Posts Tagged ‘enterprise journeys’

The business of human endeavour…

August 3, 2011 6 comments

For a long time now I have had real concerns about the focus of policy makers, and the projects that they spawn, on ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ as being just too business oriented.  It is as if the only fields of human endeavour that matter are commerce of some kind.  Making money or fixing societies ills.

This is especially un-nerving when you see it played out in our primary schools as 6 year olds are encouraged to wear badges that proclaim them be a ‘Sales Director’, an ‘Operations Manager’ or a ‘Brand Executive’. Yuk!

What about all of those other great fields of human endeavour?

Climbing mountains, making art, having fun, playing sport, writing, cooking and so on.

What if we encouraged our 6 year olds to wear badges that proclaimed them to be ‘Footballer in Training’, ‘Ballet Dancer under Construction’, ‘Surgeon to Be’ or ‘The Next Michael McIntyre’?  OK, so perhaps we don’t need another Michael McIntyre…. but you get my point?

Because what really matters is not exposing more people to the world of business and entrepreneurship.  It is to get them imagining possible futures, and learning how best to navigate towards them.  It is about developing people with a sense of agency and influence over their own futures.  It is about building a generation with both power and compassion. And a generation who really understand how to use the tools of collaboration, association and cooperation in pursuit of mutual progress.

Does it really only matter if their chosen endeavour contributes to GVA?  Or is there more to our humanity that we need to recognise and encourage through both our policy and practice?

And this is not just an issue in schools.  It runs like a plague through our communities from cradle to grave.

I think this is important because we lose so many who are completely turned off by the thought of a world of commerce (and let’s face it we don’t all want to dive headlong into a world of Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice).

So what about if instead of focussing on enterprise and entrepreneurship we attempted to throw our net wider and to encourage and support people to build their power and compassion in whatever they choose to be their particular fields of human endeavour?

Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…(unless you are policy wonk or their lackey…)

July 5, 2011 4 comments

  1. Not every small business or micro-enterprise owner needs a mentor.
  2. Mentoring is NOT the only helping relationship.
  3. Good mentors are rarely trained in ‘mentoring’, nor are they picked from a register.
  4. Successful mentors are usually selected from within the pre-existing network of the mentee.  They are spotted and developed as someone from  whom the mentee really wants to learn.
  5. Mentoring is an intermittent rather than a continuous relationship.
  6. Access to good mentors is usually restricted and respectful rather than a tradeable commodity.
  7. The success of the mentorship is usually down to the mentee rather than the mentor.  Good mentees know how to choose a mentor and manage the relationship with them to get the learning and the introductions that they need.
  8. The commoditisation of mentoring is not a good thing.
  9. Mentors are not coaches, advisers, consultants, counsellors or facilitators.  People looking to learn and develop themselves and/or their organisations should think carefully about the kind of ‘help’ they need.
  10. We should help people explore what they want to learn and how they are going to learn it – rather than prescribe yet another ‘cure-all’ that happens to be ‘affordable’.
  11. We should focus our efforts on building social learning contexts and helping people manage their learning processes rather than setting up registers and schemes.
  12. If the national association of image consultants got their lobbying act together I am sure we might all end up being encouraged to use a national register of image consultants in pursuit of GDP.

If you are interested in implementing ill thought through policy and exploiting it as way to make a few bob please do not get in touch.  If on the other you are serious about building a context in which people  can really learn then I would love to hear from you.

Just leave a comment below.

The Art and Enterprise of the Luthier

Elsie is Born…

I seem to have been a bit quiet on this blog, while I have been doing other things, including pushing Progress School along, working on Collaborate Leeds and incubating a new idea which has finally found the light of day today:

The Leeds Community Enterprise Accelerator or Elsie for short.  This provides a community based network of support to local enterprise coaches, advisors, facilitators, in fact to anyone who is helping someone else in the community to make progress.

I have high hopes for Elsie in post Business Link austerity economy.  I think it will provide a sustainable high value model to provide practical crowd sourced enterprise support to those that most want and need it.

Have a look at Elsie and tell me what you think.

High Growth and High Start Up Rates: Why We Shouldn’t Chase Them

April 1, 2011 4 comments

Colin Bell over at Winning Moves picks over this old chestnut in his latest post.

Should we throw our limited resources at businesses that we believe have high growth potential or should we just go for lots of start-ups knowing that a minority of them will experience high growth anyway?

The plain truth is that both are equally foolish policy goals.
We simply can’t pick winners/high growth businesses.  So how do we know which to resource?
And as Drucker said ‘you can’t have the mountain top without the mountain’ .  High growth businesses emerge from a strong and vibrant enterprise ecology.  An ecology that is diverse, tightly knit and well connected (bridging and bonding, social and cultural capital).
Focus on building the mountain and the top will look after itself.
But please don’t build the mountain by rushing to increase the start up rate.
When we do this we just increase the failure rate too and that undermines aspiration and confidence.  So start fewer businesses, but make sure they are good ones, team starts, well thought through and researched.  Get survival rates into the 90%s after three years.  Not just survival, but successful.  Allow these small but significant success show the way to others.
So set up a broad enterprise ecology – lots of people with ideas and the confidence to act on them (this is not just about business but about social impact, culture, festivals, campaigning and so on) and build social networks, communities, that know how to support their members.
Invest your economic development budget in supporting people, who really are committed to making things better, and building communities.  Smart, confident people in competent communities will not only give you the economic outputs that you require – but they might just give you something much more interesting as well.
I expect these ideas to be dismissed by those who have High Growth and Mass Start Up Programmes to sell, and by those running economic development teams who have for decades been buying these programmes and commissioning evaluations that say ‘much has been achieved but much remains to be done’.

But perhaps some will see that now is as good a time as any to try something new….

Meet Emily Farncombe – #Leeds Upholsterer

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Arts Funding in a Web 2.0 World

I tend to agree with JG Ballard when he said:

The funds disbursed by the Arts Council over the decades have created a dependent client class of poets, novelists and weekend publishers whose chief mission in life is to get their grants renewed….

The trouble is the alternatives to pursuing public funding are so damned hard.  They traditionally rely on someone liking your art enough (or believing it to be a decent investment proposition), to want to actually buy it at a price that does not lose the artist money and that values their time and skill reasonably.

But what if we set up a site where artists could pitch their projects at the ‘drawing board’ stage, including the budget necessary to create the work, and then donations were crowd sourced from the web?

It could look a bit like this from the US.

  • Does such a platform exist here in the UK?
  • Could it?
  • Should it?

Making Social Marketing Work – 29th July Leeds

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 –

Dad, I Want to be an Entrepreneur! Will You Help?

July 2, 2010 4 comments

These are not words I am expecting to hear anytime soon – but who knows?

If David Cameron gets his way and he finds an army of entrepreneurs to go into local schools to promote the ‘joy’ of entrepreneurship and the job market continues to go west – it could well happen.

How would I respond?

Well, if they say they want to be an entrepreneur and ask for my help, then I will refuse it, and do all I can to persuade them away from the idea.

If they say they have to be an entrepreneur – because it is the only way they can do the work that they feel they have to do then I will roll up my sleeves and help with enthusiasm.

Why the distinction?

Because however you wrap it up, in spite of what people like Cameron say, entrepreneurship is hard.  Especially if you do not have a large bank account to bale you out when things go wrong.  I don’t think I have met a single entrepreneur in my work who would describe the experience as joyful.  Dramatic, yes.  Full of highs and lows, yes.  Scary, yes.  But joyful…not so much.

So why promote the lie?  Why continue the enterprise fairytale?

It doesn’t even help to build an enterprise culture as with increased start-ups come increased failures and more bad experiences of entrepreneurship.

It couldn’t be to do with an obsession with outputs over social impact could it?

I will leave the last word to Noel Coward:

Some years ago when I was returning from the Far East on a very large ship, I was pursued around the decks every day by a very large lady. She showed me some photographs of her daughter – a repellant-looking girl and seemed convinced that she was destined for a great stage career. Finally, in sheer self-preservation, I locked myself in my cabin and wrote this song – “Don’t Put Your Daughter On The Stage, Mrs. Worthington”.)

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington

Don’t put your daughter on the stage

The profession is overcrowded

The struggle’s pretty tough

And admitting the fact she’s burning to act

That isn’t quite enough

She’s a nice girl and though her teeth are fairly good

She’s not the type I ever would be eager to engage

I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington

Don’t put your daughter on the stage

So Em amd Meg – unless it is something that you have to do, ignore Messrs Cameron, Brown (remember him – architect of much enterprise policy) and their army of enterprise evangelists and give entrepreneurship a miss – at least until you have some real knowhow under your belt.

On the other hand if this is the only way that yo can do good work, and you are prepared for the journey that lies ahead, then, and only then, let’s go for it…

Working on the Press Gang..?

May 14, 2010 2 comments

The work of the enterprise coach is, for me, about providing a relationship that people can use to explore how they might transform their lives and whether or not this is a journey they want to undertake.   It is a relationship characterised by trust, confidentiality, skill and often the long-term. It is not directive; the coach has no ulterior goal that they are steering the person towards.   The only goal of the coach is to help their client to become the kind of person that they really want to be.

The relationship provides a chance for them to really transform their life. Of course this doesn’t always happen – but there is a chance. The transformation may come about through starting a business. Or through getting better housing, becoming a better parent, tackling an addiction or pursuing an ambition. The job of the enterprise coach is to enable people to take more control of their futures. To find their power in shaping their own lives. It is a truly valuable, challenging and privileged role.

It seems to me that much of the Enterprise Coaching world sees things a little differently. For them the enterprise coach is part of a smiling press-gang, working ‘in the community’, promoting the benefits of enterprise (narrowly defined around self employment, employment, business start-up or expansion) and encouraging people to grow their ‘dream business’. Clients are usually recruited to workshops after a limited amount of 121 work, given a crash course in business literacy and referred to the mainstream – where they take their chances. It is a directive process where the only positive outcome is a referral into the business support industry. It is about skimming talent and potential rather than a longer term engagement to change attitudes, habits, beliefs and decisions.  The whole process is lubricated with the judicious use of free lunches, celebrity speakers, community transport and the potential of getting some cash.   This is traditional pre-start up business support.  We have been doing it for a long time in various communities.  It feels safe, and it does produce start ups.  But I have yet to see it transform communities.

Sometimes  it even damages the very communities that it is intended to help.  I would suggest three mechanisms by which this unfortunate and unintended consequence sometimes occurs.

  • Firstly the service helps to skim off the most able and talented in the community: those that already have the confidence and self belief to start a business and helps them up and sometimes out of the community.  Those that succeed do so, not because of the support of their community, but often in spite of it.  Enterprise is seen primarily as a process for personal progress rather than community building.
  • Secondly we engage large numbers of people on the enterprise journey that we are unable to work with in sufficient depth or for sufficient time before they are referred into a mainstream that is not resourced to work with them.  Failure, disappointment and frustration are commonplace.  Word spreads and the reputation of the service provider drops.  Numbers engaging with the project fall away and the community becomes even more suspicious of the enterprise agenda.
  • Thirdly is the mechanism of reactance.  The more we persuade people to look at enterprise as something that is potentially good for them the more likely they are to resist our persuasion.   Flood a community with pro-enterprise messages and perversely you may decrease enthusiasm for it.

But back to the two visions of Enterprise Coaching that I opened with.  At the moment we are losing the chance of realising the first because of the funding that is being pumped into the second.  I meet and often work with great coaches who are trying to deliver the first vision for enterprise coaching, while being performance managed by a system that is demanding the second.  The consequences are inevitable.  As I have written before, enterprise coaching is being broken.

The question is – what are we going to do about it?  Join our LinkedIn group to find out…


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