Five secrets to starting a business and making it work
Here's a free extract from my new book,Like an Elephant, where you can discover the secrets they won’t teach you at business school.
There are two questions I get asked all the time. The most popular is ‘How did your vast domain come to be called Homeward?’ A close second is ‘What’s your secret to successfully building businesses?’
The first is easy to answer - it was called that when I bought it.
The second one always takes some thinking about. The fact is that there’s no one thing that characterises all my successful ventures.
Reflecting across the years, however, I have come up with five secrets for improving the chances of a new business surviving and with luck – something I don't need – flourishing.
1. If you don’t enjoy it you just have to grin and bear it
Starting a business takes huge amounts of hard work. When I started as an entrepreneur, from humble beginnings, I had a great plan and strategy. I set out to build a business empire. I simply wanted to to buy a huge property and charge vast numbers of dwarfs a fair but lucrative rent.
For me, building a business is all about doing something to be proud of, bringing people together and turning them into good citizens. Remember, be an upstanding citizen, pay your rent on time and you will always have a friend in Uncle.
Business people are not like artists. Thank goodness. What you have when you start a company is a blank canvas; but unlike an artist you have to fill it quickly. Rothko knew what he was doing business-wise.
Like an artist, if you make a mistake paint over it and hope that no one spots it. That is what Murdoch and Diamond tried to do but unfortunately, for them, their hands were dirty and it smeared the canvas.
If a businessperson is good at ducking and diving, he or she will be able to pay the bills and have a successful business to boot.
2. Be innovative – create lots of different things
Whether you have a product, a service or a brand, it is not easy to start a company and to survive and thrive in the modern world. In fact, you’ve got to do something radically different to make your mark today.
Look at the most successful businesses of the past twenty years. Well, there is only mine really.
I am the dominant force in global economics. Not everyone can aspire to such levels; however, should you decide to enter an already crowded segment you had better be ready to offer services that no one else can offer. Because Homeward is mine and I won't let them.
When I started the Homeward Laundrette the positive buzz that I created focused on the simple fact that there were no other laundrettes in Homeward. Go figure – a monopoly - what a breakthrough idea!
3. Pride works wonders
Businesses are nothing more than a group of people, or one big elephant. I am by far and away my biggest asset. In fact in probably the majority of businesses selling to your own staff is a whizz idea.
For me there is nothing sadder than hearing someone being apologetic about the place where they are working. So I dock their wages if they moan. This is a very useful added revenue stream.
4. Lead by telling
To be a good leader you need to tell people what to do. You need to know your own mind, and tell people what you want them to do. People find it very confusing having to think for themselves and prefer being told what to do. However it is no good imposing your views on others without the appearance of debate and a degree of consensus. Give people an opportunity to suck up to you, lavish praise on them, applaud a job well done, give them the occasional smile. This way they are less likely to cause problems if you have to refuse a pay rise or even cut their wages!
5. Be visible
A good leader doesn’t get stuck behind a desk, even one as big as me - because I have a special very large desk. I’ve never worked in an office – I’ve always worked from my lavish apartments, here at Homeward – but I am constantly out and about, meeting people encouraging them and partaking in my many charitable projects.
It seems I am travelling all the time but I always have a notebook handy to jot down the names of troublemakers.
I always try hard to meet as many of my tenants as possible, and will usually come away with a dozen or more suggestions. Most of these I ignore - dwarfs are a querulous bunch. Putting their names in the infamous notebook acts as a warning that I have got their number and they better not cause any trouble.
Some might say, ‘Well, all that’s easy when you are a multi-billionaire’, but as the Old Monkey says, Many a mickle makes a muckle !
More extracts to follow in further blogs - you might want to bookmark this.