I think there are two types of people in this world: those who can pack and those who can’t. I recently discovered I fall firmly into the second category when I had to move out of my apartment. This is despite the fact I had professional help - and lots of it! In the lead-up, I remember thinking it would be easy. I run a magazine sold in 37 countries; I manage a team of twenty-plus staff and 70-plus freelancers, I’ve managed to write 70,000-word books whilst running a global business. I can pack a few boxes, surely! Apparently not so much.
As I watched the four removalists, happily chatting as they wrapped up my worldly possessions and slotted them into cardboard boxes like Tantric Tetris masters, I stared into my wardrobe, hoping the contents would just vanish, feeling increasingly frustrated by all the stuff, all the clutter.
Now, I could have beaten myself up for my inability to manage to pack a few boxes, but then I had a realisation. The personality traits that were failing me in this situation were the same traits that help me every day when running my business. I very much doubt I’m the only entrepreneur who is a terrible packer, and those aren’t the only traits that leaders have in common. So, this column is an ode to all the bad habits that may seem negative to some, but make us brilliant leaders…
1. Attention to detail
Entrepreneurs are big-picture visionaries, often with a startling lack of attention to detail. When you run a bedroom business it’s easy to micromanage every email, cent transaction and pencil sharpener, but when you scale a global business it would be a huge time zap. I am a big ideas person and hire to my weaknesses, ensuring I have an amazing, calculated, detail-orientated team to dot all the i's and cross all the t's for me.
Make sure you have the right skills around you to ensure things don’t get missed. It’s all about the people.
2. A stubborn streak
When I had the idea to launch The Collective and was looking for sponsorship, I faced a barrage of ‘no’s before I got the first ‘yes’ from Commonwealth Bank, which had a domino effect of validating my vision and made many of the previous ‘no’s change their mind. I have a tunnel-vision stubborn streak, but this trait is imperative if you want to launch a business that challenges the status quo. Because if you don’t have self-belief why should anyone else believe in you?
Stick to your guns. Some people won’t share your vision, but sometimes you just need to push past them to get to the glory.
3. A lack of attachment
The same desire to just throw away all of my possessions when I was moving house helps me day-to-day in my business dealings. When I have a new idea, say for a side-product for The Collective, I am fast to test and fast to move on, if the feedback from people whose view I trust isn’t positive. I see many wannabe entrepreneurs make the mistake of getting attached to their idea, even if market research shows there’s no market for it. Chuck out the chintz when it comes to your wardrobe and business ideas.
Find people you trust, and if they can’t see the future of your idea – move on. You’ll have another idea tomorrow.
4. Inability to switch off
Some people would see it as a bad thing if you’re lounging on a sunbed by the pool, and instead of letting your mind switch off, start fantasizing about a product you could develop to help that guy on the other side of the pool who is trying to shield his iPad from the sunshine so he can read it. I don’t believe a true entrepreneur’s mind ever really switches off, because we have inbuilt ‘gap-in-the-market radars’ that are constantly scanning, processing and analysing our environment for the next big thing.
Take notes. Write down sentences, ideas, thoughts and gaps in the market. Then periodically review them – you never know when the dots will join.
5. Snooping in other people’s business
Some of the smartest entrepreneurs I know joke they are “professional matchmakers”, because they’re constantly pairing up friends, colleagues and clients who they think should collaborate. “Oh, you have to meet my friend, you two should do something together…” That exact “something” might not be clear at first, but they identify that you have complimenting mindsets, ethos and vision. Some of my best partnerships have come about because of these start-up cupids who can’t help sticking their nose in.
People are everything. Take an interest in what people are doing and be the connector. Not only will good relationships make you feel more fulfilled, having a few favours in the bank never hurt anyone.
6. Talking about money
In many circles talking about money is seen as a dirty word. But it’s imperative we’re honest and open about money in certain situations (like when we’re trying to explain to a team member why we can’t send them to a conference in LA, as much as we’d like to). I talk about money openly in the office because I trust my team and want them to understand the reasons for all of my decisions.
Money can be an awkward topic, but it plays a fundamental role in running a business. Bring your staff along on the journey, and it will foster loyalty and understanding.
7. Being selfish with free time
I say no to a lot of events – unapologetically. Whenever I mentor younger entrepreneurs I teach them the importance of protecting their free time to avoid the infamous burnout. It can be hard sometimes I know – what if we miss out on meeting our next investor, what if the host thinks we’re impolite? But, a degree of selfishness is vital when you run your own business, to take care of yourself and ensure a very long and happy career.
Learn to say no. You have a family, friends, and hobbies. They’re important, too!
8. Failing frequently
See ‘lack of attachment’. We are not afraid of the F-word.
Give it a go. If it all falls down, you’ll learn something at the very least.
Case in point – this entire column! But an authentic business owner doesn’t have anything to hide. We are what we are! Embrace it.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself!