6 Important Lessons From My Journey to Entrepreneurial Success
The last year has been a huge one for The Business Catalyst, featuring 5x growth and a second consecutive nomination for the Success Mastermind Ultimate Entrepreneur Award.
These successes are the culmination of over 30 years hard work in the digital marketing, technology, coaching/training and health sectors – to name just a few! – so this feels like a good time to reflect on some of the lessons we’ve learned throughout the course of this amazing journey.
Lesson #1: Be clear on who you are
As a founder or a CEO, your mindset is the foundation of your business. It’s the first and most important thing you need to get right, but it can also be the hardest. Self-awareness is the key. What do you really value? What does success mean for you?
Understand what your motivations are, then use them to create concrete goals that can serve as benchmarks. If you want to retire by 55, what steps do you need to take to make that happen? (and if you can do it by 55, can you then do it by 53?)
The goals and values you choose for yourself can be aligned with the goals and values that define your business. If you’re driven by efficiency, then this should also become part of your business’ identity. This kind of clarity will help you understand what processes you need in place to deliver improvement; it’ll also help give an indication as to what types of personality traits you’ll want to look for in your colleagues. If you’re looking for someone to be a good fit, you’ll want to know what they are fitting into.
The best way to achieve this level of awareness, for both yourself and your business, is to practice conscious self-reflection – for me that means meditation, journaling, gratitude-logging, etc. Focus on positive habit creation both at work and outside of it. Eat well, eat regularly, exercise, rest and recover. Taking time out from day-to-day business – both for strategic planning and to look after yourself – will only become more vital as your business grows.
Lesson #2: Learn from other people’s mistakes
We all make mistakes: the important thing is to learn from them. One of the superpowers that defines truly great entrepreneurs, however, is they not only learn from their own mistakes, but also from those made by others.
The best way to do this is to take every opportunity to hear about the experiences of other entrepreneurs – whether by networking, being part of a mastermind, listening to podcasts or reading books and blogs like this one. Don’t just absorb all that knowledge though – turn it into directives you can immediately put into practice. Accumulation of knowledge is not power: taking action with that knowledge is power.
Lesson #3: Understand the difference between growth and scaling
We always tend to think of growth as a good thing, but without the ability to scale, growing too quickly can stretch the resources of your business to breaking point. Failing to understand this risk is one of the most common mistakes made by many early-stage entrepreneurs.
Growth means increasing your revenue by finding new business and onboarding new clients, thereby increasing turnover and profit. But growth also raises costs, as you’ll need to invest in new systems, staff and resources to service that increased demand. Scaling, on the other hand, means having repeatable processes which allow you to increase revenue whilst keeping costs under control.
This means clear, well-defined operational structures; independent, motivated staff who take responsibility for their deliverables; efficient, repeatable processes powered by smart automation that free you and your staff to focus on creating value, and fine-grained data which will allow you to monitor and tweak performance across all departments.
Lesson #4: Know when to take a step back
One of the most vital ingredients of a scalable business is a leader who knows when (and how) to remove themselves from everyday workflows. As your business expands, it’s crucial that you are able to distinguish between tasks that require your direct attention and those that can be delegated or automated.
To learn more about how a leader can successfully extract themselves from day-to-day operations, you should check out my recent blog on the topic. Here, I want to focus on exploring what kind of mindset is required to ensure this transition goes smoothly.
Stepping back from your business requires deep trust, both in the processes you’ve implemented and the people you’ve hired. Without this trust, you’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety, or self-sabotaging by attempting to micro-manage every detail of your daily processes.
You need to fully believe in the strategic and operational structures you’ve put in place and the skills of the people you’ve chosen to support you.
This is why it is so important both to know yourself and the identity of your business. This awareness will help you concentrate your energies on what’s truly important, whilst giving guidance and direction to your colleagues.
Lesson #5: Hire your A-Team
In order to have the confidence, as a leader, to take a step back from your business, you need to make sure you have the right team around you. This means surrounding yourself with A-Players – colleagues who are independent, driven and self-motivated. These are the people who will take the baton from you and carry the business forward, not just taking responsibility for maintaining existing standards but also driving improvement.
I cannot stress enough how vital the team of A-Players I’ve assembled at The Business Catalyst have been in allowing me to remove myself from day-to-day management and operations. Over the past year I’ve handed over much of the customer-facing aspects of the business, as well as operational and technical management, to highly qualified, energised colleagues, leaving me free to focus on strategy, vision and leadership.
Lesson #6: Invest in processes
As I mentioned above, in each of the past two years I’ve had the tremendous honour of being nominated for the Success Mastermind Ultimate Entrepreneur Award. In the first year, I felt hugely attached to the idea of winning, perhaps taking my competitive instincts a bit too far (you’d have to ask my friends and family for the final verdict on this one!).
This year, I decided that rather than getting too attached to the outcome, I’d focus on reflecting on the process that brought me there – the successes we’d enjoyed as a company, the lessons I’d learned, the growth we’d achieved. I went into the event with the desire that the audience would appreciate what we’d accomplished and take inspiration from the strategies we’d employed. If each person came away with one idea for improving their business, that would be a win for me.
The result was a far more rewarding and enriching experience. I think there’s a lesson in this that applies to entrepreneurship more broadly. When you prioritise processes, you’re focusing on what you can control. Not only will this reduce your stress and anxiety, it will also ensure that you’re taking care of the details that will get you the right outcome in the long run.
So, those are some of the main lessons we’ve taken from the journey we’ve been on over the past few years. But what about the future? Well, there are exciting times ahead at The Business Catalyst. As well as expanding and refining existing products like the Ideal Patient Journey, we’re also working on new offerings like our Client Value Matrix, a process which focuses on the development and delivery of products. This is currently in beta, so look for more news soon!
Meanwhile, if anything you’ve read here has resonated with you, don’t hesitate to enquire about our Consulting and Coaching service, where you’ll have the opportunity to learn from my 30+ years of experience – mistakes included! Likewise, if you’re interested in discovering what automation can offer your business, get in touch today to book a Discovery Call.