Chiclet. Hatchery. Nest. Eagle.
After 18 months, I am both sad but excited, to have graduated from the Entrepreneurial Spark Programme.
For those who don’t know what E-Spark is, do go and find out.
But, I wanted to share my insights and thoughts, on who I have become, in part to this amazing transformational programme.
From the beginning, it was clear that E-Spark is NOT about teaching how to start and run a business, but was about developing your entrepreneurial mindset and helping you to embrace being uncomfortable in the process.
The first six months is called the Hatchery and it is definitely a phase of uncomfortability and discovery – these six months are all about confirming if you have not just a good idea, but the RIGHT idea, as validated by your ideal target customer.
It is so easy to fall in love with your own idea, but that idea is worthless if no one is interested in it and there is no market for it. It is even harder to accept that you have an ‘ugly baby’ and to realise that people have just been to polite to tell you.
But being assigned an enabler meant that you were told.
More importantly, your enabler (think of him/her as your de facto CEO) held you accountable for the actions that you said that you were committed to taking, so that you do develop a validated business that someone actually is willing to pay you money for; that notion is crucial for any entrepreneur, because without this honest realisation and then consistent action to maximise this, all you have is a idea that boosts your ego and nothing else, combined with untapped potential that simply rots away and a sense of disillusionment and frustration, IF you do finally decide to be real with yourself!
Many times, I experienced all those feelings and it was not nice. As a reflective person, it took me deeper inside myself, resulting in me doubting my own abilities (even though I already had 10 years of experience as an entrepreneur, before I came in to the E-Spark process) comparing myself to others (when I never normally do so!) and committing the most cardinal sin of all – I stopped believing in myself.
Then about Month 5, my light switch went on. From having my own experience and habits as an award-winning entrepreneur ripped apart, to extracting the essential pieces of my experiences and merging it with new learning and a validated idea, I was ready for Phase 2, the 12 month Nest.
The Nest is the Hatchery on steroids. There is no playing – two weekly sessions, but enhanced with deeper challenges on your actions, more demand on impact/results and a clear focus on accelerated scale – from a stronger business model, increased customer demand, investment and growth, the Nest is not for the faint-hearted, but is a phase where the magic can truly happen if you want it too!
The consistent sense of urgency can throw you off kilter, as it is easy to just take things slow, feeling comfortable and convincing yourself with words like, “I’m taking time to let it grow” or “I want to get it just right, so people will come flooding in.”
Admittedly, it took me a good 4 months to get used to the pace of the Nest – within that time, my business pivoted TWICE and I nearly left the whole programme to find a full-time job THREE times (I was even offered one job).
To make things worst, my enabler and I also had a few heated exchanges.
Two grown men, one with a scottish heritage and one with a jamaican heritage having an argument, is what I would call Jerk Haggis – a very spicy and meaty encounter, that may not be nice to look at!
But it was the Jerk Haggis, that changed my whole perspective on myself.
As entrepreneurs, reality is the key to success. You will have wins and losses, highs and lows, good days and bad days. But it is essential that you seek the lessons in every encounter that you find yourself in, to win overall.
Resilience is a word that is often thrown around loosely, but you must learn to embrace the power that lies within the hardness, brutality, directness and honesty that the entrepreneurial journey gives to you.
It is by understanding who you really are when these things hit you, that you are truly ready to embrace the compassion, resourcefulness and love that awaits you.
This will evolve you from someone with an idea, to the eagle that you are destined to be.
But why are entrepreneurs like eagles?
Well, eagles are born with big and heavy wings, and part of the survival mechanism they are born with is that they have to learn how to fly without actually flapping their big wings – the weight of those wings alone can kill them.
As a result, what eagles have to learn to do very early on, is to be able to soar without flapping their wings. They achieve this by waiting for wind thermals to come up on them, so they can leverage them to soar and travel great distances.
Entrepreneurs often start businesses with heavy burdens, no resources and often with external pressures that can seem hard to deal with. But, with the right mindset and enablement (yes, my enabler and I got over it!), we can prime ourselves to be ready for the right opportunity, so we can leverage them to make the best use of our burdens or experiences, to take us further than we can imagine!
So, as I venture of onto my next flight, I look back at the range of achievements that I have experienced in the last year:
- An OBE in the Queens 90th Birthday Honours List for Services to Business Support and Enterprise
- A Leadership Award for Humanitarian Leadership
- 18 months of self-discovery
- A new VALIDATED business with a brand new investor on board (website and model still in beta, but official launch in September 2016!)
- Clarity on the global impact that we will create, from one simple idea.
- Still unemployable 🙂
But now, it’s time to soar to the next phase of the rest of my life.
Till the next time,
Joel Blake OBE.