Surviving & thriving in the entrepreneurs game

I was shocked to see in my calendar that it’s 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 ploughing 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 the what might be the key ingredients of the magic formula that successfully inspired, sustained & resourced me to survive & thrive in the challenging innovative & 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 & re-invent myself & my business focus so many times? How might this be interesting & 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 were neither working nor studying.

In the Middle East & 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 unsavoury & 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, & 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

So, based on the knowledge, skills & experience I gleaned from my 30 years of serial entrepreneurship, here are some suggestions, in my first of three blogs, on how to make an entrepreneurial leap – to unleash the power of innovative entrepreneurship through manifesting an optimistic, abundant & positive future in VUCA times within a digital & connected world. Dedicated to the currently under & unemployed, to the many women seeking the confidence & self-efficacy to make a stand & go it alone, & to the wise ageing boomers, to contribute, add value & make a sustainable difference to the quality of peoples’ lives, in ways they appreciate & cherish. Here are the first three lessons learned from being an entrepreneur

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, coupled with the key responsibilities of a marketing development managers role. It would have been very easy, & comfortable continuing enjoying the benefits of my regular glamorous global international trips to the fashion capitals of the world, my high designer wardrobe, my designer boyfriend & architect designed inner city home.  Where to help me cope with the massive amount of stress, I initiated a serious exercise schedule & a daily meditation practice which I have continued to sustain on a daily basis.

It was also a period of incredible learning as not did I create, invent & initiate my role, I also studied business management & marketing part-time as mature student, & a series professional management & personal development programs. All of which compounded into a serious “reality check” around the role, importance & value of having a lot of status, power & material possessions. As well as a “meaning of life check” as to what appeared to me as a superficial & yet somewhat unsatisfying life centred around fashion’s deliberate obsolescence & the abundance of female leadership models often replicating dysfunctional male behaviours.

Most importantly, I did not have the self-esteem & self-efficacy, emotional capacity & competence & constructive leadership style to sustain it all.

This deeply confronting & bold immersive process led to a further realization that I actually did not really like the person I had become – that becoming a better person required making a fundamental change choice towards creating a very different, more meaningful, purposeful & 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 & solutions for manufacturers, retailers & small businesses in the turbulent & volatile lifestyle & fashion industries. Which, at the time, were seriously at the effect of an Australian government restructure in the removal of protective tariffs & duties across the Textile, Clothing & Footwear industries & 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, Jenny Kee, among others, like Kerry McGee, Image Clothing, Von Troska & Charlie Brown, who are all, sadly, no longer in business.

Whilst my aim was to be of service, make a difference & a contribution to the creation of product & service design, quality & excellence, it didn’t take me long to realize that the best business plans & marketing strategies usually ended up in the bottom drawer. Because it didn’t matter how creative, inventive & innovative the leader of the organization was, they seldom had the leadership capability, self-management nor the business management disciplines & processes necessary to implement & execute the required changes to survive & thrive in the face of the massive industry changes.

  1. Constantly re-educating & re-inventing yourself to take responsibility to manifesting 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 step forward. Succeeding in winning a major contract in one of Corporate Vision’s Customer Service Program’s with one of the big four Australian banks, I quickly enrolled in Stephanie Burns’ 6-month “Training to Train Program” & 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 & corporate learning ropes.

Around this time, I also got married for the first time & embraced yet another set of deeply personal & 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 & Colin James.

Being the change

I started on what has since become, my lifelong learning journey as to what it means to take personal responsibility for & ownership of, the results I am causing in the world.

I also started to learn what it means to be authentic, composed & congruent, by walking the talk – for things to change, first I must choose to change.  Being willing to adapt & evolve has kept me on a constant & continuous professional & personal learning curve as an educator, coach & entrepreneur.

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

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