The Grit It Takes to be an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurialism can be a bit of a formula. I think it takes a certain kind of mindset, a large amount of passion, a lot of help and extensive amounts of grit.
If you have all of those things then you are well on your way to being an entrepreneur. I should probably tell you a little bit about myself and my background.
Prior to being an entrepreneur and running True Grit, I had a 15 year career in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), 10 years of which was as a Commando Officer, reaching the rank of Major. I completed eight operational deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and in domestic Counter Terrorism roles. My final role in the ADF was being in charge of Special Forces Selection and Recruiting. My push to become an entrepreneur came when I realised that I had reached all my goals in the military and decided that I needed to move on to the next challenge. The Mud Run / Obstacle Race phenomenon had just reached Australia and my background in obstacle courses, risk management and running operations seemed a perfect fit!
I think a lot of individuals that transition from the military find it difficult to take that first step, as they don’t find that job/role that replaces what they had in the military, whether it be comradery, adrenalin or sense of purpose. I think I was lucky in the fact that I found a role that has challenged me on every level.
Identifying a gap in the market took a lot of research and listening to what people had to say. Looking at the competition and knowing that we could deliver something we knew people would want.
When my partner and I started our business, we noticed that a lot of people complained that most races were just cross country running courses with a few obstacles.
We already knew that we wanted to bring participants to locations that were iconic to Australian landscapes and give them more obstacles to complete. We conceived obstacles that challenged participants to overcome some of their psychological fears, such as heights, confined spaces and cold water. Turns out that’s exactly the challenge our target audience dreamed of.
I’m not going to tell you there’s a road map to guaranteeing success, but I will share with you some key principles I believe everyone who wants to innovate and become a business tycoon should think about before investing their time and energy.
- This is vital! Get independent financial advice about your business model. You may think you have the greatest idea in the world, but unless you’ve considered all the risks to your business, your idea might not actually be feasible.
- Seeking advice from your industry experts is key. We came from an operational background but had no experience in marketing or social media. The learning curve can be steep in these areas, so seek guidance from those in the know.
- Having a lean start up. Being able to start the business and not relying on a wage for a full year aided our business in keeping costs down and our head above water.
- Be prepared to get your hands dirty. If you’re not prepared to do the boring, monotonous, dirty work for the business, you probably won’t succeed. You’ll often see us emptying rubbish bins at the event, covered in all sorts of things! Being an entrepreneur takes grit and resilience.
Now, success and growth of your business once it’s up and running is another thing
Success in your start-up will only come if you believe in it wholeheartedly. This is where the grit comes in. Although every decision you make might not be the right one, learning from mistakes and growing from it is the key. From an operational perspective, event management is very similar to the military. Event days run to a schedule, with managing race waves, medical elements, car parking, festival areas and volunteers, just to name a few components. The sell or marketing of events has been the hardest aspect, especially as new competitors have entered the market.
Knowing your market and industry is also a big thing. You should know your ‘avatar’ of who your participant is and what platforms are best to get them to your product. You should also know who and what your competitors are providing in your industry. Knowing all these things will give you the grit to succeed.
Once you’ve reached success well then how do you grow it? Everyone always says your business is like a plant - give it nutrients, water and sun and it will thrive. I think the best way of describing a business is actually as a forest. There are so many elements to running a business that, from time to time, trees will fall down. If you make smart business decisions along the way and don’t get too scared of asking for help then your forest will prosper. I was lucky in that I have a business partner with a similar background that can be my sounding board when I come up with a new idea and likewise for him. We also provide each other, and the business, a level of realism and safety when it comes to the courses and what we can and can’t do.
If you don’t have a business partner, you do have a support network around you such as family, friends and even local small businesses. Ask your local coffee shop owner their advice on running a business – god knows they’re in a competitive market. There are also a lot of free resources on offer that you just have to go and look for.
When you’ve grown so much that you need some extra hands, bring on people who are good at what you aren’t. Make sure you’re picky with who you hire because they are ultimately going to represent the work you’ve done thus far. Always, always, always pick someone who is passionate about what you do and your business strategy.
In summary, the following are my four golden rules to being an entrepreneur.
- Find a gap in the market and know what your competitors lack.
- Have grit and passion when it comes to your business because if you don’t believe in it or work through hard times, the success won’t be worth it.
- When expanding your business, take small steps and don’t get so confident that you can’t stop and ask for advice. That’s been a saviour for me and True Grit. And lastly,
- Being an entrepreneur can be as tasking as the courses we design! You’re only as good as your last successful piece of work, so always look to innovate, create and update every aspect of your business to remain competitive.
Adam McNamee is a co-founder of True Grit. He has over 15 years’ experience in the Australian Army with the last ten as a Special Operations Commando in a variety of hot-spot locations. Adam’s last position was in charge of recruiting and selection of Special Forces in the Australian Defence Force. Adam understands the physical and psychological requirements of select individuals to undertake special operations.
True Grit is the first Australian designed military style obstacle course. The course is 10-12km long with over 30 obstacles. The event is offered in most capital cities. The course is designed to test mental strength and endurance. The course layouts are based on the company’s military background, by utilising unique obstacles tailored around the vegetation and terrain of the land. True Grit aim to deliver a truly unique experience to those that participate.