Having Julie Meyer, Lloyd Dorfman, Austin Healy, Martyn Dawes, Will King and James Caan in one room, speaking about their experiences and how to become a hugely successful entrepreneur, sounds like some kind of fantasy dinner party but, thanks to Entrepreneur Country, on Tuesday it became a reality.
The Entrepreneur Country, a community of entrepreneurs, investors, corporate partners and media founded by Meyer in 2008, bought together 400 of the world’s entrepreneurs at their annual Accelerate Forum, held at the wonderful Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. The day was packed full of the insightful views of an inspirational bunch of speakers and delegates from the likes of IBM, Orange, Coffee Nation, King of Shaves, Augmentum Capital, Barclays and Microsoft. As you would expect from an event held by a group of entrepreneurs, cutting edge technology was an integral part of the day and included live Twitter feeds and voting polls via each delegate’s iPod touch.
So, for all of you budding entrepreneurs out there, here are the top tips on growing businesses in an exceptionally tough economic time, from the guys who have been doing it the longest:
Lloyd was a truly inspirational speaker and a real rags to riches tale; starting out with one shop in central London and battling big banks for a place at the country’s airports. What Lloyd pointed out was that, as a young entrepreneur, much of what he did was on gut instinct and initiative. He took major risks (gambling the whole company on the Thomas Cook acquisition in 2000) that when thought about rationally, would have seemed like a crazy move to make. But he trusted his instinct and was brave enough to take the risk.
An unexpected entrepreneur on the face of things – and then you hear him speak. Austin had bags of charisma as he outlined the parallels between sports and business; talking about the importance of having an excellent team around you and being a great leader. According to Austin, inner confidence is key and an essential element for leaders to drive a business forward. If you don’t have it, you won’t have the buy-in of the rest of your team.
Another nod to the importance of building a good team around you, Martyn’s story of founding Coffee Nation was pretty impressive and he was the first to admit that his success was down to the people around him. ‘People hold back their businesses for fear of recruiting people smarter than they are’ – the key is to hire people to fill the gaps in your skill-set; people whose strengths are your weaknesses.
Will took things a step further and talked about the importance of staying ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing and technology. King of Shaves has been widely praised for its innovative and avant garde viral marketing campaigns (check out Youtube - the King’s Speech parody is excellent) because Will saw an opportunity with social media and seized it. They stand out from their competitors because they are current and understand that, in a world of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, it’s all about word of mouth and the customer interacting with the customer.
This was a really inspiring and innovative event which I would highly recommend young entrepreneurs attending next year. For me, the day was summed up by Dorfamn, who quoted Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech, the essence of true entrepreneurship.