21/07/2014

By Simon Cole, CEO, 7digital


Over the past 30 years of my working life, first in the dynamic domain of radio and now the brave new world of digital music streaming, I’ve been given a lot of advice – some of it good, some less so! But, there are definitely a few gems I’ve carried with me through my nearly three decades as an entrepreneur.

When I first started to think about abandoning the relative comfort of my regular salary paying job and strike out on my own, a friend of mine who had done the before same gave me some critical advice that I think anyone pursuing the entrepreneurial route should consider: “There are two kinds of people in the world – people who work for others and people who work for themselves. You need to figure out which of those you are and having a go is a great way to find out.”

I strongly believe this is something that everyone should seriously consider earlier rather than later in their professional life. I’m certainly not implying one is better than the other; there’s no more intrinsic value in the self-starting entrepreneur than the brilliant corporate achiever. Yet, it most definitely does take a certain kind of tenacity, self-belief and commitment to become an entrepreneur and then stay on this path through thick and thin, Many people talk about starting their own business and the only way to know if that’s the right choice for you is to commit, have a go, and see if it works for you, but perhaps ‘have a go’ once you have fully considered the energy and commitment needed to make this a success!

This leads rather nicely on to my next piece of advice, one attributed to Henry Ford that should stand as the mantra for every entrepreneur: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Being ‘allowed’ to fail and then learning from it, is crucial if the entrepreneur is to grow and succeed. Unfortunately in the UK we still need to culturally accept this principle from a business perspective. It’s something that is inherent to American entrepreneurial culture and is behind the tremendous success of Silicon Valley. Too many people give up at the earliest signs of adversity or failure when the reality is, there is arguably much more to learn from our mistakes than our successes. Each failure may be a chastening experience but it’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget and one will not want to replicate. It forces you to think hard, refocus and look for more successful routes to market. It also empowers you and your staff by fostering an environment that encourages risk and innovation, which is critical to ensuring your business doesn’t stagnate and fall behind.

My final piece of advice is from that well-known and respected British entrepreneur, Luke Johnson who I believe once said “an entrepreneur’s greatest gift is also his biggest weakness – he’s never wrong.” As I‘ve said previously, being an entrepreneur takes a very specific kind of person. The ambition, determination and frankly, stubbornness needed to succeed can also be the very thing that makes you slip up down the line if it is not managed carefully. For those of us of an entrepreneurial nature also need perspective – sometimes we are wrong. We must listen to others as well as ourselves. Determined, resilient self-belief should not be at the expense of common sense and considering the salient advice of others. Don’t compromise your principles and vision, but you also need to recognise when they’ve taken you too close to the cliff!