After 30 years of starting, growing and selling businesses across a variety of sectors Stephen set up Funding Nav at the end of 2016. It allows him to create value at the point of most pain that is in resolving businesses cash requirements. Funding is a key but stressful foundation for every business and specifically stressful for couples because it might encompass all of their assets both personal and business.
Funding Nav’s unique approach to funding which blends funding from free and low risk all the way through to more normal sources of both debt and equity is of specific value to couplepreneurs. Stephen’s parents were couplepreneurs so he has his own insight too and believes that the depth of these relationships beyond business adds an additional level of strength to these businesses that will make them more resilient.
Stephen will be sharing more of his thoughts around funding at our Members Online breakfast talk with Patricia Bacon, our Founder, on Tuesday, 21st August at 10am – please sign up here – we’d love to have you join in.
In the meantime Stephen shares his views on the key ingredients of great leaders and how loving what we do is a driver and great contributor to success.
Stephen Sacks –
Author of Reboot Your Business and Founder of Funding Nav.
It’s all about you…. Both!
Most businesses are set up by technicians or enthusiasts, and most businesses stay that way as an effective vehicle for self-employment.
In the UK, which is probably pretty typical, 99.9% of all businesses (5.4m) are SMEs, and 76% of all businesses employ a maximum of one person and never grow beyond that.
Within five years, 80% of businesses fail, according to Forbes, and 96% fail within ten years.
Obviously some churn is positive for the economy and the natural order of things, but surely something is wrong when 96% of enterprises have shorter lives than the average dog?
So the question is, why do businesses fail? And the short answer is that businesses mostly fail because of the behaviour of the leader – which is exactly the same reason why businesses ultimately succeed, because success is basically behavioural, not attitudinal or metaphysical. So what behaviours are most likely to help the leaders succeed?
01 / Hunger
No question, how badly do you want it? Third generation family businesses normally flounder because the first generation came from nothing and created a platform, and the second generation spent their childhood witnessing their parents struggle. The third generation, on the other hand, were born into plenty, are therefore less motivated than their parents and grandparents, and as a result normally wind up closing the doors on the family enterprise.
02 / Energy
Make no mistake, the journey to success is not for the faint-hearted.
Successful entrepreneurs often have very little work/life balance. Even the term work/life balance is meaningless to them because it suggests that, like most job slaves, you need to trade hours of your life that you love for hours of work that you hate in order to make an income that helps you enjoy your non-work life.
However, successful behaviour is viewed by outsiders as being a workaholic: someone who is so in love with what they do that they are addicted to it, they love it and it energises them. Not working is actually dull by comparison; social situations and holidays can be boring and unwelcome interludes to the crusade of their life, which is their business. This may lead to relationship issues but these are often viewed as a price worth paying.
03 / Autonomy
Good leaders take on board views but ultimately make up their own minds; they are unaffected by unsolicited criticism and treat naysayers with disdain.
Strong leaders attract criticism like water attracts ducks but, like ducks in water, it doesn’t even come close to ruffling their feathers. They are strong and are quite prepared to subject themselves to uncomfortable situations that would phase most people in order to achieve their goals.
George Bernard Shaw famously said that “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
04 / Responsibility
Successful leaders take responsibility for their and the team’s errors and make sure that they are a learning experience. They make whatever changes are necessary and go again. They are also prepared to share responsibility for success in order to motivate their team.
05 / Resilience
The ability to keep coming back from failure to ultimately succeed, however many times and however long it takes.
Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Conrad Hilton, JC Penney, Sam Walton and HJ Heinz are just a few of the mega successful businessmen who experienced bankruptcy on their way to success. Not to mention Donald Trump, of course, who only escaped personal bankruptcy through his use of corporate insolvency processes.
In Silicon Valley today, part of the investment criteria of many funders means that those that have not yet experienced a disaster find it more difficult to attract investment. Funders want to see that the custodian of their investment doesn’t experience a first failure on their watch, and has the personality traits to come back from setbacks. Regrettably, we are not so forward thinking in the UK, which is probably why the nine most valuable businesses in the world are American and the tenth is Chinese
06 / Rebelliousness
Successful businesses take on the establishment and disrupt it to their advantage.
Their leaders are prepared to tackle and challenge authority and the status quo. The skills necessary to succeed in corporate life, which are about recognising and working the hierarchy, are the total antithesis of the skills required to grow an enterprise. These latter skills are about recognising the hierarchy, ambushing it and ultimately destroying it – or perhaps not even recognising it in the first place. Entrepreneurs are prepared to take on the establishment in creative ways.
Don’t prostitute yourself! You have the almost unique opportunity of guiding your own life and make your own choices, free from the influence of overburdening authority that most workers are faced with. So don’t throw it all away in an effort to fulfil someone else’s dream or destiny. Remember to make your own bed the way you like it – after all, you’re the one who’s going to lie in it. If you love your work then you’ll never work a day in your life. If you don’t, however, then you will ultimately fail because success relies in a large part on your ongoing fascination and love for your enterprise, and your willingness to subject yourself to total immersion: nurturing it and thinking about it in a positive way all the time in your subconscious; even when asleep.
In one of the best thought out studies on what makes successful businesses ‘Good To Great’, Jim Collins says that ‘good is the enemy of great’. What he means is that, if things are ok then, as humans, we tend to leave them be. The problem is that ok is a relative concept and, rather like the frog that doesn’t notice when it is slowly being boiled alive, we tend not to consider changing until things get really bad, by which time often it’s too late.
Just as a marriage can go stale over time which is of course another challenge for couplepreneurs, your relationship with your business can similarly stagnate. The difference between your dissatisfied spouse, however, and your unloved business, is that your spouse is likely to give you honest feedback and file for divorce, whereas your business will absorb all sorts of abuse and a lack of love for a time because it can’t speak to you.
However, the entity that is your business cannot exist in a vacuum for long, and the contrast between the performance of an unloved business and its more spirited competitors will soon become apparent in lower profits, and then in no profits or even losses. This will of course only serve to reinforce and exacerbate the emotional disconnect that led to the issue in the first instance, and in the speeded-up world in which we live today, all of this will start slowly and, after reaching a tipping point, will begin to work against you in quick time.
So, I cannot stress enough that nowadays good isn’t just the enemy of great, but good just isn’t good enough! Only great businesses, the ones with an engaged and motivated leader, can survive in today’s market. The key success factor, even more than innate talent, must be love for what you do, because that is what will ultimately motivate you to direct all your discretionary effort in the general direction of your venture.
Your leadership style individually and as a couple might be unusual or even variable, but all that matters really is that you are engaged and authentic, and ultimately that you get results of course.
A leader’s singular job at the end of the day is to get results. But even with all the leadership training programmes and ‘expert’ advice available, effective leadership still eludes many people and organisations. One reason, says Daniel Goleman of The Harvard Business Review, is that such experts offer advice based on inference, experience and instinct, not on quantitative data. Now, drawing on research of more than 3,000 executives, Goleman explores which precise leadership behaviours yield positive results. He outlines six distinct leadership styles, each one springing from different components of emotional intelligence. Each style has a specific effect on the working atmosphere of a company, division or team, and, in turn, on its financial performance. The styles, by name and brief description alone, will resonate with anyone who leads, is led, or, as is the case with most of us, does both. Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance. Authoritative leaders mobilise people toward a vision. Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony. Democratic leaders build consensus through participation. Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction. And coaching leaders develop people for the future.
The research indicates that leaders who get the best results don’t rely on just one leadership style; they use most of the styles in any given week. Goleman details the types of business situations each style is best suited for, and he explains how leaders who lack one or more styles can expand their repertories. He maintains that practice leaders can switch leadership styles to produce powerful results, thus turning the art of leadership into a science.
It is unlikely that both halves of a couplepreneur business will have the same qualities of leadership. It is likely that one will be more thoughtful and the other more prone to act, one will be more introvert and the other extrovert. These differences should be celebrated as a strength since a high trust life partnership should surely double the leadership strength of any enterprise!
Author of Reboot Your Business and
Founder of Funding Nav