Norfolk Network stories

A new entrepreneurial mindset in eleven steps

Jane Chittenden
Format Words

Matthew Rock knows what makes successful entrepreneurs tick. As the founder editor of Real Business, the UK’s first magazine for entrepreneurs, he’s interviewed more entrepreneurs than anyone else in the business – and he thinks it’s time we all became more entrepreneurial.

Could a new entrepreneurial mindset give us a competitive edge? That’s the focus of his inspiring presentation tonight.

Matthew describes himself as an ‘entrepreneurial journalist’. He’s been involved in Caspian Media, the company behind Real Business magazine, for more than 17 years. Now he’s the editor-in-chief at DueDil, the disruptive data business and writes a column for City AM. He’s also an ambassador for the British Library on IP.

They launched Real Business in 1997 to fill a gap in the market, for people who run their own businesses. There were some great wins, such as Bill Gates accepting their invitation to present awards; some great highs, such as a magazine publishing contract with CBI. But there were also some spectacular lows: “We weren’t well prepared for the recession, which hit advertising revenue very badly. And we didn’t have an effective digital strategy – whether to stick with print or not. So we had a simultaneous ash and identity crisis. But you have to find a way to muddle through, and we did. Real Business is now the best read SME website.”

Matthew Rock, ‘entrepreneurial journalist’

We’re now in a completely new era, Matthew says. Old models are being challenged, and not just in publishing. There’s the example of InterContinental Hotels vs Air BnB. Nobody took Air BnB seriously, yet within a year as many people are using AirBnB as InterContinental. Retail is being reinvented; and then there’s open data…

The whole notion of jobs for life is challenged too; even permanent contracts and full-time employment are becoming things of the past. Is it time to move to a new model of mass entrepreneurialism? Could this be the source of Britain’s future competitive edge?

The business landscape is changing rapidly. So we all have to think in much more entrepreneurial ways, even if we aren’t aiming to become entrepreneurs ourselves. But how do we get there?

We’ve got to acquire some of the characteristics of highly entrepreneurial people. And that means characteristics like these:

1. They have implacable self-belief: they really think they can succeed and never have a moment’s doubt about it.

2. They’ve got a single core technical skill or ability: inventive genius like James Dyson, for example, or visionary ability like Steve Jobs.

3. They’ve got high reserves of personal energy: the ability to work punishing hours – again and again.

4. They’re unafraid – even relish – talking about money. We mustn’t be so squeamishly British with our reluctance to talk about money!

5. They never sit on problems – deal with them. No prisoners; just tackle those problems head-on and see them as opportunities.

6. They love to party. Successful entrepreneurs don’t just work hard; they play hard too, and they throw fabulous parties.

7. They have something about them ­– a personal charisma: they turn what they do into something emotional and inspire loyalty.

8. They’re fired by powerful competitive instincts, even anger: they really really hate to lose and they’ll do whatever it takes to win.

9. They’ve got personal resilience: they can cope with the knocks and bad times just as well as the good times; they know how to bounce back.

10. They love what they do, sometimes at the expense of family and friends: maybe at times they put too much into the business. But often there’s a need for exceptional levels of commitment.

11. Entrepreneurs think “Mine is best” even when it isn’t: really successful entrepreneurs are very bullish and will convince you that they are the best (see point 1!).

Some thought-provoking questions came at the end of the presentation: with the shift to the knowledge economy, there’s an inequality of wealth for those workers who don’t have those skills. There’s a plea for more opportunities for those who won’t have the abilities or temperament to become entrepreneurs. That will be the subject of a debate in a future panel event.

But for most of us, it’s time for us to take up the entrepreneurial challenge.