Bullsh*t-free Business Advice
Self-made entrepreneur Kevin Godlington on getting your business moving fast, lean and ethically focused.
Over the coming months it’s my intention to offer up quick and relevant helpful tools for the men out there who are about to embark on the lonely and difficult road to starting a business.
Whether it is going it alone as a consultant and sole trader, or starting the next Google, the basic foundations and building blocks are the same and it relies upon aligning your intentions and reasons for doing it; your goals and motivations, security, money, lifestyle and the risks that lie in wait for you. For there are many.
A great democracy relies heavily on its entrepreneurs. We are a nation of inventors and re-inventors and have proven through history our spirit for starting something new. Indeed, SMEs as they are called, the Small to/and Medium sized Entities, are the backbone of any strong economy, creating millions of jobs and evolving a self-sufficiency amongst the working and middle classes which drives consumption and taxation.
To all entrepreneurs out there: you are the foot soldiers and backbone of this great nation and we salute you, each and every one.
Going it alone requires moral courage. I say this because the road is littered with distractions, costs, hidden bills and bureaucracy. Learning the ropes is a huge focus pull, meaning time spent on the main effort and mission is precious time, as the pull to do other things – taxes, insurances and basic housekeeping – can stop you from being able to do the thing you need to do most. My first column therefore is about the 4 ‘Fs.
FIND – your idea and niche
Everyone has a bum hole and a good idea. Trust me, the two go hand in hand, and are as common. Thus, most ideas are shit. Truly awful. As a result your idea better not be shit or you should continue where you are. Shit ideas do not work, that’s a truth I want to propagate early in all your budding-illustrious-delightful-self-starter minds. Choose your business, choose your idea and stress test it! Those with a GCSE in business studies (which I don’t have incidentally) will whine on about, “what’s your USP?” largely not knowing what a USP is (it’s Unique Selling Point, for those who care). Anyway, ask as many people as you can for their views and feedback, and shut your mouth and listen. Listening in business is utterly crucial: remember your idea may be utterly shit (see above) and without collaborative feedback you’ll never know! You won’t believe the amount of people who have appalling ideas and don’t understand why, but nor do they discover their idea is shit, because they didn’t listen, and all their friends didn’t want to upset them.
Once you think you’re onto something, and more than just Dave in the pub and your girlfriend Shelly think it’s a sound idea, then start writing it down. Put it all down on paper, finesse it, research it, all of it. Read it back to yourself, again and again, and to others, and ask yourself, “Does this sound sane or do I sound like Dave in the pub?”
Stay up all night doing as much detail and data pulling as you can – online is all you need, you just need to deep dig and get grafting. Time spent in the business plan is never lost time! It’s success time, it’s a basic standard for all to live with and you don’t need to be Lord Sugar to know this, it’s a fact.
So go away now and get researching and reading – market size, growth in the market, people already in the market, trends, whatever it is. Intelligence-led business is winning business! You need to establish what we in the military call GROUND TRUTH i.e. the facts, not the assumptions. What is the real shape of what’s happening down there, and how do I slot in? This informs my penetration point, my niche and my execution. It’s business Special Forces style and it won’t fail you!
FINE-tune & FINESSE – the concept and battle plan
Now comes the search phase and deep dive. This is where we get to know all our enemies, our competitors, the success stories out there and the failures, those that died by the wayside because they were weak, or didn’t get it like Dave.
Now you get red eyed and teary and stay up all night sweating (without the party drugs). This is where you stand and get counted. A few mates of mine did a SAS hostage rescue in Africa a long time ago, but before it they rehearsed the raid 200 times over a week, till they were exhausted. But when the helicopters swung into action and raided the camp, every man knew instinctively where to place his foot, raise his weapon and take down the enemy.
The lesson here is practice, practice, practice. You cannot do enough rehearsals and research, you cannot learn too much about your enemy and competitors. TRAIN HARD – FIGHT EASY. Enough said, you get the point. When your business plan is finished, ask your friends and family and some people you don’t know to come for a fun Dragons Den-style evening over a few beers at home or in the pub and pitch the fuck out of your new idea. Listen, and take the critique even if it’s painful.
FOCUS – don’t get distracted. Don’t yield to mission creep!
Now you have a plan, FOCUS. Distraction is the first enemy of the entrepreneur. Now you think you are Steve Jobs, and all your other creative genius ideas will flow…it’s like you are dancing on a creativity wave and your Vincent van Gogh moment is now here…it’s amazing and you’re riding high telling everyone who will listen your creative genius…Ok, SHUT the fuck up and sit down! Stop gobbing off and chill. FOCUS, stick to the business plan, stick to the timeline and the roadmap you set yourself last month, and sold the bank manager and £3k loan he gave you, on. Stay calm, keep clam, stay focused. It’s now time to execute the plan.
Finally. It’s time, launch day, we are off the blocks. Overdraft is in, website is up, emails are working (you emailed yourself 25 times to check), your partner has already ordered the new dining room table (on the business overdraft), the dog is cowering in anticipation, the market is ready, the picture of the Caribbean holiday and Ferrari adorn the fridge…
Then the tumbleweeds roll in and the phones don’t ring.
Hold your nerve, stick to the plan, do not yield, do not waver, do not lose your nerve, you are in the fucking trenches brother, it’ time, the whistle blows and over you go, a man, a warrior, a Jedi.
You work harder than you ever have, you burn the midnight oil, you put in 16-hour days and push, push, push, and keep going. This is your moment and no one, nothing can stop you. Believe in yourself and believe in your idea. You can do this, and you know you can.
About Kevin Godlington:
After growing up in state care and children’s homes in the North of England, Kevin left school at 15 as a runaway and petty criminal. But after joining the army at 16, Kevin served in the Royal Engineers and Special Air Service as a reservist and regular full-time soldier for 12 years, including 3 years working for the Foreign Office in post-conflict stabilisation. He has served all over the world in and out of uniform. He is a founding member of the national charity Tickets for Troops and former adviser to the Cabinet Office and Prime minister David Cameron on NCS. He has cofounded and founded business assets valued at over $150m, employing of 3,000 people globally. He believes vehemently in capping income at the higher echelons of wealth, and is deeply committed to wealth redistribution and all forms of social equality.
“Self-made millionaires are espoused into the modern man mindset, yet are rarer than rocking horse shit. Self-made is without any help, no parents, no education, no bank loans, just the wily streetwise spirit of self belief and the unrelenting drive necessary to overcome life’s evils. We aim to give you some pointers on attitude and focus that should help you in your goals and endeavours.”
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Read our Professor Green column on how to be a man and David Whitehouse on fatherhood.
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