Setting Objectives when Starting up a Business

When Setting Objectives when Starting up a Business you should always use SMART objectives -the most well known method for setting objectives. S.M.A.R.T refers to the acronym that describes the key characteristics of meaningful objectives, which are:

Specific

  • WHAT am I going to do?
  • WHY is this important for me to do?
  • WHO is going to do what? Who else need to be involved?
  • WHEN do I want this to be completed?
  • HOW am I going to do this?

Measureable

  • How do I know when I have done it?
  • Can these measurements be obtained?
  • What are the numbers, quantity, comparisons?

Achievable

  • Can we get it done in the proposed timeframe?
  • Do I understand the limitations and constraints?
  • Can we do this with the resources we have?
  • Has anyone else done this successfully?
  • Is this possible?

Realistic

  • Do you have the resources available to achieve this objective?
  • Do I need to revisit priorities in my life to make this happen?
  • Is it possible to achieve this objective?

Time-Bound

  • When will this objective be accomplished?
  • Is there a stated deadline? (a defined time line)

Setting Goals Summary

Remember what gets measured gets done, so write your goals down, share them constantly with those who can help, are part of the goal and your team. Keep refining your goals to ensure achievable. If necessary, split goals down into achievable tasks.

Effective Listening Skills for Entrepreneurs

Why Listening Skills?

The most important skill you can develop as an entrepreneur is the ability to listen and understand what your prospects are telling you. There are two forms of listening active and passive. Most people develop lazy passive listening skills which mean they hear the words, don’t process the aural sounds into understanding and follow through with feedback.

Understand the speakers body language ensures you are developing a higher understanding of the situation. Avoid letting the speaker know how you handled a similar situation. Even if the speaker is launching a complaint against you, wait until they finish to defend yourself.

Engage yourself to understand what is being communicated to you

Active listening is about using every sense, processing the words, creating understanding and following through with encouraging feedback.

Feedback

Encouraging – It is the technique through which the speaker is encouraged to continue talking. The expressions like “I see” are generally used in this activity. The technique of ‘encouraging’ is an effective way to reinforce the speaker’s belief that one is listening to him keenly. It also helps the speaker understand which part of his speech is being appreciated and helps him elaborate on that particular topic.
Paraphrasing – In this process, the words spoken by the speaker are presented by the listener in different words. The benefit of paraphrasing is that the speaker gets positive feedback and ensures that whatever he has spoken is being understood by the listener. This prompts the speaker to proceed further and stops him from repeating the same statement more than once.
Reflecting the Feelings – The activity of reflecting the feelings is similar to paraphrasing. In paraphrasing feedback about the meaning of words is given, while the feelings underlying the words are reflected in this activity; identification and sorting of the speaker’s feelings is carried out in this process. If one is listening to a client, reflecting the feelings helps the speaker understand that one empathizes with his feelings; it encourages the speaker to proceed.
Summarizing – As the name suggests, this activity involves summarizing the sentences of the speaker. It is somewhat similar to paraphrasing except for the fact that summarizing provides a complete and comprehensive feedback.

 

Ten Tips for Developing Effective Listening Skills

  1. Understanding the difference between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ listening.

To listen ‘actively’ means to be engaged, involved. You are actively using every sense you have to listen.

To listen ‘passively’ means you hear the words with your ears. You are letting the sound of the words wash over you rather than going forward to meet and greet them. They ‘go in one ear and out the other’ very easily.

  1. Eliminate outer distractions.

If you are giving someone your full attention then sounds other than those you want to hear can distract. Turn off what you can and consciously block the rest.

  1. Eliminate inner distractions.

Quell the urge to think about anything other than what you are hearing. If you allow your mind to wander you are letting yourself lapse into ‘passive’ rather ‘active’ listening.

  1. Pay close attention to the speaker’s body language and in particular the face and hands. Watch for non-verbal cues giving suggestions as to how the spoken information is to be interpreted.

Click for a quick basic guide to body language . If you’re unfamiliar with the notion of ‘reading’ the way a person holds their body, this will serve as a good introduction.

  1. Listen to the tone of the voice.

What feelings does it evoke? What does it let you know about the speaker’s emotional state beyond the words they are using? Listen too for changes in tone, pitch or pauses within the speech. These can signal subject shifts or transitions. They may also be letting you know what is important and what isn’t.

  1. Listen to the tone of the words chosen to express the speaker’s ideas. Most of us use differing vocabularies depending on whom we are speaking to and what it is we are saying. What is the speaker’s choice of words saying to you beyond the words themselves?
  2. Pay close attention to cues heralding note-worthy information or summary statements. Example: ‘There are two things I want you to remember…’, ‘There are three important steps. The first is…’, ‘To sum up…’
  3. Resist the urge to respond or react.

Let the words communicate with you freely. They are not free if you are already deciding what you’re going to say because you have shifted your focus from the speaker to yourself. A premature outburst either in your mind or outloud can block communication.

  1. Practice playing-back what ‘you think’ you heard. If it’s appropriate check your understanding. Use your own words to paraphrase and or/summarise what was said. Ask if you heard rightly. Get confirmation or clarification.
  2. Be aware of cultural-difference.

Body language varies significantly across cultures as does what can and what can’t be talked about. Before leaping to a conclusion reflecting your own interpretation or prejudice, ask.

 

 

 

A true Entrepreneur never fails, just learns

In the recent months, I have been thinking about the journey we take as entrepreneurs. This is not always a logical one and it has many twists and turns but as a lecturer I know it’s important to present a structured approach with a limited set of options. But as a realist, I also know the path to true enlightenment may be through the pit of delusion.

The message that failure is a good thing is one which many people are now talking about, yet I find our education system still thinks in a binary way, you either pass or fail and this can only be done at defined points, normally set by your age.

Our Examination system teaches us from a young age that there is only one right answer and many wrong ones. This then provides society with a view of you, typically a grade from A* to U. We sit and judge you from afar, if too many get high marks then the exams were easy, if too little get high mark then the youth of today are spending too much time on their Xbox. The hard fact for many young people is that the grade is final and they be able to change it, even if they get better at that subject. You never get the opportunity to learn from your mistakes or gain a higher grade.

Yet Entrepreneurship is about the path your take and the reactions to the decisions and not the decisions themselves.

Everyone is expected to take the wrong turn at some point and the important thing is how you get back on track. How do you learn from the situation? How do you react to your mistake? How do you reflect on the situation and opportunities surrounding you at this point?

Let me explain this in terms of driving from London to Paris. If you made one wrong turn at any point, then as long as you recognized this fact and acted on this information to rectify it, you would still arrive in Paris. It may or not take longer or extra time. yet our education system would have failed you and asked you to never drive this route again.

I always explain starting a successful business as having to make one hundred right decisions. Out of how many I do know know. Over what time I do now t know. I don’t know what feedback loop will be in place. When will I know that I have done it?

We all agree that these decisions will need to be made and that some of them will be shown to be wrong. (Either the right decision at the wrong moment or the wrong decision at the right moment) This is not a fail, just another opportunity to learn, rethink the plan and evaluate your surroundings.

Our secondary education system needs to develop an opportunity to reflect on the learning and allow the learner to build this into their learning plan moving forward.

Your path is your own and only on your reflection can you mark yourself.

The Guitarist Entrepreneurs

What if I tell you that, there are more than five British people who have made more than $1.1 Billion dollars between them by just using one (maybe the greatest) entrepreneurial tool, the guitar.

If there was a group of people who have a way of making money using a simple formula, you would imagine that there would seminars on how to do it, the internet would be full of adverts stating this get rich scheme. Every school would tell young people that this is a career option, but no, because its rock n’ roll.

There are lots of these people around the world but I wanted to focus on just five, so selected these five, who past retirement and still making money, just to emphasis the long term viability of this global self employment opportunity.

This group of people found a secret formula in the 1960s and created such an incredible demand for their services that the world continues to consume it decades later. They made so much money that some governments created special taxes, just to try and get into the act.

Below I have shown you, just five “Guitarists”, each very successful from the same age 67-71 years old.

So what’s ‘secret’ formula and how can five people be worth $1.150 Billion?

Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven Live
Aged 71
Net worth: $170 million
PRACTICE – While still a student, Jimmy Page worked as a session musician and doing a lot of busking. He states “I had to come to grips with it and it was a good schooling”, and this practice provided an opportunity to get feedback from real customers and also build a solid product which could then be taken to mass market.

Eric Clapton

The Yardbirds / Cream – Cocaine
Aged 70
Net worth: $250 million
INDUSTRY INFLUENCE – Eric Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. This is why successful people still go on TV or write blogs, you can never underestimate how this influence can provide limitless opportunities.

Pete Townshend

The Who – Quadrophenia
Net worth: $105 million
SIGNATURE MOVE – If there was a move which every person knows, its the windmill swing when playing the guitar. On stage, Pete Townshend developed a signature move in which he would swing his right arm against the guitar strings in a style reminiscent of the vanes of a windmill. Others have followed since, e.g. Michael Jackson with his backward walk, that signature move is the most powerful marketing tool available.

Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones – Out Of Control
Aged 71
Net worth: $340 million
LUCK – If there is one person on this planet would has luck on their sides, it’s Keith Richards. Every entrepreneur knows if you have some luck then it makes a big difference.

Startup Incubator Best practice

What do people need from an incubator when starting a business ?

Over the last six years I have visited, be a participant of and worked in an startup Incubator. So I have had the opportunity to see it from all sides. The one thing I learnt very early on was it’s not about the physical space. Those with the most colourful, innovative decor or largest wall hanging tended to be the worst. Those that I liked focused on a few important things, so lets consider them in the right order:

Business Networking

The opportunity to network and be associated with a network is the most important factor. Entrepreneurs that do well network, it provides co-founders, investors, customers and the most importantly great staff. So having this provided on a plate to you, when starting out, is the golden egg which your business should be incubated in.

Mentoring

Most people who run incubators have never started or run a business, so having a mentor is very important in creating perspective, inspiration and raw guidance. The mentor and mentee should be trained to understand the expectations placed on the each other. The selection of the mentor should be based on the stage of the business, business sector and the location of the entrepreneur. Having more than one mentor should also be encouraged.

Flexible Space

It’s important that formal meeting space, serendipitous meetings and water cooler moments are all facilitated within the incubator. The majority of business people today expect to meet in a cafe or open space but a closed space is also needed for formal meetings. The hot desking should have great wifi.

Friendly Support

Having people who can support you when things don’t go as expected is important. The ability to ask someone who can sign post you to additional support, grants, loans and people is so important when starting out, pivoting and trying to bootstrap your business. When selecting an incubator, do the staff seam helpful and knowledgeable.

Skills Development Events

In the process of starting a business most people learn new skills naturally, but don’t know it and need reminded of the distance covered. Some people need organised session whereby they develop skills and knowledge which will be needed in the future, next month/year. The majority of incubators will have a speaker series to support this.

Funding Support

Most people don’t need that much, if you are outside London, the costs of living is less. If the office is free then it’s just some living expenses and then some Stuff to move the business forward. However access to finance at various stages is important to scale businesses and the staff should be able to support you in this endeavour.

Free or Discounted Stuff

Most businesses need a tool bag of stuff which can help them more forward their business. This may include websites, accounting software, payment solutions, discounted travel, …etc. Its also helpful if the incubator can recommend software solutions for you, saving you the research space and money.

 

The important factors in starting a business are sometimes softer that you think. Its not always Money, Staff and 1000 sq ft office space. It may just be a cup of tea with someone who has done it before and has a story to tell.