Surviving & Thriving in the Entrepreneur’s Game

by Janet Sernack

Surviving & Thriving in the Entrepreneur's Game

I was shocked to see in my calendar that it’s exactly 30 years since I exited my corporate career as a top retail executive at the now defunct Coles-Myer Group. I also realized that it’s also my 30-year anniversary as a serial entrepreneur who is not only still in a SME business, but is ploughing away, when most of my peers are advancing begrudgingly towards retirement, at creating a global start-up that everyone said wouldn’t work.

This caused my wonderings to continue seeking what might be the key ingredients of the magic formula that successfully inspired, sustained & resourced me to survive & thrive in this challenging innovative & entrepreneurial game?

Where, during those many years I managed to refresh, renew & reinvent myself & my business focus so many times?

How might this be interesting & useful to others, in the new age of global entrepreneurship, especially as a woman, where The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report for Women 2016/17 reports that 274 million women were already running their own businesses across 74 economies, of which 111 million were running well-established businesses by 2016.

Whilst the World Economic Forum in its New Models for Entrepreneurship Report stated that;

“Entrepreneurs are key drivers of economic and social progress. Rapidly growing entrepreneurial enterprises are often viewed as important sources of innovation, productivity growth and employment (small and medium-sized enterprises account for 97% of all jobs in emerging economies).”

It was when I first encountered Ernst & Youngs White Paper, Avoiding a Lost Generation, when I was starting up ImagineNation™ in Israel, that I came across The International Labour Organization (ILO) report. Where, almost 13% of the world’s youth — close to 75 million young people — are unemployed  and many are also underemployed relative to their training and capabilities. In the worst-hit countries, youth unemployment rates have risen well above 30%. The Economist in Generation Jobless reported that the real rate was much higher, with an estimated total of almost 290 million young people neither working nor studying.

In the Middle East & Africa, where I was located at the time it was estimated that 40.6% of this age group were inactive or not working. Making them ripe for enticement into unsavoury & unlawful activities, and also an incredible force for massive change in education to unleash the power of entrepreneurship.

Age is becoming less of a barrier, where World Economic Forum Research looked at 2.7 million business start-ups between 2007 and 2014, & found the average age of people who founded a business and went on to hire at least one employee was 42.

So, based on the knowledge, skills & experience I gleaned from my 30 years of serial entrepreneurship, here are some suggestions, in my first of three blogs, on how to make the entrepreneurial leap.  To unleash the power of innovative entrepreneurship through manifesting an optimistic, abundant & positive future in VUCA times within a digital & connected world. Dedicated to the currently under & unemployed to the many women seeking the confidence & self-efficacy to make a stand & go it alone. To the wise ageing boomers or “modern elders”, who wish to contribute, add value & make a sustainable difference to the quality of people’s’ lives, in ways they appreciate & cherish.

 From the first ten years 1988-1998

  1. Make a fundamental change choice

In early 1988, I achieved the status of being the top female retail executive in Australia, as the Fashion Direction Manager of 42 Australian based department stores, coupled with the key responsibilities of a marketing development managers role. It would have been very easy, & comfortable continuing enjoying the benefits of my regular glamorous global international trips to the fashion capitals of the world, my high designer wardrobe, my designer boyfriend & architect designed inner city home.  Where, to help me cope with the stress of the job, I initiated a daily meditation practice which I have continued to sustain on a daily basis.

Taking the less easy path, it became a period of incredible learning, where I not only created & invented my role, I  also studied business management & marketing part-time as mature student. I also  undertook a series professional management & personal development programs. All of which compounded into a serious “reality check” around having a lot of status & material possessions. As well living what appeared to me, as a superficial & yet somewhat unsatisfying life centred around fashion’s deliberate obsolescence & a female leadership model where women role modelled their behaviours on the men.

Most importantly, I did not have the self-esteem & self-efficacy, emotional capacity & competence & constructive leadership style to enjoy & sustain it all.

This deeply confronting & bold immersive process led to a further realization that I actually did not really like the person I had become – that becoming a better person required making a fundamental change choice towards creating a very different, more meaningful, purposeful & fulfilling life.

  1. Clarify, enact & embody your passionate purpose

Janet Sernack Design Management Consultants Pty Ltd was born serendipitously soon after making this fundamental change choice. My passionate purpose was to facilitate focus, direction & solutions for manufacturers, retailers & small businesses in the turbulent & volatile lifestyle & fashion industries. Which, at the time, were seriously at the effect of an Australian government restructure in the removal of protective tariffs & duties across the Textile, Clothing & Footwear industries.

Over the 6 years I operated this business, I had the privilege of working for iconic brands including Seafolly, Chanel, Oroton, Jenny Kee, among others, like Kerry McGee, Image Clothing & Charlie Brown, many of whom are no longer in existence.

Whilst my aim was to be of service, make a difference & a contribution to the creation of product & service design, quality & excellence, it didn’t take me long to realize that the best business plans & marketing strategies usually ended up in the bottom drawer. Because no matter how creative, inventive & innovative the leader of the organization was, they seldom had the leadership capability nor the management disciplines & processes necessary to implement & execute the required changes.

  1. Constantly re-educating & re-inventing yourself to take responsibility to manifesting the results you want

It wasn’t until early 1994, when I was experiencing one of those seriously slack times in the entrepreneurial roller-coaster, that a colleague suggested that I approach Corporate Vision, to explore the possibility of working with them as a corporate trainer. Not only had I never been educated in this field, I had never previously worked within that industry sector. Succeeding in winning a huge contract as a corporate trainer for Corporate Vision’s Customer Service Program with the managers of one of the big four Australian banks, I quickly enrolled in Stephanie Burns’ 6-month Training to Train Program & re-invented myself as a corporate trainer. I facilitated this program, as an associate of Corporate Vision, for the next 4 years, & learnt the experiential, accelerated & corporate learning & training ropes.

Around this time, I also got married for the first time & embraced yet another set of deeply personal & relational learning experiences. I also completed Inform Training’s 12-month Professional Trainers Track with industry leaders including Marvin Oka, Philippa Bond & Colin James.

Being the change

I really started to learn what it means to take personal responsibility for & the ownership of the results I was causing in the world.

I also started to learn what it means to be congruent, by walking the talk – for things to change, first I must choose to change.

Which has kept me on a constant & continuous professional & personal learning curve as an innovative serial entrepreneur ever since.

Watch out for my second blog in this series – the next 10 years 1999-2009 & the continuing journey with Corporate Vision & my next re-invention, through the creation of Compass Learning Pty Ltd & my next 3 major learning’s as a female entrepreneur.

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janet-sernackJanet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with some of Australia’s and Israel’s top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ an innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™. Follow @JanetSernack

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