Mike Soutar’s Tips for Entrepreneurship (and Life in General)

One of the things I appreciate about working at the Centre for Entrepreneurship is the opportunity to meet and learn from people who have “been there, done that.” It happened again yesterday evening, when Mike Soutar of the BBC’s The Apprentice delivered the Centre’s annual lecture in entrepreneurship. Soutar has had an impressive career trajectory: he progressed from writing horoscopes and beauty tips to heading internationally known magazines. Then a brush with death convinced him it was time to build something from the ground up, and in 2007 he co-founded Shortlist Media Ltd (a digital media service).

I appreciated Mike’s down-to-earth style. He acknowledges that luck plays a role in career success—at least, he says, that has been true in his case. But he also stresses that there are things a person can do to set themselves up to thrive as an entrepreneur. Honestly, I think these are great tips not just for entrepreneurship, but for life! Here they are:


  1. Wake up early: Try to get some of your most important tasks done before other people start to distract you with new problems.
  2. Start the day by working on your hardest or most dreaded task: You will gain a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you to accomplish more throughout the day.
  3. Always ask questions: Why are things the way they are? Is there a different and better way we can do it? Asking such questions leads to innovation.
  4. Surround yourself with smart people: Try to surround yourself, not with people who think just as you do, but with people who think in diverse ways. Listening and learning from them will motivate you and inspire creativity.
  5. Be an optimist: Optimists are the ones who change the world. All successful entrepreneurs have to be optimists, and to be willing to take risks.
  6. Have a business with a noble purpose: Money is one way to measure success, but it is not what inspires people. If you want your business to succeed, you need a more compelling mission than earning tons of money.
  7. Only worry about things that you have control over: Recognize when you can’t change something, and redirect your energy towards changing the things you can.
  8. Plan for tomorrow today: It’s tempting at the end of the day to kick off your shoes, have a glass of wine, and try to forget everything about the working day. But resist that temptation! Spend five minutes identifying your main goals for tomorrow, and you will be much more focussed when you start the new day.


I imagine that after hearing Mike’s inspiring talk, a number of us went home, kicked off our shoes, poured a glass of wine, and mused about what we had just learned. . . . Then we jotted down a few goals for today. Thank you, Mike Soutar, for an inspiring talk!