Practical Q&A With Doug Richard: Mentoring, Recruiting & Seeing Opportunities

02 JUL 2010

At a recent Start Here: Starting & Growing a Successful Business event held in London, we received the following questions . . .

On your first business venture, what was the most challenging thing to deal with? – Shanta

Well, it is hard to pick a “most challenging thing”.  Generally, it was a great experience in the sense that I learned an incredible amount and the little team I and my brother Ken assembled did some amazing things.  At the time I would have said “cash flow” was our biggest hassle. Later, due to the pressures of running a very high speed, large number of large transactions tech business, I would have said our biggest challenge was interpersonal issues related to working with family and friends for a long period of time.
Now I’d say the true problem was there was no “mentor” we could turn to who could help us plan and transition from one business model to another correctly.  That’s one of the reasons I’m starting the School for Startups Mentoring Club

When you have a business that’s running very fast and with significant intensity, switching over to a business model that leverages all your existing assets but starts generating passive wealth is like trying to having a high speed train switch tracks.  If its not a very carefully considered  transition, it is going to be traumatic.

Q: When asking the question ‘are you on a mission?’, Doug mentioned that if you wanted to ‘save the world’ great, do so, but maybe it’s not a business. I would like to know what he considers a suitable definition of what a business is. And further, what a successful business was. – Tom

Don’t get me wrong, please feel free to save the world.  Goodness knows there’s a lot to do.  And, saving the world can be a business.  Social enterprises are designed to make self sustaining solutions to some of the world’s big problems. But . . . a desire to save the world and filing the paperwork to start an enterprise does not a business make. An activity can only be called a business if it makes makes enough money to pay its bills. Really, if it is to be capable of growth, it has to turn a profit which can be used to fund that growth.

What is the best way to recruit new people? – Pietro

Recruit people to do what?  Work for your business?  Well, money can get you some great people . . . I suspect you are asking how do you recruit the right people for your startup when you don’t have lots of money. And the answer is to have a great business model that you can pitch very well, and a reasonably friendly, honest, straight-forward, practical and pragmatic personality so people want to work for you.

You touched on how gaps in the market are thrown at us every day, but we rarely are set up to spot them. Are you able to expand on this a little? How do we train ourselves or become more open to seeing sources for ideas? – Ross

What I love about entrepreneurs is they see problems as opportunities.  So spotting the gaps is pretty easy really.  Look for what’s wrong and start thinking of ways to fix it.  If you never have food in the house because you never have time to go shopping, chances are you’d pay a bit of a premium for a business that would just deliver groceries the way other businesses deliver pizza. If you’re tired of having your family descend on your house every Christmas, so you get stuck doing all the cooking and cleaning, chances are you know what someone wants in a “Self-Catered Christmas Get Away” that you could tell your family to join you on instead. Every problem is a business waiting to happen . . .  Deciding which business you care enough to design and build is always the tricky thing.