DockATot's founder Lisa Furuland Kotsianis participated in the She Succeeds Entrepreneurial Retreat in Corfu, Greece last month hosted by Shefari. Lisa joined an amazing panel of female C.E.O.s, visionaries and coaches to help inspire and energize other female entrepreneurs from around the world. Lisa honed in on some of the most crucial questions other business leaders ask themselves on a daily basis. Read on for some highlights from Lisa's master class in becoming an entrepreneur, plus her advice on how-to authentically grow a business while remaining true to yourself and your brand.
Are entrepreneurs born or made?
Starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur is a dream that millions of people share. But what type of person do you have to be? Every personality type can and does start businesses. Sure, some may be more likely to do so, but just as there are many different sorts of businesses, there are many different types of founders. However, true entrepreneurs often view themselves as creative, impulsive and prepared to take risks. They also have a strong need to be able to do their own thing.
Another common trait of born entrepreneurs is one of having an internal sense of control; you believe you control a broad array of factors in your life, and you don’t waste time acting a victim of circumstances or blaming others for your shortcomings. You strongly believe in your own ability to control your destiny. Entrepreneurs that have made it are also more likely to be focused on the future and what could be, to trust their hunches, to enjoy novelty, and to leap rapidly from one thought to another. This sets them up to take more risks as they are less influenced by tradition and convention. And let’s not forget emotional stability – closely associated with resilience: Every great entrepreneur has failed numerous times before they succeeded or had to battle against considerable odds.
Often, the entrepreneur’s target is very personal and has got nothing, or at least very little, to do with making money. It’s often more about a need for fulfillment.
But all the personality in the world will not make up for a weak business idea. True entrepreneurs are innovative and able to find problems. Where there is a problem, there are opportunities. Everyone can spot a problem, but the entrepreneur is able to use innovation to create an opportunity from a problem. It’s a key skill to be able to spot gaps in the market and take the opportunity to develop a successful business.
Nektaria Panagiotari, co-founder of Shefari, and Lisa.
You can win by following your instincts (despite being told you are crazy)
As a small-to-medium sized business owner, you’re ultimately on the hook for all of your decisions. And there is a host of decisions you’ll need to make in the course of a day!
Following intuition when the facts say otherwise is one of the virtues of game-changing leaders. And if you're really pushing the boundaries of conventional thinking based on intuition, you might hear the ultimate criticism: "You're crazy.” But that is in fact great news! When your ideas make others uncomfortable is, in my experience, one of the surest predictors of success. When you're solely acting based on data, you're basing your choices on consensus--what everybody else is thinking--and innovation doesn't happen by schedule or majority vote.
The work-life balance myth
There is no work-life balance, just life. And if we’re lucky, a life in harmony. The work-life balance is a strange aspiration for the perfect life. It implies that work is bad and life is good. That we lose ourselves in work, but find ourselves in life. We survive work, but live life. Work is heavy and life is light.
So, it’s more useful to not try to balance the unbalanceable but to maximize what you love. If you’re happy on a personal level, you become more productive and creative professionally. And if your professional life makes you fulfilled, then you’re more content at home.
Life is work. Work is life. Everything I do complements my life’s work, encompassing all aspects of living in the life-long creation of Opus Lisa.
We can’t always do only what we love. But we can always find the love in what we do. And this is made easier by your actual career path; that of the entrepreneur’s. Where you are actually at the reins of your destiny. Personally, for me, my family is the major reason I’ve designed my business in a way that allows me to spend a lot of time with them. But I’m on call all the time. And that is ok. It’s fine to take phone calls whilst watching your child play football.
Don’t. Beat. Yourself. Up.
Focus on organic growth
Organic growth is achieved by using your existing resources to expand your business. Inorganic growth is done through mergers, acquisitions, and takeovers. Organically growing is what I did, and am still doing. It’s kept me at the steering wheel of my business. Not without sacrifices, but the rewards have been greater.
Just as when I say that money must not be the driver for any startup, but the idea must be: equally growth must not be the main purpose of the business, but perfecting the core product must be. And in doing so, growth will automatically come your way. The more you try to force success, the more evasive it will be.
Growing your business and selling your product or service is impossible if no one's heard of them. You need to get your brand in front of the right audience. When developing a brand message, focus on telling a story instead of just selling. If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling, it’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.
And never settle. True entrepreneurs do not settle. As IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad has said, “The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow.”
The Shefari retreat in Corfu, Greece is not far from Lisa's home in Athens. Lisa often draws inspiration from her beautiful surroundings. The DockATot Mediterraneo collection was born from her exposure to Greece's natural beauty and architecture. Find out more about this collection.