10 things I’ve learnt from Simon Sinek

I’ve said it many times before, but I truly believe Simon Sinek is one of the most inspiring and exciting minds of our time. Outside of our friendship, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him twice now: once for a Meet the Author interview, and most recently to celebrate Virgin StartUp’s 10th birthday.


In a room full of Virgin StartUp supported founders, mentors and partners, we shared a fascinating discussion about entrepreneurship, vision, culture, attitude, leadership and everything in-between. I loved every minute of it, so I thought I would share 10 of the most insightful things I took away:


1. Instinct isn’t everything for entrepreneurs. While it’s important to trust your gut, it’s also difficult to share this feeling you have with your colleagues and stakeholders. This makes it difficult to scale. This is why it’s vital to get good (really good) at articulating your vision and building a shared vision.


2. Remind yourself on a regular basis that you are not the smartest person in the room, and have the humility to know you are one of many people making the ship sail. Actively look for your talent in your people and lean on them.


3. Ask for help. Confidently.


4. Don’t focus on the competition, focus on your own long-term vision and then compete against yourself. This is how you drive innovation and set yourself up for long-term success.


5. Make sure at least one person in your c-suite is visionary. Too often the people who are best with numbers get promoted, and the visionaries sit waiting in the wings.


6. Attract and hire people who are culture contributors.


7. If you’re talking about your product or proposition when you talk about vision, you’ve got it all wrong. Your vision is about the impact your business makes on the world beyond it.


8. Take a smaller contract, investment or partnership from someone who believes in your vision, instead of something bigger from someone who needs too much convincing. If they need convincing at the outset, you’ll end up needing to convince them on every decision you make.


9. If you have an innovative vision, find the ‘early adopters’ (who make up 13.5% of people). Tell them your ‘why’ (your vision, your purpose), and when enough early adopters come onside, you’ll eventually reach a tipping point when the early majority (34% of people) come onside too. And then change happens.


10. Optimism is an undying belief that the future is bright. It’s not being ignorant to the darkness, but it helps you work towards the light.


It’s amazing to look back at everything Virgin StartUp has achieved in the past decade. The team has now funded over 6,000 entrepreneurs and distributed £80 million in Start Up Loans, as a Business Support Partner of the British Business Bank. The team has over 1,000 alumni from their investment readiness programmes, who have gone and raised a combined £100m! I also think it’s incredible that 74% of businesses funded by Virgin StartUp are still trading after three years, compared with a national average of 54%.


For any budding founders out there, the team has now packed all of this knowledge and experience into a fantastic digital community, which entrepreneurs in the UK can join.


Thank you to Simon Sinek for your endless inspiration, and thank you to everyone at Virgin StartUp for helping so many entrepreneurs bring their dreams to life.


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