Nick Gold, managing director of market-leading speakers bureau, Speakers Corner, looks at the seven things he has learned whilst running his business, with the benefit of hindsight.
Have a clear vision (but be prepared to change it)
You have a vision, which means you believe in what you are doing and you are prepared to shout about it: welcome to starting a business!
While the first step to creating a company is to establish a clear purpose (and how you plan to execute this), your vision does not have to be set in stone.
As you learn more about running a business and gain new experiences within an ever-changing social and economic climate, don’t be afraid to develop and enhance your initial idea accordingly. The trick is to make sure you keep ahead of the game by staying in touch with your industry and the world at large.
Pushing the boundaries to grow a company means you will definitely make some mistakes along the way: embrace them!
As long as an endeavour is carried out with the right intentions, people tend to understand if it goes wrong, and there is usually a way out of the mire, even if, at the time, it feels like a sticky situation.
Not only you will never make the same error again, you will have gained a fuller understanding of how your business can be valuable for your clients.
Do it with someone else
Having others to share in the trials, joys and excitements that come with managing a business is invaluable.
My brother Tim and I run Speakers Corner together. It’s true that disagreements may arise from personal differences – and yes, siblings do sometimes squabble spectacularly (but preferably not in front of our team).
Tim and I, however, are not just brothers, but partners who genuinely believe in each other. We put our heads together, find a solution and move on because we don’t have the time or energy to waste on resentment. It works.
Value your people
Your people are your company: the members of your team are the ones who operate the business from the inside and turn it into a success, so it is crucial that they know you trust and believe in them.
The traditional form of top-down management neither inspires loyalty nor allows individuals to reach their full potential.
Tim and I believe that our role is to provide the Speakers Corner team with a platform to develop, grow and enjoy themselves; to let them make and learn from their own mistakes, and then encourage them to make some more; and to ask them what we can do to help them to turn their ideas into reality.
Build lasting relationships
Business is about sustained relationships, not transactional ones.
Achieving meaningful, long-term rapports with your clients facilitates an understanding of what motivates them and what they perceive as success; in turn, this will allow you to deliver a more valuable service to your customers and to compete more successfully at a micro-level.
You should also seek to build long-term relationships with your suppliers and other players within your field. At Speakers Corner, we feel that it is our responsibility to work together with our peers to promote the speaking industry on a macro-level too if it is to grow and deliver real value to clients across the board.
Learn from everyone
The moment that you think you know everything is the moment that your business ceases to benefit from having you at its helm.
Learning is an essential part of growing a company, and I certainly learned very early on in my career to harness the power of the statement ‘I don’t understand’: whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or an established CEO, stick your hand up in meetings to ask for clarification, talk to the people in your field, and, in fact, seek to learn from everyone, everywhere: the opinions and viewpoints of those outside your industry can sometimes be the most useful and might trigger the next big change you make to your business.
My advice is to keep an open mind and tap into as many knowledge sources as you can. It’s free after all.
Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, it is tempting to spend too long in your workplace, something I’m guilty of myself: so make sure it is an environment you enjoy.
When I first started out, I thought we worked to live. While a strong work ethic is a great quality and will get you far, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also feel happy and fulfilled while doing our jobs (even if sometimes there are stressful times): bringing a business to life is an amazing journey, so don’t forget to have fun on the ride.