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A Personal Evolution

I recently gave a presentation using my personal career journey to illustrate how the acquisition of experience over time enabled me to become increasingly useful to a broadening variety of businesses:-

Education

to

Employment

to

Entrepreneur

to

Mentor

to

Angel

to

Non Executive Director


There is plenty of overlap between each of these chapters. I have, and continue to form my own companies, invest in lots more, and mentor even more. So it's not a simple consecutive flow. However, what it does represent is an accumulation of sufficient experience and confidence to progress through each stage before exploring the next.

There's no way, for example, that I could have been a successful entrepreneur without having first gained experience by working for someone else. Equally I didn't have the breadth of experience of other people's companies to feel confident about investing in them without first getting to know many of them through mentoring. Perhaps not the same ones I invested in (although there a couple that progressed that way), but similar ones to the companies I eventually took a stake in.

And becoming a director, and hopefully a useful one, only became an option once I'd got to know the workings of many other companies and selected the ones I believed I wanted to be part of.

The biggest dangers are naivety and wishful-thinking. They're similar, but naivety ignores or misses completely the potential negatives, whereas wishful-thinking recognises the negatives, but amplifies the positives to try to justify getting involved. But if you don't take risks, you're never going to learn...

Good judgement comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgement.

Another saying I've always liked is...
Always bet on the gladiator with the most scars.
 If you've come to this party late, and don't want to follow the progression of experience I've described, jump right in at any level. Just don't put your hand up to be a NED too quickly. The company you will be joining is relying on you to bring experience (or money, or both). Naive suggestions and decisions at board level can easily be fatal. NEDs are the voice of caution born from making, or at least witnessing, mistakes in the past.

There's an old African expression...
Never test the depth of a river with both feet.
Happy hunting!

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