Becoming a successful entrepreneur or business leader is no mean feat. Hard work, resilience and a resolute determination to succeed are required. Here Fleur Sexton DL – newly-crowned Business Woman of the Year, Managing Director PET-Xi Training Ltd, Board Member of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, and BCC Diversity in Business Panellist – presents her top 6 business tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
1. Build your network
Networking is about building long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. It’s about meeting business leaders with whom you have some synergy, getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in return.
Look up your old contacts and give them a call. If you are setting up a new business, a personal referral from a former colleague or client to a new customer can do much to help fast track your business.
There is also truth in the phrase ‘it’s lonely at the top’ when tough business decisions need to be made – decisions which aren’t appropriate to discuss with staff. Surround yourself with other business leaders who can provide you with the support and advice you require – a problem shared is a problem solved. Always be prepared to return the favour.
Check out the mentoring programme run by the British Chamber of Commerce. Louise Bennett OBE, DL, Chief Executive Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce was and is one of my greatest supporters, always making sure that support was there when I needed it. She was a great role model for me as a business woman.
2. Don’t be surprised when things go wrong
Don’t be surprised when things go wrong – it is part of the journey – be resilient – if you fall down, get up, find a solution rather than wallow in despair. Businesses are not sanitized – good and bad things will happen.
3. Empower yourself
Be resilient and be prepared to re-invent yourself. What worked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Time moves on, trends, policies and issues change – make sure you have the solution to meeting the current challenges facing your clients.
4. Champion women in business
Real queens fix each other’s crowns. Don’t lock horns with your fellow business women – create alliances to help each other be stronger together.
Extend your support to female staff too and accommodate the needs of working mums. One size does not fit all so reinvent the rules if need be. 20% of our staff are working mums. All of them have valuable skills to bring to the mix so we make a concerted effort to try and make their life easier – providing free childcare on a daily basis.. This has done much to strengthen camaraderie and loyalty
5. Make rules to fit the people
Make rules to fit the people – rather than find people to fit the rules. If you make rules to fit your staff and ensure you have a good work life balance, it will be significantly easier to create a happy and productive workforce. Stressed staff working long hours typically don’t deliver long term. According to a report from Warwick University, happy staff are 12% more productive.
6. Invest in training
Most employees have some weaknesses in terms of their workplace skills. A well thought out training programme will enable them and you to develop and strengthen those skills, helping employees to feel more valued, confident and happy.
And please remember the ‘return to work’ mums – those who have had a career break to look after their children. Everyone has something to give but some just need a little help to sharpen up their IT skills. Train them and you can create close allies – and remember happy employees make happy clients.