behind status, either you deliver or you don’t. Entrepreneurialism encourages people to develop their ability. This is a magnificent blessing for the individual and for society.
When people start a new business, I notice they put almost all their energy into the fantastic product they want to offer. After spending a decade as an entrepreneur, I realise that most of the success of a business comes down to things like marketing, recruitment, management and IT. Yes, making a fantastic product is important, but it’s actually far less important than an understanding of how to sell it. In a way, this is sad, because the system we are in selects for marketing ability more than it does the integrity of the product.
You can make money doing just about anything. You are most likely to succeed in doing something you believe in and enjoy, and you will enjoy doing something you like. Making money is just one metric of success for the business. You could argue spending your days on something you believe in is much more valuable. Therefore, you must start a business you are passionate about. It’s imperative.
All the tools for success are available
One hundred years ago, most knowledge was locked behind universities, guilds and societies. Today, virtually anything worth knowing can be accessed online at light speed. If you want to learn any aspect of the business, all you require is an internet connection and some grit, and you can learn it fast. Even better, most of the entrepreneurial superstars have days and weeks of videos, podcasts, interviews and blogs where they painstakingly articulate to you the nuances of succeeding in this game. It has never been easier to learn the business, particularly in a developed city like London.
People think starting a business is risky, or riskier than having a job anyway. I disagree. As an employed person, you can get fired or laid off at a flickering whim of your boss or the economy. When you run a business, you can never be fired, and you have the freedom to adapt to the changing winds of the market. Your skill becomes your job security.
Featured image by Adam Duke Photography.