How to profit from the alternative rhythms of time

Our planet hosts 4 billion people who scrape by on less than $2 a day.

Yet, perverse as it may sound, 24 hours in a day is not enough time for many people who work in industrialised economies. Lack of time rather than lack of money is an increasingly common complaint amongst the 100,000 million people who earn $20,000 or more annually.

The phrase ‘time poor’ has become familiar and topical in western society. To emphasise its relevance, the film ‘In Time’ was released in 2011. In the movie, which stars Justin Timberlake, time replaces money as the unit of currency. Run out of time and you die.

Doug Richards offers £1 million

Whilst thought provoking, the film also reminded me of a story told by ex Dragon ‘Doug Richards’ at a seminar I recently attended. Mr Richards explained how he happily agreed to give someone a million pounds; but on one condition! The recipient would give Doug 10 years of his life. The Merchant of Venice is alive and well. But seriously, the points demonstrate that time is precious and indicators suggest its value, like gold, will continue to rise. Therefore we should use time wisely. So how is this achieved especially if you want to start and grow a business?

Entrepreneurial Action

There’s a saying, ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person’. For me, there’s truth here. Entrepreneurs are busy people with little spare time, yet somehow they get much done.

On his Blog ‘Entrepreneurs-Journey.com‘, Aziz Ali offers productivity tips for the time-poor entrepreneur. The article talks about prioritising, using lists and arranging thoughts on folded paper. Mr Ali’s points are not groundbreaking but they make sense; however, you need to be very disciplined and organised to profit from his reasoning and I’m not sure that many entrepreneurs necessarily ‘think’ this way.

Entrepreneurial Thinking

One of the joys of self-employment is the freedom of choice. Unlike other working worlds, people don’t tell you what to do and when to do it. This luxury has important implications for time use. For example, I travel to London a lot but unlike most commuters I don’t have to be at a desk by 9am. Therefore the train I typically catch leaves Yorkshire just after 7.30am and arrives before 10am. My carriage is near empty when I board and thus the coffee (trolley service) is sipped & slurped  with a smile.  I forget how many times my wireless connected laptop has worked for the entire journey, on a table all to myself.

And when London bound last month, the ensuing Tube journey to Aldgate was slick and also void of people. To top it all, it wasn’t difficult getting the best seat, much needed good coffee and free Wi-Fi in the capital’s highly recommended Alchemist Bar and Restaurant on Houndsditch.

Fittingly, it was whilst sitting in the peace of the Alchemist Bar that I first recognised the patterns and started to mix together the elements that formed this article.

It’s a Cosine!

In a recent HHGE article I wrote about ‘The Physics of Entrepreneurship’ and specifically the value and relevance of the formula: Momentum = Mass * Velocity. Sat in that bar I started to sense that entrepreneurship might have another link; this time with mathematics. And later that same day when sharing ideas, my friend Andre Mostert immediately latched onto the synergies with the Sine and Cosine graphs.

The diagram below shows the graph of the Sine and Cosine functions. The accompanying text explains their relevance.

Andre highlighted that mainstream life (rush hours etc.) is represented by the red Sine curve which is the very popular yet hugely congested ‘rat-race’ line. This video shows exactly why I seek to avoid it.

The blue Cosine curve exists as an alternative rhythm in a slightly later time-space. Free from the shackles of convention, the entrepreneur is able to take advantage and ‘surf this wave’ much like I did (and do) on my London trips. As a result, time is used in a much more productive and enjoyable manner.

Hitchhiking can also be looked at as an alternative rhythm. Crowded bus stops and train stations are mainstream functions; the hitchhiker travels independently along a very different yet largely parallel route.

Profiting from Time

The luxury of choice actually empowers people who run businesses to make the most of their time. This freedom means there is time to think, learn and discover better ways to do stuff. Here are just 5 of the very best things I have discovered and learnt from as a result of having more time:

  1. The TED website – Expert speakers & brilliant presentations. All Free!
  2. Springwise – Get your daily fix of highly innovative and entrepreneurial ideas.
  3. Five people & one Guitar – phenomenal teamwork & uplifting entertainment
  4. Go Self Employed – Be inspired by leading author Steve Strauss
  5. Twig – Entrepreneurs create free Science Films to educate & inspire anyone

Having more time meant I was also fortunate enough to attend the World Entrepreneurship Forum which took place in Singapore in 2011. At the event I met many inspirational people with vast experience and a wide variety of perspectives, but who shared a common desire to use entrepreneurship as a driver to solve global problems. This year the same event is in Lyon at the end of October and my ticket is already booked.

We may feel increasingly short of time but with careful thought we can solve many of these problems for ourselves as well as others. What is far more significant is how we explain and find answers to the fact that 4 billion people live on less than $2 a day…

As ever, feedback and thought about the points raised in this article are very much welcomed. How does the socially conscious entrepreneur use his/her time to best effect?

Key Learning Points: Use smart thinking to avoid the congested mainstream and make the most of your time. Freedom to think and being able to continually learn ultimately gives you time to help solve much bigger problems.

Why is the most important entrepreneurial skill seldom taught?

Globally, little evidence exists that business start-up and survival rates are improving. In fact, UK data released by Experian (November 2011) showed a record 70% of start-up businesses are failing within 36 months of being launched.

Experts cite many reasons for business failure. But for me, a key factor underpinning early closure is the business owners’ inability to sell effectively and ethically and thus bring sufficient cash into the business on a sustainable basis. Why does this happen and what needs to be done to remedy the situation?

Salespeople give ‘Sales’ a bad name

Do you like people selling to you at your front door, over the phone or in the street? For that matter, do you enjoy being sold to in a retail store?

I believe most of us don’t like being sold to because so many people in sales aren’t that good at selling and/or are untrustworthy. People aren’t good at selling because they have either never been trained, or the limited/unethical training they did receive was on the scale that starts with ‘Crap’ and ends at ‘Criminal’. For reference, between 1993 and 1997, I was part of a small team that retrained over 3,000 sales professionals. Over 80% of the people I worked with (over, 1,000) were poor at their job.

As a consequence, selling has got itself a bad name. In my opinion, this has led to the subject being shunned both by people who need to learn the real skills of how to build long-term business relationships (small business owners) as well as teaching/training institutions.

Entrepreneurship in Universities

Earlier this year I was asked to speak at a HEEG Conference in Kingston. Towards the end of the day one of the delegates asked an open question – “How much time was devoted to teaching entrepreneurial students how to sell?” Not one of the 25+ universities represented that day ran courses to teach sales.

Curious, but unsurprised by this finding, I went to the interweb to seek out any university sales course. Portsmouth University does run an MA in ‘Sales Management’ and the word ‘Sales’ does get the occasional mention in the glut of marketing studies available.  I thought that was just about it…

Then I discovered the world famous and highly reputed department store ‘Harrods’ had teamed up with Anglia Ruskin University to provide a highly innovative training programme that leads to an Honours Degree in Sales. People who complete the course master the ‘Art of Selling’. This short video provides more detail about the potential of this powerful learning experience.

Is Anglia Ruskin on the right track?

Being a competent salesperson takes understanding, repeated practice as well as hard work. Just like any marketing degree, there is no quick success fix. Best practice selling has moved a long way from ‘technique driven’ hard sell methods that have us all running for the hills. Best practice is much more about understanding human behaviour and working with customers to ensure they get what they need.

By providing opportunities for repeated practice (Harrods) and backing it up with sound theory, Anglia Ruskin is in my opinion definitely taking the appropriate steps to prepare students for employment. I don’t know the exact methods used for teaching and training, but I would be surprised if video role plays and behavioural science theory are not key components of the course.

In my opinion, education and training institutions should follow Anglia Ruskin’s example. By recognising the depth and importance of the subject (and the fact that sales should not be marketing’s impoverished relation) budding entrepreneurs especially will be provided with a critical skill. And if this happens more students will be attracted to pay to learn about ‘how to sell’ because they will value the subject’s relevance in terms of future employment ambitions.

Entrepreneurs encounter sales situations daily. Most people are not at all prepared for the opportunities they face. However, if business owners have been trained to sell effectively and know how to make the buying experience enjoyable for the customer, their business will bring in the cash and thus be more likely to survive and thrive. But if nothing changes, education institutions are set to miss out and the start-up failure rate is unlikely to change.

Your thoughts and feedback on this article are very welcome.

Key Learning Points: Running a successful business means knowing how to sell effectively. To equip budding entrepreneurs properly, educational institutions need to place much more emphasis on sales training and specifically the art of selling.