In this exclusive Urban Times series, Business Lessons from an Entrepreneur, serial business owner and Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library, Stephen Fear, examines a different theme each week of 2013 to give the reader useful and usable lessons for enhancing and growing their own business.
Over the years I have examined the careers of many famous entrepreneurs including Henry Ford, the founder of Ford motor comapany, Andrew Carnegie, the great steel magnate of the early 1900s and Richard Branson who, of course, controls Virgin Trains and Virgin Air. In doing so I have come to the very definite conclusion that business success is essentially a science with a splash of art thrown in!
Because the basics are repeatable it means that success is virtually assured if you follow certain guidelines, some of which I outline later in this article. To give you a flavour of what I mean, let’s look at something that happened in 1930 – the creation of the car radio. Two young entrepreneurs at the time were Bill Wavering and William Lear. You may not recognise the names but in the 1930′s they were quite something and were responsible for creating the modern car radio, eight track player and many more fantastic inventions. Lear went on to invent auto pilot for aircraft and the famous Lear Jet, which has revolutionised executive travel.
Lear dropped out of school after the eighth grade, proving that formal education isn’t everything. Although, there are plenty of highly successful entrepreneurs with University educations so it isn’t necessarily one thing or the other.
So what does Lear and Wavering’s story tell us about success? Well, I think it tells quite a lot. Firstly to act upon any suggestion you think warrants further investigation. It was Lear’s girlfriend that first suggested she would like to hear some music. Secondly, never to give up, even when the going gets tough. Remember this all took place in the depression of the 1930s. Last but not least, if you have something you believe in then make sure everyone knows about it just as Paul Galvin did when he parked his car right outside a convention hall in Atlantic City and turned the sound up to attract attention because he couldn’t afford a proper display stand.
Not giving up when the going gets tough is essential for on-going success. There will be plenty of people who will tell you that what you’re doing won’t work and you should go and find a proper job. My father certainly told me that very thing on many occasions, and even years later when I used to pick him up in my Bentley he would ask me when I was going to get a proper job! I used to tell him that I had far more security working for myself than I ever would obtain in a “proper job”, but as a man who had followed convention he never fully understood.
So, where does science start and art finish? In my opinion the whole process starts with a good idea, followed by the confidence to follow it through together with the determination to continue when the detractors try to put doubts in your mind. I have always found it best to say nothing to anyone until you are certain in your own mind that the people you tell won’t wreck your mindset.
Keeping your own counsel and thinking things through in a quiet environment and alone is something many successful people do regularly, including myself. It’s important to create a space between your idea and the clutter that surrounds it so that you can obtain perspective. Learning who your competitors are and what they are up to is essential if you want to progress. Don’t be daunted by others success, but instead be inspired by it.I always think a great leveler is to realise that you are probably not as good as the very best and not as bad as the really hopeless, or in the words of my old Mum,
“You’re as good as ANYONE, but not better than EVERYONE.”
It’s important to achieve a life balance if you want to obtain longevity because it is all too easy to become fixated on your business and ignore your family. I would advise keeping an eye on this danger because I believe that your family and friends are your strength and will support you through the difficult times if you include them in your thinking; once, of course, you feel secure enough with your idea to turn it into a proper business rather than just something you’re thinking about.
Self-employment is a wonderful way of life if you are successful because it allows you to run your life on your own terms but if you don’t focus and keep your eye on the ball it can turn into a disaster so make sure you stay focused and keep everything in balance.