Yesterday I was invited to help Axis and the ever wonderful Culture Vulture to run a ‘Cultural Conversation’ to help a group of around 60 artists, project managers, collectors and gallery managers to explore the role of social media in supporting their work. The group included some social media users and ‘experts’ (I use that word cautiously) and one or two technical types. Peopl trsavelled from all over the north of England to take part and the venue at Project Space Leeds was rammed!
Instead of using the default setting of finding some experts to explain it all to the numpties we went with an open space meeting. In this format groups of people meet to explore as peers the issues and topics they wish to explore. They set the agenda, in real time on the day, and learn by exchanging experiences, insights and challenges. They talk to each other, like human beings, in conversations.
In under four hours the group of 60 were each able to attend 4 conversations chosen from a schedule of 18 or so. The topics included:
- ‘What is Twitter and How Do I Use It’
- Social Media Dialogue as Artwork’
- I am Completely Overwhelmed! Where Do I Start?
- Using Social Media for Critique
and many more.
Despite the fact that there are no experts holding forth, no lectures and no exhibitions the feedback from those who attended was excellent. They enjoyed the process, they learned a lot, and most (perhaps all?) went away enthused about increasing or changing the way they use social media either to produce or attract and audience to their work.
This kind of open space conversation that builds relationships amongst participants and fosters enquiry and peer learning, rather than sitting passively while an expert holds forth, seem to me to be consistently effective ways to both build the social capital that forms the bedrock of an enterprising community and enable them to access the insights that they need to know, right now. Indeed as the afternoon wore on a few new conversations were added as people though ‘Right, know I need to find out about….’
60 people smiling, laughing, talking, challenging, enquiring and advocating. In short being human and exploring the implications of social media for something that they love.
A low cost, high value and extremely productive contribution to the enterprising ecosystem. At a time when we need to be creating more value for less cash I can’t help that the world of enterprise development needs to embrace this type of peer to peer learning event. We not be able to do much to improve the transport infrastructure in the city without a great big dollop of cash from government, but we can surely improve the enterprising infrastructure for next to nothing!
Some more thoughts were captured on the day in this audioboo - Why Open Space Works for Artists
This practical workshop will introduce you to the theory and practice of social marketing – how to use marketing techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals designed to lead to social good.
Whether you are trying to promote healthy lifestyles, encourage people back into work or to start a business, get back into education, or engage in a campaign, an understanding of social marketing can help you to:
- find new people who want to work on your agenda
- support them on their journey to make real change happen
- get the right people at the right events at the right time
What Will You Learn?
You will learn how to:
- Develop marketing collateral (leaflets, posters and websites) that might just work
- Use the media effectively – PR and role models that work
- Build ‘Word of Mouth’ strategies and referral networks
- Work with ‘gatekeepers’ to ‘gain entry‘
- Manage introductions in the community
The day will involve some theory and explore a number of examples of good and not so good social marketing campaigns. Participants will have the opportunity to apply what they learn to a real campaign of their own.
What is social marketing and how can I use it?
What behaviours are we trying to promote?
Using Segmentation to Increase Impact
Eating an Elephant – bite sized chunks….
Social Marketing Tools – with a focus on emerging social media (twitter, facebook, wikis etc)
The Role of Traditional Marketing and PR
Developing a Social Marketing Campaign (making a start)
Marketing through Relationships and Networks
Find out more and book your space – http://socialmarketingworks.eventbrite.com
On Friday afternoon @culturevultures convened one of the best business support/development sessions I have witnessed in the last 30 years.
Some 30 creatives came together in a room donated by a local managed workspace to provide peer to peer support on a range of topics related to marketing, branding, writing and social media. Lots of expertise in the room, lots of desire to explore and learn. No-one labelled as an adviser – no-one labelled as a client. Just lots of people willing to share what they knew and ask for help with what they didn’t.
No public funding at all. Just people donating whatever they thought it was worth. Donations were used to help pay for cupcakes and cocktails and an afternoon of fun.
Business development as it should be.
This is what the public sector could be paying for.
A pal of mine recently asked for some recommendations for academics worth following for a would be lecturer in start-up and enterprise.
I put out a quick shout on twitter and here is what I got back within minutes:
- Kauffman Foundation (always worth a follow – even though they are US-based) http://www.kauffman.org/
- Centre for Small & Medium sized business at Warwick business school – http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/wbs/research/csme/ (Storey, Mole etc)
- Andrew Atherton at Lincoln http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/vc/coreexec/andrew_atherton.htm
- ‘Best papers’ that have been presented at ISBE in recent years – http://www.isbe.org.uk/BestPapers
- And of course Alan Gibb http://www.allangibb.com/
I also find lots of interesting stuff by following the #enterprise tag on twitter (yes, I do see it as a serious if serendipitous research tool!)
Please let me know if you find any of this useful, or any other good stuff that the twitterverse has missed!
- What sort of numbers is it realistic to expect a full-time enterprise coach to deliver?
- What does a healthy coach portfolio look like?
- If I employ 5 coaches to work in city of 750 000, what sort of results should I expect?
Well here are my thoughts….
The basic unit of coaching is the 121. Each 121 will usually take between 45 minutes to an hour. Of course they can take longer – but this is rarely productive.
121s are intense, often emotional and usually challenging. If they are aren’t, you are not doing it right! This means that a coach can do on average 3 x 121s in a day. This should mean that they can deliver well in excess of 600 personal coaching sessions in a year – 650+ is not beyond the realms of possibility. Of course geography matters – if clients are scattered across Northumberland you will spend more time travelling than if you coach in an urban centre.
I would expect to see a coach working with about 200 unique clients in the course of a year. Yes, three or so new clients coming onto the portfolio each week! I would expect to see each coach working with a catchment area of between 15 and 50 000 residents depending on population density and other demographics.
The one hit wonders
A proportion of clients will come once and may not return for months or years, if ever. We may have helped them enormously. We may not have helped them at all. We may never know - although if you are visible and accessible enough and they stay in the area you should be able to get some feedback. I have known clients who were clear on what they wanted to do after just one session and went and did it. In fact one client called me after 3 years and said that he had started his business and now wanted to expand – would I like to have a chat! Others just don’t come back when they recognise that:
- I am not in the business of giving them money or pulling magic rabbits out of hats
- They will have to do some work on this – it is not an easy option
The percentage that fall into this category can vary widely usually depending on the kind of marketing used to promote the service. If the marketing says ‘We can make your dreams come true’, ‘Funding available’, ‘Lunch provided’ or some combination of the above then the number of one hit wonders will be high. Where marketing is through word of mouth, real clients telling others about what the service is really like and what it has helped them to achieve then they should be much lower. Effective word of mouth depends on your service being quite literally ‘remarkable’ and you being prepared to actively ask clients for introductions and referrals. If they are not happy to give you these it is likely that your service is just not good enough.
If the number of one hit wonders creeps much above 25% I would be wondering about whether we had problems with our marketing and reputation - or whether the coach was just not able to connect with the client group.
The Ideal Clients
In some ways the ideal clients are the one hit wonders who just go and do it, start a business, and return years later to look at business expansion. But these are rare, and often can’t be counted for funding purposes! The real ideal client engages with us, takes seriously the notion of doing work between meetings and returns for subsequent visits to make further progress. We can build a strong relationship with them and provide much more support to them in developing their ideas and skills. We can also start to see a story emerge about our own effectiveness. We can record the progress the client has made and provide high quality quantitative and qualitative information on our effectiveness to funders. Such ideal clients will typically require between 3 and 6 121 sessions over the course of anything from several weeks to 6 months or more. I would hope to see good coaches with some 50%, or 110 plus clients each year. Of these I would be expecting around 15- 20 clients to actually go ahead and start their business from anything within 4 months of the first 121 up to a few years after the first meeting. There is much to be said for slow enterprise. I would certainly expect a good, established coach, working in an effective system, to support anywhere between 15 and 20 or so starts each year.
I would expect upwards of 80% of these new starts to be trading 3 years later. Survival rates should always be very carefully tracked, and serious consideration given by both the coach and the service as a whole as to how they can be maintained and improved. Helping clients to start businesses that they have not got either the commitment or skills to manage effectively or for which there is not a sufficient market to sustain will only help to set back the reputation of the service and the enterprise culture of the community. However attractive it might be to get another start-up box ticked we should be doing all can to slow our clients down until they really have the very best chance of long term survival. A much smaller number of really strong startups is worth much more to the long term enterprise culture of the community than a rash of sickly ones. I only wish funding regimes would recognise this.
Anything significantly less than this would set my alarm bells ringing that all is not right. The problem might be with the coach, with the enterprise coaching system (including marketing and administration), or with the enterprise culture in the community. The coach cannot do this on their own. There needs to be a substantial network of pro-enterprise individuals who can provide additional support and provide an effective counter the negative messages about enterprise that often pervade communities.
While the other 85 perhaps don’t start a business I would expect each of them to have been significantly assisted by the coaching process to clarify goals and learn how to be much more enterprising in their pursuit. These outcomes are valuable and should be recorded and wherever possible paid for (or at least reported to) by the appropriate funder.
The Demanding Clients
So this leaves us with perhaps 25% of our clients, 40 or so in the course of nay one year, who are really demanding. They need more than half a dozen 121 sessions. Perhaps they are starting from a long way back and need many 121s over a period of years before they start to make substantial changes – or decide to stick with the status quo. They may need referring to specialist service providers before our coaches can do much more with them. Perhaps they just like to spend time with coaches, fooling themselves and others that they are really working for a better future. Demanding clients may just need a higher level of support – live with it – or they may be a sign that actually a coach is promoting dependence, happy to keep working with clients who won’t make progress because they can just count the sessions.
The actual dynamics of a coach’s portfolio will vary depending on the geography, psychology and enterprise culture of the community they serve as well as their own experience and longevity on the patch. It may take a couple of years to achieve a stable portfolio of the type I have outlined here.
It will also depend on the type of marketing support they receive. Often well intentioned marketing activities can produce floods of clients that need to be seen, but who turn out to be one hit wonders of the worst kind. I am a big advocate of expecting enterprise coaches to develop their own referrals through word of mouth from existing clients, perhaps augmented with a little bit bit of judicious PR. Expensive advertising campaigns may attract punters to one off events and workshops but are much less effective at actually finding people who really want to work effectively and intensively with enterprise coaches.
The Role of the Manager in Supporting Enterprise Coaches
Call me a traditionalist but I think that the manager has a key role in both supporting the coach to develop an effective portfolio. Each coach should be seen ideally every week, certainly fortnightly to review the portfolio and the progress that is being made by specific clients. Ratios of one hit wonders to ideal clients to demanding clients should be tracked for clues about the performance of the coach and the system that they are operating in. Where specific clients are providing cause for concern (insufficient progress is being made, specialist services are requires that are beyond the boundaries of the coaching service, client behaviours are causing concern for example) explicit strategies should be developed for managing them effectively. At least three or four times a year the manager should observe the coach at work, accompanying them on 121s and providing them with feedback and coaching support.
Getting an enterprise coaching service to work really well takes years rather than months. Coaches have to become known, trusted and skilled. Marketing strategies have to be honed. The numbers I have mentioned here are achievable but not in all situations and never instantly. They have to be built towards with intelligence, insight and dedication. Sadly, funding regimes often encourage us to take the expensive and unproductive short cuts of putting adverts on buses, building flashy websites and holding conferences and expos with dragons, apprentices, millionaires and free lunches just to get punters through the door.
But it is not any punters that we need. It is those who believe, because of our reputation and our track record, that we can help them to use enterprise to transform their lives for the better.
I have written about this formulation before, that enterprise is a factor of power and self interest. It is still working for me and bearing fruits.
I was attracted to this video from Demos that provides some useful insights into, and questions around, the nature of power.
So what do you think?
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There is so much great on-line training for people who wish to start, or are thinking about starting, or are looking to develop and existing business. I wonder why we don’t encourage our clients to make more use of it. (Could it be because we are too focused on bums on OUR seats and hits to OUR websites).
On-line learning does not suit everybody – and much of it does originate from the USA – but it is a wonderful resource that the engaged and committed would use AND it can be a tremendous vehicle for establishing client commitment and learning styles.
Here is a page with 85 FREE online learning resources for entrepreneurs.
Wouldn’t it be great if advisers and coaches could use on-line learning management systems with a full range of on-line and off-line resources that allowed us to help clients to manage their own learning – and ensure that what we taught actually was correlated with later success?
If we could help connect would be entrepreneurs with sources of advice and support through social media networks.
If we could provide regular ‘nudges’ and opportunities to engage through applications like Twitter and Facebook?
When I was looking at this a few (10?) years back the technology was expensive and unreliable. Now most of it is free/low cost AND more or less ubiquitous. Most of the publicly funded business support sector is so digitally illiterate (the ranks are not exactly swollen with digital natives) and focused on old bums on seats/intensive assists metrics that I don’t expect a web 2.0 revolution in this sector anytime soon.
Anyone up for a Digital Britain?
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I went to a fascinating workshop last night organised by a multi level marketer and hosted at Shine in Harehills.
The evening kicked off with a series of presentations from the Business Link Yorkshire Ideas Team, Job Centre Plus and HMRC. Three competent, wide ranging presentations. For me, just too many talking heads. Still I suspect all three were able to put ticks in boxes and they certainly gave the evening a solid air of credibility and professionalism.
After a short break things got really interesting.
We were presented with an introduction to Multi Level Marketing and how it differs from pyramid selling (pyramid selling is illegal and only those in at the beginning can get to the top, MLM is much more meritocratic in that if YOU do the work YOU get the rewards was the message I picked up). The person making the presentation was a Multi Level Marketer for one of the largest MLM oufits in the world, Herbalife. A little web research on Herbalife leads to some very mixed messages. Clearly for many people it works well; they make money and enjoy good health. The internet suggests that this is not everyone’s experience.
After the presentation one of the current herbal life distributors told us how it had transformed her life and it could transform ours too. We could make money while we are on holiday, get repeat business, never have to talk with strangers, enjoy low start up costs etc. It all sounded too good to be true.
This was not enterprise education – this was recruitment. This was not impartial and independent advice. It was MLMers doing their stuff, recruiting more MLMers and piggy backing on the credibility of Business Link, HMRC and the Job Centre.
Finally we had a very brief and very credible presentation from Robert Looker. He provided a balanced and professional introduction to the concept of the franchise. Robert was open about the fact that he worked for Exemplas. He did not point out that Exemplas were one of the partners behind Business Link Yorkshire.
I think Business Support organisations have to engage with MLM schemes. They are in our communities. The vast majority of those ‘Need an extra income’ signs fixed to lamp posts lead to MLM organisations. We have to find ways of making sure that they add value in our communities and do no harm. MLM works for some people not all. Its reputation is mixed. Typically it requires you to have a network of friends with disposable income (not massively common in super output areas).
I don’t beleive the public purse should be used to provide a platform for any single MLM organisation – although it should be used to educate about MLM. If the workshop had been an impartial ‘All you need to know about MLM’ then I for one would have been much more relaxed. I was pretty shocked that one MLM outfit had established this platform of credibility to promote themselves directly into the community. This was neither independent nor impartial.
I have been involved in the development of the Business Link brand for over 15 years. I understand independence and impartiality. I also understand how easily these brand values are compromised – and I think they were last night.
Developing more enterprising cultures in ‘areas of deprivation’ is difficult and fragile work. There are always ‘get rich quick and easy’ schemes looking to part people from their cash and we need to be very careful to help people make good choices as we prompt them to flex their enterprise muscles. We bear a burden of responsibility as we encourage people to be more enterprising.
I doubt that our responsibilities are best discharged by wrapping advocates for one direct MLM organisation in the shrouds of publicly funded business support. I am sure it is the herbalife agents who will be following up interest. I am also sure that it was the public purse that picked up the tab for the refreshments.
I am distictly uncomfortable.
Am I the only one?
Seems like Placebo know more about enterprise than many policy makers:
Check the lyrics here.
What other anthems for enterprise would you suggest?