Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality
Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality

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Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality

4 The secrets of success

There are no guarantees of success when starting a new business and indeed there are many different ways success could be defined for yourself, beyond the ‘bottom line’ which originally referred to profit.

Think back to the earliest sessions of this course when you were asked to consider your motivation for starting a new enterprise, and how our entrepreneurs have described their businesses. Would you define your business as a success if you were making a profit but you had a miserable family life due to long working hours and periods away from home? Would you define it as a success only if you succeed in selling your business for £1m, or if you created a small part-time business that provides a healthy income source for your family and offers employment to some local people? Or what if it improves the lives of your friends and neighbours or wins the approval of the local business community?

It is worth considering how you will recognise such successes in the short and longer term. In somewhat basic terms, you might say that a successful business is one that is profitable and sustainable over the longer term.

The quadruple bottom line is a concept that describes success for yourself, your family, the firm and the community (which might also include the environment).

Activity 3 Defining your four bottom lines

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Complete the table below, adapted from Katz and Green (2013), to outline your own goals, measures and achievement levels.

Table 2 Goals, measures and achievement levels

DimensionGoalHow would I measure success?Achievement goal
Yourself
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Your family
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Enterprise
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Community
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Discussion

The completed table below shows examples of goals, measures and achievement levels. These, of course, could be very different from yours.

Table 2 completed

DimensionGoalHow would I measure success?Achievement goal
YourselfFeel in control of my own destinyMy own feelings and opinionsAchieved
Your familyGood work–life balanceFeedback of my partner and friends20 days holiday per year
Enterprise

Profit

Local authority contract

Income of £60,000 per year

Contract secured for three years

Retained profit £60,000

Achieved

Community

Provide employment for one apprentice

Support local charities

Satisfied employee

5% of turnover in donations

Employment for five years minimum; good feedback

(not achieved) 3.5% in first year

(Adapted from Katz and Green, 2013)

Inevitably there is going to be an element of risk in starting a business but many people do – why? The answer to this is because they can, and they really want to do something meaningful with their lives.

What is meaningful is highly individual, however, so it is perhaps more sensible to focus on what you can do to mitigate the risk of failure. Four factors critical to the success of start-ups appear to have emerged from extensive examination of the research data. These are:

  1. Seek the advice and support of your local economic development agency (refer back to Session 2 for links to some of these in the UK).
  2. Join the sector or industry body for your line of business and make use of their advice and referrals.
  3. Network with other entrepreneurs and small businesses to get their advice and referrals.
  4. Consult with a legal expert or accountant.

What do you notice about these four points? Quite simply each recommends that you seek and use all the help available to you. Those who do seek the help of experts will fare better than those who do not. Those who are part of an incubator or accelerator programme are more likely to succeed, and the same thing holds for students undertaking entrepreneurship and small business courses (Charney et al. cited in Katz and Green, 2000). In other words, the more you know, the better the chances of succeeding.

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