Question Time with Mentor John – Growing the business

Question Time with Mentor John – Growing the business

Question Time with Mentor John – Growing the business

When it comes to growing a company, what are the best strategies? In today’s competitive landscape, many entrepreneurs struggle to bring their business to the next level. Mentor John shares his wisdom on how to improve your chances of business success.

What are the common traits for an entrepreneur? Which skills do I need to hone, if I wish to succeed?

Successful entrepreneurs are invariably creative but not simply in the way we normally think of as “creative”. Their creativity extends far beyond good ideas for new products or services. They are creative at every twist and turn of building a business. Of all the skills you need to be a great entrepreneur, creativity is the most important. Get yourself tested for creativity. If you need to ginger up your creative skills, do that before you start a business – you will save yourself a lot of money.

You will need good people-management skills, too. The entrepreneur who is a solo thinker and whose staff simply obey him or her will fail. You will also need considerable money sense. That does not mean that you must be an accountant – you will employ others to do your accounting for you. The entrepreneur who has little or no money sense goes bust very quickly.

And the other essential skill is what I call “Commonsensical Courage”. This means being able to take risks, but only when you have weighed the possible consequences of failure. Being able to cope with failure is an essential part of enterprise.

Over the past two years, I’ve developed a great product, which my customers love. How do I scale my business and bring the product overseas?

Of course, that will depend on your product. If you are credibly patent-protected, a simple export operation may work. If you have a unique app that can be easily copied, you may want an initially high marketing budget to establish your name before competitors come into the market with challenging process. All products need either a very small number of customers taking a big order or many millions of customers taking very small orders. Whichever way you are to sell, you will need funds for marketing, possibly for production, certainly for distribution. Initially this may be relatively small amounts but even these will likely be beyond your personal grasp. Raising capital is a professional job and you need professional advisors to help you. Go to someone who has already launched products, proved his or her entrepreneurial value and is willing to give you advice. Do not rely on your own skills and team unless you have experience.

We recently had a case of a whistle-blower sharing information with the media. Obviously, I wish to put a stop to any unethical or incorrect activities within the company. However, I would have preferred for the whistle-blower to have come direct to me, to avoid negative public perception. Is there anything that can be done here?

Ask yourself why the whistle-blower went to the media instead of coming to you. Didn’t s/he trust you to listen and behave reasonably? If you have treated your people unreasonably they will never come to you with problems. That is why good management means listening and behaving reasonable. It is likely that the culture of your business is discouraging to those employees who want to have a confidential chat. When did you last see as many of your employees as possible individually? You may not be able to see them all but the successful business involves and assesses as many employees as possible. It also sorts out the influential ones and gives them greater access to management. They are making the culture of your business.

If a whistleblower reveals facts about your business that are detrimental and destructive, chances are that you have failed to create the culture I have described. However, even in the best of cultures, there will be disaffected people and sooner or later one of them is quite likely to try to create a problem for you. Rule No 1 is do not go after the whistleblower. Doing so is taken as an admission of guilt. If the whistleblower’s revelations are substantially untrue, make an announcement to that effect. If the claim made against you is serious and inaccurate inform the police. If the claim is partly true, make no public statement but sort out whatever gave rise to it.

My business is going to go bust. How do I know whether to try saving it, or to just cut my losses? Assuming I decide to save it, what are the best steps to take?

If you know your business is going to go bust, you must behave honestly or you will leave a trail of unhappy creditors and your reputation will stink. Before you decide whether to put it into liquidation, ask an experienced entrepreneur if his or her experience has been that a business in the state yours is in has been able to recover. My own experience is that when people think their business is going bust it is almost bound to do so.

Whatever you do avoid the trap of soldiering on with too little money. Doing that guarantees that you will go bust – owing more than you did in the first place. Try to get a good backer who will invest enough cash to give you a fighting chance to market successfully. It will require a hefty sum; don’t settle for any less.