When the going gets tough
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going". So says the old adage and so it has proven to be since the onset of the recession, which has prompted an ever increasing number of courageous, determined and often visionary individuals to pick up the baton of entrepreneurship and start their own businesses. Whether through frustration, necessity or desire, the record number of start-ups in the UK has created what can only be described as an entrepreneurial revolution.
Everyone loves an entrepreneur, and there has never been more support available for people who want to start their own business. There are publications, events, networks and clubs. There are business angels, incubators and accelerators. There is social media to spread the message and crowd sourcing to help find customers and funds. Almost anything an entrepreneur needs to know can be accessed at the click of a link, anytime and anywhere. Even the Government is joining the party, recognising the opportunity and offering increased incentives to early stage and growing enterprises through entrepreneur friendly policies and tax breaks.
The term 'entrepreneur' is widely used, but what does it mean to be an entrepreneur, and how can you establish if you are one? Entrepreneurs typically have a number of distinctive traits which set them apart. These are often based on a reluctance to accept the status quo, and the need to do something to change it. Being restless, ambitious and enthusiastic is a great starting point, with determination and stamina following close behind.
Over the last few years, the National Business Awards have chosen a number of these leaders as their 'Entrepreneur of the Year'. So what was it that made them stand out?
David Spencer-Percival, Spencer Ogden (winner 2013)
"With his infectious energy and passion, David Spencer-Percival has built a fast-growth, game-changing company while nurturing talent and giving back."
Definition: Showing or involving great activity or vitality
You need high energy levels to maintain the momentum you need for your business to succeed. Long hours, even longer weeks, and a skewed work-life balance are involved at the foundation of any business. Although this may ease over time, you will need to maintain your enthusiasm to energise and inspire your team.
Colin Stevens, Better Bathrooms (winner 2012)
"Fizzing with ideas, counter-intuitive and disruptive, Colin proves that entrepreneurship is something you're born with. Having started with nothing, Colin has achieved success through resourcefulness and brains – and stands out as a role model for entrepreneurs."
Definition: Relating to or prompted by instinct; done without conscious thought; doing or being a specified thing apparently naturally or automatically
As Richard Branson says "I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics." Acting instinctively and trusting your gut is the way of a disruptive entrepreneur, who can identify a new business or market opportunity and know that it is the right move, without disappearing under a pile of market reports and analytics. But, then again, you might want to read those too!
Paul Lindley, Ella's Kitchen (winner 2011)
"Like me, everyone at Ella's Kitchen is ethically and passionately driven and commercially directed - I believe this approach has driven our success."
Definition: Having, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs
A lot of people have good ideas, but passion is what spurs and sustains an entrepreneur. Passion drives innovation, sustains energy, creates purpose and unifies the team. The story goes that when Bill Clinton, the ex-US president, visited the supremely clean space facility at NASA, he bumped into a man with a broom. When asked what his role was at NASA, the man told Clinton, "I take people to the moon."
Nick Ogden, Voice Commerce (winner 2010)
"Adapting voice signature technology to authorise payments over mobile phone, Nick has created a business model and technology with the potential to become even more widespread in the markets in which it operates."
Definition: Innovative or groundbreaking
Great leaders envision the real and the ideal side by side. Bill Gates (Microsoft) had a vision for a computer on every desk, whilst Jeff Bezos (Amazon) imagined a store without walls. Boeing's Bill Allen dreamt of a jet-powered passenger aircraft and Henry Ford built a car for the masses. As Henry Ford famously pointed out, if he had just asked what people wanted, they would have said a faster horse!
With this year's National Business Awards process now in full swing, I look forward to seeing the particular traits and talents that will determine the Smith & Williamson Entrepreneur of the Year for 2014.
Good luck to all entrants!