While it may sound poetic, Enterprise Made Simple was not born in a flash of inspiration. Rather it emerged from my desperate attempts of avoiding redundancy and working using Enterprise as a force for change.
Through my time spent working with start up businesses I became increasingly aware that there were key elements missing in the prescribed business courses and information they were receiving.
There was no practical element, few opportunities for business owners to develop their skills, and limited real world application from both a theory and practical point of view.
From such a simple starting point back in 2008, Enterprise Made Simple and Enterprise Revolution have become one of the fastest growing enterprise companies in the UK.
Here are six of the lessons I have learned from the experience.
Lesson 1. Keep a sense of proportion
Nothing is ever as bad as it first seems: the highs and lows of running a business, particularly as a founder, can be acute.
It is very easy to feel that much of the success of the organisation is outside of your control.
We’ve missed out on funding and contracts that felt almost guaranteed, lost staff unexpectedly and overstretched ourselves on difficult contracts.
Conversely, nothing is ever as good as it seems either. It’s easy to ride a surge of enthusiasm when something goes well – a great meeting, a successful tender application or a brilliant hire. It’s easy to mentally turn a minor achievement into a break-through moment.
The reality is that building a successful and sustainable businesses are a slog and it’s important to keep a sense of proportion – some days will be better than others, but it’s about every step.
Lesson 2. Be ambitious – for your organisation
At Enterprise Made Simple and Enterprise Revolution, since we began we’ve always set ourselves challenging targets. It’s these ambitious targets that have seen us grow from working with a single contract and business in March 2008 to over 3000 business owners and prospective business owners this year.
However, as an entrepreneur, it is important that your personal ambition does not take over.
According to research, organisations that do best are those where the chief executive fully invests their ego in the success of their organisation, rather than personal accomplishments.
Lesson 3. Measure the right type of impact
It’s easy to be sucked in to wanting to be the “next big thing”. However, making an impact is not the same as getting the public’s attention, or how many awards, Facebook likes or Twitter followers you have.
Resources in the enterprise sector will always be tight – and it is the duty of the enterprise company to make sure that every drop of resource has the greatest possible impact. In all business this should always be the main priority, putting the customer first.
Lesson 4. Remember your mission, but change everything else
While we’ve tried to finesse the wording over time, Enterprise Made Simple and Enterprise Revolution have always had the same mission: to use Enterprise to make a positive impact in individuals, communities, towns and cities.
However, the way we work to achieve this has changed a lot over time: we started by targeting individuals with our enterprise programmes. Over the intervening couple of years we developed programmes with primary age students, University students, Unemployed individuals, employed individuals, people made recently redundant, and people who have been in business from one to thirty five years. We have also created after-school clubs, homeworker clubs, mumprenuer specialism and a training arm.
Some of these worked better than others, and the programmes we use today have evolved over time to combine the best elements. The result has been a hugely improved level of impact for everyone we work with.
Lesson 5. Bring others with you
Never forget that all successes are a team effort. At Enterprise Made Simple and Enterprise Revolution, the organisation’s would be nothing without a brilliant staff team: business advisors, trainers, administration, project managers, directors, funders and business partners. No one can achieve any meaningful impact at scale without the support, collaboration and hard work of a lot of partners.
Lesson 6. Don’t lose touch
Finally though, it’s essential as a leader of a business or a business owner to stay in touch with the frontline of what your organisation does. For me, that means finding the time to leave the office and join the team on the ground.
Another important reason for doing this is that it will revitalise you. Looking back, the times that I’ve found most challenging, and where my spirits have flagged have been those times when I have allowed myself to focus on the numbers rather than spending time with businesses and the different business owners.
There is limited satisfaction in chasing and hitting a target, no matter how ambitious it feels.
There is real joy in seeing the impact of your work. For me, the happiest moments are seeing business owners or those about to start a business adventure excited and engaged, brimming with ideas and positivitiy and the succeeding.
And it’s important to think to yourself: this is why I started out.
More about what we do can be found on our website: www.enterprisemade.wpengine.com
After reading this, email, tweet or message us the things you have learnt when starting or growing a business.