Author and business contrarian Ian Sanders says work is a mindset, not bricks and mortar
Sometimes, sitting here with my coffee and laptop, working out of a local coffee shop it’s easy to forget that while ‘work’ has changed for so many of us, for many others it’s still the same.
My own work life has changed beyond recognition from its pattern 10 or 12 years ago when I was defined by a job title and the organisation I worked for. Work was a place I went to. Sure, there were business trips, there were mornings working from home, there was some flexibility, but generally accountability was measured by showing up and sitting at a desk. The ones who went home last were seen as the hardest working. How flawed.
Leaving a well-paid job to go independent was not an easy move and it’s certainly not been plain sailing in the 12 years working for myself. But on the plus side, I’ve been able to redefine my business to reflect the real me. Work is now a mindset, not a place I go to. And that trend represents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurship in 2012: all you need to start a business nowadays is a smartphone, an idea, a bunch of contacts and the right attitude.
Let’s not over-complicate what ‘business’ is – it’s the process of taking an idea and making it happen. In my third book Zoom! The Faster Way To Make Your Business Idea Happen, I wrote about this opportunity – where you can launch and test an idea online in an instant. TV shows such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice would have us believe entrepreneurship is chiefly about inventing a product, pitching to investors in a beauty pageant and then getting the money to make it happen. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can start small, especially if your business idea is a digital product or service that doesn’t need stacks of funding, premises or people on the payroll. Business success can be about keeping it small and profitable, not big and unwieldy.
The difference between success and failure is – of course – about hard work and getting down to the nitty gritty, getting your hands dirty. You want an example of entrepreneurship? Whatever the title sequences of Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice might convey, being an entrepreneur is not about wearing a designer suit or a smart skirt and flying off in a private jet or being driven around in a posh car. It’s about having the balls to turn your idea into a business.
I’d prefer to look closer to home for an example of entrepreneurship at its finest – people like Simon Barlow and Ash Fields, the two guys who run my local coffee shop (disclosure: I’m running on their caffeine and WiFi right now). They had a dream to stop working for other people and start their own café. And today they’re doing it: working long hours, six and seven days a week. They pulled it off; they have their names above the door (quite literally, as it’s called Barlow & Fields). That is what business success is about – keeping your head above water and retaining customers when there’s 20 competitors in a square mile radius.
So if you’re struggling to live up to someone else’s ideas of business success, rethink your approach. Success is all about the right mindset and confidence to grab opportunities, shape a work life that suits you and create a product or service that makes a difference, that solves a problem, that has a purpose in life. Mindset is what will deliver the productivity you need, the attention to detail, the passion, the customer service. You can’t fake it – you either have it or don’t.