Maintaining your mojo

Here are some tips from successful businesspeople on how to stay motivated and driven.

We all possess our own ‘magical power’ that motivates and drives us, otherwise known as our ‘mojo’. During tough times, it can be put to the test, but resilience and fortitude is in its very DNA, and not even the toughest economic challenges - like those created by coronavirus - can destroy it.

We’ve gathered here some thoughts from a variety of entrepreneurs, of various ages and backgrounds, who’ve been tested and yet managed to come through challenging times.

The Black Farmer +

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of the Black Farmer brand of food products, standing in a field on his farm

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones is now synonymous with the Black FarmerLink opens in a new window brand of quality sausages, meats and beverages that he created from his farm in Devon. He told the Finance Hub:

Coronavirus is one of the biggest things to have hit us from a global perspective, yet those who are running businesses shouldn’t forget that we have that extra-special gift, which is that we’re good at making a friend out of uncertainty. It’s really important to have that ability.

We are all going to get out of this crisis by realising that out of uncertainty also comes opportunity. We should focus on the positive, that it will end, and realise that we businesspeople have the skills that are going to be needed to revive the economy.”

Instead of being consumed by self-doubt, Wilfred believes business owners and managers must listen to their inner mojo.

“In any sort of crisis, no-one really knows what the right answer is, so the idea that someone has a magical solution is a mistake. Don’t think that anybody knows any better than you do. As with anything in life, the ones who make it through any crisis are the ones who have a good belief in themselves.”

His language, like his sausages, has sufficient sizzle to revive even the most jaded of entrepreneurs.

“I really believe that the people who are going to drag the country out of this crisis are going to be businesspeople who have had to go through a lot in setting up a business in the first place.

“That is something to try and remember when things are tough like this: starting a business in the early days would have been tough. It would have been a leap of faith. It would have meant embracing jeopardy. You therefore have the experience and know what it feels like.”

The Squirrel Sisters +

Gracie and Sophie Tyrrell, founders of the Squirrel Sisters brand

Gracie Tyrrell and her sister Sophie founded the Squirrel SistersLink opens in a new window brand of no-added-sugar snacks in 2015, after the latter underwent major heart surgery. Following the surgery, Sophie became quite unwell and had to avoid eating sugar. Gracie began making the snacks for Sophie while she was recovering. Now the same snacks are stocked in approximately 2,000 national retailers around the country.

Gracie explained how the pair maintained their mojo during these difficult times:

“It’s really hard to stay focused and motivated all the time. There are days when we can’t shake off the ‘slump’ or low mood but we've learned to not be so hard on ourselves or feel guilty for feeling that way because we’re only human!

“For us, the best way to reset and remotivate ourselves is to step away from whatever it is that we’re doing, get outside for some fresh air and exercise, and get a good night’s sleep. We always wake up the next day feeling so much better. Stepping away for an hour or so, or even the afternoon, can do incredible things for your creativity and mindset.”

Remembering why you’re in business is also very important, Gracie says:

“There will always be a lot of challenges along the way, so it’s important to keep the passion and confidence burning inside. It’s easy to second-guess yourself or lose confidence in your ideas and decisions, which is why reminding yourself why you started is crucial. The passion that got you going at the beginning of your journey is what will keep you going through the tougher times.”

Lara Morgan +

Lara Morgan, early-stage investor

Lara MorganLink opens in a new window is best known for selling her first business Pacific Direct, which manufactured and sold brand-licensed toiletries and amenities to the hotel industry, for £20 million in 2008.

Since then, the one-time triathlete has been mentoring businesses and investing in a portfolio of wellbeing and hospitality companies. One such company, Scentered, has seen an uplift in corporate gifting during the coronavirus pandemic, while another, Gate8 Luggage, has seen its market virtually disappear.

With this level of experience, Lara is characteristically forthright about how to keep your mojo in peak fitness:

“Routine is really important. Depending on your competency, always find time during the day to do the stuff you love. And I mean that because, however tough it gets, you’ve got to find time to keep refilling the ‘Why am I doing this?’ bucket.

“In my case, I’ve been very lucky because I prospect something new each day. Actually, if the whole of Britain prospected a new customer each day, we’d be a wealthier nation. I really mean that.”

Lara also believes discipline is vital, and recommends the book ‘Eat That Frog!’, which outlines 21 ways to avoid procrastination to make sure “you use your time carefully and with value”.

“We all have highs and lows in the day and we all have peaks and troughs, which, if we’re clever about it, we learn about, from experience, over time. For instance, when we’re at our best at getting stuff done and clearing the in-tray… and we’re also often aware of the after-lunchtime dip. And maybe you need to stop for a mental break at 5pm and do some exercises or do it early — we’re all different.

“In my case, I get a lot of positivity out of helping others. I know that if I’m helping others grow and learn, I get an awful lot of mental benefit because I think that I’m doing the right and the good thing. I mentor all my investments because I’m an early-stage investor.”

Drawing on the experience of these, Lara says it’s important to pivot and take time to reassess during these tough periods. And for those people who are suffering, she offers some perspective:

“You learn over the years that it does always get better. I’ve been through SARS, foot and mouth, September 11th. I’ve been at it since 1991 and you learn the world hasn’t stopped turning.

“Don’t get me wrong, I think Covid is devastating, not just because of the virus but because of the way our government has handled it. But I think it’s in a no-win situation as well. The qualities around resilience and experience can do an awful lot for the economy but we can’t keep turning the economy on and off.”

Shaun Doak +

Shaun Doak, chief executive of specialist cleaning company React Plc

Shaun Doak is chief executive of specialist cleaning company React PlcLink opens in a new window. During his tenure, he has managed to turn the business around, leveraging opportunities, strengthening its management team and deepening customer relationships, to produce a maiden profit.

Like most, Doak found his routines altered during the coronavirus pandemic and had to make the best of it:

“As an advocate of fitness and an active gym member, my ‘normal’ daily 5.30am commute to the gym for a mix of resistance and cardio training wasn’t an option during the first lockdown. In an attempt to adapt, I switched my gym sessions to home-based cardio sessions, combined with longer walks with the dog and a multitude of long cycle rides out on the bike.”

Shaun adapted more efficiently to this second lockdown, investing in his home gym.

“So far, this has helped fight off the boredom of the winter lockdown and allowed me to maintain mental clarity and physical focus. While it’s easy to accept defeat during challenging times, that hasn’t been an option for me. Being incredibly competitive and driven, I have relished the challenge of the pandemic.”

His advice to businesses, though simple, exemplifies emotional intelligence.

“It’s critical that business leaders understand and appreciate what the challenges look like for each of their team members (childcare, loneliness, size of house and so on). Regular engagement via a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call is a must, ensuring that co-workers remain motivated and aligned to the goals of the business.”

Shaun is a strong advocate of flexible working, and allowing his team to maintain a good work/life balance has helped to avoid staff burning out during the pandemic. Similarly, he stresses the importance of creating a positive work environment that can make working life more pleasant.

“A well timed thank-you, both privately and publicly, goes a long way to help facilitate a positive culture within any team.”

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