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As part of my scouting for suitable candidates to invite to join a Peer Advisory Circle, I attend several events and conferences. This also gives me an opportunity to learn from other’s experiences and diverse perspectives, and to extend my connections.

I recently attended World Forum Disrupt to hear entrepreneurs and thought leaders share their winning strategies, their failures, what they learned and how they implemented corrective actions. I took away several gems of wisdom that are not only relevant to start ups. They are also applicable to more established companies and to our individual endeavours.

The most powerful pieces of advice were to:

  • continuously “test, learn, iterate”
  • ask questions and listen deeply
  • don’t be attached to your solution
  • humans matter (mindset, behaviour and emotions)

Avin Rabheru from Housekeep and Karoline Gross from Smartzer emphasised how critical it is to focus. According to Rabheru, one of the reasons large corporations are not good at focusing is that they have too many resources. If a startup doesn’t focus it dies. Gross also pointed out that the benefit of limited resources is that decision making has to be quick.

To disrupt an industry, Rabheru argued that you must understand your market better than anyone else. To be successful the business often starts out in a niche, the service must solve an urgent problem and be radically better than what is currently available not an incremental improvement.

Rabheru also highlighted the importance of the right mindset, culture and team. He argued that you need to care passionately about what you do, don’t be afraid of taking big bold steps, continuously ask questions and track everything – even if at first you don’t know why, the data will become useful. Their winning motto is “test, learn and iterate.” As Gross shared, your idea is likely to change multiple times from its inception and by testing you can determine if it needs to be abandoned.

Several speakers, like the futurist, Rohit Talwar of Fast Future, emphasised the human element. As he pointed out disruption is not just about technology and data. They are necessary to access and understand human thinking, behaviour and assumptions.

Marco Saio, from Bevy commented that “without looking after your employees you have orders not customers!” His advice was echoed by Itay Erel from Zeek who said you need to “nurture your employees like you would your kids.”

Co-founder of Tillr, Paul Romer-Ormiston observed that “the best teachers have battle scars.” They have learned resilience and self-awareness. As the Chinese philosopher, Sun Tzu, opined “know your enemy, know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

The theme of self-knowledge was reiterated by Mark Beilby, Chair of Lumi. He advised that entrepreneurs need to evaluate themselves and recognise that they are unlikely to have a full skill set. So they need to be humble and seek out people who can assist them with what they are not good at. Finding the right partners is critical.

Bad features and products are due to not listening to your customers. You need to really consider what is the problem you are trying to solve and for whom and you have to build a community. According to James Gill from GoSquared too often businesses are too quick in building an app or website. He recommends building your community first. Erel summed it up nicely “fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” In other words don’t become attached to your product or service. Adapt your model to better address your customer’s problem and build a loyal following.

Sylvana Caloni is a Leadership Consultant, Executive Coach, Team Facilitator, Author and Speaker. She was formerly an Executive Vice President at Bankers Trust Financial Group, President of Women in Banking & Finance (WIBF) and has been partnering with leaders, aspiring leaders and business owners since she set up her own consultancy SC Executive Coaching in 2004.

If you are curious attend a complimentary Peer Advisory Circle Taster facilitated by Sylvana Caloni. Register here or call me on 07952 068133 to discuss if this would be a good fit for you.


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