At last year’s conference I shared with you my own entrepreneurial journey – or my ‘pains of growth’ as I like to refer to it.
You heard about my decision, at 30 years of age, to leave corporate life to launch Inspire, and how, over the last 14 years, I’ve experienced enough highs, lows and self-doubt to sink a small ship!
But, thankfully, the scales have always been tipped in favour of success, and this comes down to the entire Inspire team, not to mention our fantastic clients.
The journey has been a huge learning curve, but, as with all learning curves, it’s been so worth it. The lessons I’ve learnt along the way have been life-changing, and this is something I’m sure all of you can relate to – the dogged, determined drive to succeed; the inevitable challenges and stumbling blocks along the way; and the euphoria of actually learning, growing and, ultimately, evolving.
It’s been 12 months since our last Entrepreneurs’ Conference, and it’s safe to say that the pace of change has not slowed. Which, of course, is always a good thing in an entrepreneur’s world!
Inspire continues to grow and, with that growth, I have been able to evolve both personally and professionally, which, of course, is what this year’s conference is all about.
Introducing the Evolve – An exclusive membership community for entrepreneurs
As entrepreneurs, we are constantly evolving.
It’s in our nature to continuously innovate, explore and discover new ways of doing things.
Far from embarking on a linear journey that takes us from A to B, we seek out new opportunities and pursue them with the same ambition and determination as all our ventures and successes.
Through thick and thin, my love and belief in Inspire has never left me. The firm is, and always has been, the crown jewels and I know that devotion will never leave me.
After all, it’s what I risked everything – and made sacrifices – to create.
But whilst Inspire excels at its role as a tax and business advisory firm, our various entrepreneurial conferences, dinners and events throughout the year – such as this one – have sparked a significant awareness in me: I’ve realised that I have a burning ambition to inspire and support a wider audience of entrepreneurs, founders and ambitious business owners – to effectively rally together a broader, nationwide network of like-minded individuals like you, so that they can unite and grow together in a shared, entrepreneurial community.
It’s this realisation that has led me, over the past 12 months, to write the book, ‘Evolve to Succeed – The Entrepreneur’s Journey’, and – with the help of some key individuals around me – develop the new initiative, Evolve – an exclusive, nationwide membership community of ambitious entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Through Evolve’s ecosystem of inspirational events, insights and coaching and development programmes, we want to bring like-minded individuals together so that they can realise their personal and business ambitions in an environment of shared learning, exploration and evolution.
The basic premise is – and this is something I have always believed – when you bring like-minded and ambitious people together, great things happen.
From concept to reality has been a tough journey
Whilst the concept has been developed during the last year, the idea behind Evolve and my book actually emerged in my darkest hours back in 2014. As I explained at last year’s conference, I was at my lowest ebb, and knew that if I didn’t rejuvenate myself, I would eventually crash and burn.
So, my survival instinct kicked in and I started to document and analyse my thoughts and ideas; to create ‘mind maps’ that, to others, would have looked like the ramblings of a mad man; to pull myself through the negative space in order to come out the other side stronger and more ambitious than ever.
It has taken three years to drum up the confidence to take this personal experience and create something that can actually help others on their own entrepreneurial journey.
The last 12 months in particular have been an awakening of my own entrepreneurial spirit.
I have felt a huge drive to make a greater contribution – to focus on a greater good and ambition. And I have realised that I truly come alive when I develop myself as an individual – something I am sure you can all relate to.
The biggest factor in being able to develop Evolve has been my ability to share the idea with key people around me, and effectively build a supportive team that can help bring the project to life.
A partner was essential for the Evolve business
Recognising that business can be an incredibly lonely place for an entrepreneur has been one of my biggest lessons, and I knew from the outset that I couldn’t do it alone and didn’t want to do it alone – I needed a partner that believed in, and shared, my passion for the Evolve vision and project.
This is why I have teamed up with Linsar founder, Barry Kick, who will be indispensable to the launch and success of Evolve.
Barry has experienced his own entrepreneurial journey, and all the ups, downs and roundabouts of success. He founded the award-winning consumer electronics company, Linsar, which competed successfully with global brands such as Sony and Samsung, and was responsible for strategic partnerships with Virgin Media and 20th Century Fox, amongst others.
Passionate about people, great leadership and communication in business, Barry has coached and mentored business owners across a wide range of disciplines, which makes him extremely well-placed to bring all he’s learnt to the table.
Suffice to say this is an incredibly exciting partnership and never has the phrase ‘watch this space’ been more deserved! Barry is also here today to answer any of your questions, so please don’t hesitate to seek him out during the course of the day.
Finding the right people to share ideas with has been a vital part of the process
I’ve also spent hours upon hours sharing my ideas with Caron Khan who isn’t simply a ‘yes’ person. She challenges, questions and helps Barry and I pull apart ideas to get to the heart of the issue. Additionally, I’ve selected a wider team of individuals who recognise that the best ideas can be the most painful to give birth to. The lesson here is that despite the pain, the sleepless nights, the doubt… you have to take the challenge, accept it, embrace it and grow. You will always come out stronger.
Making changes at Inspire enable the project to develop
Similarly, we have created a Leadership Team within Inspire – you heard from them in the video earlier today – allowing me to build client relationships and focus on the delivery of client services, whilst also developing Evolve and effectively enabling me to play to my own strengths and unique abilities as an entrepreneur.
The concept of playing to people’s strengths and unique abilities is something that you should apply to everyone in your team.
This ‘letting go’ of the reigns has been one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced, and this is where yet another lesson has been reinforced – everyone needs a Yoda.
What I mean by that, is that everyone needs their one person they can turn to who will listen, support and encourage you through the tough times. For me, it’s Mike Bevis and I know that without him, I would have never been able to let go and develop the Leadership Team.
Delegating and letting go are part of the process when changing direction
Being able to delegate and ‘let go’ has been one of my biggest lessons, and not something I have been able to achieve in the past – and that’s not for want of trying!
What I have learnt is that, until now, I haven’t been emotionally ready to give up the reigns. I’ve also learnt that truly letting go means committing to the decision on every level – dedicating yourself to it, and carrying it out with the same passion, love and determination you gave to starting the business in the first place.
What’s really wonderful is that in letting go I have actually reinvigorated my passion for Inspire and the team because I know I have a platform where Inspire is being nurtured, protected and developed.
This reminds me of something Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach once said when talking about the concept of ‘who not how’, which hugely resonated with me at the time:
“As entrepreneurs we spend so much time working out how we can do something, when what we really need to do is find the who that is going to do it.”
So, ask yourself: Who do you need to help you on your journey?
Belonging ‘v’ a sense of loyalty
I have also been reminded recently about the distinction between creating within a business a sense of belonging V a sense of loyalty. Stop and think about it – those businesses with a great culture, brand and team have within them a great sense of belonging.
A sense of belonging brings with it a true bon, greater belief, and a true affinity for what that organisation is setting out to achieve. Versus a situation where team members remain in the team just because they are loyal.
Clearly in my fellow directors at Inspire and in Barry I have trusted individuals that are invaluable sounding boards.
However, I have also realised the importance of connecting with other entrepreneurial and trusted individuals, be that in a peer group environment or one-to-one. Effectively an accountability partner to meet up for coffee with, bounce ideas off, but also set each other timescales and deadlines to keep one another on track and accountable. It is becoming invaluable to me.
It is also one of the reasons why the coaching and development content that Barry and I are creating will be able to be delivered by delivery partners in a peer-to-peer group environment.
What have I done with the freedom and space to grow?
Having that space to create and evolve has ultimately enabled me to write the book, and this alone is an incredible achievement for someone who failed their GCSE English abysmally!
But as the saying goes, ‘there’s a book in all of us’, and I have found mine.
Written for ambitious entrepreneurs and business leaders like you, I draw on my own experience to guide you, the reader, through the minefield of business, giving you the tools and know-how to overcome challenges and ultimately build a success story.
The content comes from my own personal journey and experience working with inspirational people, and I feel privileged to be able to share the lessons and realisations I have experienced along the way.
Through reading the book, ultimately I want entrepreneurs to stop, reflect and rejuvenate themselves personally and professionally; to think about success holistically, so that they can develop all areas of their life; and to recognise where they are on their journey so that they’re better equipped to circumnavigate the ups and downs and take the right steps towards success. It has effectively been written for individuals like you, which is why you’ll all be invited to the launch of the book in January – keep an eye out for the invite!
Holistic success and self-nurturing
When I talk about holistic success, I mean so much more than professional triumphs. During the last year I have pushed myself massively as an individual, but I have also practiced self-nurturing. I’ve developed a fitness regime, I’ve changed my diet, I’ve improved my sleep, and I’ve recognised my limits. But most importantly, I have tried to be kinder to myself. Now, I’m not saying that I am succeeding on all those fronts, far from it at times – just ask my wife, Michala! But I am giving myself the time and attention I deserve and am feeling healthier and happier because of it.
It is for this reason that as part of the Evolve ecosystem we are developing brand associates with other organisations like Fiit to provide entrepreneurs with the tools needed to succeed holistically.
Sourcing the outside investors
Another lesson I have learnt is that I don’t want to launch Evolve on a shoestring. I’ve experienced how tough it is to grow a business organically, without any outside investment – and that is what we achieved with Inspire, but boy was it hard work.
I wanted to do things differently with Evolve, and, I’m proud to say, we managed to raise all required funds in just three weeks. I can’t tell you how much confidence that gave both myself and Barry. And aside from the obvious advantage of gaining the investment, it’s enabled me to experience the process of finding investment myself – something I have spent years supporting clients through, yet until this moment have never actually walked the road personally.
Conclusion and lessons learnt
Talking to you about the last 12 months and all that has happened since last year’s conference, there’s one very significant life lesson that I think is absolutely fundamental to entrepreneurialism and, indeed, success:
Create the life you want to live
It’s that simple. If you follow an idea and deliver on what you truly believe is needed, you’ll reap the rewards on so many levels.
The final lesson that has taken me years to truly recognise is this: whatever you’re doing, be 100% present. It may sound controversial, but as entrepreneurs there’s no such thing as a ‘work/life’ balance.
We don’t work 9-5 and spend every weekend with our loved ones. We’re entrepreneurs 24/7. But this doesn’t mean we should abandon our family and friends. It means that when we do spend time with the people we love, we should be 100% present. That means NOT secretly thinking about the to-do list!
This is exactly what Evolve sets out to achieve for entrepreneurs, and I’m sure you all agree that holistic happiness – the ability to be the best entrepreneur you can be whilst nurturing your wellbeing and personal life – really is the definition of success.
The full Evolve ecosystem will be launching in Spring 2019.
But right now please go to evolvemembers.com to register your interest and we will keep you up-to-date with forthcoming events, including the Evolve Lunch at the Chewton Glen, featuring an inspirational guest speaker. An invitation will be heading your way shortly.
I’ve mentioned a fair few lessons I’ve learnt and been reaffirmed to me in the last 12 months – a lot of them I’m sure you can relate to. I hope you will take at least one of them away with you today and that it will make a difference to you.
But actually, there’s one really lovely experience and lesson learned from my daughter Savannah that trumps everything …
Savannah was at the office with me recently and I came back into my office to find this on my whiteboard ….
So simple, but wow did it have an impact on me. She is nine years old, yet she brought me straight back down to earth and reality, and reminded me why I’m doing this, and what’s truly important.
It’s something I keep with me all the time, and when I ever become disheartened, anxious, or just too preoccupied with the nitty-gritty of work and life, I remember that little, heart-felt message and I feel stronger and happier than ever. So, listen to the nine-year-old within you, and have fun. I promise you’ll be more successful and endlessly happier for it.