Speaking at a recent BSchool and StartupSmart webinar, here are Ryan Trainor’s most valuable lessons from his experience in founding or taking over businesses and building them up:
1. You don’t necessarily need a formal education to get ahead
After a life of finding and transforming different businesses, Trainor believes that his sense of entrepreneurship was instilled as a child working alongside his parents at a market when just seven years of age.
“My background is a middle-class family in Eltham,” says Trainor. “The reality was I scraped through school… I was an average student, but the founding skills I grew up with were from my parents who worked at the markets and instilled that work ethic,” he says.
At 23 years old, Trainor grew his first business, National Loss Prevention, up to nearly 300 contractors, but faced cashflow problems and successfully sold it to Wilson Parking (now known as Wilson’s Security.)
2. One of the most underrated skills is common sense
As a young entrepreneur starting out with your own business, being in charge of older employees can be challenging, but if you treat people with respect and decency you’ll see results, says Trainor.
“There are so many inspirational buzzwords out there, but at the end of the day it comes down to common sense and how you treat people,” he says. “You want to create an environment that people are proud to be part of.”
3. Running a business is a marathon – you might feel lost along the way
“Success can be a pretty awful teacher. I was intuitive in the way that I led but I reached a stage when I ran out of tools in my toolshed. I felt like I was in the wilderness,” says Trainor.
“I tried a number of things but I felt like I hadn’t had my breakout year.”
Trainor’s defining moment was signing up to a week-long MIT course with 50 entrepreneurs from around the world: “I learnt that everyone else is in the same boat. A business is a marathon and anyone that says everything is running smoothly is lying. This gave me renewed confidence.”
4. Self-audit to decide what kind of entrepreneur you are
Successful entrepreneurs never say they can go it alone, so ask yourself what you are good at and what can you do that someone else generally can’t or that you are far better at? What is your superpower? Everyone’s trying to be the leader, but ask yourself honestly if you’re a better implementer or if you’re an entrepreneur who has the vision, says Trainor: “Often the number two or number three can make just as much money as the number one.”
5. Hire people to fill in your weaknesses
When you self-audit, think about the people who will make you as successful as possible and surround yourself with them, says Trainor: “As you get older you realise you can’t do everything on your own.” This will empower you to focus on your strengths.