A world-renowned comedian on the recipe for success in business

Running a successful small business means having an innate belief in yourself, according to world-renowned director, stage producer and comedian Glynn Nicholas.

It’s just one of the ways that being a comedian or performer is similar to being a business owner, says Nicholas, who gave the keynote address at the official opening of the Victoria Small Business Festival in Melbourne last week.

Nicholas spent 10 years travelling the world as a busker before going on to star in the ABC’s The Big Gig and The Glynn Nicholas Show. He now operates his own small business, creating and producing stage shows and musicals.

Giving the audience insights into the competitive and “fickle” world of show business, Nicholas recalled the first instance where people watching one of his busking performances in Europe actually gave him some cash, and more importantly, a belief in himself.

“I think if you’re running a small business, you have to believe in yourself,” he said.

“Because if you don’t have a big sense of self-confidence and a belief in what you’re doing and who you are, there is no way you can persuade anyone else to either.

“And I think from a sense of belief in ourselves, all those other wonderful things stem, like enthusiasm, encouragement, creativity, passion, courage, love. All those things stem from a belief in yourself.”

Without that sense of belief, Nicholas says performers and business owners alike have no chance of being able to “get over those massive hurdles that you’re bound to face”.

“I know that all of you who are running small businesses have had times when you’ve just had these almost insurmountable odds against you but it’s a belief in yourself that has helped you get through it,” he said.

Using a miming exercise that involved members of the audience jumping through an imaginary skipping rope on stage, Nicholas shared with the room the three ingredients he believes are essential for running a successful small business.

1. Trust

In order for the skipping rope mime to work, the two members of the audience who were asked up on stage had to trust Nicholas, and one another. That same trust is needed in all businesses, Nicholas said.

“I think, no matter what your business is, if you don’t have the trust of your fellow workers and trust of your suppliers and your clients, you’re really going to struggle,” he said.

In order to build trust, Nicholas recommends focusing on the core behaviours of trustworthy people.

“One of the behaviours of people who are trustworthy is that they are competent,” he said.

“You need to be competent in your business … in order for people to trust you.

“The second behaviour exhibited by trustworthy people is reliability; people who are trustworthy are reliable.

“If you say you’re going to meet someone at two o’clock, don’t meet them a half-past-two. Don’t be late. Because that’s just stealing their time and nobody trusts a thief.”

Finally, Nicholas said trustworthy people are also honest in their business dealings.

“I think honesty is really, really important,” he said.

“I’m sure all of you have had dealings with businesses where you know that the boss really isn’t trustworthy.”

Part of being honest in business is admitting mistakes, Nicholas said.

“We all … need to own up to our mistakes; whatever the mistake, just admit it,” he said.

“Being vulnerable is one of the most wonderful human traits because people fell much more that they can connect with you.

“And yet for some reason in business we try to paint this image of ourselves as being without flaws.”

2. Human connection

Nicholas’s skipping rope mime also needed the participants to connect with each other.

Finding a human connection is something children do naturally but adults find more difficult, Nicholas said.

“Human connection when running any business is so incredibly important and I would suggest, it is actually the human connection at your workplace that will determine how engaged your staff are with each other,” he said.

3. Laughter

Despite building a career on being able to make people laugh, Nicholas said in the early days of running his own business, he used to worry whenever he heard his employees laughing because he thought they were not being productive.

But he said experience has taught him that “people who have the ability to bring about laughter in the workplace are, generally speaking, more trusted and more liked by their colleagues”.

Drawing on the expertise of his friend and fellow The Big Gig star, Anthony Ackroyd, who now runs laughter workshops for businesses, Nicholas said for every 1% increase in positive mood in a workplace, business owners can expect a 2% increase in revenue.

“And nothing increases positive mood likes laughter,” he said.

“We all know that laughter makes us feel good but there’s actually a science behind it all.

“Why is it good for business? Because when we laugh, laughter changes our biochemistry, we feel enlivened.

“It increase the flow of oxygen to your brain, it stimulates the neurotransmitters, which makes us feel good, and it makes us think more creatively.

“It also lowers blood pressure, releases stress hormones and it will paint your house,” he joked.

This article was first published on SmartCompany.

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