We may have got the T shirt but it’s still to be earned.

We don’t know what we don’t know

I always chuckle to myself when big companies that sponsor awards to start up and existing small business give, as part of the prize, mentoring or advice from a senior executive in their company. Perhaps it is no laughing matter.

Firstly, it’s arrogant to assume that starting and running a micro enterprise is so easy that someone without any experience of doing it, just because they’re a top corporate executive, can offer useful help. Start ups and micro enterprises are not boiled down versions of corporates!

Secondly, because the fledgling micro business owner doesn’t know what is good and what is bad support they could implement something that turns out to be the kiss of death to their business.

A colleague, Robert Craven, has just written a blog describing how a potential start up lost their redundancy money to unscrupulous ‘support’ providers. How were they to know that they were being conned? One of the reasons we founded the Enterprise Rockers movement is that we felt that a massive community, ‘the power of plenty’, of micro business owners could be self sufficient and we could sort out the wheat from the chaff.

It is important that we do sort out what’s good and valuable from the vultures and the ‘well intentioned but dangerous’. The right micro business to micro business support will lead to 80% of start ups surviving over 3 years with 6% becoming substantial, employing businesses. Essential enterprise skills and know how make all the difference to success. So, it is worth seeking help.

We should encourage prospective and existing business owners to continue to learn and to continue to seek support.

We never know all about enterprise

Twenty four years ago when my business partner, Clare Francis, and I were nearly two years into our business we learned something that saved us from the scrap heap. It was incredibly simple and it was learned by watching videos of our influencing, selling and presenting.

Not only was our product and service offer usually wrong we were often presenting offers without having really found out what our potential clients wanted. Frankly we were desperate to make a sale and no-one wants to buy from people as desperate as we were. We weren’t unskilled. We’d both done postgraduate business courses and we’d both been at Director level in UK subsidiaries of American multinationals. We’d been superbly trained but not on how to start and succeed in our own business.

What I learned this week-end

This week-end I was at the FSB Annual Conference in Scarborough. On top of my membership fee I paid another £100 to participate in the events during the day. My prediction is that these two days were worth thousands of pounds to me in future earnings and hundreds of hours saved of wasted effort.

The three things I learned were:

1. How to improve my use of Linked In so that I can influence someone I wish to make contact with to speak to me. I learned this from the brilliant presentation of Andy Lopata.

2. How it may be worth resetting your goals in a different way if you get stuck in a rut and are not improving your performance. I learned this from the inspirational Roger Black, former Olympic silver medallist, who got silver by focussing on running his perfect race rather than seeking to beat his competitors.

3. This third one is a bit of a cheat because I didn’t learn this at the Conference. On the Saturday lunchtime, co-founder of Enterprise Rockers, Tina Boden, and I met the supremely wise, Andy Peers. Andy is one of the foremost experts in setting up and running social enterprises. I’m certain that everything he advised Tina and I to do will mean we do get over 500,000 micro business owners in our Enterprise Rockers movement. We will make Britain a fairer and better place for micro enterprise.

So, maybe we ‘get the Enterprise T shirt’ for having started and run our own business, but we never truly have fully earned it. That’s because we must keep learning from others and seeking the right kind of support in order to survive and thrive. .

It’s motivating and good fun too. Keep learning.

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