In Book Briefs we've been looking at Banking On It, by Anne Boden — both her business autobiography and the story of the genesis of Starling Bank.
The Book Briefs summary, as always, is focussed in what agency leaders and founders can learn and apply in their own circumstances. At the end of the summary is a section called 'From Words to Actions', with three practical actions for you as an agency leader to adopt for yourself.
This is the third action — Dreams don’t die, they marinate. Take an audit. — and it's about still having dreams in business when you've been working for a while.
It is easy to be beguiled by the belief that start-ups — whether a new business or a new venture within an existing business — are for young people. Boden caught hold of the idea that became Starling in her fifties. She is now in her early sixties. Start-ups are not just (not often, even) about energy.
Entrepreneurial success is far more dependent on the character and determination of the individual driving the start-up.
A key distinctive of Boden’s path to building the bank was the wide network of friends, colleagues and contacts she had developed through her years in the sector. Page after page of the book has a story of a connection that was made or introduction given that could rely on or build on Boden’s long experience, deep wisdom and reputation in her sector. Younger people simply do not have that.
Consider the connections you have made through your working life. These are connections that are valuable, people that you may be able to help, and who in turn may be able to help you. Social media now enables us to keep in touch with people in a way we have never been able to before. Say hello. Arrange a (virtual) coffee or lunch. There is profound power in a large network developed over time.
If you are more mature than the average startup founder, do not dismiss your business idea as a result of your age. You have had time to gain wisdom, breadth of experience, resilience and perseverance that are vital assets in a new venture. The longer experience on which you can draw will mean you are able to avoid pitfalls to which others might fall victim. You will be able to see red herrings that others would not. You will have the maturity not to take things personally when others might — you’ve seen things before, and you will be better able to discern when they are problems that require attention and when they are less significant dramas.
As you think about ideas for a new venture, take some time to review your work history and your network of colleagues, current and former, and other connections.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What is distinctive about your work history? What have you learnt that is unique to you, developed by the experiences, contexts and events of your working life?
- How have the sequence of work experiences influenced each other? In what ways have the things you did at earlier points in your working life informed or even shaped those at later stages?
- Think about synthesis. Are there things from seemingly disconnected parts of your work history that, when combined together, give a distinctive or novel perception of opportunities for you? This may be particularly significant if you have had a career change, or changed disciplines or sectors along the way.
- Who in your network may be willing to talk with you about your ideas? Are there people who could be a sounding board or a wise mind as you try to form your ideas into a potential business or venture? Don’t be shy to ask. You may be given introductions to others, or discover amongst your contacts skills, abilities and experiences of which you were unaware. Or you may discover more, people who could become allies, advocates or even partners in your adventures.
You can read the full Book Briefs summary of the book, including practical advice for agency leaders to implement some of the ideas.
Intrigued by the book? Then why not get your own copy of Banking On It:
(All links are unaffiliated.)