17 September 2010

A million things go through your mind while you are sat there waiting….. I consoled myself saying “it doesn’t really matter” over and over again, but deep down, it does. There is a table full of colleagues and guests all having a great time and there are 125 people back at work relying on me to bring home the trophy. Without them, there is no UKFast. Awards do give everyone in the business a lift.

UKFast is a group of amazing, dynamic, innovative people. When UKFast gets nominated for an award, it is the team that deserves the credit.

Even though it’s called the Entrepreneur of the Year award, there should be no mistake. This award represents the entrepreneurial spirit in UKFast, the under current that runs right through the backbone of this organisation.

Its the worry of letting everyone down that I think drives the emotion inside, as no matter how calm I am in the run up, something kicks in and in the seconds before they announced the winner, adrenalin is now flowing. Its a great feeling. The feeling of relief after the expectation and all the emotions and thoughts that gathered, bottlenecking waiting for the answer.

I went to Fiji with Gail recently to help understand our business better. We learnt a great deal about ourselves in the process. I remember doing an exercise, with Tony Robbins where he asked,

“Are you an Artist, Owner Operator or Entrepreneur?”

To be an artist, you must have a talent. If I have a talent, I suppose mine leans towards sales. Its a profession I take very seriously and one I am enjoying learning.

I am an owner operator too, I own a few businesses and and I enjoy the operations.

But what about the entrepreneur. Tony had described the entrepreneur as a man who’d risk everything. This cannot be me therefore, as I am risk averse, I thought to myself.

I went to Tony in the break and asked him, can you be all three. “Of course, but one is the dominant, one needs to be nurtured and developed,”

I felt disappointment as I considered the prospect of not actually being an entrepreneur.

I remember leaving Granada, the company that acquired my first business in my late 20’s. I remember the catalyst was my Uncle Anthony, who said “look how at home you are here Lawrence. You should scrap any future ideas of business and concentrate on this. You were never meant to be a businessman.”

I felt sick at the prospect. I fought back, but Uncle Anthony was convinced. He had based his opinion on the way I’d run my first few ventures, and to be fair he had a point.

When  you are all 3; Artist, Owner Operator and Entrepreneur, something has to give. In my case, as a very small business, it was my bookkeeping and financial planning that suffered. Invariably as a small business person, you do too much and you never stop. It becomes a lifestyle business and quite frankly, most people in this position pay the government more in taxes than they make themselves. I know this was true for myself all those years ago.

Back to the disappointment, I looked up to Tony (not just because he is the most amazing communicator on the planet, he is also 6ft 7ins.) and said, “I cannot therefore be an entrepreneur, because, I never risk anything. There is no risk in any of the ventures I undertake.”

“That’s what makes you the entrepreneur, Lawrence. Others would see massive risk.”

This conversation and the ones that ensued with Gail and Tony really got me thinking. He is right, I do not see anything other than a successful outcome. If I do see a problem, I simply adapt or try something new.  Now I have had time to digest this, I think the reason UKFast is beginning to be a success is because we employee great “artists and operators,” certainly far better than I could ever be myself.

Then if I dig deeper, Gail my business partner is an awesome “owner operator.”

It’s all very well being an entrepreneur and I have been all my life since my first ventures in school at the age of 7 or 8. But I was never successful. As an entrepreneur you need great operators to team up with.

Look at some of the entrepreneurs in Manchester.

Brian Kennedy (Everest, Sale Sharks) has Ian Blackhurst.
Tim Bacon (Living Ventures) has Jeremy Roberts.

I am only able to develop my skills as an entrepreneur, because I have a 1st class operator working hand in hand with me (literally).

The advice I was given, was you can run a business from all 3 stances, however to truly be great, you should concentrate on your best skill. Simply employ others to fill in the gaps. At UKFast we have developed a strong board of directors who quite literally cover every personality trait on the planet. This is essential if you are going to get balanced answers to your questions. If you are going to step back a little as an entrepreneur, you will live and die by the team you pick.

Tony Robbins surrounds himself with the finest operators and his understanding of measuring and managing successful businesses is simply extraordinary and a joy to  watch.

I was given some great advice not so long ago, from someone who identified me as an entrepreneur. He told me to stop going into work. “You will see your business more clearly if you are not there all the time.”

I struggled to comprehend it at the time. However I have found that if you have the right team around you, your business is far more likely to develop if you spend more time away thinking about the future and planning the journey ahead as opposed to the “nose to the grindstone” approach.

This is easier said than done if you haven’t got the right people. If you have weak managers or people who simply are not aligned with your vision and principals, you are in for a rocky ride. If on the other hand, you have a business full of consummate professionals, all of whom would travel the length of the globe for you, it doesn’t take a genius to realise you are going to get a much more positive outlook.

Thank you to all the consummate professionals at UKFast who make the running of our business look very easy indeed.

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