Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

admin/ July 4, 2017/ Business

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

It was a great session on Thursday 29th June, as I welcomed a panel of 5 successful business leaders to impart their words of wisdom to a packed crowd of budding entrepreneurs at CambridgeSpace.

Since joining CambridgeSpace as a ‘Wizard’, I thought it would be great to understand the journey of some of its co-founders, members and friends so that others could benefit from their experience.

We secured sponsorship from Lloyds Bank via their business banking lead, Michael Sutton, so we could fund some drinks and nibbles at the free event. Tim Bond, another Wizard, was all set with the video camera to capture the event. So, we were nicely set along with a very chatty bunch of attendees for a lively discussion.

After 30mins of networking, I called for everyone to take their seats and we got underway by asking each panellist in turn what they thought was the best thing about being an entrepreneur. Cindy Maddrell, a property entrepreneur, offered an interesting comparison of corporate work vs being self-employed and how you can feel much greater satisfaction from your efforts; this is mainly because they’re your own efforts that have been self-determined. This was echoed by other panellists, but Lenka Koppova, a CambridgeSpace co-founder and Social Media strategist, added that it was very empowering to prove to yourself that you can thrive outside traditional employment where your value might not be realised.

As I love the dichotomy of ideas, my next question was around what the hardest or worst part of being an entrepreneur. Dominic Bowles, another CambridgeSpace co-founder was animated when telling of the tough times he faced when starting out and how making mistakes was an important part of the journey to success. Phil Coldrick, an intellectual property consultant, also warned to expect highs and lows and added that it’s important to have an exit strategy.

I next turned to Joshua Jones, an Illustrator in the audience, who asked if the panellists could look back and see what they’d do differently. Chris Hahn, my partner and previously an owner of a venue management company, said he’d keep a keener eye on funding at year 2 so you can continue to grow, take on a partner or bank loan.

I think the most memorable information came toward the end when Michael from Lloyds asked about what banks could do to assist when starting up. The discussion opened up more practical advice around starting the journey, too. Firstly, banks could help give more advice around financial health, as when starting a business, your head is filled mostly with ideas, excitement about your product, or service and getting it to market. Often you need steady, considered guidance from banks or mentors, and above all ‘know your numbers’. You don’t need a business plan unless you’re raising funds and you’re offering a proof of concept. Business plans are always out of date by the time they’re finished and you’re far better spending time planning rather than writing down a plan.

In closing, I asked if the panel had further tips worth mentioning. And here they are in summary:

  • Make sure it’s your choice – being an entrepreneur is a personal journey which must be yours or shared closely by your partners.
  • Choose the right partners – you may benefit from surrounding yourself with support but you need to carefully pick your team, your mentor, your clients and even customers; learn to say ‘no’ or say ‘goodbye’ to those who don’t align with your vision and objectives.
  • Be bold and brave – belief in yourself and that you can leave the comfort of a salary. It’s often earlier than you think.
  • Carve a niche – find a gap but make sure there’s a reason for the gap (as it may mean it’s unviable)
  • Be patient – your goals may take time. Get used to uncertainty and a bit of boredom on the road to success.

Damian Mears

Check out more photos from the event on our flickr.