What to do today? What to focus on? What not to focus on? Life is full of decisions.
What if you did something different tomorrow? Take yourself outside you comfort zone. For some that might be buying Costa instead of Starbucks, Primark rather than Prada or but what about a bigger risk?
What about starting your own business? Ok that’s a bit scary. But lots of people have business ideas or come across poor service and companies and thought, I could do better. Well why not do it better?
How did I get on the roller coaster of start-up entrepreneur? I continually think of things that can be done better I’ve had a slow burning itch for as long as I can remember. I’ve got a nice house, go on fancy holidays, surrounded by great family and friends, had the flash cars but… it wasn’t enough, something was still itching, gnawing at me. Over the last seven years or so become more and more disillusioned with corporate life. You could say my light had went out, I had next to zero passion for my job and although I’ve worked with great people I was always learning, not things that were immediately to do with my job but always learning and gaining experience. I had been working on an idea in the back of my mind for a few months and needed to do something about it. So in October this year I made a conscious decision one day. I said enough of mulling over my idea, fed up with my job, fed up with mediocrity in software and having reached almost the top of corporate IT profession and not liked what was left. I did what anyone in IT would do. I went on the internet.
Anyone with an idea can search the web and research an idea to see if anyone else is doing it. That’s easy. Spend a night or two in the library researching the market? Come on, anyone can do that. There is always Sky+ for Eastenders repeats for those of that inclination. So I visited two websites. So 30 minutes later I had made the bold setup of signing up for a competition at the New Start Scotland event and a very interesting sounding project called Entrepreneurial Spark.
I prepared my presentation for the competition with the view of oh well, here is a free way to validate my idea against other new ideas and see if anyone will take it seriously. Worst thing that would happen is some people I don’t know will say you must be mental, I’ll have wasted a few hours and I’ll move on to something else.
I learned a few great lessons that weekend and I took a lot from it. My idea was not too farfetched but I got some good feedback but only that a good idea, not a business. Secondly it gave me the inner confidence deep down that my idea was (hey I’m biased) much better than anything I came across there. What I needed to do next was show validation and proof that people would buy it. Market tested, the difference between an idea and a business. This was a start, something to work on, a vision of how to get to the next stage. I’m up for that.
A great lesson was still to come. I met Jim Duffy and Brian McGuire at that conference. I sensed immediately they were on another level, had a different look in their eye from the let me fleece your start-up with costs, services and advice you don’t need. After a coffee, lots of probing questions on my idea, background & future plans, a shared passion for the future of Scotland and creating opportunities, we were on and I’d agreed to become part of Entrepreneurial Spark.
‘Intuition is experience whispering to you’
I love Jim and Brian’s attitude, from challenging the typical British reserved psyche to what Scotland is possible in business in Scotland and they are highly infectious individuals to be around; far from being alone in singing their praises and it was not one of the oft repeated “action trumps everything” “act, learn, repeat” “aim big fail cheap” “entrepreneurs are the future” “think big, think global” and it was one of Jim lesser repeated lessons rings true for me.
‘Not everything you learn or hear will be for you, but even if you don’t like it, learn from it.’
We have had advice from multi millionaires, business gurus, entrepreneurs, lawyers from all over from Glasgow to India to Arizona and California. But that phrase always comes to in handy.
When you have an itch, you scratch it. When something doesn’t sit right with you, do something about it, don’t moan or complain do something about it. Small decisions, a small change and a bit of action can lead to a big change.
A few examples is that I’ve continued to make more positive decisions and small changes
Ditch fiction for non-fiction and learn new stuff.
I’ve stopped listening to the radio in the car for my commute. I drive 10-15 hours a week so can educate myself on two audio books per week. With other reading blogs and articles and focus that is roughly equivalent to learning a new post graduate qualification every two years.
Decided not swap the sandwich for salad and I’ve lost a stone since January
Go out for a run two lunchtimes and one morning at weekend. Now doing to 25k per week.
Stopped watching TV, work on your idea/business/network.
Don’t try do everything, do what matters, prioritise, make the most of your time. Ask my mum, organised was never a word that she would use to describe me.
A lot of these skills it doesn’t matter if you can’t do them, you can learn them. Free. From books, from friends, from the internet, from others, teach yourself, try it see if you like it. If it helps try it again.
The results from these small changes are quite something when you look back. After 45 days in E-Spark these are what we achieved.
From an idea to a business you can define in 60s on video. I used to take 3-5 minutes and Jim was still confused. ‘Long is easy, short is hard’
Built a stage 1 prototype
Case study examples of how Alpine-iQ solves Biotech, Govt, Finance and Oil industries
Accepted onto Scottish Enterprise High Growth Pipeline
From 147 applications, accepted to second stage and interview for funding from Cultural Enterprise for Scotland
Persuaded PhD Physicist and IT Consultant Jonathan to give up his day 6 figure day job and work on Alpine-iQ
Researched marketing agencies and pivoted as business model was not right
Alpine-iQ website plus social media links
From zero to 250 twitter followers
Attended Workshops on Elevator Pitching and competitor webinars for free
A few minutes per day networking, I’ve extended my LinkedIn connection by over 100 in one month in totally new fields all related to my new venture, from India to Arizona.
The mentoring support for me has been mind-blowing. Our mentors are actively promoting my company and introducing us to top government officials, university professors, other entrepreneurs, influential venture capitalists and industry movers and shakers. Reviewing my idea and giving advice to help, for free!
Now that is just over one month we have started the ball rolling creating a business. One day at a time, small changes with focus. We still have day-jobs, families and problems just like everyone else. So think what you could do with yourself and how powerful your collective-iQ could become if you organised your company more efficiently with some innovation, ideas and drive. What will you achieve in the next few days? What small changes are you going to make? Do one thing at least, make a small decision to follow this blog and see where it leads you.