Steven Bartlett, real-life Dragon and social entrepreneur, shared 10 insights into being an entrepreneur at today’s QuickBooks Connect virtual event.
In a remarkably frank interview with footballer and TV presenter Alex Scott, Steven Bartlett was frank about his struggle with loneliness, accepting failure and chasing the wrong values.
Here are 10 takeaways from Bartlett’s Q&A about entrepreneur life.
#1 – Struggle makes it worthwhile
Bartlett says he struggles alongside company colleagues and that’s what makes business worthwhile. Struggle is evolutionary and you’re meant to find the going tough.
#2 – Your mentor is in your palm
Bartlett, who hosts the popular The Diary of a CEO podcast, whose guests have included disgraced health secretary Matt Hancock and former Dragon Nick Jenkins, sees making a commitment to making content, by interviewing inspirational people, as creating his own mentoring school.
However, you don’t need to host a podcast: your mentor is in the palm of your hand in your smartphone. The internet can be your mentor and mentors can be everywhere – from somebody you chat to buying a cup of coffee to lyrics in a song you love.
#3 – Imposter syndrome can be a positive
If you never feel like an imposter, you’re not living your life to its fullest. If you’re outside your field of competency, your “comfort zone”, then that’s a sign of growth. Challenges are how you make profess that in turn helps you grow.
‘I made myself lonely because I chased the wrong values’
#4 – Pressure is a privilege
So said tennis star Billie Jean King, and Bartlett agrees with the sentiment. The body starts producing adrenaline, getting you ready for the challenge. So rather than see pressure as stress, it’s taking you to the next level.
#5 – Money can’t buy you happiness
Bit of an cliché this, as Bartlett himself acknowledged. The Dragon cited a study where people where asked how much money they would need to finally achieve happiness. No matter where they were on the income scale – from struggling financially to being a millionaire, they all said they need 3x as much money as they had now. Clearly earning money has nothing to do with happiness.
Bartlett says the thing he’s most proud of is that he’s much more aligned with his personal values today than he was even a month ago.
#6 – Love it or leave it
Steve Jobs said that unless you love being an entrepreneur, a sane person would quit. You have to be passionate because business – creating something out of nothing – is so hard.
#7 – Really, you’re in the recruitment business
Bartlett’s real focus is on being a recruitment company, hiring the best starting team to execute the vision.
#8 – Loneliness tells you something
“I made myself lonely because I chased the wrong values,” Bartlett told Scott, sacrificing friends and family to chase his business dream. In fact, loneliness increases your chances of early death by 45 per cent compared with 20 per cent for smoking. Loneliness a signal that you need to get back with the tribe, said Bartlett, just as in prehistoric times early man huddled together to fend off predators.
#9 – Process is more important than destination
Stop thinking about your end-goal. Sir David Brailsford, manager of the Team Sky cycling team, told Bartlett that thinking about the finishing line compromises performance. Like Team Sky, you need make incremental changes, the famous ‘marginal gains’ to improve performance. You can only control the process and not the outcome.
#10 – You don’t need a business plan
Perhaps most surprisingly, Bartlett said that digital businesses do not require a business plan. In fact, business plans can be irrelevant in today’s fast-moving online world. The company you founded may end up in a completely different space to where you started – look at how Meta today has evolved out of where Facebook began as a website solely for Harvard undergrads.