Here’s another edition of the Unusual Entrepreneur Interviews and today I am very honoured to have gotten this Unusual Entrepreneur in question. He’s been one of my mentors since 2008 and I have learnt so much from his wealth of knowledge.
His name is Mark McGuinness; he’s is a poet who earns his living as a coach for artists, creatives and entrepreneurs – and mavericks in various other fields. He blogs at LateralAction and is the author of several ebooks on creativity. Mark is a very generous guy so he’s provided us with a link where you can download them for Free! Click here.
If you are just joining us for the first time, this is the unusual entrepreneur interview series. It is a parade of unusual entrepreneurs who are changing the world and profiting from purpose. Profiting from purpose by changing the world isn’t an impossible dream as many tend to think of it, but a realistic one as many unusual entrepreneurs have extraordinarily proven.
It is my life mission to understand the unusual qualities of such unusual entrepreneurs and inspire as many others to profit from purpose by changing the world. If you’re not yet familiar with our philosophy of unusual entrepreneurs, kindly download our free ebook: The Entrepreneur’s Journey. This is the official manifesto for anyone who wants to change the world and profit from purpose.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
How Unusual Is Mark McGuinness?
Mark McGuinness is a qualified psychotherapist, registered with the UK Council for Psychotherapy. He also holds a MA in Creative & Media Enterprises from the University of Warwick and a BA in English Language & Literature from Oxford University.
He’s been coaching artists and creatives since 1996 and have worked with people in all kinds of creative professions, including artists, designers, writers, film-makers, actors, musicians, entrepreneurs, architects, singers and fashion designers. He has also consulted for organisations including the BBC, Channel 4, Arts & Business, the UK’s Institute for Practitioners in Advertising, and creative agencies of all sizes.
His work has been featured in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Creative Review, Mslexia and the Discovery Health Channel. His main areas of expertise are; Business coaching, Creativity, Motivation, Managing creativity, Time management and productivity, Presentation skills, Influencing skills, Online marketing, and Social media.
Interview Questions Part One
ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Awakening the Spirit of business
1. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do?, how do you do it?, why do you do it and who do you do it for?
I provide coaching and training to help creative people and companies succeed.
I help clients become more creative to improve professional skills that are critical to their success – things like time management, communication and presentation skills, networking, financial management (with my colleague Sarah Thelwall) and online marketing.
I work with clients both online and face-to-face; both one-to-one and in groups.
I do it because I’m a writer and poet myself, and I love working with people who are similarly passionate about their creative work.
My private clients are creatives, artists and micro-entrepreneurs. Most of my corporate clients are within the creative industries – in advertising, TV, film etc. – although I’m happy to work with anyone who takes a creative approach to their work.
2. How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business?
The short version is that it was a long and winding road! I started off as a poet, then a psychotherapist – and very suspicious of business. But gradually I came to realise entrepreneurship offered me a combination of freedom, money, time and enjoyable work that I couldn’t find via any other path.
The slightly longer version is in my blog post The Story of a Reluctant Entrepreneur. http://lateralaction.com/articles/reluctant-entrepreneur/
3. Where there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I was asked to help a fellow psychotherapist deliver some corporate training for his consulting partnership in 2000. That was the first time I realised my skills could be profitably applied in the world of business.
Then I was invited to become the company rainmaker, which was pretty daunting at first, but I eventually cracked it and caught the entrepreneurial bug!
4. When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
I’m afraid I didn’t really have one to begin with! It evolved gradually as I went along. Although I started working with artists and creatives back in the mid-nineties, it took a few years before I realised I wanted to make it the main focus of my business.
5. What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
Passion gives you the fuel, but you still need to learn to drive – and work out where to go!
I think it’s essential to have a passion for what you’re doing, otherwise what’s the point? You could make a lot of money, but if your heart’s not in it, it’s hard to sustain the effort. And even if you do, it’s kind of sad to spend your time on something you don’t love.
On the other hand I can assure your readers that it is NOT necessarily true that if you do what you love, then the money will follow! You need to work out who is going to pay you to do (or make) this thing that you love – in other words, you need to find a way to dovetail YOUR passion with that of other people.
So you may need to be very creative and persistent in experimenting with different products/services, positioning, business models and so on, before you hit on a winning formula.
6. What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
I think we’re living at a time of great disruption and great opportunity – economically, socially, politically and creatively. So I want to help people deal with the disruption and seize the opportunity, to create something amazing in their little part of the world.
I don’t think (m)any of us get to change the world single-handed, but I’m a firm believer in the ‘ripple effect’ – doing something that has a positive effect on the people and systems around you, and trusting that will be a worthwhile contribution to the bigger world out there. Like you’re doing here at naijapreneur.
7. What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
See my previous answer! The thing I really like about entrepreneurs is their drive to make things better. I don’t necessarily agree with every entrepreneur’s definition of ‘better’, but I do admire the basic drive to get out there and make something happen, to start ripples.
8. How are you changing the world through the business, products or services you create?
I work with creators, who are all busy creating weird and wonderful things in their different fields. All my teaching and coaching is designed to act as a catalyst for their creativity in all these different fields. The ripple effect again.
Interview Questions Part Two
STRATEGY – The unusual execution of business best practices
9. What would you describe as your secret formula for business success?
I’m a bit suspicious of secret formulas (outside of science fiction).
I don’t think success comes from secret formulas or magic ingredients. It comes from playing around with tools and ideas that are available to anyone, and bringing your own unique perspective and talents to the table. The magic comes from discovering something new for yourself, not by following a formula. One of the things entrepreneurship has in common with poetry.
10. How do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability?
A lot of my market research comes from working closely with clients, and listening closely to their hopes, fears, frustrations and challenges. I also get a lot of information (and some metrics) from engaging with my audience online.
Most of my products and services have evolved in three stages:
1. Having a problem myself and finding a solution.
2. Noticing a lot of my clients have the same problem.
3. Packaging up the solution in a way that appeals to them.
11. Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
Yes, I have some great people in my network I can call on for advice and two coaches I consult for specific issues.
It’s always great to get an informed external perspective on my business – as Chip and Dan Heath say, it’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle! It’s saved me plenty of stress and mistakes (although I still manage to make plenty of those).
12. How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs use their time for?
I arrange things so I spend the best part of my day (when I’m most alert and energized) working on my most important work. The specific activities will vary from business to business, but every day you need to put your energy into things that will create ongoing value, by building assets such as new products or intellectual property, networks and relationships, or mailing list subscribers.
13. How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
My biggest sources of new business are referrals and my online marketing (blogging, free ebooks and a free email course). Both of these are really the same thing – creating value for other people in a form that they want to share. It’s the same principle whether someone has a great experience in a workshop and tells their friends, or they learn something from one of my blog posts and Tweet it to their followers. Word gets around – and it’s more important what others say about you than you say about yourself.
14. Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter and how do you cope with funding issues in your business?
Complaining is a luxury entrepreneurs can’t afford. It saps their strength and creativity. Of course entrepreneurship isn’t easy, otherwise everyone would do it (and it wouldn’t be half as much fun). But entrepreneurs are the people who find a way to make things happen.
If you’re looking for funding, you can’t have the attitude that someone ‘owes’ you the money. You need to find a way to impress the right people by making a compelling pitch.
And there are many types of business (especially service-based and small online businesses) that require little or no funding. Look at 37signals or Copyblogger Media. Or John Carlton, who started a lucrative copywriting business with an old typewriter in his bedroom.
15. When starting out a new business, who are the likely possible partners or professional service providers you would recommend every entrepreneur work with?
There are so many types of business (and entrepreneur) that it’s hard to think of partners/providers who would be essential to everyone. But it IS important to get help with things that are outside your expertise (or above your boredom threshold).
For example, I come across a lot of creative people who don’t even have an accountant – someone who would save them money and a world of stress. And personally I pay more than average for things like web hosting and email marketing services – because they are mission-critical to my type of business, and pay for themselves many times over. Ditto expert advice on some of the big decisions I make about the business.
Whatever your line of business, there will be similar areas where it pays to pay a little more, or hold your hand up and ask for help.
16. The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
My approach isn’t particularly unusual. I take into account several factors, starting with production costs, then – most important – looking at the amount of perceived (important word) value it has for my customers. Plus I do some benchmarking against similar(ish) offerings in the marketplace – what my colleague Sarah calls the ‘sanity check’!
Interview Questions Part Three
MISCELLANEOUS – Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for unusual entrepreneurs
17. Where there any particular questions you expected me to ask that is beneficial to entrepreneurs and I didn’t? Kindly share with us such questions and their relevant answers here.
I always expect the unexpected with you Tito!
If you’re looking for recommendations, I’d say The Perfect Business by Michael LeBoeuf is a great book for any micro-entrepreneur to read.
You’ve met Mark, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur?
Share your views below in the comment section. And for more tips on creativity and creative business, visit Mark’s site LateralAction.com.
Thank you for your time!
ONE LAST THING!
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