14/07/2010

By Brian Chernett, Founder, The Adacemy for Chief Executives

In this series of articles about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, I’m looking at issues that face new entrepreneurs as they respond to the need to generate growth in the economy, though, of course, most won’t have come to entrepreneurship for that reason. This week I want to look at choosing the sort of business you might want to run. Many of the ideas in this article may also start thinking processes for existing entrepreneurs who find themselves asking why they got into their business in the first place and take them towards a better business for their purpose.

Many, maybe most, businesses start with the founder’s own area of knowledge or skill. It is not a bad idea to begin from something you know well - an extension of your working life maybe or the development of a hobby. Some entrepreneurs first see the gap in the market and then move into that gap with a business idea. Others go looking for something that already exists, a franchise that works (and provides value) perhaps with the intention of extending that to a new area. Whichever way you come to it, market first or idea first, to be successful you need both.

It is often said that if you do work you love, it isn't really work. That is true, however, if you tie yourself to a business you don't love, it can quickly become a drudge. Before you commit, consider how it will be to spend your working life with that business (and consider that your working life may intrude into your non working life at times). People often fall in love with the romantic notion of a business idea (pubs and small shops, for example), only to find the reality differs radically from the romance.

If the reality still sounds good, remember that a business also needs sales and marketing and finance and administration. If that's not you, you’ll need to find a way — or person - to delegate that work and you may need finance to afford the support you need. This is not a failure on your part. No-one can do everything in a business but it is harder in the early stages to remember this. When you work on areas outside your skillset, often late at night and under pressure, that can cost you time and cause expensive error so build in realistic allowances for support when you plan your business.

Experience also helps. If you’ve never run a business, find someone who has run a business successfully to mentor you, especially around areas that are not in your own skill set. There are many schemes supporting businesses to do this and there may be schemes in your area. The Academy for Chief Executives recently took part in Enterprise City High Growth, a project supported and funded by Birmingham City Council. If there isn’t a scheme you can join, find someone you know in your family or your network. Whilst there may be a cost for the services, their advice and support may be the difference between success and failure. A good mentor should pay for themselves in good business decisions.

Mentors can also inspire you and it can also be inspiring to read entrepreneurs’ stories, there are many from Jack Welch and Lee Iacocca in the USA to Richard Branson, Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne in the UK. Model your approach on the best practices that you find there.

Running a business well isn’t something you can do on instinct and luck. It requires hard work, determination and an ability to learn from a variety of sources whilst keeping the business on track and moving forward.

Choose your business (and your inspirations) well.

Watch a video of Brian Chernett sharing his ideas on how leadership is changing in the business world.

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Brian Chernett is founder of The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE) - He has 43 years' experience as managing director of private and public companies, including subsidiaries of Booker Bros McConnell, the Landmark Group, and several other major companies. Find out more at www.chiefexecutive.com. We always welcome your feedback on the articles. Email them to brian.chernett@freshbusinessthinking.com

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