Being a good listener is one of the most important attributes you can have as an entrepreneur. You need to heed some (but definitely not all) of the advice given to you by advisors/mentors/investors, as well as take on feedback from your customers and users. It is also essential to listen to some of the ideas your team and employees come up with – if you don’t listen properly, you will regret it days/weeks/months down the line when things begin to unravel beneath your feet.
Many of us in the Western world do not realise how fortunate we are. We stress over trivial things such as deadlines, deals falling through and being late to meetings. I find things as simple as dental check-ups terrifying – the disruption to my usual schedule and worry that I might need another filling/tooth taken out leaves me dreading every visit.
I have heard the phrase “knowledge is power” (“scientia potentia est” is the original phrase coined in Latin) regularly used throughout my life – at university, in the workplace and even in Hollywood movies. Never, though, have I felt this phrase to be more appropriate than when applied to behavioural & leadership psychology (or influencing people).
Up until this point, I hadn’t formally resigned because my place on the NEF programme had not yet been guaranteed (I outline in [IV] The NEF Application Process that, should you go the host company route, you need to have both an offer from NEF and an offer from a host company before you get admitted).
Working in (or running) an early-stage startup can be one of the most volatile experiences of your life. The mixture of monumental highs
assuming that you’re somewhere on the right path combined with depressing lows is quite unique in a career/lifestyle. There will be times where you question your self-belief and wonder why you are doing what you are doing. Your resilience is an important factor in helping you bounce back, so it is good to have an understanding of what helps keep you strong.
In [Chapter 4] The NEF Application Process, I covered Part I of the NEF application process. This involved an online application, video interview, numerical & verbal testing, an assessment centre and a panel interview. I also outlined some general advice I had for these sorts of situations, as well as some things that I thought might have helped me as I progressed.
In Chapter 3, we explored the process I used to help make the “career change”/transition from engineer to entrepreneur. This was:
- Identifying the skills that I felt I needed in order to work in start-ups/become an entrepreneur – Web development; digital marketing; graphic design to name a few
- Acquiring as many of these skills as I could in my spare time* – I built a tech blog (Tech-Boffin.com – now defunct) and a simple, personal landing page (cipavlou.com); had a play with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools for these sites; went through online tutorials on Inkscape (and created a logo for Tech-Boffin.com)
- Continually research the entrepreneurship ecosystem – Speaking with friends, reading about opportunities, etc
Over the course of the last year or so, I have met with, spoken to or been to talks featuring many different CEOs and start-up founders. I like to ask them about some of the biggest mistakes that they’ve made (in the futile hope that I can learn from them) or what advice they would give to an aspiring/early-stage entrepreneur. What is interesting is that the answer they all give is almost always the same.
In Chapter 2, I wrote about how I had tried to work out what I wanted to do in life. I had been working at an oil & gas company, was financially secure, and thought I had my life & career mapped out. However, like many millennials, I soon became disillusioned with the reality of being “just another cog in the machine”. I didn’t truly love the work that I was doing, and I realised that I could never have the tangible impact on people’s lives that I wanted to, or become as successful as I aspired to be.
When people think of great founders, they think of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Steve Jobs – people who have this unwavering drive and vision; who can captivate people and lead them on a journey. However, what made these guys truly successful was the support network they built around themselves – their founding team. The reality is that it is almost impossible for one person to have all the characteristics of a great founder. What is possible, however, is having all of these great characteristics shared between yourself and your co-founders.