Michelle features in the Smarta Blog - Is there a definite turning point for entrepreneurial success?

1st December, 2014

This post originally appeared in the Smarta blog.

If you’ve got an idea or have recently launched your own business, you’re probably wondering when you can take a step back and enjoy that sip of champagne. In honesty, there’s not a magic potion for success but there’s a number of steps you could follow to make the ride better! Here, O2 Smarta 100 winner Michelle Wright, founder and CEO of Cause4, gives her advice on the maximising your potential.

Most entrepreneurs start a business without any idea as to whether it will succeed or not. In fact, it’s the fear of failure that is usually the number one reason why most aspiring entrepreneurs don’t get started at all.

At the start, money coming through the door of a business is usually seen as the primary marker of success. Of course, to have income at an early stage is good, but early success in terms of cash is not necessarily an indicator of how a product or service will be received in the long-term.

What is interesting in the psychology of entrepreneurship is that even when a business is thriving and has successfully made the move from start up to more mature business, the founding entrepreneur if they’re honest, is usually still beset by a fear of failure.

Indeed, in my experience, it’s usually those entrepreneurs that fear failure the most, that learn the fastest, and that are prepared to make the changes needed to adapt a product and service to ensure that it sticks around for the longer term. They’re also likely to put in the hours that are an essential part of growing a successful business.

So if cash in the bank isn’t the most reliable indicator of early company success, what are the key moments when an entrepreneur can start to relax and when they really know that they are on to a winner?

Good branding

The founders usually decide on the brand name of a company over a few drinks. But you know that you’ve got it right when customers, as well as friends and family, easily adopt the name and start to use it in day-to-day conversation.  Winning companies have strong identities, and investing in a good name, visual identity and logo is worth the effort.

Profits

OK so cash and profit is important. Most companies have ups and downs, but if you are in the black at the end of the year, then the Founder should take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. After all, it’s profits that mean that you can reinvest and grow.

The team has ideas and wants things to improve

There is nothing so brilliant for a Founder entrepreneur, as when a team clicks into place and ideas start flowing throughout the company to improve and make things better. This is the key to good culture. An environment where lots of feedback is a hallmark of the company and where the whole team has ideas for developing the product or service.

The company is growing

People, customers and opportunities – An expanding company is a good indicator of success. However, perhaps the key moment for the Founder is when you are in a robust enough place to be able to decide what you want to take on, or more importantly what you don’t want to take on.  This is a moment of real empowerment for the Founder, when it suddenly feels as if you’re back in control, with options and choices.

The founder can take a break

One of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do when they are in the middle of a growing start up is to take a break, but the moment when there’s a team in place and the Founder can go on holiday and things still run to plan, is possibly the best and most important defining moment of a successful company.

And finally we shouldn’t forget that growing a business needs to be fun. Entrepreneurship is hard work and if it’s not fun, it’s unlikely to be worth it in the long run for the Founder.

In the words of an investor that I met recently, successful businesses abide by the following mantra – they ‘have fun, make a profit, change the world and learn’.

That about says it all.

"The course was informative, enjoyable, covering plenty of ground in just one day without feeling rushed at all. It came at a crucial time in our planning and thinking as a development team and was a very welcome pause for thought. Michelle was a brilliant facilitator and it was a real benefit to hear about her experiences across the sector."

Jane Reynolds, Development Manager, Manchester International Festival