Entrepreneurs and business leaders must keep listening and learning – if they don’t, their business won’t adapt to the modern world or grow. With this in mind, I’ve been using my time while travelling to catch up on the Virgin Podcast. I find the conversations to be wonderfully insightful.
One that has recently caught my attention features English entrepreneur, and owner of shirt business, Charles Tyrwhitt, Nick Wheeler. In the interview Nick talks us through his tumultuous, yet fruitful business journey, and highlights some very useful advice in the process. One theme that I took away from the interview is that there are certain questions that all entrepreneurs should ask themselves.
Here they are…
What is/was your motivation for starting out in business?
Like yours truly, Nick primarily went into business to create something that made a difference in people’s lives. “I’m going to go and find the best quality fabric I can find, and I’m going to take it to the best shirt maker in the world, and I will make the best shirts in the world, and I will sell them at a very low margin, and I will sell lots of them.” He wanted his high volume, low value business model to help people of all backgrounds feel good about themselves. As Nick explains, “You don’t have to be rich to feel really good about yourself.” In my opinion, If you aren’t making a difference in other people’s lives, you shouldn’t be in business – it’s that simple.
Are you passionate about what you’re doing?
Nick likens running a business to running a marathon: “Take your time to work out what you want to do in your life… with a bit of luck, if you decide well, then remember that it’s not a sprint. Put in the time and the effort, and really persevere, then you will make a great success of it.” Not all marathon runners are specifically passionate about running, but instead about the reason why they are running or the sense of accomplishment they feel when they complete the course. Passion is essential to running a business, because just like in a marathon, passion will keep you going through the long hours, positive during the moments of stress, and determined throughout the challenges.
Are you the right person to run your business?
"As an entrepreneur, the only question you need to ask yourself is: who is the right person to run your business. And for a long time it will be you, but there comes a time when it’s not. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs that are still running businesses that they shouldn’t be running, and those businesses don’t grow… they (entrepreneurs) think it’s external forces, and they blame the economy and the market, and the competition, and ultimately it’s them.” This can be a hard thing to swallow for many business leaders, but it’s a very important question to answer. The smartest thing I ever did was to find people with better skills than me to run Virgin’s businesses on a day-to-day basis. And by removing myself from the nitty-gritty, I’ve been able to see the bigger picture and focus on growth. All entrepreneurs should learn the art of delegation.
Does your product or service stand out?
There’s absolutely no point in going into business with a product or service that doesn’t disrupt or improve the market. Nick highlights this by saying, “I wanted to make it slightly different, slightly quirky, and slightly fun – and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do all the way through… It’s about better quality, better value, better service. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it better than somebody else.”
Are you learning from the mistakes you’ve made?
“Out of adversity comes great advantage” – I couldn’t agree more with this point. As Nick says, “You don’t really know it until you do it. Until you make those mistakes yourself, and then you really learn from it... Make a mistake, learn for it – move on, you’ll be a better person, you’ll do better in the business, you’ll do a better job.” Growing a successful business is a lot like learning to walk: you don’t do it by following the rules, you learn by doing and failing over.
Have you asked yourself these questions? If you haven’t already, it’s about time you did. Do you have another question that you think all entrepreneurs should ask themselves? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.
I really enjoyed listening to Nick’s story – it has some eerie similarities to my own, particularly the fact that one of his first businesses was selling Christmas trees. I encourage you to listen to the podcast in full, and check back in each week for a new Virgin Podcast.