By todays standards I was a fairly late bloomer as an entrepreneur. I didn't start my first company until I was 25. The latest generation of entrepreneurs are doing amazing things whilst still in school!
I barely got through school with half decent grades let alone launch my first venture into the world of business. If there's any spelling mistakes in this article you know why!
I think I always knew that the traditional education and employment route somehow weren't going to be for me. Despite ending up with a degree in product & industrial design I never really conformed whilst in education. I was somewhat of a rebel, a maverick and in hindsight for the poor teachers and lecturers probably a real pain in the a*se!
As a designer I definitely had natural ability and talent but for me there always seemed to be a disconnect. It felt like just because I was good, that should be what I did. That if I did something else I'd somehow be wasting a talent that others would give their right arm for. So it wasn't long into my career as a designer that discontent raised its head.
I now look back with a wiser perspective at my decision to quit my first job. It was a little cavalier. Was the grass really greener on the other side? Fortunately for me it was and over the years to follow I founded and built several successful businesses in the strategy and design industry, which I sold in 2008.
So, what has being an entrepreneur taught me and why am I doing what I'm doing now? Well, the first lesson comes from the disconnect I had between my ability as a designer and my passion for it. The link here cannot be underestimated and part of what I do now is help leadership teams find and create these links. If people don't absolutely love what their company does and how it does it they'll never deliver excellence.
The second lesson came from my realisation that although I'd had no formal training I was probably a better businessman than I was a designer. The key to great management is to understand where your abilities best benefit the business and then surround yourself with amazingly talented people to do all the other stuff.
The true leadership role requires you to be both humble and practical about how you best contribute to your business. Ego has no place when you're trying to create something really different as you need others to willingly join you on the journey!
One of the main reasons why my companies were successful was the culture we created, how we worked together and how we did what we did on a daily basis. We were agile, communicative, creative, passionate, talent-rich and driven to achieve something way beyond average.
The realisation that most organisations spend fortunes on trying to be 'customer-centric' but don't really understand their people (something I call being 'people-centric') well enough to deliver what they want to achieve was a pretty profound moment for me and was the catalyst for what I do now.
I'm fortunate enough to now spend my time as a speaker and advisor to companies sharing my unique perspective on topics like strategy, change, culture and how to create amazing organisations built on talent, entrepreneurship, great leadership and doing things a little differently in order to drive innovation.
One of the phrases I have is this:
"Innovation is a by-product of being Exceptional!"
My career and success as an entrepreneur has been down to one thing. I've never settled for average, I've always know I could achieve more even when at the time I may not have know what 'more' was. In some way that's what being an entrepreneur is all about, self-confidence, gut feeling even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary and a desire to achieve something amazing!
My 'journey' so far has been amazing and I wish you all the same success. Love what you do and be exceptional!