Entrepreneurship 101: Managing Stress, Building Resilience, Finding Your ‘Who’
Being a founder can be stressful – as students on Whitecliffe’s Master of Creative Enterprise and Innovation (MCEI) are currently discovering. But knowing your values, building resilience, and developing a strong support network can go a long way towards managing the inevitable challenges.
Our MCEI students recently caught up with four successful Kiwi entrepreneurs to gather some tips on surviving the ups and downs of starting a business. Want the skinny? Read on!
Who are you?
Before you can launch a successful business have a clear understanding of who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. Understanding your values – and not compromising on them – is critical, says Chris Chong, founder and director of Redcactus Design.
“Your values are really important and as you set up your business you have to work out what your values are – your company values, your brand values, your values. Those are the things that will stay true to you throughout your journey, and they’re the things you want to marry up with whoever you build relationships with,” he says.
Heidi Renata, founder and chief energy officer of INNOV8HQ agrees, saying “Stay true to yourself and don’t deviate from what’s important to your heart. Your head will do all the formatting but your heart will navigate where your decisions go and will keep your relationship with your business a little bit happier, even through the tough times.
“When we get off track with our values everything heads south because we’ve compromised something to get somewhere. Having your intrinsic values there from day one is critical, and so too is values alignment. You want to build authentic relationships, taking a long-term approach. This isn’t a one-night stand – it’s a marriage. The moral compass I use now is that if we’re not value-aligned, we’re not doing business!”
What do you really want?
Figuring out what you want out of your business – and your life – is paramount, according to Auckland entrepreneur and founder Steve Hillier.
“In my first start-up, wealth was my driver. But after I had kids my values completely changed and I couldn’t imagine having investors or shareholders to be subservient to anymore. I found it extremely stressful to have a Board and a set of people’s interests to be reporting to. These days I get so much more fulfillment operating a business where I’m completely responsible for my own risk.”
For founder and investor Glen Ford, the journey to entrepreneurship is about finding what motivates and excites you – and if it’s just money he reckons you’re probably on the wrong path.
“Figure out your reason why - what are you doing it for, what gets you out of bed? The answer is different for everybody, but there’s nothing that beats that excitement of owning your own business.”
Building a strong support system is also vital, and cultivating that network from the get-go pays dividends.
“Part of your MCEI programme is to start building relationships with people like me who have been through this already, so you get to start a little network now,” adds Glen. “That will be very valuable for you over time, not in monetary rewards, but in helping you navigate the journey.”
Mentors are great - but what are Glen’s thoughts on business partners?
“One of the easy ways of building a support structure is having a business partner because you can feel like half the load has been lifted off you. But be warned, in some cases it doubles the load. There are so many things that change people, like pressure and money, so if you’re going to have a business partner there’s some dirty work you have to do early on around getting your finances sorted and getting the foundations of your partnership agreement.”
Steve learned this at the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey and shares the following advice: “Make sure you have a clear understanding with your other founders and have everything agreed upon from an early point. Getting roles and responsibilities sorted from the outset can mitigate a lot of stress down the track. Sometimes the legal stuff can almost swallow up a whole person’s capacity, so get things resolved early.”
But it’s not only mentors and business partners who provide support. Chris says family and friends make brilliant sounding boards, and for Heidi, there’s also huge value in competitors.
She says, “It’s not necessarily just the people in your waka, it’s also the people around the side paddling against you. It’s cool seeing other competitors coming through, forcing you to freshen your brand, freshen your identity. You can learn a lot from your competitors so view them as allies that inspire you to keep getting better.”
To find out more about Whitecliffe’s revolutionary new Master of Creative Enterprise and Innovation (MCEI) check out https://www.whitecliffe.ac.nz/design/master-creative-enterprise-innovation
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