EOW Reflections: Elite 100 conference

My optimism has been restored. Small businesses of all sizes are overcoming the challenges and winning. And it seems to me that the biggest winners are those with purpose.

The Elite 100 conference and awards event this week was terrific. It was great to be invited to be on a panel discussing ‘how to get paid’ and to open the awards ceremony which showcased small businesses in the UK at the top of their game. Best of all at these events is getting to talk to small businesses really smashing it and doing amazing things. Congratulations to everyone who made the short list which is a huge achievement.

I was on the judging panel a few months ago for these awards. I love judging awards because reading the submissions constantly reminds me of just how passionate people are, not just about their own businesses and their people, but about the outcomes they’re achieving for the customers and their customers. They have purpose. They always restore my optimism for the future of the UK economy and wider society as well as local communities, because small businesses are out there making things happen and improving people’s lives.

I’m always looking for the purpose and vision, what makes people get up in the morning and pour their heart and soul into their business despite all the challenges they face. It’s that determination to deliver their vision, fulfil the purpose, that is the reason we have so many determined and resilient small businesses in the UK. People aren’t setting up businesses because they are unemployable as I’ve heard people say – usually people who have no desire to be an entrepreneur. They aren’t trying to avoid paying as much tax as they might otherwise as I heard levelled at the self-employed. Money usually isn’t the main motivator. People set up businesses to solve problems, improve society and lives, make the world a better place, help their local communities. They have purpose.

Mindset is hugely important. The entrepreneur mindset says I can solve this problem, I will take the risks, I will grow the business and make a difference, I will fulfil the purpose and I will win. Employers need to know that in their own workforces there are entrepreneurs waiting to get out, people who have an entrepreneurial mindset, have ideas, want purpose, want to fulfil their dreams. No matter what age an entrepreneurial person it it’s never too late to take the plunge. As long as they have purpose, they’ll win.

I talked to a woman last night who is very happy in her job, but feeling the fluttering of her internal entrepreneur. No one in her family runs their own business. It’s partly because she’s mixing more with small business owners in her job that she’s realising she has the option to run a business. Her entrepreneurial mindset is developing and she’s beginning to see that she can fulfil her purpose. On the other side of her were two women running very different, successful businesses, one a serial entrepreneur who has set up several tech based companies and who is yet again negotiating with investors to grow the latest venture, and the other very happy sole trader with no desire to grow her very successful business at this point in time. Both easily articulated the purpose behind their businesses, what makes them get out of bed in the morning.  A fledgling entrepreneur found some role models and perhaps future mentors. I suspect it won’t be long before she flies the employee nest and aims to be an award winner of the future. Purpose + entrepreneurial mindset = winning combination. That gets my judges vote any day and gives me a renewed sense of optimism.