What is your advice on getting to 10 years in business?
Hear the advice from the experts on the interview panel at the Waxtie 10 Year Business Hatstand celebration
In this blog we have something a little different, and this is really close to my heart. Because recently we made it to 10 years old in my business. Now for some, this isn’t too much of a surprise. I’ve been helping so many other companies be able to get the growth and success and sustainability that they’ve been looking for over the last 25 years that it’s great to be able to celebrate it within my own company as well.
At a recent event that we ran, we were asking the question: what does it take to get to be a 10-year-old business? Here are the answers that some other 10 year plus veterans have come up with.
MARTIN: First question. Obviously, 10 years is quite an amazing amount of time, and I know all you guys have worked in businesses that have been going more than 10 years. Or have businesses that are 10 years old. In fact, you’ve got businesses that are probably well beyond 10 years old. So, my first question to you is: if you were going to give somebody one piece of advice on making it to 10 years, would what it be?
JOHN: I would say there’s a phrase that I learnt many years ago from a coach about operating either above or below the line. Above the line is accountability, responsibility, honesty, hard work, can-do attitude, and below the line is blame, denial, excuses. So, my number one tip for being a success over the long term is always operating above the line. Always have the energy, passion, focus. Whatever happens in business is always your fault if something goes wrong. It’s never anybody else’s fault. Always be above the line. That’s my number one tip.
MARTIN: Fabulous. Is there anything that can help keep people above the line? What kind of things have you found that help you to do that?
JOHN: As you said, I read a business book a month, at least. A lot of them are rubbish, but there are some real gems there. I think that being self-aware keeps you above the line. Being very self-aware, looking down at yourself and thinking “how is my behaviour impacting other people?” If you’re self-aware, then you’ll recognize good and bad behaviour.
MARTIN: Excellent, thank you for that. Simon, would you like to go next?
SIMON: I’m going to take a slightly different tack on this. I think it’s about belief. It could be about stupidity, and you’ll see why it could be one of these two. I think that nobody else in your business is going to believe as hard as you believe, and I think that’s essential. I think you’ve got to either have so much confidence and self-belief or so little inside that you don’t know if you’re doing something which is bonkers.
Either way, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve got enough belief. That’s what carries you forward. Nobody else is going to believe in you the way that you can believe in yourself. I think that’s what carries you through the hard times, makes you take that stupid bloody idea – the one that people say “you shouldn’t do this, and you shouldn’t do it now because the economy is in tatters and you haven’t got any people around you,” and you go “stuff it, I’m going to do it anyway, because it’s a damn good thing that I’m going to do.” That’s the one I think you should do.
MARTIN: Absolutely. When you’re in those moments where your belief is being tested, what kind of things do you do to keep that momentum and that energy and that upbeatness that you always have?
SIMON: Sometimes you’ve got to lie to yourself. Sometimes you have. You’ve got to put aside all the rubbish and tell yourself actually, that isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s a lie because ultimately, your lies become your future truth. There’s a thing about spinning it around.
But also, going back and looking at all the things you’ve made happen that are right. Yes, we all have shitty days. Yes, we have some difficult challenges. If we work hard, keep it above the line, we can get across those. But ultimately, you’ve got to remind yourself that you’re doing good stuff. I mean, you’d better be doing good stuff; otherwise, you probably shouldn’t be in business.
But if you’re doing good stuff, remind yourself about all the successes, not dwell on the things that are hard or the things you’ve tripped up over.
MARTIN: Yeah. That reminds me of two key quotes. One is from Richard Branson when he says, “fake it till you make it.” I think that attitude of just keep pushing through even though you might not necessarily always believe it all the time is a critical one. I’ve seen it on so many occasions.
The other one is around “success begets success.” I think we get so used to – and so many people do – get so used to the fact of seeing all the negative things they do or all the things they do wrong, but they forget to celebrate sometimes even the small successes, those little wins that you have every day, those things that can really make you feel alive.
If you find one good thing every day, for me, it makes you feel better, rather than waking up every morning and thinking “oh crap, it’s another day I have to go to work.” This makes a big difference.
MARTIN: What about yourself, Cheryl?
CHERYL: I’m sitting here feeling slightly imposter syndrome because I haven’t had a business for 10 years – although I have been in my business for 10 years because it did start with Ann Summers, who’s a very good friend of mine. [laughter] So Cheryl Chapman’s been in business if that makes sense, but Find Your Why has not been in business for 10 years.
But I think it’s the same principle from when I first started doing that back in the day. It puts a smile on everyone’s face to imagine it. It’s about the customers for me. Just remember who you’re doing it for and why you’re doing it for them. I don’t know if it’s the same for you guys, but you’ve probably had some shit in the past that that’s maybe why you do it, or you experienced that. And it’s not about looking at all the downsides; it’s just about how you can help somebody else.
I would say you also have to make some really tough decisions sometimes for the greater good, if you like, because you’re at the helm of the ship. You can keep going “I’m going to be really stubborn and I’m just going to keep going that way,” but for me, it really is about keeping your customer in mind, remember why you started, what you did, and if you have to make some tough decisions along the way – I love the fact that you say it’s your fault if you hit the iceberg.
Martin Sharp – International award-winning Speaker, Author, Coach, Mentor and Consultant. If it’s critical to business success, Martin will know about it. He specialises in helping businesses change successfully, growing bigger or diversifying, changing markets or mission. He is Managing Director at Waxtie Ltd, Sharp Astute Consulting, Sharp Astute Businesses, as well as Director at Anew Property Ltd and Partner at Imperators.
John Oddy – John has created, developed and sold several businesses. Most sold for a healthy profit, yet he has some tales to tell about the others. Today he is Managing Partner of Ascentis LLP as well as Finance Director of Premier Cru Fine Wine Ltd, Meridien Homes, LED Switch Solutions Ltd. Owner J2MPO Micro VC.
Simon Hudson – If your idea of an IT fix it to turn it off and on again, listen to Simon. Director at Cloud2 his specialities are IT Services, business development and strategy, digital media, application of technology and working without paper.
Cheryl Chapman – Here’s an awesome speaker who’s on a mission. A no-nonsense a funny Yorkshire lass she wants to guide 10 million people to STOP asking “why me?” And START saying “why not me!”. She’s an international multi-award winning motivational speaker and mentor and the founder and CEO at Find Your Why.