Originally featured on Fresh Business Thinking.
“The world we live in is less about squirrelling away and hiding what you are doing and more about how we can we work better together,” says Lucy-Rose Walker, Chief Entrepreneuring Officer at Entrepreneurial Spark. These days, being entrepreneurially minded is not just a key skill for setting up a business, you need to be that way in your job too, we caught up with Lucy-Rose, and here she tells us more.
“Nine times out of ten, the biggest challenge for an entrepreneur is the entrepreneur,” she says. “They will talk themselves into things and out of things. Lack of confidence can get in the way. Self-doubt can be a massive problem.”
And so that’s one of the key challenges facing a budding entrepreneur. The problem is that, according to Lucy-Rose, they have to test their idea, research it, find out if it is any good.
“And there is nothing worse than being told that people don’t like it, that you have an ugly baby.”
Entrepreneurial Spark, Lucy-Rose tells me, is the world’s largest free people accelerator, “we support entrepreneurs in the UK and we also have hubs in India, working on their mindsets and behaviours to equip them with the skills to run and grow and scale.” Lucy-Rose has been in her current role for just over a year, but she has been with Entrepreneurial Spark for five and a half years – when it first began, in fact she co-founded it back in 2012.
So, with all that experience working with entrepreneurs, supporting them, nurturing them, what advice would she give to a budding entrepreneur who is armed with an idea they think can change the world?
The challenge is hinted at in the question: “They think.” That’s not good enough, it is no good if they think that they have a good idea.’ Who agrees with them?
“If it is your mum and dad who are waxing lyrical about your smart idea, that is of no use. Have you spoken to 100 people and asked if it’s a good idea?” Even then, she suggests “you need to have a deep dive into their customer persona, find out who it is that they think would purchase their product and then do more customer discovery in that area.”
Many of the entrepreneurs that come to Entrepreneurial Spark have identified a problem, or what Lucy-Rose calls “a pain point.” That is the key, what is this problem? The danger is that they fall in love with a solution. “So, they have identified a problem, but there may be 25 solutions to that problem.” That means they need to be flexible, and not tied to their one and only fix.
She says that one of the key tasks for Entrepreneurial Spark is “making sure you have a proposition that people want to pay for before you do anything else. There is no point in building something that nobody else wants.”
It boils down to the idea of the ‘Lean Start-up’: Rapidly progressing the idea so you can test it, and then developing it further, and testing that.
So that is the first point: test the idea, talk to people, and talk to people some more.
And to do this she says you need “Persistence, the ability to deal with constant chaos. There is no way better way to describe it than riding an entrepreneurial roller coaster, you move from one high to a low, the next high and low.”
She says that she once heard it described as “like falling off a cliff while building a plane on the way down. Nobody has ever run your business before, so you have to make it up as you go along. Which is why resilience and persistence are both so important.”
But she says something else is needed. It helps if you are in close contact with like-minded people.
This does not mean that you need to work with people just like you, far from it. She says that one of the key benefits of co-working is that it brings people together from quite different backgrounds, from all walks of life and indeed of different ages. “Our oldest entrepreneur is 65,” she says, “and the youngest is 16. The average age is 36. But what they do have in common is the entrepreneurial mindset, and that is key” – surround yourself with people with that way of thinking, and it rubs off – finding the confidence to push on through the hard times can be a group activity.
There is something else, too. When you rub two sticks together, you get a spark, that lights a fire – it’s the discovery that may have set-off human evolution. What happens if you rub two entrepreneurs together? Do you get a spark? That’s the conviction of Lucy-Rose.
And creating this spark is about sharing ideas, collaborating. Time was when the mantra of business was competition – keep your ideas to yourself, or else someone may steal them. But there is a realisation that the best person to implement your idea is usually you. “The world we live in is less about squirrelling away and hiding what I am doing and more about how can we work better together to create something for the future, for our and the world’s benefit. Previously, it was a competitive world, with people striving to compete with each other. People have now recognised that we are going to need to work together and collaborate in all the different areas of life to keep up with the world that is changing.”
It’s the idea that three heads are better than one “there, should be an acceptance that you can’t do everything yourself.”
So, that’s the idea behind Entrepreneurial Spark.
Then we turn to the future of work, why it is that being entrepreneurially minded is not just a skill you need to run a business, but it is a skill for life. But that is a story for next time.
If you are an entrepreneur, or entrepreneurially minded, you can find out more about The NatWestGreat British Entrepreneur Awards by visiting this page.