Ten things I’ve learnt being an entrepreneur (& II)

This is the 2nd part of this post.

6) Be Relevant

Sōichirō Honda, founder of Honda, stated: “We focus all of our abilities on being a company that society wants to exist.” Many idolised brands (think Google, Apple, and BMW) belong to this category. Professional service companies tend to be compared by the number of employees and billing per employee. We advocate for a metric that goes further than that. It’s more exciting (and definitely more profitable) to become an aspirational company that attracts talent and clients without having to go out looking for them. A company that inspires people who do not want (or cannot) work there, but who appreciate feeling close to it. A company that values the effort of learning as you go, and evangelism, an activity so very necessary for everything related to the digital world.
Writing on our blog, and fostering conversations, we built a brand much bigger than the 5 persons company behind. A brand that was recognised and loved by our community, hundreds of people with whom we talked and shared knowledge. We understood how motivating it is to feel loved and appreciated: being useful to others. And there is no posing in here. Whether the profile is low or high, the fact is that participating in a relevant project generates good vibes and the feeling of transcendence. I firmly believe that relevancy will become a key indicator to predict if a company will survive in the XXIst century.

7) When building teams, don’t look for mini-mes

At some point in time, you’ll be forced to make the team grow. And you’ll probably try to find a mini-me. Someone as smart, hard working and handsome as you are, only not so well paid. If you are stuck in this mindset, start challenging it right now, because it will take you some time to overcome it. And it will become a major stopper when you work to make your ideas come true. There is not such thing as a mini-me, and if there was, she almost certainly wouldn’t be your best colleague. Accepting diversity, different points of view and ways of doing things is sinequanon condition for building outstanding teams. Micro-management and command and control behaviours usually mean lack of trust. Without trust, you cannot build high performance teams. It took me years to accept it. And I am still often caught closing my eyes and letting things go the others way. Not my way.
You’d better build an army of “leadertarians“. Strong minded people willing to invest energy to push things forward and challenge the status quo. Bold enough to defend their ideas and to point the weakeness in yours. Consensus is overrated. We need confrontation.

8) Put People First

I am a digital optimist. I believe that digital technological progress -and its convergence with other technologies- is enabling many people to choose their destiny and to create and share knowledge. Individuals are donning super powers. This is why our mission’s essence fits into two words: people first. Territorio creativo’s objective is to help companies put people first. It may appear ingenuous, it may appear to be “do-goodism,” but we’re not just talking about a flower-power trip. This is the reason why digital startups put the user at the centre of their strategy. We are just going a step further, extending this maxim to employees or freelance workers, business partners, clients, citizens, members of local communities…

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9) Global is not a option (but it’s not a hashtag)

It seems great to say: “our company has a global vision”. Or “we have a global team”, or “we are born with a global ambition”. Global is not an option. But it’s usually a nightmare. In 2009, our company went bankrupt. In 2011, once the company was saved (again), we started seriously considering becoming global. Our Barcelona office became our pilot test. We just wanted to put the “multi-office” idea to work. We quickly realised that being global means travelling. A lot. And diverting efforts from your main market (yes, the one footing the bill). No shortcuts. No easy way. It sounded so good: we are going to be global! Like playing Risk with the world map as a game board. Being global means being away from your family, it means willing to risk everything. Again. We started with Barcelona, and then, Colombia. Three years so far, and we are still not making serious money, but we’ve learnt a lot. Opening the Mexico office last year seemed really a bit easier. In Barcelona, we hired someone to lead it. She had not enough experience, and we had to change one year and a half after that. In Colombia we looked directly for a senior. In Mexico we understood the importance of being Mexican (and being Spanish, with two nationalities and backgrounds). But opening UK was completely different. We came to London because it’s clear for us that global means speaking English and facing advanced markets like the UK, probably the most advanced digital market in the world. But as Spaniards, we couldn’t hire someone in London and arrive there with our Spanish brand. Clients would say: are you kidding me? You are a Londoner but this company is Spanish! That’s why we looked towards a partnership and a potential merger. We have now merged with a Brighton based company. Ten people, lots of experience. They are British, and we will go to Europe with a British brand, not a Spanish one. Mergers, specially between small independent companies are risky. Chances of failure are massive. But we don’t fear failure, do we?

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When I give a speech I feel the heat. I put in a desproportionate number of hours, because you are giving me the gift of your attention. Hundreds of hours of smart people wanting to be inspired. I always try to exceed expectations, so I was considering giving an extra key learning for free and make it eleven. But Benjamin told me that adding a key point didn’t look that generous, so I decided to customize the tenth point to your own needs based on our book, Leadertarians.

Some bad news though, it won’t be free. I am starting from scratch in UK, I want to build my own innovation center. I want to make connections. That’s my need. Good news are that though it’s not free, it won’t be too expensive either. I’ll give you my key learning number 10, personalised to your needs, and you pay for a pint of good IPA. This is my twitter account: @abladias. Fair, isn’t it?

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