Start-ups are innovative, inventive, and unique? Right?
Well, no, not really. While it is true that there are a lot of innovative companies, there are few that are truly unique and truly inventive - i.e., creating something that has never been done before.
So, not being unique and inventive is a bad thing? Right?
Well, no, again, not really. While it is true that being unique and inventive does give some material advantages to start-ups (especially in technology and services), but by itself, being unique and inventive does not guarantee success - in fact it can sometimes result in a harder journey for small businesses to navigate, because you have to do more to prove that there is a market for your uniqueness.
History is littered with great inventions that ultimately crashed and burned because they didn’t sell well, or they were harder to use, or they were more esoteric, niche, etc, etc. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a huge number of start-up Founders in my career to date. Some were great sales people, some were great business people and many, many of them were smart people too. But many of these people ultimately failed to make their ideas successful. This is a great shame and remains a phenomenal problem for Founders and Investors to solve.
So, why do some ideas succeed and others fail?
Well, if you remove the uncontrollable factors one by one, like timing and luck etc. you quickly get to a set of principle influences that can be controlled, or at least moderated and adjusted to create the best opportunities for success to occur. It is rare for start-up founding teams to have all the necessary skills, expertise and experience that are needed to promote, foster and encourage an environment to lead to sustainable success.
Most often early stage companies lack a significant number of the fundamental skills that exist in the most successful businesses. This is not surprising as they will nearly always lack the funding, or the network to find and attract the required skills and more importantly the variety of, and depth of skills required will inevitably alter as the business matures, changes and evolves. This is the challenge that is most associated with building a great business - i.e., how to ensure that your company has access to the best experience when it is most needed?
This is where a good set of mentors, coaches and formal and informal advisors come into play. Any one of these roles can be engaged on many levels and can be sourced from many different places. The beauty of these types of roles is that they can be used flexibly and can be adjusted to suit the needs of the company at any given time. A good, practical, set of mentors, coaches and advisors will bring their own network of relationships into play which can further extend the material value for small business Founders.
In simple terms a mentor shares their experience, skills and knowledge to help people develop themselves. A coach is a specialist who applies their knowledge and skills to help guide a client towards achieving their goals and potential. An advisor (and or consultant) can be retained to provide recommendations on specific issues and topics. Often, all three become mixed up, but that doesn’t matter in real terms as long as you are getting value from the relationship. The key is to have a network of people that you can rely upon to help and provide a wider range of insights and inputs so that you can make the most informed decisions.
Exploiting the real world knowledge and relationships of mentors, coaches and advisors will nearly always result in better business outcomes and help Founders and small business managers. They act as force multipliers and massively increase the potential of a business by bringing into play a far larger pool of experience than the Founders can apply by themselves. The best people will be proactive in helping the company to achieve success, because their association with a business can lend credibility and provide much needed maturity.
Having a good set of mentors, coaches and advisors is essential in any business, but their impact in small business is more valuable and productive. As a small business you will stand more chance of success if you have a good set of people around you and you work to manage the evolution of the team as you go.
Over the last 17 years, I’ve developed a mixed-skills experience, from a technical capability to a sophisticated financial knowledge base which has always tended to Centre around the Startup Space.
My world view is quite a simple one. I put the essential need for changes at the heart of everything I engage, and always have a Founder Focus when working with Startups.
Previously, I have been a Founder and worked with Founding teams, and you can honestly believe me when I say I have the battle scars and stories that come with such experiences.
Professionally, I enjoy solving problems for a greater benefit and impact beyond that of simply a monetary outcome (although that is important). For me, I believe there is natural cohesion between measurable monetary outcomes and sustained beneficial change, and when looking at anything that is the key element I search for.
In my private downtime I enjoy reading about a wide variety of topics and ticking items on my “to do list”. The next big one is to get a private pilot license when time allows such a commitment.