Since 2011, Britain has seen a cultural shift in its economy, with the number of startups exploding from 440,600 to a record-breaking 581,173 in 2014[i]. This was then beaten in 2015 with 608,100[ii] startups being recorded. With the concerning statistic that around 90% of all startups fail being bandied about the ether, staying productive as an entrepreneur or business-owner is vital to ensure longevity and success.
So what changes can you make to your outlook in order to stay focused? The first is probably the hardest: changing your perception of your capabilities. The American industrialist, Henry Ford, once said that ‘whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right’; however you perceive your ability becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ford was no stranger to hard work and aspiration: born in 1863 on a farm in Michigan, he worked his way up through the Edison Illuminating Company, eventually meeting Thomas Edison in 1896, who encouraged his experimentation in mechanics. Seven years later, the Ford Motor Company was established, and by 2013 it was the fifth largest automaker in the world.[iii] Call it dedication and work ethic, call it luck or fate, but Ford’s focus (if you’ll pardon the pun) at the Edison Company led to his introduction to the eponymous inventor, which led to investment and backing, and, ultimately, his own company’s global success.
This takes us to another key way of staying inspired: networking. Networking can be one of the most useful tools in maintaining a positive outlook on what it is you’re trying to achieve, and is often a catalyst in helping you achieve it. Groups such as The Business Network and The Federation of Small Businesses organise events and conferences across the UK, whilst Business Networking International, the largest business network in the world, gives members a platform to share ideas and contacts. You will also find that your local Chamber of Commerce will be able to provide you with details of organisations closer to home, for example Edinburgh Young Professionals, a network aimed at exactly who it says on the tin. All or any of these will introduce you to interesting people in a variety of fields, many of whom can often offer ideas, advice or development opportunities. Social media sites like LinkedIn are useful for following up on physical connections, as it reminds a contact of your existence, and can open doors to future introductions.
If you’re finding it hard to stay motivated, perhaps because you’re a small company or an entrepreneur starting out alone, why not consider coworking? This is a great way of networking and keeping your initial overheads down too. Coworking is now an established and flourishing industry, and wherever you are, you can bet there will be coworking spaces available to you in close proximity. A simple search of the web will find you several options, with some sites like Coworking London listing a directory to save you the hassle. There are also organisations like Desana, which provides a network of entrepreneurs hosting coworking spaces in their own homes.
Wherever you work from, and whoever you work with, remove all barriers to productivity to ensure you actually are able to work effectively. Declutter your desk, organise your list of priorities and eliminate anything that might distract you. Make sure you’re fed and watered regularly, but don’t use it as an excuse to go off-task. Most successful businesspeople advocate a 50:10 work/break time ratio. Rather than taking little treats all the way through that fifty-minute period, like constant snacks or sneaky Facebook moments, be disciplined, and then reward yourself properly in your break. As cheesy as it sounds, by being firm with yourself and denying yourself any distractions, you’ll feel much more of an achievement, a personal victory if you will, when it comes to your break. And then you can have a larger slice of cake because you’ve earned it…
When you’ve been at it all day, make time afterwards to de-stress away from all the hubbub. Be it yoga, meditation, reading or just sitting in a quiet place listening to relaxing music, use this time to be reflective. Rather than berate yourself for what you did not achieve from your list or what you failed in, think objectively about how to improve, and then consider what went well. Edison himself said, ‘I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ Self- and home-educated, with a hearing impairment, Edison first began his entrepreneurial ventures as a child, selling sweets and newspapers on trains, then began printing his own newspaper to sell on the street. He eventually founded fourteen other companies and held 1, 093 US patents in his name, with more patents in the UK and Europe. Clearly, Edison did not let difficult obstacles or setbacks stand in his way. In order to succeed, you need to be internally reflective as opposed to self-critical. By structuring your reflection period this way, you consider matters which may be deemed negative first, and end with the positive. You know what you need to do, but are not pessimistic or defeatist about it.
Ensure you have a good work/life balance, and set aside at least a day in your week where you do nothing work-related, so as to give yourself a chance to regroup and refresh. Get enough sleep – 8 hours or more a night, if you can – and lay off the fast food and sugar. Exercise at least twice a week, even if it’s just a walk in the park or a YouTube fitness video in your bedroom. A healthy body means a healthy mind. A healthy mind means greater capacity to cope with your workload, and to stay positive. A positive mindset gives you a better chance of staying inspired, which, in turn, will help you keep your business out of that 90% category.
[i] The Telegraph, ‘http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/11692123/Britain-hits-record-number-of-startups-as-more-aspiring-entrepreneurs-take-the-plunge.html’ (23rd June 2015) [accessed 26/5/16]. [ii] Business Matters Magazine ‘http://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/in-business/finance/2015-was-a-record-year-for-startup-formation/’ (12th January, 2016) [accessed 26/5/16]. [iii] Wikipedia, ‘https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_industry#By_manufacturer’ [accessed 26/5/16].