Posted: Fri 31st Aug 2012
"We can't change this, we've simply invested too much time and money." I shudder when I hear something like this, writes Rich (left). The implication is that the investment to-date is more valuable than the potential opportunity - and so the decision to change would be purely an emotional one.
It makes me think of my earliest serious venture in the mid-80s. This was an online recruitment business - except that 'online' hadn't really been invented and we had to use now-antiquated dial-up technology. It was tough. There were mistakes a-plenty, but we didn't see them or act on them. It cost us, big-time. It's important to recognise when you're getting it wrong and not just stick to your guns because you want to prove that your idea is right. Here are some of the things I've learned over the years about how to keep mistakes to a minimum - or at least stop them spinning out of control. 1. Involve experts early on (see Silver Bullets above - I didn't plan this, honest! Ed). Some will be happy to mentor you, others you may need to pay for their time. If you've picked the right people, it will be a sound investment. 2. Don't try to sell them on how good you are. Let them ask the questions. Answer with facts and not your sales pitch. They will like that you believe in your own business but they won't want you to be blinded by it. 3. Listen to what they say to you. I'll say that again: listen to what they say to you. Again, if you picked the right people, they will know things you cannot possibly know. Benefit from their experience. It may have come at a cost to them also. Here's the big one"¦ 4. Be prepared to park the ego and to be wrong. Ouch. This can hurt. Also, it stretches from the small tactical error right up to the wrong business strategy. It can even mean acknowledging that the business concept was the wrong idea in the first place. 5. Understand that what you are passionate about today and what you are spending your time and money on, could tomorrow - with the benefit of hindsight - be a mistake. Now if all this sounds a bit depressing, it's not meant to be. By recognising your errors early on, you can:
Reduce wasted time and money
Accelerate your time to market
Out-think and out-pace your competitors
Reduce your personal stress
Create a financially stronger and more sustainable business.
A good friend was looking back a few years over his successful business career and said, "When I consider my convictions five years ago and how wrong some of them were, it scares me." I told him not to be so hard on himself. "We all make mistakes," I said. "It's not that that bothers me," he replied. "It's wondering whether what I believe so strongly today will turn out to be completely wrong in another five years from now!"
The first of Rich's many ventures was an online recruitment business called National Shortlist Plc, started in 1985. By the mid-90s, he was into training and developing a career as a motivational speaker. In 2011, he sold a franchise of his training business to focus on Licx.co.uk.
Is Rich right about being wrong? Is it actually good to be wrong sometimes? Please leave your comments below. Photo credit: Alex Proimos
With wonderful timing, we received notice within a day or two of last week's post about business support for the over-50s of a new buddy scheme to enable younger small-business owners to draw on the knowhow of people aged 50 and over. In case you didn't read the comments at the end of last week's post, our own Emma Jones proposed something very similar indeed. The 'Skilled People Silver Bullets' scheme has already recruited a 'hit squad' of 400 'senior business trouble-shooters' whose remit is to pass on their business experience and knowhow at low cost. It's been set up by Skilledpeople.com (a service that helps the over-50s find employment) in response to figures suggesting that:
third of start-ups have difficulty finding skilled staff
two-thirds of jobseekers aged 50 and over are prepared to work for expenses to help them secure a position.
Seems a logical solution. To find out more about how you might be able to benefit from the scheme, visit the Skilled People Silver Bullets website or call the information line for free on 0800 331 7785. Photo credit: Matt Scott
Independent's Day every Friday on Enterprise Nation is intended to be by small businesses for small businesses. We'd love you to send us your contributions. They don't have to be literary masterpieces or lengthy essays - in fact, the more concise, the better. But they do have to be interesting and relevant to other 'homegrown' business owners. So if you have tips, advice, comments and insights to share, please use the button below to send us your thoughts. Whether it's something you've learned about customer service, a time-saving tool you've discovered or a great sales technique you employ - if it's useful, pass it on! Likewise, if you'd like to tell us why you started your business and what you get out of it, we'd love to hear from you. We're also happy to carry comment and opinion, provided it's reasonable, well-argued and not just a moan (no political point-scoring please). All we ask is that your contributions are relevant to other small enterprises and not self-promotional - Independent's Day is about sharing, not selling. Oh, and if you try to keep it to around 300 words or less, that will mean we can feature more of your contributions each week! If you need some inspiration, here are some previous contributions we've received from readers that we thought were rather good: