A few nights ago I was lucky enough to see Eric Clapton and his fabulous band at the LG Arena in Birmingham. I’ve seen him play at least a dozen times over more years than I like to remember. However, in all the times I’d seen him, this time provided the most unexpected ending to one of his concerts.
After a quite brilliant two hour set it appeared to the audience that he walked off in a huff. He came back on for an encore which was a song by Paul Carrack, one of his two awesome keyboard players, when everyone was expecting an EC classic and then with a cursory wave he walked off again. He didn’t even name check the eight members of his band.
It certainly felt as if all ten thousand of us were left a bit flat from this ending, despite having thoroughly enjoyed a brilliant performance – a master class even. A few may have even wondered whether it was worth the £80 a ticket and £15 a programme and yet only twenty minutes earlier they’d regarded themselves as just lucky to have a seat.
Naturally, the many online and offline reviews of the concert commented on this ending and the consensus of these reviews suggest that he may have become disenchanted with us. He may have felt a sedate reaction was demonstrating that the audience weren’t really into the music. Certainly, there wasn’t the usual noise and shouting out to accompany his signature anthem ‘Cocaine’, in the latter part of his act.
What’s this got to do with running a micro enterprise (0-9 staff & 95% of all businesses)? Out of all the Ps involved in taking your offer to the customer – Product, Place, Price, Promotion, People, Process, Presentation, Professionalism – it is the ‘P’ for Passion that most differentiates the micro business owner led offer from the larger organisation competition. The ‘P’ for passion went missing, out of his performance and then the audience, at this Eric Clapton concert. It ended up with both parties, band and audience, just doing their job.
Starbucks v the Indie Café
I’ve always thought that all those involved in the performance arts typify what it’s like to own and run a micro enterprise – not just because most of them are self-employed and freelancers or owners – as the brand is the micro business owner. Many companies say they’re passionate about what they do, especially they say it about looking after their customers but few deliver passion as authentically as a business owner.
In fact, in many larger organisations the customer facing staff are usually not the owner of the business and have standard operating procedures to follow. Salespeople and check out assistants can often be quite lowly paid in comparison with the management. They can’t display the passion and from it the creativity and flexibility to treat each customer as well as a business owner will.
Let me give you an example. At the end of giving your order in Starbucks everyone is asked for their name to put on the cup. I’ve seen some oldies, yes there are a few even older than me, look quite embarrassed when answering this request in a queue. My mother would have gone bright red in the face and whispered ‘Mrs Robinson’.
In comparison, the customer reaction really, passionately, matters to the business owner, Alan, who runs the café downstairs from Enterprise Rockers Global HQ. He gets to know exactly what he can say to each and every customer and they return regularly for the conversation as much as his coffee and fabulous chocolate crunch cake.
Quite rightly the entrepreneur and ex-Dragon, Doug Richard, is on a crusade to get Britain to give greater recognition and support to its £36 billion creative sector. He makes the point that the science and engineering sectors that lead to tangible products are much better supported than individuals with their brains – their intangible, creative talent. I would contend that this creativity comes from a passion and that most micro enterprise owners can bring these qualities to their business to some extent.
Every day I’m lucky enough to see Enterprise Rockers that are passionate about their businesses and so make their offer unique through the way it is creatively packaged and delivered. Doll-makers, fashion designers, hairdressers, chocolatiers, plumbers, bakers, decorators, café owners, restaurateurs, app developers and many others differentiate themselves from their larger competition by the business owners’ passion and creativity for what they do and how they can delight their customer.
In my experience this passion not only brings with it creativity, flexibility and customer care it also brings integrity, authenticity and belief that leads to some sensible risk taking too.
However, I’ve also met a lot of business owners that fall out of love with their business and as a result with the passion gone, their business falters as their customers buy less. My co-founder of Enterprise Rockers, Tina Boden, is a prime example of someone that builds businesses, charities and communities through passion – her passion is very persuasive.
However, she told me she’s had businesses that she hated and so gave them up and moved on to what she was passionate about. I’ve done the same thing, as recently as 18 months ago, and that’s the point – running your own enterprise means controlling your own destiny and doing what you are passionate about doing.
Watch out for the signs that that there are passion killers in your midst. Employees, government schemes, banks, investors, non-executive directors, suppliers, regulators, local councils, trade bodies are the most frequent passion killers. It’s why micro enterprise owners like growing their business through collaborating with freelancers and other micro businesses rather than take on employees.
It’s why business owners only want to take advice from other business owners. It’s why banks and government support are kept at arms-length. It’s why we created the free to join in global, Enterprise Rockers’ self-help community of business owners.
You must remove the passion killers from your business. If you cannot remove them then start another enterprise where you can rediscover your passion. It is what makes you and your business a success – a business that you can keep going with and will leave your customers crying out for more.
I'm Tony Robinson OBE, the Micro Business Champion, a business owner, professional speaker and the author of the popular satire 'Freedom from Bosses Forever' (Kindle, paperback and audio book). I'm the founder of the SFEDI Group and co-founder, with Tina Boden, of the Enterprise Rockers CIC which organises and presents the annual, global #MicroBizMattersDay.
2016 was the 30th Anniversary Year of our primary business - The Business Advisory Bureau Limited/Entrepreneurs UK and the 20th Anniversary Year of my founding the UK Government recognised Sector Skills Body for Enterprise and Business Support, the SFEDI Group (includes the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs), which I still co-own.
I was honoured to receive an OBE in 2001, and two Lifetime Achievement Awards for Enterprise Support - in 2012 from the IAB and 2013 from SYB magazine and have appeared in the Fresh Business Thinking and Smith and Williamson Power 100 of influencers on UK entrepreneurship in 2014 and 2016.