I attended Entrepreneur Country’s forum recently and was so impressed that I decided to write a post on some of the lessons learned. Held in the auspicious surroundings of the Royal Institute of Great Britain where the 1st Industrial Revolution began, I heard a lot about how entrepreneurship will reboot the UK plc. Although I started life as a scientist and have had 18 years teaching MBA’s and doing business improvement, music has been a constant though my life. I could not help but notice just how well the Royal Institute of Great Britain’s lecture theatre could transform into a dance floor, given the somewhat mythical arrival of Madonna as one of the guest lecturers! 🙂 Oddly enough, the day was characterised by entrepreneurs telling real life stories of their hopes, fears, successes and failures, hence my title Confessions on a Dance Floor. Cue the music:
Just like Madonna’s fitness video, a lot of the discussion was centred around what entrepreneurs do to avoid burnout. Ed Bussey of iTrigga was a prime example, having come to the conference after an all night vigil at hospital on the occasion of his wife giving birth! He did however point out the importance of pressing the OFF button from time to time to avoid the possibility of crash and burn entrepreneurship.
Others talked of rituals and routines such as working out in the gym, taking forced holidays, running the London Marathon, going to the North Pole (that’s hardly chilling out!) and so on. Seemingly obvious advice, yet not always taken by busy entrepreneurs. Recall the post on STOPPING.
Like a Virgin
Several speakers gave witness to the importance of maintaining naivety if you are to succeed as an entrepreneur. Madonna’s contribution to this area is via her blockbuster hit “Like A Virgin”, which translates to the need to treat each new business situation like it’s the very first time, or at least to see it with fresh eyes. In particular Sir Will Sargent of Framestore painted a picture of the importance of intuition, creativity and the ability to remain adaptive and flexible as your company grows.
“If I stand still for 12 months, I will be out of business 12 months later“
Perhaps the personification of Madonna’s hit record about expression was the opening addresses by Julie Meyer and Dr Mike Lynch. Julie presented her ideas about entrepreneurship clearly, concisely and without apology for wanting to create an enterprise economy, which produces both economic and social benefit. Business gets enough hard knocks and we need to see business as an engine of improvement, rather than an evil empire as it is frequently portrayed by Governments and a self-riteous public sector, who sometimes try to interfere in business and enterprise. Mike Lynch extended Julie’s strident start to the day by giving us some home truths on entrepreneurship:
“Without good marketing you can have something amazing and no one will know. Marketing is not cheating“
“Avoid the myth of doing things properly”
Mark Hoffmann of Oxygen Finance added another subtle dimension to Madonna’s title. It would be too easy to assume that ‘expressing yourself’ was the realm of extroverts. Mark calmly pointed out that expression can come from an introvert stance:
“I’m quiet but very driven”
Like a Prayer
Stephen Linnecar suggested that we gotta have FAITH – Not an allusion to George Michael, but the summary of his presentation which focused on five factors which he regarded as key to success as an entrepreneur: Future, Attitude, Improvisation, Timing and Help. You had to be there to get the detail behind these buzzwords. Picking up on one of these characteristics, improvisation featured strongly throughout the day, a point that resonated personally with me, having taught creativity, improvisation and innovation for the Open University MBA for 18 years.
What impressed me most of all about the speakers at the event was a real and unusual sense of authenticity. Truths were told about successes. Much more importantly, we gained an insight into mistakes and outright failures. It’s much more important for an entrepreneur to learn from their mistakes than their successes and many speakers were candid about their regrets. We learned the perils of not owing up to mistakes via Peter Whent’s wonderful story of “United Breaks Guitars”, when a musician could not get any satisfaction from complaining to the airline after they broke his guitar. He resorted to a viral youtube campaign and United’s share price plummeted as his youtube figures climbed exponentially:
Lady Gaga’s vulnerabilities show up in her song called Hair, which she performed unplugged and therefore conceptually ‘naked’ in her appearance on the Paul O’Grady show. I feel it’s entirely appropriate to add Lady Gaga into a piece about Madonna, as she had clearly stood on the shoulders of giants in developing Madonna’s music into her own unique brand. Listen to the words of “Hair” to see behind the makeup, pizazz and lighting to the soul of a true artist:
So, there we have it. Five lessons for Entrepreneurs from Madonna and Lady Gaga:
- Hung Up – Don’t get hung up by flogging yourself to death – use the OFF switch
- Like a Virgin – Treat each day like it’s the first time to remain fresh
- Express Yourself – Be clear, bold and concise in your communications.
- Like a Prayer – Have faith in yourself and others that can help you realise your dreams
- Hair – Be aware of your vulnerabilities, successes, failures and learn