The one important lesson you can learn from award-winning entrepreneurs
By Donna O’Toole
Just a year ago, entrepreneurs across the world were planning for another year of business without too many dramas. I know, because I was one of them.
Boy were we wrong!
Before we could even think about getting down to business, everything changed and we had to figure out how to survive the pain and devastation of natural disasters, mass protests, a global pandemic, oh and #Megxit. It was set to be ‘the worst year ever’.
Fast forward to December 2020, and the stories of survival that have come out of this year are proving that nothing is impossible.
Never before (in our lifetime) have we seen such generosity, mutual support and collaboration between entrepreneurs, business leaders and brands. For example:
- Burger King have been bigging-up McDonald’s, Greggs, Pizza Hut, and many more fast food outlets in a bid to support the jobs of fellow hospitality industry employees.
- Co-op showed their industry solidarity with Sainsbury’s to make a stand against racism.
- Rivals Rolls-Royce, McLaren, Ford and a plethora of otherwise competing brands came together in a collaboration to deliver essential ventilators to the NHS.
In the awards industry, where live events had to quickly pivot to online, we’ve supported each other with partnerships, advice, and ideas too.
But one huge group that has delivered some incredible lessons in business this year is the entrepreneur community.
From small start-ups who were in their infancy when the pandemic struck, to the fast-growing, entrepreneur-led disruptors and changemakers, this bunch of ‘rebels and misfits’ have pivoted, pitched, and proven themselves a success throughout a year that no one could have predicted.
And whilst I’ve had the real honour (and huge challenge) of judging and selecting winners amongst the most emotional ‘Covid Heroes’ awards nominations you can imagine, I have seen one common quality that stands out about award-winners this year above all else…
Altruism. That is, ‘Acting out of the concern for the welfare of others at the cost or risk to oneself’. Otherwise known as genuine kindness, generosity, and gratitude.
Not only have entrepreneurs’ commitment to others been instinctive and real, it has also proven the theory that helping others is as good for us, as it is for them.
As Mentalhealth.org says, ‘Kindness improves mental health, reduces stress and boosts self-esteem’. So it’s no surprise that these entrepreneurs and their teams have been amongst the most motivated I’ve met, and also the most able to put in a powerful performance in their business despite facing their own battles.
Altruism in Action
Here are a few examples of the altruism in action I’ve seen this year. Let these entrepreneurs inspire you to dig deep into your values, challenge and motivate your team, and drive you forward with greater impact than ever. *Spoiler alert*… It’s not about the money.
- Pivot For Purpose: Led by the inspirational James Watt, Brewdog have won so many awards they’ve now launched their own — Beer Geeks. This is a great example of an entrepreneurial business that acts fast and inspires others to do the same. In April 2020, with the nation still in shock, Brewdog took a good look at what tools they already had in place and pivoted from creating a product that everyone wanted — beer — to a product that everyone needed — hand sanitiser. As a result, they’ve supplied over 50,000 units to charities and the NHS; some even in little beer bottles. And the beer’s still brewing too.
- Give Back With Gratitude: Founded in early 2020 by multi-award-winning young entrepreneur, Haroon Danis, Skin HQ was rapidly expanding and becoming known as the UK’s leading skin clinic. But when the pandemic hit, they were one of the first to have to shut up shop and wait until it was safe to open again. It was then that Haroon saw all the NHS workers on the news whose skin was being damaged by wearing PPE for hours on end. He immediately launched Skin Heroes, donating free facials to key workers to book in for some much needed R+R as soon as he reopened. To date, he has given away over £1.5m of skin treatments and he has no plans to stop. Haroon says “It was the best way I could think of to say thank you.” The smile this brings to every NHS worker’s face has made this a driving force for team morale too, supporting the brand to continue to thrive.
- Share Your Experience: In 2012, professional footballer Marvin Sordell was living the dream and playing alongside the likes of Ryan Giggs. But on the inside he was struggling with his mental health more than anyone knew. After suffering racial abuse and severe depression he left the sport he loved, and after a period of recovery he found his passion and purpose in storytelling. Marvin is now the co-founder of Oneighty Productions, which has produced a range of award-winning short films. He is also an ambassador for CALM, featured in the BBC documentary ‘Football, Prince William and our Mental Health’, and launched Transition FC, a platform to help former footballers navigate changing careers. Marvin is an inspirational example of how to use your own experiences to make a positive change in the world. Listen to our exclusive podcast.
- Create A Community: Led by Michelle Pugh-Parry de Klerk, The Women’s Chapter is a community that was set up to support women-led brands to thrive, giving female founders a place to connect and support each other. During the pandemic, Michelle and many of the award-winning brands in her community used their existing contacts and skills to support each other’s businesses, like Nancy Zeffman and Eileen Willettools the co-founders of Cucumber Clothing, who collaborated with UpWrap, founded by Amber Testino, to create and donate vital face masks to the most at-risk communities.
- Stay True to Yourself: Back in 2014, Joe Wicks became an award-winner as The Body Coach, leading a thriving business that was getting people fit and healthy through a combination of HIIT exercise and healthy eating plans. This wasn’t just a job, this was Joe’s true passion, and it still is. Five years later, only two things have changed about Joe; his huge following, and his name — which is now Joe Wicks MBE. During the pandemic he used his passion to get the nation off their sofas and jump around their lounges in the hope of one day seeing that elusive six-pack — or slightly more realistically, to lift the nation’s spirits, wear out the kids, and give us all some much-needed exercise while we were stuck in lockdown. He ended the year with a 24-hour live workout, raising over £1.5m for Children in Need.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. So many entrepreneurs are using what they already have to change the world for the better. And you can too.
YOU ALREADY HAVE THE TOOLS. IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH THEM THAT COUNTS.
So congratulations to all you entrepreneurs for surfing the waves of panic and confusion and coming out fitter, stronger, and with your customers and colleagues in your arms.
As Steve Jobs, one of the world’s most inspirational entrepreneurs, said himself:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Start now. Start small. What one thing can you do today to help someone else, change the world, and drive your business out of the pandemic stronger than ever?
And if you want to stand out as an award-winning entrepreneur or business leader, take a look at just a few of the awards that you could be winning in 2021 here.
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