William Reeve is a British serial entrepreneur, who is best-known for founding renowned companies like LOVEFiLM, acting as CEO of Goodlord.co (a leading proptech in the UK), acting in non-executive positions and investing in high-growth companies (like Graze, Smart Pension, Secret Escapes, and Zoopla), or sometimes is a combination of all of the above. What ties together all of William’s ventures…
In my experience in large businesses as well as years of advising startups, I see far too much focus on product skills, and too little on people and process skills. In my view, this focus on the wrong skill set is the primary reason why over half of new businesses fail in the first five years, and only one out of a hundred startups get their requested funding from professional investors.
In fact, there is much evidence that the same principles separate success from mediocrity in most of the disciplines in business. I recognized this as I was reading the classic book, ”The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need,” by Anthony Iannarino, who is an international sales leader and expert on optimizing results. His focus is on sales, but I see the same skills needed for entrepreneurs.
His top eight required skill set elements for sales don’t even mention product skills, and match my view of the right skill set for successful entrepreneurs, with only a few priority changes:
- Creating and sharing a vision. Storytelling and projecting a vision are foundational skills that are required from the first moment in starting a business. The old myth that “if we build it, they will come” has not worked for a long time. The best visions begin in the future, describe how to get there together, touch on emotions, and work in your values.
- Diagnosing and understanding the customer problem. This means all business people, especially entrepreneurs, need to get beyond the presentations and the experts, to actively listen to real customers. They need to ask customers the difficult questions, and really understand costs versus benefits, as well as competitive alternatives.
- Opening relationships and creating opportunities. Whereas providers used to control information, the Internet has given customers access to more information and more choices than ever. They demand interactive relationships with you, and depend on the relationships you have with their friends. Relationships are the new keys to opportunities.
- Producing results with and through others. You can’t build a business or sell alone. You have to lead and motivate many others with the right skill set to make it happen. To do this, you call upon your storytelling, negotiating, and change-management skills, all the while demonstrating your unswerving accountability. It’s up to you to clear the way.
- Asking for and obtaining commitments. Building a company and selling are all about gaining commitments. While it’s true that you can go too far too fast when asking for funding or asking for an order, all too often fear and timidity keeps entrepreneurs from going far enough fast enough. Offering more value is the key to a quicker close.
- Negotiating and creating win-win deals. When dealing with customers or partners, only win-win deals make sense. It’s all about value for both parties, and good negotiation is highlighting value. Great entrepreneurs are able to think on their feet, and are always prepared. Highlight the points of agreement, rather than hammer on the differences.
- Understanding business essentials and creating value. Product leadership alone might have been enough in the past, but today people are looking at a bigger picture. They want a business that is ethical, understands sustainability, and provides leadership that goes beyond profitability for shareholders. Value is far more than cost versus price.
- Building consensus and helping others change. Consensus and change are hard. These require building a team that can work together, identify the obstacles to change, deal with conflicting interests, and overcome the challenges to change. Great entrepreneurs create and sell a compelling case for change, and lead that change.
Put simply, your personal and people skills are the difference that makes the difference, more so than the product or service you bring to the table. It takes discipline, initiative, a positive attitude, and the ability to communicate and be accountable to set your business apart from the million others that have equal access to your customers. Make them remember you and appreciate the added value.
Startup Professionals Musings
Countless people around the world continue to work from home due to the current coronavirus crisis. As someone who has managed to successfully work out of my home office for years, I’m excited to share my top five tips to help newly remote small business owners and entrepreneurs be productive and successful when working from home.
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Establish a weekday curfew
Though it’s easy to stay up late watching the new hot show on Netflix or polishing off a project, establish some ground rules.
I have a cut off time of 9 p.m. to turn both the TV and my phone off. Around 7 p.m., I turn “night shift” mode on my phone on to reduce blue light, which studies show can keep you awake at night.
Each morning, I wake up around the same time to keep a normalized schedule and to take advantage of my productive hours. Everyone has certain hours in the day when they feel most productive. Figuring out what your personal productive hours are will minimize work time and maximize efficiency.
Wake up ready to conquer the day
Don’t open your phone and begin working (or scrolling through Instagram) from bed. I’ve started days like this, and it noticeably decreases how productive my day is.
Instead, I journal and meditate first thing in the morning. I use the Five-Minute Journal to write down what I am grateful for, as well as the things that will make the day ahead great. I also do this before I go to bed. Keeping the journal on my bedside table is key, so it’s right there when I wake up and when I go to sleep.
The next thing I do has been a game changer for my productivity. I practice an active meditation method called “priming,” which I learned from Tony Robbins. It has brought me positivity, productivity and a healthy mind, the latter of which is the starting point of any kind of true success.
Where are you working?
Establishing an at-home workspace is very important, and ideally, you should work from the same place every day. If this space allows for natural light, even better. Natural light is proven to boost your wellbeing and overall work performance.
If at all possible, don’t work from your kitchen. I work as far from the kitchen as possible, in order to stay focused on my work and I’m not unconsciously snacking throughout the day.
Don’t work from your bed either, as this can blur the lines between the space where you are meant to relax and the place you need to be awake and in work mode.
Move and reset
Changing your physical state will change your mental state. If you find yourself slumped over at your workstation or stuck on a project, it’s probably time to take a break.
Moving your body is an easy way to access a new perspective and a fresh state of mind. Jumping up and down or dancing might look a little odd in an office setting, but you’re in the comfort of your own home! Jumping up and down or dancing for a quick minute or so will not only boost your mood, but will increase productivity and creativity.
Take advantage of working from your own space
Since you’re in your own space, personalize it to make it work for you! Find things that calm your mind, but keep you focused on your work.
I use essential oils and music to set the tone for clear focus. I also wear whatever I feel comfortable in. I’m huge on multitasking, as well. I’ll take a walk while I’m on a call to help me think clearer and get my creative juices going. While I’m thinking or planning, I’ll stretch or play with my dog, Leo.
The bottom line is, working remotely for those of you who are used to working in a collaborative office setting will be an adjustment. Try these tips, but most importantly, find what works best for you.
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