It was fantastically energising to give a talk at TEDx Glasgow Caledonian University yesterday about how I found my purpose again when I found my next startup problem worth solving.
"I’m back with Vistalworks, doing the doing of entrepreneurship, because I have found my next problem worth solving. I have found the people I want to solve it with. And I know how we will recognise when we are making a sufficiently meaningful difference."
Running at 15 minutes, I have shared the talk on the podcast because I think it is relevant. The normal episode type will resume next week.
In this talk I share the 6 questions I ask myself to get from idea to startup, and the quick, cheap validation process I use to de-risk business ideas before I jump in. I bust some common startup myths and talk frankly about how the actual experience of failing, of losing the company I had worked so hard for, was nowhere near as toxic to my mental and physical health as the fear that it might happen.
The script for the talk, first given at TEDx Glasgow Caledonian University, October 12 2019 is at my Entrepreneur Agony Aunt blog - the video will be added to the same page once available.
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!"
Entrepreneur Pheona Matovu had her family's life turned upside down when a paperwork error meant she was no longer eligible to work in the UK. When, after 5 long years, she and husband were finally able to work again, the couple founded Radiant and Brighter to provide employment pathways and enterprise support for the Black & Ethnic Minority Communities living in Scotland. The company also provides training and education that challenge and inspire groups and individuals to explore perceptions of culture & diversity. For those of you in Scotland, their Bright Futures Women’s Leadership and Enterprise Conference is on Thursday 27th September 2018 at the RBS Headquarters in Gogarburn - there are still free tickets available.
In one of the most inspiring podcast conversations to date, Pheona explains:
"The one thing that connects us is that we are all different. It does not matter what ethnicity or whoever you are, we are all different. Let's not have the tokenism, let's look at the importance of bringing together ethnicity and diversity of culture. Let's have that conversation and create the spaces where we can have that conversation. Because when you open up to a different world you learn so much more."
Read the full episode transcript here
Alison Grieve, founder and CEO of G-Hold - a multi-purpose ergonomic handhold that can be placed onto any type of tablet or reader - sells her product worldwide through partners like Microsoft Surface, Amazon, Apple and Home Shopping Network. Having successfully cracked delivering sales volume, unit profitability, international IP protection, managing a complex export business and moving back to onshore manufacturing, she joins me to advise a founder looking for advice on how to internationalise their startup business and sales channels.
Entrepreneur Dr James McIlroy is founder & CEO of EnteroBiotix, an award-winning and rapidly expanding biotechnology company that he started while at medical school. EnteroBiotix is focused on a whole new field of science and medicine, using the body’s own microorganisms to prevent and treat debilitating infections and diseases. James joins me to discuss practicalities of managing an incredibly busy workload, how he learned to delegate and focus on high yield outcomes - and why he has decided that now is the time to step back as CEO and bring someone in to help him scale the business, while he continues his medical training.
Vicky reports back on her recent Women Entrepreneur's Challenge to Malawi, organised by Kate Webb and her team at the Responsible Safari Company, including what she learned, and the profound impact this has had on her personally and as an entrepreneur. Tackling a listener question on how to startup when you have no money, they discuss the importance of having a support network of other business people, and why having the right people and expertise around you can be more important than cash. Kate shares her own experience of saying yes to opportunities and no to debt, then working with whatever you have to make it happen. To prove her point - the episode ends with an incredibly exciting request for help! If you are interested in getting involved in helping Kate and Dame Kelly Holmes promote Sport For Purpose or fancy joining them on a challenge in October 2018, check out http://www.orbis-expeditions.com/blog/dame-kelly-holmes-the-orbis-challenge-2018/
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.
Incredibly inspirational "mad scientist", theoretical neuroscientist, AI inventor and entrepreneur Dr Vivienne Ming advises a listener overwhelmed by ideas and possibilities that finding your purpose is more important than forcing yourself to focus and be someone you're not. She talks about the importance of recognising your weaknesses and having a compensatory strategy for overcoming them and why hiring complementary collaborators is essential to entrepreneurial success and to delivering solutions that bring real value to people. As a leader and creative collaborator, she sees her number one job as explaining the why - then to simply be a resource to enable her team to be even more successful.
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.
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.
Answering a listener's question on whether to expose their early pre-startup idea on social media to get validation, guest Joel Blake OBE joins the Entrepreneur Agony Aunt to talk collaboration, iteration, validation and being ready to embrace your vulnerability. He explains: "entrepreneurship changes you to your core - how open are we really to being changed?"
Founder of tourism companies spanning two continents and working with entrepreneurs in Malawi and the UK, Kate Webb of Orbis Expeditions advises a founder wanting to build a business with social purpose in developing regions. In this fascinating discussion, Kate shares her learnings from over a decade of entrepreneurship in Africa, and why she so strongly believes in pursuing business and economic development, instead of charitable aid.
In this mini extra episode, Mark Logan, IOD Director of the Year and former Skyscanner COO advises a startup founder who asks whether the stress they are under is a normal part of the CEO job, or something more troubling.
He explains that while moments of acute stress come with the CEO title, the problem is when these join up to become chronic. We shouldn’t live with that because while it might become normal, it is not sustainable. “Remember you didn’t start the company because you were after more stress in your life!"
The blog post referenced by Vicky in this episode: Mistakes that cost founders their companies
June Angelides, Mums In Technology founder, and her 3-year-old Ivy join me to advise a listener who yearns to give it a go as an entrepreneur, but worries about putting their family financial security at risk. We talk finances, family and the power and joy that comes from taking the risk and giving your goal your best shot. Mini Christmas extra episode.