For the last couple of years I have been a member of a fantastic Scottish entrepreneurial network, The Entrepreneurial Exchange, which helps entrepreneurs build companies of scale in Scotland. I have had the pleasure of serving on the board since April 2009, and I hope that in particular I represent the views of younger and newer members.
Every year we hold our annual conference, at Scotland’s best hotel, indeed, one of the best in the world: The Gleneagles. As I set off towards Gleneagles I know that I’m going to meet and hear from some of Scotland’s and the world’s best entrepreneurs. Even arriving at this impressive building, in the middle of the beautiful Scottish countryside is inspirational in itself.
This year, there was a small but determined bunch of people using Twitter to send updates out from the conference. Tweets ended up being read and retweeted by people in UAE, Portugal, Cayman Islands, Canada, France and the US! I was highly tickled that one piece of advice, from Bill Cullen, a 69 year old veteran of the car industry was picked up and retweeted by friends of mine working on web start-ups in Silicon Valley and London. The advice was, “Do it fast. Start something now and then change and improve as you go. Just start now,” and is as applicable to lean web start-ups as traditional offline businesses.
Here are some of the other gems of advice from this year’s conference:
Bill Cullen (Ireland’s answer to Alan Sugar and Donald Trump on “The Apprentice”):
“Your future doesn’t just happen, you create it.”
Keys to success: positive attitude, plan of actions, being an expert, value people, energy, exercise, smile.
“The sun is always shining, we can’t see it, but it’s always there.”
Dermot Jenkinson, founder and chairman, beCogent:
“Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.”
“We review every quarter what we’re doing in the business & make sure we’ve not started doing anything stupid.”
“Small unexpected gestures make a real difference with your employees.”
John McGuire, founder and managing director, Phoenix Car Company:
“What we look for when recruiting: Energy, Excitement, Enthusiasm, Intensity”. [John still interviews everyone at the company, despite having over 500 employees now].
“If you find something you love, and get someone to pay you to do it, you’ll never “work” another day in your life.”
On the recession and redundancies… “the important thing to me was just to get through the recession with as many of our people as possible.”
Lara Morgan, founder, Pacific Direct:
Plan your exit 2 to 3 years in advance. Ask your accountant for a due diligence checklist and start planning now.
Design a reward system that is well aligned with the company’s goals. And then remove barriers to success
Traffic lights on reports (red, green, amber) are a great way to quickly get to the point on reports, etc. [This idea was introduced to the Ford motor company by CEO Alan Mulally]
Remember Pareto…. Sack the useless 20% of your customers [More entrepreneurs need to actually do this & not just nod in agreement].
Big mistake: “not giving equity to key staff earlier in the game”
“Choose the life you wish to lead, plan it, and make it happen”.
Rosaleen Blair, founder and CEO, Alexander Mann Solutions
Best way to get new sales is to show and tell… “let other customers tell your story to new prospects”
“When opening overseas. Understand the culture. e.g. in Poland people are really keen to learn and develop so we offer courses and qualifications. Fulfill their needs.”
“2009 was my biggest year for learning in business” [It was for me and many of the other delegates I spoke to. Recession gets you to focus and understand like never before].
More about The Entrepreneurial Exchange:
The Entrepreneurial Exchange has a model which works, it’s an organisation “by entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs”. Its members are business owners only, and support and learn from each other. We have businesses turning over less than a million, a few that turn over in excess of one billion, and everything else in between.
The Entrepreneurial Exchange is shortly opening in London, and there is a similar organisation in the North East of England, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.