Setting up in business – 3 essential character traits from an executive coach

Since being a teenager I’d imagined I would own my own company at some point in my life. I’d come from an entrepreneurial family – but still at 30 years old had no idea how I was going to make the move from my comfortable London corporate job into the grit and fast-tracked hustle of entrepreneurial life.

Ultimately the decision was made for me (as often happens when we hold a vision that we’re not taking sufficient action to realise!). In a challenging 12-month period in the second year of the new millenium, I left my marriage (an empowered choice), bought a new home (an inspiring space), had my first child (an eternal blessing), took a short maternity leave (14 weeks) and returned to my Commercial Director role … where 3 months later I was made redundant (with a healthy pay off – a lovely silver lining!).

As a single mother it made sense to invest in the flexibility of running my own business. It took a full 6 weeks of conversations and meditations to work out what product or service would most inspire me. There were no executive coaching schools in the UK in 2002 so I did a post graduate degree out of the US – that was a juggle!

I took on my first executive contracts while I was still studying and within 5 years had clients from some of the biggest media companies in the world – directors, editors, publishers, actors, authors – what a delight. The next 5 years I expanded to coach leaders in finance, medicine and new energy – CEOs, MDs, marketeers and financiers. From there I began to work with business owners of small and medium sized companies who themselves had made their own leaps into entrepreneurship and were conscious to keep aware and ahead of their game – thus their seeking out an executive coach in London.

There are people who will be driven at some point to go into business on their own. There are others who enjoy the cultures and routines found in most salaried jobs. If you think you’re one of the former, here are the top 3 character traits that got me beyond decade one:

  •  A healthy relationship to risk: there are points when you ask, borrow or say ‘yes’ for something way beyond what you think you can deliver. Growing pains are an essential part of expansion. The wisdom lies in defining healthy risk: too cautious or too gung ho and you may not make it through to your crucial year-3 tipping point (where it often gets easier – extra confidence and experience perhaps)
  • A strong support network: this could be family (although they’re often not the best people to help you stretch beyond your comfort zones) or could equally be other business owners who’re a few (or many) steps ahead. I’ve found that mentors, business coaches and mastermind groups have all enriched my journey to date – and I continue to invest in an executive coach for my own ongoing best performance.
  • A philosophical mindset: there’s just no way you can foresee the challenges or the opportunities that show up month to month. What helps though is to define and hold a clear vision of where you’re heading. What difference is your product or service going to make to each person who encounters it? And then, what difference is delivering that service seamlessly year after year going to make to your quality of life and your ability to give back?

As an executive coach in London and now increasingly in Scotland, I see people every day who’re choosing to make extraordinary changes to their life – personally and professionally. If you want the same … consider the leap!

Sporting links to Business Success

Since the beginning of 2011 I’ve been upping the stakes on the fitness front – more swimming, more tennis, more detoxing. And it’s great. I feel energised, positive and focussed to a much higher level than when I’m desk-bound all day.

Last week my swim partner and I changed the timing of our training session. We went from 6.30am (a proper discipline for me – especially when it’s still dark outside) to 12.15am. I had thought we would meet, as usual in the foyer of the swimming pool, however, I quickly realised that he’d arrived early and had just got started. By the time I joined him in the pool he was 16 lengths ahead! A significant lead when we were only doing 50 lengths total that day.

So, no time to delay, I jumped in and got started. My first 5 lengths were filled with thoughts of ‘got to swim faster, got to catch up’. And so I pushed myself and really felt the burn as I focussed on lapping him every 10 lengths instead of my usual every 14.

After about 10 minutes I began to think, ‘you know, I’m focussing on the wrong goal. It’s unreasonable to be referencing myself against a person who started 16 lengths ahead of me. I should be concentrating on my style, my breathing, completing my goal and achieving a personal best.’

And this got me thinking about business success. Sometimes the people whose businesses have been established longer and appear to run so effectively inspire me to move forward faster and to innovate. And sometimes, their persistent emails promoting their next teleclass, next program and next fool-proof system drive me to lose my sense of pride in my own achievements and my own game.

Experience is good, and knowledge is valuable, but it’s a positive and persistent attitude that will keep us driving our business success forward. It’s your journey, your vision and your race with your own expectations.

Me, I’ve resolved to remind myself often that my vision is unique to me and that a daily personal best is a pretty big victory.

Your CEO Legacy

There appears that there’s more transparency now of the activities, successes and challenges of the world’s blue chip and corporate leaders. Because of this there’s more demand than ever for CEO Executive Coaching (for which I’m grateful!); encouraging impressive innovation, considered risk taking and personal skills development that the rest of the company can model as well as put their faith in.

So what do companies, workforces and shareholders expect today from a great CEO? A simple answer would be ‘perfection’; much like the new generation of strategic husband hunters who are driven by the myth that somewhere a life-partner exists who is kind, considerate, masculine yet empathetic, genius yet approachable, impulsive yet comfortingly predictable; an uber-provider with a family focus, stunningly handsome and with aspirations only for wife and family.

So, let’s prod the CEO myth a bit then. Are we really looking for the complete package – experience, clarity, contacts, motivation, passion, business prowess, intelligence, inspiration, confidence, intuition, authenticity, honesty and approachability? It’s a huge list. And when I look at it like this it seems to me to be SO much to expect from a single person. And what if a leader has risen through the ranks because they have a natural ability to inspire those around them but they’re not the quickest decision maker? What if someone excels in intuitive marketing delivering consistent off-the-scale results but their contacts book is somewhat limited?

Here’s what’s evolving in my view of leadership (my opinion being formed through the increasingly in-demand CEO Coaching I’m delivering); company success increases when diversity is fully embraced.

CEOs and senior leadership teams who understand that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, will invest in their people. And organisations with a diverse representation of employees – across gender, age, race, faith groups, sexuality, ability and disability – can tap into the richness of their company culture to succeed on a global scale.

There are SO many right ways to lead a company to success – and the essence of that comes from the ability of the C-level leaders to inspire, motivate and empower. CEO Coaching expands upon what’s already inside that corporate leader. I know you’re hearing that line from me over and over and that’s because it’s important enough to be repeated … ‘go inside for your answers’. Do all the hard work there. It prompt efficiency, insight, inspired action taking, plus the ability to take your teams and your clients, readers, listeners, viewers and customers to heights never before imagined!

Win-win-win!

Successful Women Entrepreneurs

They used to be a rarity, successful women entrepreneurs, but since the turn of last century this tribe has been on the increase. Now, in 2010 over 8% of the UKs total working population are women entrepreneurs; with a similar percentage in the US.

Classic women business pioneers showed us the way; Coco Channel, Mary Kay Ash and Debi Fields. These were women in women-centric businesses – fashion, cosmetics and cookies. And all power to those bold visionaries. Then came the ‘women in a mens world’ era with Margaret Thatcher in politics, Oprah Winfrey in media, and Ann Mulcahy in technology. Tapping into a different part of their infinite resources to make it to the top in their field.

And today entrepreneurship for women is in massive expansion in every area of service you could think of. There are businesses supplying virtual assistance to corporate consultancy, social media services to IT solutions, and manufacturing outlets to retail chains. There are hundreds launching every day and over time tens of thousand will thrive.

Some are run from home offices, others from prime real-estate commercial spaces. Some begin with just a home computer and a phone, others have £100,000 of angel investment. Some of these women remain solo-preneurs for the duration of their empire building, others hire staff of hundreds. There is no stereotyping.

If you’re one of this growing tribe – good on you! Learn your lessons, face your fears, trip, get up, brush yourself off and never give up. Get clear about you dream and take some action. Loads of us are out there making a difference. Some because we’re the sole bread winner in our family, others because we have a burning desire to contribute – for most of us it’s a combination of a whole number of factors.

Remember that the biggest names we reference as ‘successful women entrepreneurs’ took years and decades to become household names. Persist. And know that your biggest breakdowns come right before your biggest breakthroughs!

Og Mandino often keeps me persisting: “I will consider each days efforts as but one blow of my blade against the might oak. The first blow may cause not a tremor in the wood, nor the second, nor the third. Each blow, of itself, may be trifling and seem of no consequence. Yet from childish swipes the oak will eventually tumble. So it will be with my efforts of today. I will persist. I will succeed.”

Onwards super-charged, rock-chicks!