Anyone who knows me will know that the Kevin Spacey quote above is one of my favourites and I use it (overuse it?) often. All the best people I can think of are those who extend a helping hand. It’s a theme fundamental to how I operate and have always operated and it works for me and many other people. Also called paying it forward, paying it back, karma and a multitude of other titles – I like the #giversgain label that Camilla Long introduced me to. The basic premise is to help other people and do so on the basis that you will receive nothing back in return. The reality is if you give to the world, it gives back.
When I lived in London the last time around, I used to run what I called Entrepreneur Friday every 2 or 3 weeks in my Southbank “office” – a booth in Le Pain Quotidien beside the Royal Festival Hall. I found it an easy and convenient way to see the startup entrepreneurs and wannapreneurs that contact me to ask for a bit of help or guidance. Also it was a good way to spend a bit of focused time with some of the startup entrepreneurs already in my network – the ones who would sidle up to me at a busy evening event and start talking to me about some incredibly important or private aspect of their business. In the 3 1/2 years I lived on London’s Southbank I probably met with over a hundred early stage founders in this way and together we addressed some of their challenges. Without giving too many secrets away, here are just a few of the topics we covered together:
- Do you think this idea has legs?
- How can I get my team to be more productive?
- How can I reach out to a certain person & attract them onto my Board?
- Will you help me revisit and improve my business model?
- I’m not an accountant but I want to produce better cash flow forecasts (we did that one with large sheets of paper for starters; sometimes old school is best)
- I am making a mess of recruitment; how can I get better outcomes?
- Will you go through this investment offer with me and tell me honestly what you think?
- Can my small company enter the government market without spending a fortune on consultancy fees?
- I want to buy my partner out; where and how should I start?
It works best when the founder or entrepreneur comes along with a specific challenge or ask and we work through that together and maybe reach a conclusion or way forward. Often the person knows the answer themselves and just needs validation or someone else to run it past in confidence or look at it with a fresh pair of eyes and add some finesse.
Without a co-founder, life as a startup CEO can be a very lonely place.
I’ve carried on doing a bit of this since I moved back to Ireland and I’m going to offer 10 x 30 minute slots to any entrepreneurs or people thinking about starting a new business attending National Digital Week in Skibbereen between 10 & 12 November. You can find out more details about the event and get tickets here
I was lucky enough to be at last year’s NDW and carried out a very informal version of this exercise which resulted in some rather interesting conversations – so I’m hoping for the same or even better this year. Conference attendees – the gauntlet has been thrown down…
Here’s the deal. If you would like one of my 10 x 30 minute sessions to discuss in confidence any aspect of your business that you believe I can help you with, contact me via my blog, my LinkedIn or Twitter with a couple of sentences of background. No business plans, pitch decks or NDAs please! It has to be something that we can cover within a strict 30 minute window so the onus is on YOU to make that work.
But be quick. I’ve had the first applicant already on Twitter whilst writing this blog. It’s @CultureArk and the business looks intriguing. If I receive more than 10 requests I’ll choose the 10 that I think I can add most value to on the basis of what you’ve told me.