Startup to Scaleup

Welcome to a new series of articles for Startups Magazine. Over the next few months I would like to invite you to accompany me on a journey; a journey that many readers will already have started and many others will be contemplating. For those that have already started the journey then I hope that they will still find some of my words useful, and for those yet to start then I trust that this series will make navigation so much easier.

So what exactly is the journey that I am inviting you to follow me on?  This new series is entitled Start-up to Scale-up and its bland description would be that it describes how to establish and grow a business.  The more interesting, and hopefully more accurate, description is that it offers advice and anecdotes picked up from 40 years in business on how to navigate and action all those steps that are necessary to transform you from a potential founder with a good idea, into leading a successful and growing business.

But whenever starting anything new it always pays to make sure that the scene is properly set and the research properly undertaken, as this enables you to start the journey and enter your new venture with an open mind and the right approach.  This should not just be about your attitude to your business, but your wider approach to life.

I was lucky enough recently to have been invited along to a series of inspirational TedX talks that were not about business specifically but, nevertheless, many of the points raised were very thought provoking and entirely suited to those considering the journey of starting and growing a business.  A number of the concepts overlapped and reinforced each other.

For example, when starting a business, it is important that you make sure that your product or service is actually wanted and fills a gap in the market in some way, and here we need to guard against unconscious bias as things like conformity bias or confirmation bias can make us believe that because we happen to believe in our business idea that everyone else will also.  But this is where proper research comes in to ensure that our unconscious bias has not clouded our business judgement.

And what about definitions of success?  As a society we are all pre-conditioned to measure ‘success’ in a similar way, most of the definitions are related to financial success in some form.  However, success for each and every one of us should of course be individual, although conformity bias may work against us in this.  Doing more doesn’t necessarily make you more successful and working smart is always going to be better than working hard but with no clear objectives.  

Whether in our personal lives or in business we must set both short term and long term objectives, as without knowing where you are going how will you know when you get there?  The other curious thing about being successful is that being successful is often a very different thing to being happy and it is important that striving for success does not make you unhappy.

Lastly, what about changing your mind or performing a ‘u-turn’ as the media are so fond of describing it?  This has such large negative connotations in so many ways, and those that make such decisions in most walks of life are criticised as though it is a failing.  However, in businesses it is those businesses that adapted or pivoted – otherwise known as changing their mind as to how to conduct their business – during difficult times recently that have generally survived the best.

So having opened your mind, identified your unconscious biases, defined what success looks like for you, and realised that constantly monitoring information and being prepared to alter course when appropriate is the best way forward, you are now set up to begin the journey.