By Claire Grant | Posted: Monday June 12, 2017
Paul Allen, who is moving on after five years as the Audacious coach, says if there’s one thing that business set-ups need to understand more than anything else, it’s to recognise what the potential customer needs.
Paul has advised many would-be entrepreneurs, and seen many new businesses set up and flourish while in the role. There have been plenty of good proposals, but he’s seen few outrageous ideas, just ones that may not fit a traditional business model.
He has found it’s the people who are willing to give it a go, who are adaptable, and who can see the bigger picture but can also concentrate on detail, that are likely to succeed with their audacious idea.
The role of Audacious coach is to help students with business questions as they progress through the stages needed to set up a business, to act as a sounding board and suggest options. It is a mix of acting as protagonist, and being encouraging. It’s a role he’s proud of.
Having observed their growth, he says it’s all about the person, not the business. “Developing a business idea through to market grows a confident person with life skills who learns to overcome obstacles, plan and lead a project, understand funding, and appreciate what it takes to meet consumer expectations.”
“Business planning skills go a long way in the world - whether the person then goes on to develop the idea into a multi-million dollar business, works for someone else or in a not-for-profit role, that’s a very positive contribution for Audacious to make to society.
Often his input has just been a matter of asking a question or raising a possibility the Audacious Challenge participant haven’t thought of. The key is talking to people.
He says listening to objective honest advice when they are stuck means people are more likely to overcome the stumbling block that most businesses strike at some stage of their development. “Often those barriers are actually the motivation an entrepreneur needs to push through.”
He’s also observed the importance for each entrepreneur to recognise their own skill sets and personal weaknesses, and source help in the areas needed.
It’s often difficult to know when in the business pipeline to take the product to people, but many overcome this by developing a viable product that isn’t perfect, testing it on a sample group, then adapting it based on their feedback. They also look at the bigger picture to see how they can grow the original concept.
Paul says while the business ideas over the years are all different, the problems faced by would-be entrepreneurs are often very similar.
One common issue is to focus on the idea rather than the need – you don’t want a product or service searching for a problem, you want an issue that needs a solution.
“It’s possible the world may not see your amazing idea the way you do. You absolutely have to know who your main target audience is, and a clear understanding of what they want, and if you don’t know, you have to do the research.”
“Assumptions are dangerous, especially when you’re investing your own money.”
One of the other key things to learn is to fail fast. “You reach a point in the development of a business idea where you either are ready to take the leap, or you realise the proposition isn’t going to work or it’s not for you. Not all ideas fly, sometimes the timing is wrong, often something needs to be redesigned, and sometimes it just isn’t right, but the earlier you can make that call to quit the better. It’s not a mistake.”
“Entrepreneurs understand that setting up a business means taking a risk, and if it doesn’t work it is simply a learning experience that will provide knowledge to take into your next venture.”
“Being audacious is so much more than a great idea – it’s being calculated and considered, having the systems to deliver the product, and having passion and drive. If you’re not sure, just give it a go.”