Neil Debenham

Neil Debenham

Sin No1: Lust Falling in Love With Business by Neil Debenham

In the first of seven articles on the Seven Deadly Sins of Business Neil Debenham looks at Lust and how it can destroy a business.

If you asked a bunch of schoolkids ten years ago what career they wanted when they left school, you would have probably heard words like doctor, nurse, vet or teacher.

Now it’s more likely to be YouTube star or entrepreneur.

The fact is today’s youngsters crave celebrity and they see business as a route to fame and fortune – and who could blame them with YouTube stars earning seven figures doing something they enjoy. The idea of working for a living all of a sudden seems like hard work.

And here lies the big challenge for business over the next few decades. People are falling in love with the idea of business, rather than business itself.  The perception of power and glory is racing way ahead of the reality of running a business which is more about hard work and resilience.

It’s easy to see why business has an aura of celebrity surrounding it. Programmes like Billionaire, Succession, Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice all glamorise business and the riches it can bring. It’s also hard to ignore the runaway success of entrepreneurs like James Dyson and Elon Musk who have become role models for the younger generation.

The reality is that business is not a soft choice of career.

Remarkably, 660,000 new companies are registered in the UK every year. That’s equal to 70 new businesses being formed every hour.

Yet 60% of those new businesses will go-under within three years, and 20 per cent will close their doors within just 12 months.

Of course, businesses fail for many reasons, some just don’t pass the market test and become victim of the natural forces of innovation and competition.

Whilst flourishing entrepreneurial spirit is a cause for celebration, glamorising entrepreneurial success will inevitably be accompanied by stress, debt and humiliation, which can sap future ambition.

Life in business is difficult. To the outside world, it can bring riches and power but to achieve this you must lead from the front by putting yourself last.

Very early on in business I learned the hard way that I am the least important person in my company. Once I have paid my taxes, my bills, my staff members, my professional advisors (accountants, lawyers etc) if and only if there was any money left over, I could pay Neil Debenham. This realisation always comes at the start of an entrepreneur’s journey and only those that hold true resilience will make it through without returning to the comfort zone of a salary and limited corporate responsibilities.

Neil Debenham

Unlike most other trades and professions, you don’t need any special qualifications or training to start a business. Yet you need a lot of skills to make it a success. Many young entrepreneurs lack some of the basic skills like cash flow management, forecasting and team management.

A survey from the recruiter Robert Half claims that half (50 percent) of management candidates lack leadership skills, with nearly one in five (18 percent) candidates falling short on planning skills, and 14 percent lacking communication skills.

Here are Neil Debenham’s top five skills needed in business.

  1. Financial skills. You need to be on top of cash flow management – knowing what’s coming in and when. A profitable business can fold simply because income is running behind expenditure. If you get paid £100 every Tuesday but must pay out £90 every Monday it will take 10 weeks to get int the red, despite a profit on paper. Switch that around by getting paid before paying out, then you will be £100 up in week ten.
  2. You must have the emotional strength to bounce back from adversity. Ten years ago, I lost everything. Literally, everything. Today, I have twice as much. From personal experience I cannot stress the importance of this enough. You must consider any failure as a win and a loss as a gain in knowledge. Mindset is everything.
  3. Leading a team and taking ownership of a project is all part of the natural progression in business and it’s something every entrepreneur has to do at some point or another. People make businesses and to succeed, you must be able to manage them. You must be the producer, script writer and director of your business and your team will rely on you for the correct guidance in order to execute to your standards.
  4. Every successful business leader has a vision. An idea of where the business is going and how to get there. Too many businesses are rooted in the present rather than the future. Your vision is your guiding light and the benchmark against which every idea should be tested. Don’t be scared to adjust this vision on a daily basis if need be. The journey will never be as you planned it so be prepared to adjust to the demands of your customers and marketplace.
  5. Sales acumen. You must be able to convince someone to buy from you. It does not mean you have to be a slick salesperson, but you must be able to express your passion for business and demonstrate how the customer could benefit.

So, beware: lust in business is a sin. Love your business and treat it well, but do not fall in love with the idea of business. It is not an easy option and the chances of failure are high. But give it the respect it deserves, and it will repay your investment many times over and also remember, Your business is a vehicle to make money , create freedom and deliver your vision. Treat it with care but always remember to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. If it’s time to let go, let go but ALWAYS start again.