Hello, I'm Nancy, a serial entrepreneur & corporate citizen (NED Director, Carlsberg, OnMobile Global). For the last 5 years, I have been building MyShowcase, a beauty retailer that makes shopping more Personal, full of Expert tips, working with 50+ of the most Innovative and entrepreneurial beauty brands and all wrapped up with the best customer Rewards programme that we could imagine. I'm also in the business of facilitating and developing a diverse community of 2,500+ female entrepreneurs who operate as MyShowcase Stylists, Ambassadors and brand owners, so every day I learn a lot about what I believe makes a successful entrepreneur. Simona asked me to share my top tips, which I have called my imperfect 10!
1. Mindset - deciding to startup. Startup life is as diverse, risky and often grungy as it is empowering and exciting (to be your own boss). If your mindset is correctly set to embrace these things, you'll learn, thrive, deploy superhuman energy and enjoy (most of) your own business journey. Get swept up in the 'I want to be my own boss', get rich quick or have more flexibility by working for myself....and you risk serious dissatisfaction with your entrepreneurial lot! Tip: Set your ego aside. I mean really set it aside :)
2. Partners in crime - it's exciting, full, of potential, but risky and not always plain sailing to start a business. Sometimes, far from it. Getting the right partners, with complementary skills (& like-mindedness) can be deeply reassuring/strengthening for you and attractive to investors/colleagues etc. But rushing in can be perilous to your business and personal mojo! It's important to be prepared for what happens when a relationship falls apart. Tip: Don't speed date your business-partner or assume too much from prior knowledge. Take the time to explore your attitudes to starting/scaling/building a business together - and your individual and shared ambitions/timeline - to avoid disappointment and a major bump in the road down the line.
3. Talent - simply, the biggest accelerator when you get it right and the biggest debilitating-factor when you get it wrong. Take references, be thorough, don't hire on a CV...suss out work-style and 'how' a potential colleague operates. Tip: However fast you are scaling and however critical the need for a particular hire feels - if in doubt, don't hire!
4. The right idea - is the one that YOU have the energy, tenacity and experience to execute & scale better & faster than others doing something similar. Tip: Don't obsess about originality. Executing & scaling fastest will always win the day.
5. Raising money - is a necessary evil if you want to scale, are not fabulously wealthy and don't have a cash-generative business from the outset. Fundraising is distracting, time consuming and there is simply not enough of it (whatever the VCs and experts say). Tip: Raise more than you think you need (if you have the luxury to do that), find investors who are supportive for the good & bad times, and don't sweat the valuation.
6. Failing fast - don't panic, but not everything works out! Failure is part of startup life, and it's a sign of strength to test and validate new ideas and initiatives, and move on quickly from those things that don't deliver vs. sensible KPIs vs. pushing water uphill. Spotify's Founder set out to create the company that failed faster than anyone else. Tip: See failure as an asset, an important milestone in establishing your blueprint to scale up (what not to do is at least as important as what to do).
7. On the subject of nailing your blueprint & scaling up - it's enormously exciting when your business starts to scale, generating momentum without you driving every single turn of the wheel. In 2015, my company grew its revenue by 500% (albeit from a small base of £500k turnover). Investors were all over us, our feet rarely touched the ground, we were firefighting constantly to keep the show on the road (did we have enough stock, could we handle incoming leads fast enough, scaling volumes of customer service enquiries). But we had not nailed our blueprint and we didn't pause to understand this, relying on momentum to take us through. As we scaled, our metrics (marginally) softened and our board pushed us to enhance yield with diluted growth vs expectations. 2016 felt like painful failure, with growth of just 20% and this year, we have stalled growth entirely to re-work some of parts of the business that can help us to grow more sustainably: an incredibly slick digital marketing engine; launching our customer loyalty programme and establishing multiple channels to market to mitigate risk and fuel growth. Now we have to work really hard to drive growth once again - a tough, painful lesson. Tip: Don't be afraid to be a little bit early-days 'Jeff Bezos' (i.e. profit will come later....right now is about driving growth).
8. Confidence - a learned skill. Building a company from scratch requires creativity, accepting that you'll never have all of the answers all of the time. Confidence & being bold are vital. Tip: You can hone your confidence (it's not something you are born with - or not) by planning/preparing/acting with positivity/taking action.
9. Work-life balance. Myth or reality? I can't help you here as I didn't learn that part yet :) Tip: I personally find it helpful to focus on quality vs. balance and try to regularly let myself off the guilt trip.
10. Grit & determination are the most common attributes of the successful female entrepreneurs that I know. Tip: You'll need a lot of both, so dig deep.