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Great leaders start with great self-awareness

Great leaders start with great self-awareness

Chris Gough, MD, Mintivo, shares his insight on what makes a successful entrepreneur and how self-awareness is at the heart of the decisions he has made.

I am the Managing Director of Mintivo, which is an outsourced IT provider based in Chippenham. We formed in 2017 and have now grown to a team of around twenty people.

I hate the word ‘entrepreneurial’, but my wife is entrepreneurial as well. We’ve been married for ten years now, so often one of us has had a business while the other one’s taken a stable job. So, I would say I’m not full risk-all entrepreneur, but certainly, I’ve always had two or three jobs since I was 18, always working in multiple things, always having something going on. My wife and I have quite a collaborative approach to business, so we tend to have the safety and stability of one income, while allowing the other person to grow.

For all the high-profile entrepreneurs like the Musks and the Bransons of this world, what you don’t hear about is the teams around them. It’s not about them, it’s those support mechanisms that create the success. They are all only as good as they look because of an amazing amount of people who support them and carry them through. Personally, I feel very much the same way; I may be a founder but it’s not about me – there’s a team of us at Mintivo and we came together to build the kind of company we always wanted to work for, and always wanted to be serviced by.

I think that lately the word ‘entrepreneur’ is interesting – it’s used a lot and it’s become ‘cool’ to be running your own business. A lot of people are selling the vision and the end game of what it can be like to be a successful entrepreneur, but to me they’re missing the main part, which is the journey to get there, and that’s the bit that no one really talks about.

To be a successful entrepreneur, the first step is that you need to love it. You need to believe in what you’re doing because it’s not going to be smooth sailing all the way, so you need that blind faith sometimes to carry you through the hardships. It’s a cliché but if you love it, it doesn’t feel so much like work. I actually really love the problem solving so it makes things a lot easier.

For me too, self-awareness is crucial. You need that blind faith, but you also need the self-awareness to know when the time comes to make changes and pivot your business in the direction it needs to go to. You have to keep going, and for me, working out the answer to how to do that is probably what has changed me. When I started out, I wanted to prove that I could do it and that the concept worked. Once I had achieved that, the ‘why’ became about helping more people. Now, we are helping more people but that also means we have started employing more people. The responsibility to the people we employ keeps us going, especially knowing that they’re supporting them and their families. So, success for us is a fluid and ever-changing concept, that changes as the business changes.

Self-awareness for me is also about knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at, betting on your strengths and finding and acknowledging your weaknesses. Luckily, now we’re at a stage where we’ve built a team where everyone’s got most areas of the business covered in their strengths.

It’s with this mindset that I went into SETsquared’s Innovation Workout with. I really didn’t know what I would get out of it when I signed up. But for me, it was just so, so much better than I thought.

There was a real benefit of having such a diverse range of people there. There were other entrepreneurs and founders, and even university students. I spent some time with someone who had a PhD in nuclear physics. This was just a complete “get out of the echo chamber” chat to some people that I’ve got completely different perspectives from; and those fresh perspectives really helped me to scrutinise my business.

The mentors and trainers are real industry experts with no agenda. They are purely there to help you improve your business, and as a result we’ve found some opportunities, strategy changes, and pivots that can make our business stronger, just from someone spending the time helping us to discover what those things are. It was really, really good. I really loved it.


Chris Gough took part in the online Innovation Workout in July 2020. If your business could benefit from the Workout click here to find out more.

The Swindon & Wiltshire Digital Business Acceleration Hub and the SME Competitiveness programme are both part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

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