Karren Brady gave an excellent talk on small businesses at the Xero Conference in London Today (Xerocon London 2015). For the record, she was a much happier person than we’re used to seeing on The Apprentice.
During a potted history of her time turning West Ham around, she dispensed some useful tips for anyone looking to grow a successful small business, so here, in no particular structure, they are:
1) You need big balls. (Taken from her first press conference in the male dominated world of football, in which a journalist paid her the apparent compliment: you haven’t got a dick, but you’ve got great big balls. Thankfully the world has moved on somewhat since then.)
2) You have to walk the line between risk and reward. Risks are necessary – playing completely safe won’t get you where you want to go. But you have to truly, deeply understand the risks of a potential action. Ask yourself: what’s the worst thing, as a result of your intended action, that can happen to you and/or your business.
3) There are 3 types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happening, and those who stand around wondering what just happened. Be the first type.
4) Give your people a desire to help the business succeed – everything is achieved by teamwork. In a small business, everyone has to do everything in their skill set to make the business a success.
5) Listen to your advisers. Build a team around you where communication is good and relationships can develop.
6) Set expectations and goals. Give people something to aim at.
7) You need to have a personal pride and ambition to be the best that you can be. This is what drives people like Alan Sugar, who still keep going even though he’s wealthy enough to do pretty much anything he wants. (Yes, I find him irritating as well, but the man can work.)
8) You need enormous amounts of determination. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and keep putting one foot in front of the other to get through.
9) If you can’t change something, then you need to change your attitude towards it instead.
10) Consistent delivery is the key to customer service.
11) Hard work is powerful. There is absolutely no substitute for sheer hard work. Nothing can make up for the lack of it.
12) Be positive.
I admit, I didn’t know what to expect when Karren took to the stage but I found her an enlightening and switched-on businessperson.
Xerocon itself was great, and brought home again just how powerful a piece of technology Xero is for your business. It’s not just about bookkeeping – it’s about business intelligence and business information – giving you what you need to control, manage and grow.