Entrepreneurs - if nothing else - swim. The health of your business starts with your well-being.
I think everyone that reads this blog will be aware of my passion for entrepreneurialism. Perhaps they are less aware that I’m equally passionate about swimming.
I believe that these two quite different activities are highly synergistic.
I swim three or four miles a week. It is rare that I don’t make the time to swim, even when travelling. And if I am forced to sacrifice my swimming, I greatly miss it.
I believe swimming is important, because:
- We all need some time exclusively to ourselves. Uninterrupted. Swimming is good for this.
- Time and space in which to either think, or conversely, to clear the mind and be devoid of thought.
- Swimming is a great way to keep fit. It provides an intense workout without the impact, stress and consequential injuries that other sports inflict on joints and muscles (especially running).
If you are an entrepreneur, I believe swimming (or any form of regular vigorous exercise) is fundamentally important to the success of your business because:
- Whether you like it or not, your team want a leader who looks after their well-being as actively as they look after the business.
- Your team is not alone - investors possess a similar interest in your health, (and a keener eye).
- No-one in the team wants to see the visible consequence of stress and fatigue on their leader. It is totally fine for you to work too hard (they kinda expect it), but it is essentially that you do so gracefully. If they think that you are unable to cope; that running your business is either too difficult, or beyond your personal capabilities, they will not give you their unconditional support. Poor condition is a source of doubt.
- Journalists and commentators also have an interest in your condition too. It’s interesting when journalists include within their report their observations about the state of their interviewee. For example: “… so said the CEO, who sounded especially tired when asked about …”.
Your competitors will take an opportune look at you too. In both start-ups and in big corporates I have seen CEOs actively evaluate the condition of their peers. They want to know if you are struggling. Your pallor alone can speak volumes.
But more important than all of that, vigorous exercise is fundamental to the health, well-being and longevity of entrepreneurs.
Last year, I had the privilege of travelling on the Entrepreneurs Express, a special train destined for the Made Festival in Sheffield. On-board I was delighted to meet and chat with Duncan Goodhew, the Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer.
Duncan explained his view that entrepreneurs are massively fuelled by adrenalin, the natural source of energy we all produce that super-charges us for either ‘fight or flight’. He said that whilst this is a fantastic and effective source of energy it is also highly dangerous if not used properly. Duncan believes that the heightened level of adrenalin on which many entrepreneurs thrive, needs to be regularly burnt-off or it becomes corrosively harmful. In his view our bodies simply are not designed for adrenalin-rocket-fuel to lay latently within us.
I think he’s spot-on.
Entrepreneurs, the health of your business starts with your well-being. Swim.
An entrepreneurs ‘To-do list’ for Week 2 of a start-up.
At the beginning of the week I wrote a post to provide entrepreneurs with a To-do list for Week 1 of a start-up.
Now as the week draws to a close, I am compelled to issue a To-do list for Week 2.
At the end of your first week, take time off. Stop. Relax. Rest. Recover.
Take a moment to think.
Before the start of Week 2, singularly, define what is the most powerful action that you can deliver to move your business forward most.
Discuss and agree it with your team. And then, go and deliver it. Impactfully.
Digital entrepreneurs have the power to enable us to leapfrog everyday barriers.
Wherever we experience friction, obstacles, inconvenience, risk - entrepreneurs see opportunity.
The world now has:
- more access to more computer processing power;
- more pre-written open-source code;
- and more connectivity
… than at any time in history.
Which is why one entrepreneur I spoke with last week described the current global context as a “gold-rush”. Paradoxically the same week that Spain declared 26% unemployment. Es una locura (it’s crazy).
Our job at Wayra is to help digital entrepreneurs accelerate their businesses. What I especially like about that is it also helps to bring forward the arrival of future technology; to realise the benefit of innovation and the creation of new economy, and make it happen more quickly. For certain, we need those new jobs now.
I am incredibly lucky to work with such brilliant entrepreneurs. Each innovation created by these digital pioneers is another positive step forward, however large or small - the cumulative effect enriching our lives demonstrably in an ever shortening time-span.
Whether it is as trivial as efficiently connecting our need of a taxi to the nearest empty cab. Or as profound as the elimination of cash. We are witnessing the birth of a new economy, a digital economy - our lives, jobs, opportunities are all indelibly changing at an incredible pace.
Often the only limit to our entrepreneurial progress and its positive impact, is our collective imagination. For many, these are troubling times. Optimistically, creativity and innovation are capabilities that humans are good at.
By way of example, allow me to help fuel that creativity by declaring my passion to eliminate ticketing in public transport. And I’m not just talking about paper tickets.
Barriers at railway stations are not just a metaphorical form of friction, they are a literal obstacle that commuters battle with daily.
To help reduce this friction, the UK has Oyster Cards - an electronic form of ticketing that uses pre-paid cards. The Oyster Cards feature NFC technology to enable customers to “tap-and-go” in order to pass through the barriers.
According to Wikipedia, the Oyster Card system will celebrate its tenth birthday this July. More than 40 million Oyster Cards have been distributed.
There is no doubt Oyster reduces friction in comparison to queuing to buy old-fashioned paper tickets. However, as The Evening Standard recently reported, more than £53m lies on dormant Oyster cards. Frankly I’m surprised it’s not a lot more.
Perhaps friction can change state?
But it’s not the registration and topping-up of Oyster Cards that I see as the biggest form of friction - my issue is with the actual mechanical barriers themselves. They require huge capital investment to install and significant operational cost to manage and maintain. The system is so inefficient that we have to pay people to stand by the barriers in order to manually let people through.
And yet, the smart phone on which you may be reading this blog knows:
- When you got on the train.
- When you got off the train.
- It knows who you bank with.
- And that you wish to pay the train/bus company.
- It could forward your payment directly to the train company without involving you in the transaction.
- You’d never have to think about buying a ticket ever again.
- Train companies could reduce their operating costs by billions …
- … which of course they would pass-on to their passengers.
I call this form of innovation ‘Predictive Intelligent Convenience’. It will enable us to leapfrog the barriers currently in our lives.
If you have ideas like this - if you find innovation exciting: form a team; develop your idea; apply to Wayra. Together we can change the world.
We are transitioning to a new era. From an era of switches to an era of Predictive Intelligent Convenience.
At Wayra we often meet people who are passionate to start their first business but are yet to do so because they find themselves frustratingly stuck in their hunt for the elusive brainwave-of-an-idea that will turn them into the next Mark Zuckerberg.
Having co-founded six start-ups, I’m often asked what inspired me and where I got my ideas from.
In truth, there is a different context to each of the businesses I’ve been involved in, and not all of them were my idea. The creation process is nearly always collaborative. Which is why I believe that networking is so vitally important.
Right now my inspiration is hugely influenced by my belief that we are currently transitioning to a new era. A transition that I think is more significant than any before it, and one that is happening quicker than any transition previously.
I think we are living through the momentus birth of a new era: the digital economy.
The term ‘digital economy’ means different things to different people. One of the many benefits of working for a business accelerator like Wayra is that organizations like ours give everyone a tangible glimpse of what businesses of tomorrow might look like.
It is through this lens that I look at past eras and try to extrapolate where I think we’re going from here. I tend to see things a little differently …
I think we are currently living in an ‘era of switches’. I believe that we are now about to transition into an era of Predictive Intelligent Convenience. We will soon have the capability to literally switch-off the ‘switches-age’.
I am not just referring to the type of switch featured in my photo above. (Although, who needs light-switches when your lights will sense if it’s dark and whether you are in the room?)
I’m talking metaphorically - effectively everything we do represents the flicking of a switch. For example, ‘buying a train ticket’ - ‘flick’. Buying a cup of coffee on my walk from the station to the office - ‘flick’.
We currently refer to the device in my hand as a ‘smart phone’. I find this an inaccurate description. Theoretically my phone knows:
- where I am;
- separately it knows within my diary where I next need to be;
- it theoretically knows whether the rail-network is operating on-time;
- or whether the roads are congested;
- it knows who I bank with;
- the taxi company I have an account with etc etc
It knows when I need to leave my current location in order to get to my next destination on time; which route is quickest; it could select the best mode of transport. It could even predict and fulfill my need for a cup of tea en-route.
And yet currently, disappointingly, my smart phone does naff-all to proactively help me get where I need to be. (Which is why I don’t think it’s very ‘smart’).
Perhaps all that is about to change. I think bright digital entrepreneurs have the potential to make smart-phones properly smart.
And so, if you are either: an entrepreneur; digital pioneer; product inventor; computer scientist; usability engineer; marketing expert - and you have a passion for creating a new digital business that will accelerate the declining use of ‘switches’ (both the physical and metaphorical types) - then create a start-up; build a team; design the product.
And then, apply to join Wayra.
We are currently looking for the best digital talent that has the ideas and capability to take advantage of a better-connected world.
But hurry our current call for Projects closes on January 21 2013. Click here for details.
Drinking champagne at Christmas is good for business. What will you be celebrating this time next year?
Welcome to 2nd January 2013 - for many today is the first day back at work after the Christmas and New Year break.
For me, 2012 has been the most spectacular year. Personally, a remarkable year. Professionally, 2012 is the most notable year of my career - thanks to Wayra and the amazing people I work with.
Now, I have even bigger dreams for 2013.
The amazing entrepreneurs in Wayra often ask for my advice. Without doubt, my most favourite business tip is:
Think about and visualise yourself drinking champagne to celebrate your successes next Christmas.
Now tell me, what achievements are you celebrating?
I don’t care whether your imagined successes are either the achievement of personal goals, or professional objectives - or a mix of both. But I passionately believe that success depends on your ability to be able to define and articulate in detail your ambitions for the year ahead. And to be able to visual yourself, and how it feels, to have successfully achieved them.
‘Goal visualisation’ is proven technique for athletes and sports-people. I think for many of us it is equally effective in the performance management of our careers.
Focus less on making the right decision. Learn to recover faster.
It is common to hear successful businesses and entrepreneurs described as: decisive, agile, fast. They seem to have an ability to progress and achieve at pace; build momentum rapidly, and gain traction fast.
One of the reasons why I’m so lucky to work with the amazing entrepreneurs at Wayra is that I get to see this in-action first-hand. To-date Wayra has received more than 14,000 applications from teams wanting to join the Wayra family. And so, when I say they are the best, by virtue of the sheer volume of applications received and filtered, they really are the best-of-the-best.
If only it was that easy. Even some of this elite crop struggle. There can be any number of obstacles to slow down entrepreneurs. The most disabling tend to be: a lack of clear direction; inability to determine the highest priority; a lack of confidence to make or declare a decision.
I believe speed of progress can be modelled and replicated. That it is possible to learn techniques that avoid these obstacles and therefore enable start-ups to accelerate to the maximum velocity that they are capable of. However, some of these recommendations are going to sound ridiculous:
Focus less on making the right decision. (I really mean it).
Spend less time trying to avoid the wrong decision.
Avoid investing time identifying who made previous decisions.
Focus less on defending the decisions that you made…
… Or of being defensive.
Every atom of energy you invest in any of the above, is energy that is being wasted. Energy that could have been used to advance your business. There is a positive alternative. And it is only a decision away. Instead:
Just learn to recover faster.
Whether the outcome of your decision is either good or bad - once the goal has been achieved (or missed), take a moment to evaluate, and then: Learn; Iterate; Evolve; Redeploy. And do so quickly.