Defining Your Own Future

By Nicola Tyler, an EO South Africa-Johannesburg member and CEO of Business Results Group.

I’ve been in business for 15 years, and operated as an independent consultant for two years prior to that. I’ve not known a day in nearly two decades when I’ve woken up and known where my next dollar would come from. You can be up one day, and down the next. It keeps me on my toes, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Much of my work involves facilitating strategic conversations with large and medium-sized organizations; entrepreneurship frequently comes up as a theme. “We need to be more entrepreneurial!” executives exclaim. “People are not business-focused; we need more entrepreneurs in this business.”

I often challenge this view by saying that entrepreneurs are often not what corporations need— it’s what the world needs. Real entrepreneurs leave corporations to start their own businesses. An entrepreneur constrained by business policies and processes is a bit like caging a tiger— eventually you have to let it back into the wild.

After years of listening to conversations like these, I evolved my definition of an entrepreneur as someone who defines the future, and brings the future closer to the present. My view is that the world needs more entrepreneurs, but corporations need more entrepreneurial thinking. I knew this was true when I wanted to make more decisions about the future of my employer, and I couldn’t get in the position to do that— so I left. The journey ever since has been a long and trying one, but I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years:

  1. No matter what, have faith! If you’re passionate about your idea, keep going— persistence pays off in the end. Believe, move, act … the money will follow.
  2. Don’t expect everyone to love an idea. Ideas, by nature, are different, and most people find that challenging. Anything different is difficult; it’s human nature to resist change, so make sure your ideas have a real market.
  3. Know what you’re not good at, surround yourself with people who are brilliant at those things and reward them for it. Try to resist the temptation to be good at everything. Great companies and brands are built by teams.
  4. The lonely climber is the only one who sees the view. Take your people with you; it’s more rewarding when everyone can see what you’re working toward. When you share your vision, others will be more willing to climb the mountain with you.
  5. You haven’t lived until you’ve jumped off the pier! Jump, and don’t expect anyone to catch you. Being an entrepreneur is a risk, and jumping takes courage. It’s just you and the universe looking for a way to connect.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change learning to fly as an entrepreneur for anything in the world. That’s where EO comes in— joining EO was like flying with a whole new flock of birds … like I grew bigger wings. All in all, it’s been a very uplifting experience (pardon the pun), and one that continues to shape me as an entrepreneur.

Nicola Tyler is the CEO of Business Results Group, a shareholder of Prana Products and founder of The Spin Factory. Fun fact: In her free time, Nicola loves to go sailing, pick mussels and build some muscle, too! E-mail Nicola at Nicola@brg.co.za.

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