Surviving & thriving in the entrepreneurs game

I was shocked to see on my calendar that it was exactly 30 years since I exited my corporate career as a top retail executive at the now-defunct Australian Coles-Myer Group. I also realized that it’s also my 30-year anniversary as a serial entrepreneur, now running a global SME consulting business.  Who is plowing away, when most of my peers are advancing begrudgingly towards retirement, at creating a global start-up that everyone said wouldn’t work? This caused my wonderings to continue seeking what might be the key ingredients of the magic formula that has successfully inspired, sustained, and resourced me to survive and thrive in the challenging innovative, and entrepreneurs game. So here is the first installment, of the lessons learned from being an entrepreneur over a series of three blogs.

Where during those many years I managed to re-fresh, re-new, and re-invent myself and my business focus so many times? How might the lessons learned as an entrepreneur, be interesting and useful to others, in the new age of global entrepreneurship? Especially as a woman – where The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report for Women 2016/17 reports that 274 million women are already running their own businesses across 74 economies, of which 111 million were running well-established businesses by 2016.

Whilst the World Economic Forum in its New Models for Entrepreneurship Report states that;

“Entrepreneurs are key drivers of economic and social progress. Rapidly growing entrepreneurial enterprises are often viewed as important sources of innovation, productivity growth, and employment (small and medium-sized enterprises account for 97% of all jobs in emerging economies).”

It was when I first encountered Ernst & Youngs White Paper, Avoiding a Lost Generation when I was starting up ImagineNation™ in Israel, that I came across the information reported by The International Labour Organization (ILO) that almost 13% of the world’s youth — close to 75 million young people — are unemployed and many are also underemployed relative to their training and capabilities.

Where, in the worst-hit countries, youth unemployment rates rose well above 30%. The Economist in “Generation Jobless” reported that the real rate was much higher, with an estimated total of almost 290 million young people who were neither working nor studying.

In the Middle East and Africa, where I was located at the time it was estimated that 40.6% of this age group were inactive or not working. Making them both ripe for enticement towards unsavory and unlawful activities, and also as a potentially incredible force for effecting massive changes in education to unleash the power of entrepreneurship.

Age is becoming less of a barrier, where World Economic Forum Research looked at 2.7 million business start-ups between 2007 and 2014, and found the average age of people who founded a business and went on to hire at least one employee was 42 years old.

Making an entrepreneurial leap – lessons learned as an entrepreneur

So, based on the knowledge, skills, and experience I gleaned from my 30 years of serial entrepreneurship, here are some of the lessons learned as an entrepreneur, in creating a global start-up.

This is the first of three blogs, on how to make an entrepreneurial leap – to unleash the power of innovative entrepreneurship. By manifesting an optimistic, abundant, and positive future in VUCA times within a digital and connected world, when creating a global start-up.

Dedicated to the currently under and unemployed, to the many women seeking the confidence and self-efficacy to make a stand and go it alone. To the wise ageing boomers, who wish to contribute, add value, and make a sustainable difference to the quality of peoples’ lives, in ways they appreciate and cherish.

Here are the first three lessons learned from being an entrepreneur and creating a global start-up.

From the first ten years 1988-1998

  1. Make a fundamental change choice

In early 1988, I achieved the status of the top female retail executive in Australia, as the Fashion Direction Manager of 42 Australian-based department stores. This was then coupled with the key responsibilities of a marketing development manager’s role. It would have been very easy, and much more comfortable to continue enjoying the benefits of my regular glamorous global international trips to the fashion capitals of the world.  My high-designer wardrobe, my designer boyfriend, and my architect-designed inner-city home.  Being seriously stressed, to help me cope, I initiated a serious exercise schedule and a daily meditation practice which I have sustained, ever since, on a daily basis.

It was also a period of incredible learning as not only did I create, invent and initiate my role as a change agent, but I also studied business management and marketing part-time as a mature student.  As well as a series of professional management and personal development programs. All of which compounded as a serious “reality check” that caused me to deeply question the role, importance, and value of having a lot of status, power, and material possessions. It came as a “meaning of life check” where I questioned my somewhat superficial and yet somewhat unsatisfying life, which was centred around fashion’s deliberate obsolescence. Floundering as well within an abundance of female leadership models who often replicated dysfunctional male behaviours.

Most importantly, I did not have the self-esteem and self-efficacy, emotional capacity and competence, and constructive leadership style to sustain it all. This ultimately became one of the most powerful lessons I learned as an entrepreneur, and invaluable in surmounting the challenges involved in creating a global start-up.

This deeply confronting and boldly immersive process led to a further realization that I actually did not really like the person I had become – that in order to become a better person, I was required to make a fundamental change choice towards creating a very different, more meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling life.

  1. Clarify, enact & embody your passionate purpose

Janet Sernack Design Management Consultants Pty Ltd was born serendipitously soon after making this fundamental change choice. My passionate purpose was to facilitate focus, direction, and solutions for manufacturers, retailers, and small businesses in the turbulent and volatile lifestyle and fashion industries. Which, at the time, were seriously at the effect of an Australian government restructuring in the removal of protective tariffs and duties across the Textile, Clothing, and Footwear industries and seriously needed to embrace change.

Over the 6 years, I operated this business, I had the privilege of working for iconic brands including Seafolly, Chanel, Oroton, and Jenny Kee, among others, like Kerry McGee, Image Clothing, Von Troska, and Charlie Brown, who are all, sadly, no longer in business.

Whilst my aim was to be of service, make a difference, and contribute to the creation of product and service design, quality, and excellence. It didn’t take me long to realize that the best business plans and marketing strategies usually ended up in the bottom drawer. Because it didn’t matter how creative, inventive, and innovative the leader of the organisation was, they seldom had the leadership capability, self-management, or the business management disciplines and processes necessary to implement and execute the changes required to survive and thrive in the face of massive industry changes.

  1. Constantly re-educating and re-inventing yourself to take responsibility to manifest the results you want

It wasn’t until early 1994 when I was experiencing one of those seriously slack times in the entrepreneurial roller-coaster, that a colleague suggested that I approach Carolyn Taylor, at Corporate Vision, to explore the possibility of becoming a corporate trainer. Not only had I never been educated in this field, I had never previously sought to work specifically within this industry sector, so it was a giant leap forward. Succeeding in winning a major contract in one of Corporate Vision’s Customer Service Programs with one of the big four Australian banks, I quickly enrolled in Stephanie Burns’ 6-month “Training to Train Program.” Where I re-educated & re-invented myself as a corporate trainer. I facilitated this program, as an associate of Corporate Vision, for the next 4 years, to learn the adult, experiential, accelerated, and corporate learning ropes.

Around this time, I also got married for the first time and embraced yet another set of deeply personal and relational challenging learning experiences. Finally, I completed the NLP-based Inform Training’s 12-month Professional Trainers Track with the great Marvin Oka, Philippa Bond, and Colin James. This instilled within me, what has become a lifelong love of learning, another very powerful lesson I learned as an entrepreneur, and invaluable in surmounting the challenges involved in creating a global start-up.

Being the change

It also started on what has since become, another of my lifelong learning journeys in questioning what it means to take personal responsibility for and ownership of, the results I am causing in the world.

I also started to learn what it means to be authentic, composed, and congruent, by walking the talk – for things to change, first I must choose to change.  Being willing to adapt and evolve has kept me on a constant & continuous professional and personal learning curve as an educator, coach & entrepreneur. It has also been key to surmounting the challenges involved in creating a global start-up and a key factor in retooling to win in the next decade.

Watch out for my second blog in this series – the next 10 years 1999-2009 and the continuing journey with Corporate Vision and my next re-invention, through the creation of Compass Learning Pty Ltd and my next set of lessons learned from being an entrepreneur and creating a global start-up.

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