My Daughter, the Entrepreneur

And 20 years later she’s starting her own business…

A letter – well, an e-mail obviously – arrives from the Beloved Daughter. She’s resigned from the corporate world before she’s even joined it. Fed up with the job search, with losing out to interns who’ll work for nothing, she’s starting her own business. Social media management for small companies. And she wants some advice.

“Er…” I said when she rang.

“Come on, Dad, you’re always on about those business blogs you write.”

“Let me think about it,” I said, playing for time.

Two days later I sent her a letter…

Congratulations. I always knew you’d do this one day. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. But you want advice, so here goes…

There’ll be highs and there’ll be lows. There’ll be days when you think you’ve made a dreadful mistake and there’ll be others when you think you can walk on water. The second days are the most dangerous. Hubris leads to nemesis as the Greeks used to say. And in the hope that it helps you avoid nemesis, here’s some advice. Seven of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way. I hope they help.

You’re going to be lonely

I’m sorry to say this, but the life of an entrepreneur can be lonely. Not many people will understand the drive to build your own business. They won’t understand the difficulties either. Or the frustrations. Or the worries about the people you’ll employ one day. Or the fact that you’re part of a team but apart from that team – because sooner or later you’ll need to take Maddie to one side and say, “Thanks. You’ve been with me a long time. But I’m going to have to let you go.”

Your partner – when you find one – won’t understand and neither will your friends. The only person who’ll understand is another entrepreneur – or someone who works with entrepreneurs. I’ve worked with Trevor McClintock: talk to him if you need to.

Watch the numbers

Every business has Key Performance Indicators – KPIs – and they’re as crucial now as they’ve ever been. In the old days it might be how many calls your salesmen made: today it’s more likely to be the conversion rate on your website. It doesn’t matter what your KPIs are – they’ll be different for every business – but you need to know them and you need to measure them at least once a month. What you can measure, you can control – and if the numbers start to slip, you need to take action straightaway. Knowing your KPIs is the single most important step you can take to making your business a success.

Oh – and you need to do some of the basics: Her Majesty’s Government will talk you through it.

Keep the main thing the main thing

That’s a quote from Stephen Covey 7 Habits book. There’s a lot of valuable insight in that book, but none of it is more important than those seven words. An entrepreneur is always having ideas – that’s what you do. Sometimes, you’ll have so many ideas that you can’t seem to focus on any of them. So ask yourself a simple question: ‘What is my goal for this year? Is this helping me achieve that goal? If not, why am I doing it?’

And when you’ve achieved a few goals and you’ve had some success, you’ll find something else. Everyone wants a part of you. Would you like to be involved with our charity? Do you want to sit on this board? Be a non-exec director? There’ll hopefully come a time when you can give back to society: but it won’t be for a while. Keep focused on your goal – and learn to say ‘no’ gracefully. ‘I’d love to. I really appreciate the offer. But right now I just don’t have the time to do it justice.’

It’s consistency of effort, not consistency of results

There’ll be days – especially early on – when you just can’t do anything right. When potential clients are too busy or too cash-strapped; when, for whatever reason, the time just isn’t right for them. There’ll be other days when everyone says ‘yes:’ when everything falls your way. Trust me: don’t lose heart on the bad days. Keep doing what you know is right, keep putting the effort in and the good days will come.

Your job is to lead: it is not to be the most talented person

Too many entrepreneurs try to do everything. They try to know everything. Your job is simple: as and when you have a team, it is to lead that team. You don’t need to be the best programmer, you don’t need to deal with every customer. You do need to say, ‘That’s where we’re going. That’s the direction the company is taking. Follow me.’

Realise that the world is changing

You don’t need me to tell you that: you’re a millennial, you’ve grown up with change. The pace of change is faster than it’s ever been. We’re in a global market now – and we’ve all got global competitors. That’s a fantastic opportunity – you can work with the best people wherever they, whatever time zone they’re in. But your competitors are everywhere – and they all want your business. So whatever you do, stay on top of technological changes.

Go to the gym  

Being an entrepreneur is tough, mentally and physically. You’re going to be stressed, you’re going to be working long hours, the business is going to place more demands on you than you thought possible. So you need to be fit. You can’t make good business decisions if you’re falling apart physically. So stay healthy. Run, go the gym, get on your bike. Whatever works for you. But like the old Nike ad said, “Just do it.”

That’s it. I hope those points are helpful. I wish you nothing but success, sweetheart – and remember, I’m always here for you.

Dad xx


  1. Blimey, that could have been my dear old Dad talking to me! Good post Mark.

  2. Hear! Hear! ‘Lovely to hear from you.

  3. midlifesinglemum says:

    Great advice. And welcome back to the blogosphere – I’ve been waiting for you to return.

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