Learning from the best at Entrepreneur Country – part 1

I had the privilege of spending the day with some of the UK’s most inspiring entrepreneurs today at Entrepreneur Country’s ‘Turbo Charge Your Business’ forum. Twice yearly, the EC forum is an absolute must in my diary as it presents a rare opportunity to meet business owners with big visions and great drive, at the same time as listening to inspiring speakers. The perfect combination to get the all-important space to spark further ideas to grow our business and that of those we work with.
This little series over the next 3 days is not intended to cover all the speakers, or in fact to cover every detail that each of our featured speakers said. Instead it is a brief account of some of our favourite messages, and includes the key learnings that many of these hugely successful entrepreneurs shared from their start-up journeys.
Part 1. Martha Lane-Fox, founder of lastminute.com, Lucky Voice and now the UK’s Digital Champion with the mission to get everyone in the UK online by the end of 2012.
What an amazing speaker for the EC Forum to open on. Martha is a poised and inspiringly modest speaker, who somewhat outlandishly accepts the term of “dot com dinosaur” to describe herself, having been part of the original dot com boom.
Martha starts with the entertaining quip “you’re entrepreneurs, so you probably won’t listen anyway” which immediately gets everyone listening! Professing that she is no more of an expert than anyone else in the room, she expressed a desire to share some learnings from her days launching lastminute.com, in the hope it can benefit others in the room:
1. Have a vision, and learn how to sell that vision with passion.
Selling a vision is the core task of an entrepreneur and in fact of any good professional. If your vision is compelling enough anyone you need will follow you.
2. Stay close to your customer and get out on the front line.
Everyone always thinks they know their customers, and that they have them in mind at every stage. But Martha recognises that it is actually very difficult to do in practise properly.
Identifying that it is about engaging with people running and using your business every single day.
3. Hire the best people.
Part time, full time, whatever gets the best and right resource for your business.
Be as rigorous as you can, and take as long as you feel necessary. Cultural fit is paramount. Getting a clash can cost a lot of money – as Martha’s personal story showed – and money is not something small businesses can afford to lose.
Next time… Jed Simmons of YouTube