I’m fascinated by the world’s obsession with Entrepreneurship. Where ever we turn we are bombarded by exciting new ideas, a lot of the time from young bright kids who are prepared to take risks in launching new business and starting a business. Universities are even teaching entrepreneurship courses. But what is this fascination and is it just old fashioned having a go at something different.
I wouldn’t call myself Entrepreneurial in the context of what I understand it to be. In my 30 year career I’ve owned seven companies, six of those were / are start-ups but I would not consider myself an entrepreneur in any way. Some are businesses that extend my technical capability to give me independence to be a business owner and others are vehicles to allow me to explore some ideas I have and give me the freedom to make my own choices.
My first start up was a Quantity Surveying business called Buzzers (my nickname since the age of 5!) which to be honest was just me all alone being a contractor back to other companies to give me some freedom from a traditional employer and to learn how to run a small business. That business lasted 2 years and was successful in that it gave me a steady wage and taught me a lot before I closed it and started my second business. Bray DiMichelle or BDM was a small building contractor that I started with my Dad, a bricklayer (he’s still laying bricks every day in the UK at 70 years of age) and Tony DiMichelle. I was more confident about running this business from the experience I’d had with Buzzer’s. It was a great business and for 2 years very successful with good growth. We fell on some tough times and I learnt an enormous amount people, clients and true pressure as I was physically threatened to pay some interesting people and we almost went bankrupt. You learn a lot about yourself in the way you react in those types of situations, which becomes invaluable as your career and leadership style progresses.
These businesses were start-ups but they did not bring anything new to the market or change the way the industries performed. They were companies started by a young lad having a go at being his own boss.
I took a few years off from starting businesses after that experience and the next time I became an ‘owner’ I was offered equity in a large construction consultancy. I’d moved to Australia from the UK with this company and it was the Australian arm of the business who were kind enough to offer me a small piece of equity in the business. Again I learnt loads. I became a board member and was front and centre when we negotiated for the business to be sold to a Fortune 500 Engineering firm for a nine figure sum. It was a fascinating process, long winded, detailed and brought out lots of emotions but was invaluable training in how big business works.
After this I again took a few years off from starting anything new and happily worked for others in very interesting and educational roles where an unbelievably varied array of experiences taught me more and more as a leader.
I always have ideas brewing for a new business. I’ve had some absurd ideas. I once watched a documentary on the Sexpo Exhibition and how much money is made in the sex industry from the weirdest house hold stuff. From this intro I thought of starting a door and window ironmongery (hardware) company, where the hardware was cast in iron in the shape of sexual bits. It was called Hard-on Hardware! Genius idea or lunacy we’ll never know but I reckon there was a market for Door ‘Knobs” and Door “Knockers” (use your imagination. I also have the idea for a pop up restaurant targeted at homesick UK expats, tourists and back packers in Australia, (that might still happen). Some might argue these are entrepreneurial ideas but again they are really just business ideas with a bit of a spin on the markets they are targeted at.
Two years ago I got the bug again to start another business. A friend of mine came up with the idea of a TV show that would be like top gear for the building industry. A few of us started a business called City526 and we actually made a full length 30 minute pilot TV show with music credits and a kick arse show. Unfortunately that has not seen the light of day but it might one day still get out there and gain some interest, but for now it’s very much on the back burner. One lesson from that experience is that I am not a TV presenter!!!
I currently have a great research idea start up running, to “Put the Smile on Melbournians faces” which has been a two year project and might just see the light of day soon, fingers crossed.
It’s amazing what all of this experience has given me, a set of tools to continue building my career and have fun at every turn, even when the pressure is sometimes on. If I look at my Linked In summary of me, it says I have key skills in business management, executive coaching, leadership, team development, change management and cultural transformation as well a lot of technical construction consulting skills. Taking the punt on starting new business has given me a lot of these skills.
In my blog last month I wrote about the amazing opportunity HASSELL have given me to do something very special and I’m loving the exciting stuff we are uncovering, even only a month further down the track. Part of me wants to give back something though, especially to younger professionals who do not get opportunities to listen to interesting talks and presentations as most have a hefty price tag to attend.
Last year I started a new business called Make One’s Mark. The business was set up as a vehicle to help me manage the mentoring I do. From this initial idea the business has morphed into a secondary idea. The tag line for Make One’s Mark is “Uncovering Extraordinary”. Through mentoring I meet some amazing people, some I directly mentor but many more are through connections and people reaching out for advice. Many of these people are doing great things that are sometimes changing the world, especially the world of people around them. This gave me the idea to set up some free breakfast talks to let some of these people tell their story, inspire others and maybe encourage my community to get involved and help to take it to the next level.
So this month we launch Make One’s Mark BuzzWord talks. With the amazing support of ANZ we are holding our first talk at the Verdon Chambers, 100 Queen Street in Melbourne. This room is like going back in time to Mary Poppins era and visiting Mr Banks offices!!! If you’re interested in listening to an amazing young speaker making her mark on the world please register HERE and find out more.
But getting back to the term Entrepreneur. If you look the term up in the dictionary you get “A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Maybe I’m old fashioned but to me that’s someone making a go of something they want to do on their own or to build a business surrounded by like-minded people. Highly commended, very challenging and at times hugely stressful in taking on all the risk, but with hard work and great leadership, one of the most rewarding things you can do. But is it entrepreneurial?
A favourite quote of mine is from Arthur Schopenhauer who says “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see”. This to me sums up what being a true Entrepreneur is about. It’s bringing something new to a market or industry, be it a product or service, or as much as I dislike the term, disrupting an industry or market with a new way of thinking or delivering a business model. When this happens we all sit up and listen, and to me that’s what being an Entrepreneur is!
So please let me know if you agree? Or better still send me your story of how you are changing the world around you and making your mark.