Monday, May 09, 2022

The DCMS report is out now on influencers - well worth a look

Thanks to Stephen Waddington for sharing the report in his House of Marketing and PR Facebook Group. Being an 'influencer' is a relatively new career pathway and, despite what us oldies may think about it, is a growing sector. Marketing via influencers can be an effective way to reach your audience but behind the scenes, it's definitely not all glamour. Stephen highlights some key points from this morning's report:

  • Influencer culture is a rapidly expanding and professionalising subsection of the UK’s vibrant creative industries, although the Government hasn't given it any attention.
  • Behind the glamour that often colours perceptions of influencers, this is a challenging career beset by diversity issues, pay disparities, and a pervasive lack of employment support and protection.
  • As the leaders of often small, niche and trusting communities, influencers can offer targeted and effective marketing services. Influencer marketing is therefore offering a lucrative opportunity for brands and advertisers as well as influencers.
  • Updates to the enforcement powers of the Competition and Markets Authority and Advertising Standards Authority are urgently needed to prevent further damage to consumer trust.
  • The lack of protection for children taking part in this new industry, both as consumers of influencer content and as influencers themselves, is a critical concern.
You can see the interactive version of the report here or download the PDF version here. It has also been widely reported on in the UK media, including the BBC here.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Accepting failure in your start-up. It's part of being human.

The focus in the business world is always on success, especially when it comes to tech start-ups. The whole culture of the industry centres around celebrating success, pushing for success, being successful, showing off how successful you are. But we're human and humans fail all the time. It is impossible to be successful all of the time. To err is human.

I'm currently in the midst of a personal fail and trying to sort it out. It feels like a hot mess and it's unpleasant and demoralising to have to deal with and it's definitely not playing to my strengths. It's not work related, thankfully. But it is still, in my mind, at least, an epic fail. And when you're in the midst of something like this, it's hard to see the wood from the trees and it's hard to see a way forward, or what life might feel like when you've come out of it the other side. And the self-doubt and the self-judging is evident and hard to battle sometimes.

Following my write up yesterday of the interview with Anna Gudmundson on how to take your company from good to great, another article appeared on my radar which seemed to complement it: I failed, what will people think of me? And since I'm in the midst of this hot mess I need to sort out in my own life, it really resonated. Yes, the article is focused on failing at business, but I found the insights helpful in dealing with my own situation. So I figured it might help someone else too.

The author, Wil Schroter, says: 

"In the moment when our startup ship is sinking to the bottom of the ocean, everyone has jumped on the life rafts, and we're wondering what the world will think of us, what goes through our minds?

Whether we fail or not, we've all run through the same scenarios. The only difference is when we fail for real, we get to see what actually happens. We get to see what kind of support we really have and what people will really think about us.

But what's both sad and comforting is how few people will care at all."

Wil goes on to flesh this out..
No one really cares. People are self-absorbed and wrapped up in their own life and work dramas to have any spare capacity for caring about what you're up to.
No one will remember (unless you're Theranos or WeWork ane even that won't last. anyone?). Our lives are busy. There's too much other stuff going on to remember about your start-up going under.
The emotion is raw for you. But it won't be for anyone else. This, I can relate to. Friends will empathise, but they won't feel it in the same way as you. And that's good because it means they can support you without being overwhelmed by the situation.
What really matters is what you do next. And this can be an enormous mountain to climb. You'll need to lick your wounds and will have some healing to do. You'll need to reflect on what happened and learn from it. You may need to do some self-development work. But most importantly, you need to carry on. 

As Wil says, 'This is a single chapter in our story, and it's a crazy chapter, but we've got many more to write.' It's really important to remember that there will be many, many more chapters in your life. They won't all be the same and if you have the drive to be part of a start-up anyway, those subsequent chapters are bound to be interesting. Life really does throw some curveballs at you (ill-health, the economy, personal circumstances) but you can overcome them.

You can't change the past but you can work towards a better future. And if you are having a hard time right now, as so many are, hang in there. It will get better. Try to find someone to talk to about it and give yourself time to get over it without wallowing too much. Time does heal. And with the experience comes wisdom and awareness.

Having been in an early stage start-up team and watched that team grow and the product develop successfully, only for it all to collapse in dramatic fashion after 18 months, I know what resilience it takes to deal with that and what upheaval it causes in every aspect of your life. But your entrepreneur's resilience will stand you in good stead for whatever comes next.

Let's see what the next chapter brings.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

How to Take Your Company from Good to Great - thoughts on an interview with Anna Gudmundson, CEO Sensate

Image of a woman with long hair and glasses smiling at the camera. She is holding a soft drink in her hand. She looks at ease and comfortable in her own skin. Her names is Anna Gudmundson and she is CEO of Sensate.

I've known Anna Gudmunson (pictured) for a long time - more than 15 years now, I think. We first met in the early days of mobile when the industry was a lot smaller than today and more close knit and we quickly became friends. We've remained friends ever since even though we no longer live in the same city, or even country! And I'm really thrilled to see what a success she's having with Sensate. [You can buy it on Amazon here]

I've met many hundreds of entrepreneurs and founders and innovators in the tech start-up scene, and although a lot of them are successful, they're not always able to articulate exactly why. I know Anna has done a lot of work on herself as well as the company and has spent considerable time reflecting on what success means personally and professionally and in this article, she shares her key insights on taking both yourself and your company from good to great. I highly recommend reading it. There's a lot to digest.

There are a few points that Anna makes in the interview that particularly resonate with me and gave me particular food for thought:

On potential burnout (very common amongst entrepreneurs) she says 'Invest in your growth, not only professional, but personal. We can have all the knowledge we need to succeed, but if we're not implementing it, there's little use. Any growth in self-awareness immediately makes you a better leader. Even if you have a university degree in some subject, how much have you invested in the subject of you - the one tool that matters in your life?' That's both profound and vulnerable at the same time. When I worked in a start-up 20 years ago, the senior team's self awareness was not as good as it could have been. Although we did the Tony Robbins thing at the time, in retrospect, that was fairly superficial. Yes, it gave us some energy to keep going under difficult times but I don't know that it helped us know ourselves or each other any better. Ah, the wisdom of hindsight! Still, the good news is that mental health is now a hot topic and more openly discussed so maybe there are new, emerging entrepreneurs who are doing the work on themselves as well as doing the work on their start-up. We live in hope!

Anna reminds us that being a start-up founder is a performance sport and you need to treat it as such. As an aside, that also means it's not for everyone and it also means you will need help - you can't do it all yourself. I would argue that it's a team performance sport as well as an individual sport. That means looking after yourself, keeping your mind and body in good condition. It's about persevering too.

Anna quotes Heraclitus who said in 500BC 'the only constant is change'. I think that's truer than ever with external events beyond our control affecting our day to day lives. Whether that's the war in Ukraine, Brexit affecting trade, energy prices skyrocketing or living through a pandemic. As a business leader, you need the flexibility to deal with that.

Anna also shares her insight about mental toughness - she says 'the most underestimated aspect [of running a business]: the mental strength needed in facing challenges. All responsibility lands on you; there's nowhere else to go.' I know Anna has been through some seriously tough times and she shares one story in the article about the challenge of selling a company under very difficult circumstances. This stuff is hard. There's a lot at stake and no-one wants to fail at something like this. 

So if you're a start-up founder, or thinking about being one or working for one, then do give Anna's interview a read. I highly recommend it.

And for a bonus, why not watch Steven McRae, Principal Ballet Dancer's video about using Sensate and remember to love your Vagus nerve!.