There isn't time to do everything and hard work alone is no guarantee of success, so how do you make sure that the efforts you do make have the most impact on your career and personal and professional visibility?
Work smarter not harder, learn fast not perfectly, don't wait for permission and when you fail - as you will - fail fabulously. Just part of the advice to my 22 year old self, after a colourful career as a CEO, entrepreneur and child chimney sweep. (You need to view the slides for that joke to make sense!)
This was recorded at Edinburgh University Business School as part of my talk to #IWScot and #BCSWomen on 30th May 2019.
I am deep in startup CEO mode right now, with my new company Vistalworks. But I do intend to resume the interview format episodes as soon as my schedule allows!
Recorded in front of a live audience of Scottish business owners, Vicky Brock is interviewed by journalist David Ferguson about how and why - after the lowest point of her business career - she is now back with startup number five.
Vicky shares her process on how to start and grow a business, what she has learned across her very different companies and the 9 reasons she has discovered for why your startup may not be growing like you planned.
She explains why the first idea you have almost certainly is not the one that will become your business, why she prefers pain to delight and how her latest startup will achieve more in four months than her previous company achieved in 18 months. Because while it is relatively easy to create a product, and even fairly easy to build a product people will by once, it is actually very, very difficult to create something people will buy again and again. But that is what you need to achieve if you are going to build a business.
"I'm pleased I'm back here doing it all over again - I tried to start a bit too fast last time and we skipped over some important early steps in really finding product and solution fit. I'm not going to make that same mistake again. My whole team are focused on doing the on-paper work that means we test and validate our assumptions up front. And because we're starting in response to very specific challenges laid down by our initial paying customers, I'm starting my this new business with my customer as a full-time lodger, which is great!"
This episode I’m talking about quitting. And I’m talking to myself, because when you have a job, have a company, have investors, have staff - there are some things you just can’t say out loud without major consequences. “I quit” is one of them. So based on my own experiences, and the many conversations had with other founders & CEOs feeling trapped in their startups, here's the if, when, why and how of quitting in your startup.... Quitting your role, quitting the company, exiting a market, project or product - and winding up your startup completely.
In a very frank monologue episode, Vicky urges entrepreneurs to pay themselves more and dives into the when, what and how to plan for a salary and the things people don't tell you about startup founders personal finances (or lack of them). Clearly, on a roll, and without pausing for breath, Vicky also covers financing your startup in desperate times, what worked and didn't work for her as her company faced running out of money, and what to do and not to do when there are only a few weeks of cash left in the bank.
After being made redundant from her job as a UK Government Minister when she lost her seat in the 2015 General Election, Jo Swinson worried she was unemployable and felt frustrated her business skills were of little interest to recruiters. She reinvented herself as an entrepreneur and author, and was a great advisor to me, before regaining her seat in 2017 and becoming Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. In this episode we talk unemployment, finances, networking, building a personal brand, repositioning your skills, charging for your time and how to create opportunities that will let even the most accidental entrepreneur thrive eventually.
As businesses grow, they hit key inflection points that mean the old tactics don't work anymore. The interplay of people, structures and process have to be updated as a startup develops and so you have to change how you and your people operate within your company. Mark gives very practical advice on how to recognize and survive these inflection points that increase frustration and reduce productivity. He explains how devolving decision making, growing your own people, encouraging them to look outside for inspiration and setting an expectation of world-class excellence maximizes the chances of surviving the organizational challenges that come with growth.
This mini extra episode is the audio of Vicky Brock's March 2018 TEDx Talk about coping with an involuntary career or life pause. After the shock of overhearing she was about to be put on gardening leave from the company she had founded, Vicky found the old map she'd used to navigate her life no longer applied. This is her story of the process she used to be ready to begin again.
Founders Joe Tree and Vicky Brock talk about losing their companies and facing, then surviving the pains of startup failure in this frank episode. They share the invaluable if difficult, learnings that come from that experience. Under-capitalisation, product-market fit issues, slow sales cycles, and board/investor tensions don’t take away from the sense of personal responsibility and pain when you lose your company - but as Joe says: “we didn’t fail to do something remarkable... I have no regrets. You have a whole arsenal of experience that very few people have.”