Entrepreneurial beginnings

The crazy state of the world right now has given me time to work on this project (my blog).  I am close to launching it, this project has been bubbling away in the back of my mind and a variety of word documents, scraps of paper, mobile phone notes and other media for over three years.  In spite of everything happening at present, fears for family and friends across the globe, etc I am in a good place right now.  

I am excited about what the future holds, after this virus settles down and we come out the other side.  Some people are afraid right now, afraid for their jobs, their family, afraid of recession and how to make ends meet.  I am too, I have learned however that there will always be adversity.  The secret is, how you meet it.

I am excited to experience and take part in societies evolution.  One of my hopes is we see the demise of commuting to offices, a paradigm shift where service sector employees like myself work from home.  Another is that through this global adversity we learn to be kind to each other although if social media sentiment is anything to go by that is very doubtful.  I hope we realise that we do not need to fuck the planet with air travel, cars, ships, etc and that we take steps to fix the damage we have done.  I hope this time of isolation reminds us as a race that connection with family, friends and nature are so important.

As well as these hopes for a better world, I am excited about the new chapter of my journey.  Last December Clare and I launched Clare's business, there are plenty of articles about that to come so I won't dwell on it here.  A few teasers are that there have already been a few unexpected challenges, I am happy to say we met adversity positively (it has been tough) and are on the cusp of scaling the business which is electrifying. 

The best way to start off this section of the blog is my journey to the start line.  I want to share how I changed my mindset to get here, how I overcame a number of limiting beliefs and how I replaced them with positive ones.  Enjoy.

About these limiting beliefs

I have been reflecting on why I didn’t begin this journey earlier. Hindsight is a motherfucker. Of course, I am kicking myself that I didn’t do this ten, twenty years ago. I have drawn several conclusions about why I didn’t start becoming an entrepreneur earlier, basically, I was not ready.

Mentally, I was not in the right mindset to innovate and start my own thing. There were (and still are) a number of limiting beliefs i.e. fears; that meant I couldn’t begin to imagine being a successful business person. I believed that running my own business was dangerous, risky, not for me. I believed that I was not good enough to do this, that people do not like me, that they do not take well to my manner.

I believed that running my own business would mean selling and I thought that “sales is hard” “sales is not for me” “sales is cut-throat, I wouldn’t do well at it”

I was afraid, afraid of failure. Afraid of going all in and attempting. All these limiting beliefs, these fears blocked any chance I had of starting. I have already written about my sub conscious “knowing voice” that the rat race isn’t for me but until I mastered my fear I knew I would never escape.

As with a lot of things in life, the example of another inspired me to take action. My lovely wife challenged my beliefs over a number of years (she has the patience of a saint). She questioned why I believed them, what examples from my own experience I had to back them up? She brought her own experience to bear. Over time I realised that my beliefs, perceptions, truth (call them what you will) were wrong. I needed to evolve and overcome these fears. This has taken a considerable amount of time, when I think about it, over a decade. Changing beliefs that have been re-enforced for decades takes time.

I am pleased to say I am there now, I have been there for a couple of years in fact.  Here's a few examples of limiting beliefs that have changed for me.

In the past I believed sales is cutthroat, dishonest and not for me. Now I believe that sales is truth, sale is not, in fact, the acquistion of money, that is the end result.  The reality of good sales is forming a mutually beneficial relationship and delivering value (whether that be goods or a service).  Money, payment call it what you will is what I receive for making sure your needs are met.  Good sales and customer relationships is being passionate about what you deliver and caring that your customers get value out of it.  

In the past I struggled with what to do, I didnt have any ideas for businesses.  I believed I couldnt innovate, I wasnt creative.  Now I realise that I have been innovating for years, my entire career is based on problem solving and innovation.  It is what I did but I used to do it in a very specific IT context.  Once I figured this out, it raised up my understanding and through the application of habit I now have different innovative ideas daily.  I shit you not, the pendulum has swung to the light and I see opportunity everywhere.  

Starting small

I have always been good at research and analysis, my logical brain seems to just understand stuff. I started reading around the topic of success and leadership. At the time (back in 2010 or maybe 2011) I wanted to get to the top of the “layer cake” in my career. I studied others around me and noted two things my role models had that I didn’t (or thought I didn’t) financial and economical qualifications and charisma which they used to persuade and influence. I started looking at finance, my thought process was that it will be far easier to learn this shit than deal with the elephant in the room (my perceived lack of charisma).

This foray into finance culminated in my doing something I loathe, classroom learning. I managed to persuade my manager (clearly I did have some charisma cos the guy was a ****) that putting me through the AAT (Accounting Technicians) course was a good thing that would make me more versatile i.e. useful (it was and it did). I must point out that I still have not fully mastered finance, I gained enough knowledge to get by. Interestingly, I have put to use everything I learned on that course, in my career and startup business.

I read a few books, you know, the classical sales literature out there, for example Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, Selling to Win by Richard Denny. In all honesty, I can say these did not help me one bit. For once, reading round my topic didn’t work. You see the real crux of the problem was that I had a very cynical view of life and people. I didn’t (and to an extent still do not) trust people, certainly, a lot of experiences early in my career reinforced my negative beliefs e.g. crap managers, aggressive middle management types, office bullies, charlatans who offload their work onto others, etc. My defences were always up, ready to fend off these attackers at all costs.

So what changed? What broke my confirmation bias? Like I said, at the start, my wife. The woman could sell fire to Satan. I took the plunge, I changed two things. Firstly, I started to smile at people, secondly, I tried to make conversation (I am not a natural small talker). I still find both of these things hard to do by the way. There is one book I can recommend that helped me change and become more personable. How to talk to anyone by Leil Lowndes.

Forcing this change was painful at first but Clare gave me a tip to start. Try it out on people that can’t go anywhere and have to engage with you. For example, shop assistants, bar tenders, barbers, taxi drivers. This worked well for me, I overcame the social awkwardness from my childhood and discovered I do have some charisma.

Why not me?

Changing how I interact was one thing but what about becoming an entrepreneur? My limiting belief, in this case, was that I didn’t have any good ideas, I couldn’t spot opportunities. 

This part of my evolution started when I moved to New Zealand and became a consultant. This forced me to change my interactions at work. Prior to that, I had worked as a direct employee of companies, as part of their IT departments. 

This allowed me to get away with pushing back a lot and shelving my much-needed charisma.  Working for an "end-user" company (as we refer to them) as part of their IT department meant that I did not have to sell ideas, a lot of processes and solutions were forced on the business by their leadership.  There wasn't much call for good salesmanship, so I get by without it.

Moving to a role where I was not part of the company meant that everyone was my customer. I had to change the way I looked at things. This did not happen overnight.  My big realisation was that sales is not what I thought it was, sure there are people out there who just want to close deals and don’t give a fuck about customers (the minority). 

The truth is that sales is just that, truth. It is listening to your customers, empathizing with them, understanding what they want and need, then delivering it.  Building rapport, trust and mutual respect throughout the process is critical. 

Back to seeing the opportunities. A couple of life’s coincidences showed up to show me the way. Clare and I had been talking about her opening a bakery since we first started dating, now we were in New Zealand we really wanted to push that. At the same time, my employer ran a competition for innovative ideas for products. The prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas to the Consumer Electronics Show.

I thought about it, why not me? Surely, I must have some ideas? They say that for every hundred ideas you have, you have one good one. I put my mind to it, I used my commute time to muse about innovative opportunities for my employer. I won the competition through sheer weight of numbers and a fair amount of good ideas to boot (even if I say so myself). Whilst the trip was incredible and gave me more ideas.  The long term value was that I started seeing opportunities everywhere, not just for my employer, for me, for Clare, for my friends. The problem was now, which one to pick.

Final Thoughts

This was my first step on the path to becoming an entrepreneur, an innovator, a guy that takes an idea and makes it happen. It turns out that the career I disliked so much has prepared me in so many ways for this journey. I have seen and worked in a variety of industries and been exposed to their processes. I am fortunate to have seen how things are done at all levels. The tools and methods I have honed over that career are massively relevant to starting my own business. This journey is electrifying.

The best way to sum up how I have evolved is with one of my favourite quotes (you have read it before, you will read it again):

"When you change the way you look at things, 
the things you look at change" Wayne Dyer 

I only came across this quote fairly recently. The way I changed my approach to people (still not perfect, still a long way to go there) is one example. The other is the way I changed my mindset to see opportunities.

I guess what I am trying to say is, challenge yourself, ask yourself (or others) what your limiting beliefs are? How can you change them? What perspective would you like to see things from?

Then “decide, decide what will be, who you will be and how you are going to do it” (Will Smith said this on a video I saw on Facebook four or five years ago).

To me, having this mindset, the will to act and evolve is key to becoming an entrepreneur.  I look forward to writing more about this part of my journey.  Cheers Andy


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