Briers’ daughter had said something like, ‘Dad, I have made up my mind. I want to be an actress.’
Briers replied ‘Want? Want? Want is not enough! To succeed you must HAVE to become an actress. If you have to become an actress then I will roll up my sleeves and help. If you just want to be an actress then forget it.’
The story made me smile as I use almost the identical line when I am working with people who tell me they want to start a business, or they want to become an entrepreneur. I often ask ‘Is this something that you HAVE to do? Are there no other alternatives that you could pursue? Is there NOTHING more important than this in your foreseeable future?
In fact I will often go further, telling them all I can about the life of the entrepreneur. How it can take you away from family and friends, lead you into debt, consume your life and damage your health. Of course we explore the upsides as well but those downsides are the things that will derail the process if not considered, if the desire is not sufficient.
And then I will move the focus away from ‘becoming an entrepreneur’ which is such a vague concept as to be practically meaningless and will focus on what it will be like when they have their business up and running. What it is like to be sole trading as a furniture upholsterer, or a plasterer. What the transition will be like going from being a professor in the Biochemistry Department to being a part owner of a biosciences company working with venture capitalists to commercialise their intellectual property. Because being an entrepreneur is all about managing transitions. Starting with one lifestyle and ending up with another which is very different – and hopefully better.
Enterprise really IS about the emergence of identity. About shaping lives.
The Enterprise Coaching conference held in Derby yesterday got me reflecting again on what I have learned from 20 years experience in working with enterprise coaches and people looking to make progress in their lives. It also prompted me to re-read Ernesto Sirolli’s PhD thesis – available on the web here (PDF).
He suggests that 4 key principles should underpin the work of the enterprise coach (Sirolli calls them Enterprise Facilitators™ – a term on which he claims a trademark). These principles are:
- Only work with individuals or communities that invite you.
- Never motivate individuals to do anything they do not wish to do.
- Trust that they are naturally drawn towards self-improvement.
- Have faith in community and the higher social needs that bond it together.
Each of these principles stems from an approach to providing help that is genuinely person centred and responsive rather than interventions designed to achieve the policy objectives of the state.
Sirolli argues compellingly that any violation of these 4 principles may lead to a self satisfying and self serving illusion of help but will in practice inhibit the long term development of an enterprise culture in the community.
Each of these 4 principles is worth significant reflection and its implications for our practice as coaches, and perhaps more importantly service designers and managers should be careful considered.
Here are a few questions to prompt the process:
- What would you and your service need to be like so that the people that you wish to support w0uld actively and willingly seek out your support? What would you have achieved? What would your reputation be like? Would you use offers of money or marketing campaigns to win attention in the community? If you only worked where people really invited you, would you have any work? What would you have to do in order to start ‘winning invitations’?
- If we do not motivate people then how can we help them to change? Do they need our encouragement and motivation to pursue objectives that are in their own self interest? What are the risks of motivating and initiating?
- What would happen if we just trusted people to move in a direction that leads to self improvement? If we rely on the development of a natural human instinct rather than imposing an external perspective of what constitutes progress will ANY of our clients move forward? What might happen to our performance metrics if we really worked at the natural pace of the client? What might happen in the long term to our effectiveness and impact – if we survive the short term problems? What is the role of the enterprise coach in working with clients whose natural inclination to self improvement has been somehow stalled?
- Is it sufficient to just have ‘faith’ in the ‘higher social needs’ that bind community together or does our work require a more practical approach to developing the role of the community in supporting individuals who are looking to make progress?
Our work needs to be grounded on principles if it is to be effective. It is not just about the techniques of coaching versus advising, mentoring or counselling. It is not just about managerial pragmatism in pursuit of the narrowly economic objectives of most funders and policy makers.
It is about our role in engaging with individuals and communities on the agendas that matter most to them.
It is about how best we can help people to engage in the rich infrastructure of services and support that is already out there if they wish to use it.
It is about how we can influence the design and delivery of these services (including mainstream business support) to ensure that they are both cost effective and relevant.
But most importantly it is about how can provide consistent and long term relationships that people can trust enough to help them as they confront the risks and challenges that come with stepping outside of the comfort zone and continuing the journey of self improvement.
Encouraging people to start on these journeys with promises of help and support, and then withdrawing that help and support when funders and policy makers shift their priorities not only destroys trust in us but also leaves our clients high and dry. If current funders are not willing or able to honour the long term commitments that serious endeavours to change the enterprise culture in communities requires then we perhaps need to find some new investors.
As George Derbyshire said – perhaps it is time to ‘Sack the Boss’.
Enterprise for All was a one day conference organised on behalf of emda by Unleashing Enterprise with a mixture of key note presentations and workshop sessions.
A few things really struck me about it. From the key note speakers and a tour of the exhibition hall it was clear just how much of a grip business and economic development interests have on the enterprise agenda. Enterprise really IS all about business. Business start ups, business growth and business education.
Except of course enterprise has relevance in many, perhaps all, spheres of life. It relates to parenting, cello playing, footballing and planning. To mathematics, politics and dance. An enterprising approach helps with business, yes, but it helps with so much more as well. Because an enterprising person is someone who has a theory about the direction ‘in which progress lies’, and has the confidence, strategies and skills that they need to pursue it. By conflating enterprise with business we do it a disservice. We alienate many who should be our natural allies, and we repel some who we should attract.
Business is a great vehicle for teaching enterprise – but so too is sport, art, history and drama. In Bolivia, enterprise education has been conducted largely through the power of classical music.
I was deeply surprised when another speaker said that ‘Business is Easy’. This has not been my experience. Business is hard. And small business is really hard. There have been times when it has been so difficult that I have though it must be me doing it wrong. And I talk with some of my closest confidantes about my fears and they tell me ‘No – it’s not you, it IS hard’. One mistake and your reputation is shot. It can take over your life and ruin your relationships with friends and family. It can leave you depressed and in debt. It can also be the most wonderful platform for personal development and a fulfilled life. It really is a double-edged sword!
I have never met an entrepreneur, until yesterday, who has told me that business is easy. This is the ‘Enterprise Fairytale’. I would agree that it is relatively easy to theorise about business. To develop ideas, to refine them and to think about business plans. To get advice from business experts and to act on it, or not. All this is quite easy. On paper, it certainly isn’t differential calculus. But in practice it is something else. It is easy to imagine yourself juggling, or being an astronaut or a pop star. Actually doing it is another thing. It is NEVER easy! Good enterprise education needs to help learners to recognise the ‘double edged’ nature of the sword and recognise that a career in business will not be a glorious extension of a 2 day facilitated workshop held in the comfort of the college hall. It just won’t be. Good enterprise education nurtures the resilience, character, determination and commitment that is required to succeed in business or any other challenge that life throws our way. It teaches the importance of craft and skill, of persistence and commitment. And knowing when might be the right time to give up.
And the strange thing is that in my experience, the more honest we are about the challenges of entrepreneurship, the emotional, analytical, physical and financial challenges involved the more likely we are to get good, enduring entrepreneurs. The more we help people to recognise how hard it is to leave the comfort zones and try something different the more likely they are risk it.
I was very struck when another keynote speaker told us about a primary school class that wanted to sell him a presentation. An 8-year-old offered to sell him the copyright! Now I am all for educating young people about the importance of intellectual property, but at 8? Is this really what enterprise education should be for such young children? A Primary Business Curriculum?
Now this is a contested area. No-one holds the truth on this. In enterprise education we have little consensus on curriculum, assessment or methodology. But I know that if my 8-year-old had come home from school telling me that they had been learning about copyright I would be seriously questioning the schools priorities for primary education. I have witnessed primary classes being taught the difference between tangible and intangible brands. And I was once approached in a Leeds hotel by a girl of 6 or 7 wearing a badge that said ‘Sales Executive’. She knew exactly what margin she would make if she could sell me the beetroot plant that she was brandishing. Are we really introducing appropriate content at the right time into the classroom? Do we deserve the respect of our colleagues as educators when we teach this in the primary school? I am not so sure.
Throughout the day I was approached by a number of people who made very similar comments. ’Mike, I agree with you wholeheartedly, but we only get paid for outcomes related to business. I know it isn’t right, but if that is what the funders are paying for that is what we have to provide. It is what the system demands’. I love the irony of this. ’We teach enterprise by following instructions’. But I think it points to a wider challenge for the policy makers and the funders. Does this ‘head on’ approach to entrepreneurship really work?
The title of the conference was also telling – Unleashing Enterprise. Much of the socialisation of young people is all about putting the leash on them. We value compliance, academic achievement, team playing and conforming. Those that dare to see things differently, to do things differently, to paddle their own canoe, tend to be bought back into line, or expelled. And it is not only enterprise that we struggle to unleash. Creativity, leadership, innovation, potential…all of these have been subject to the leash fetish.
I have not done much on the enterprise conference circuit. I have worked in community centres, village halls and at kitchen tables helping individuals and communities to develop their own approach to a more enterprising future. It was a new experience for me. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone – and as always happened I learned a lot!
There are a number of competitions out there designed to ‘promote enterprise’. In some of them the key arbiter of success is the ability of the would be entrepreneur to turn out a vote. Whether it is about getting your pals to turn up at a dinner and vote (old skool) or winning support on the web as in Barclay’s One Small Step Competition this is a puzzling phenomenon.
Prizes are awarded in part on the ‘quality’ of your business idea, as established by judges, and on the number of people who you can persuade to ‘click or tick’. Kind of Dragon’s Den meets Britain’s Got Talent. A popularity contest with business plans.
I would rather see bankers, and others with cash to spare, investing in businesses rather than giving prizes through competitions. Competitions identify winners and losers. We should be identifying ‘investment ready’ and ‘not yet investment ready’ if we are really interested in supporting entrepreneurs. And what happens if the winner is not yet investment ready? Or they require investment at a different time or level to the prize? What if it is not cash that they need?
Competitions work well for the publicists and the marketeers. But I am not sure who else they really serve. Let’s put our time and money into proving real support on the journey to investment readiness.
Let’s get back to the work of making informed investment decisions instead of awarding prizes in swirls of publicity. Of helping entrepreneurs on the long journey toward investment readiness that rarely fits neatly with competition deadlines. This way more entrepreneurs might get the right level of investment at the right time rather than a few ‘lucky’ prize winners. I remember hearing one ‘prize winner’ wondering how to spend the £10k she had just won and making some quick and bad investment decisions to fit in with competition timescales. Her business is no longer trading. Another asked me whether I thought the cheque made out in his name was for him or for his business? The last I heard he was splitting it 50:50.
I also believe that the ability of the entrepreneur to raise clicks and votes is a poor indicator of success. Let’s face it on this basis Paris Hilton is going to give Warren Buffet a beating. Ashton Kutcher would be a nailed on winner. Unless of course the other finalist was Steven Fry. The best connected and most socially networked do not have a monopoly of good ideas. Nor, in general are they the ones for whom the investment might make the biggest difference. Such voting mechanisms are surely discriminating unfairly?
As it says on the One Small Step website
‘it’s worth getting supporters on board now, so you’ve got plenty of local backing in time for voting’
And this perpetuates another myth. That business ideas are in competition with each other. That we have to choose winners and losers, when the market will do this much more effectively in its own time. In fact we should be looking to help everyone with passion, talent, commitment and a viable business idea. There is always room for another good idea. Investors will back propositions that meet their criteria for risk and reward. I am not convinced that creating winners and losers in very public competition really helps.
It is not about the competition for first place but about the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which players collaborate and support each other as much, if not more than they compete. I have seen how competition based on popularity can damage local entrepreneurial ecosystems as the community fragments into ‘camps’.
So, if you are about to sponsor yet another ‘enterprise competition’ please just pause for thought. Could your money be better used to create a sustainable and enterprising society?
Last night I found myself in the very wonderful boardroom at Broadcasting Place in Leeds running a masterclass for students on the MA in Creative Enterprise at Leeds Met.
In essence I told them not to worry about being too focussed (See Norman Perrin’s excellent post on Obliquity). I introduced them to the ‘baited hook’ strategy, where you cast out lots of juicy baits and see which ones get a bite. This seems perfect for ‘creatives’ who on the evidence of last night seem incapable of not innovating. They always have new ideas, skills and visions to bring to market. My advice….don’t fight it just find a way to get product to market quickly, and if the bites don’t come, then fail cheaply and quickly. We explored this against a backdrop of ’10 000 hours theory’ that suggests you never have a really tasty bait until you have served your time and really mastered a craft! You pay your money and you take your chance….
I also did some stuff with them on the importance of building balanced management teams with people who can look after great product, great marketing and sales and wonderful financial management. A quick dissection of a few businesses in the room showed them to be packed full of creatives – but certainly short, if not completely absent, of real passion for marketing, sales and financial management. This, to say the least, is a problem. I hope they recognised that perhaps as well as hanging out with other creatives (who provide validation and yet more ideas) they might need to hang out with a few ‘suits’ in order to get the diversity of passion and skill that their businesses need. The course tutor said that she could see a look of relief pass across faces when I said that they should not be expected to be great at everything themselves. That it was OK to build teams, to ask for help. That someone else should be doing the bits in the business that they hate. We explored how proper mentoring and coaching could help fill this gaps and that skills could be begged, borrowed and bartered. The inadequacies of some mentoring programmes designed to help where described by entrepreneurs who had been on the receiving end. So much mentoring is more about CSR and professional development for the mentor than it is about really helping the entrepreneur. We also spent much of the evening talking about the merits of ‘kissing frogs’ and seeing which ones turned into to Princes/Princesses! Don’t just accept the mentor you have been sent. Go and search for the right one yourself!
The 90 minute masterclass (for me at least) flew by – ending with a riff on the importance of managing your own learning, along with a few insights into how to do this, and keeping yourself on track with your own personal vision for the kind of person you need to be. Staying true to yourself. Following your muse.
At the end, as has happened several times before when I have done this kind of gig, participants told me that ‘I really understood the way that artists think and work’. This reaction initially puzzled me. I have a degree in Physics and a schooling in enterprise and entrepreneurship. I did once read Gombrich’s History of Art and I do know what I like….but how could I have developed any real insight into the psyche of the artist?
The truth is of course that artists are people too. The same ideals of psychology, personal growth, honesty in work, and staying true to a personal vision and values apply whether you are an artists, physicist, engineer or nurse. The real secret of my work here is connecting with people about their personal visions – and not getting sucked into the nitty gritty of the business.
I’d love to do more of this kind of short masterclass – so if there are any opportunities out there do get in touch!
More often than not ‘entrepreneur’ is used to describe both a passing phase of ‘start up’ and a lasting role of ‘business management and development’. The two roles overlap to some degree but demand different dispositions and skills.
In the start up phase the entrepreneur is frequently working alone developing a personal vision and finding ways to make it work, in theory. They are finding investors and developing plans. They are researching and shaping their still very malleable ideas until finally they have something on paper that ‘works’. They talk with advisers and potential customers. But the business is just an idea. It is not yet a demanding child; a long term commitment.
Sooner rather than later the infant business develops different needs; sales, management (especially financial management) and systems. The emphasis shifts from the energy and drive of start up to a different vibe of business development. Energy and drive are still required but so too is discipline and routine. The business is no longer on paper where numbers can be changed at the stroke of a key. It is now a real thing where to ‘change a number’ takes real work and often hard cash. And the business is there, demanding, all day and every day.
Instead of a single person driving a personal vision it now may require teamwork and people management. The entrepreneur has to morph into a cocktail that includes some or all of; sales, management, bookkeeper, product/service development, operations management and leadership. A very few make this transition with relish. But for most it proves difficult.
Many entrepreneurs learn to move on with grace. The passion, skills and energy that help them bring the businesses into life are not well suited to the more methodical and disciplined demands of business development. Having been responsible for conception they leave the parenting to others. They bring in professional ‘management’ while they move on. This IS the entrepreneur.
But for the majority, who are venturing into entrepreneurship for the first time, this early exit to business ownership is not seriously considered. The business is set up from the start as a vehicle in which the ‘entrepreneur’ can pursue their trade (social media guru, web designer, window cleaner, whatever). There is no exit. They have had what Gerber calls the ‘entrepreneurial seizure’.
Gerber recognised that most people who choose to start a business aren’t really ‘entrepreneurs’ as described above. Instead, they are technicians, craftsmen or artisans who have had what he called “an entrepreneurial seizure“. They have become fed-up with their boss, disillusioned by their employer, made redundant, or increasingly have never been employed and decide to start out on their own ‘Enterprise Fairytale’.
This is the entrepreneurial seizure, and critical decisions must now be taken. Get them right and the transition to ‘entrepreneur’, and ‘business owner’ may be made. Get them wrong and the entrepreneurial seizure may be prolonged, expensive and painful. Society may still label you ‘an entrepreneur’ but you will be both boss and labourer, technician, craftsman or artisan. What once felt like tremendous progress may soon turn into a trap.
If you learn your entrepreneurial skills at one of the worlds leading business schools you will be taught the skills of starting and owning a business. You will be taught to avoid the entrepreneurial seizure. If you learn your entrepreneurial skills in more prosaic settings this lesson may not be taught. Indeed the working assumption may be that helping you into an entrepreneurial seizure could be as good as it gets.
It might be perfect for you – but it is not really entrepreneurship.
And when the policy makers lament our ability in the UK to start businesses that consistently achieve global scale, I believe it is because we trap so many of our ‘could be’ entrepreneurs in their own entrepreneurial seizures.
Unleashing Enterprise is creating a partnership for all enterprise educators to pioneer a culture of enterprise across the East Midlands. The partnership is managed by the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and developed in close partnership with educators, employers, enterprise agencies, policy makers and funding organisations. The programme is helping to facilitate a more cohesive and planned approach to the development and delivery of the enterprise offer in the East Midlands. It is also helping to promote opportunities for all people, but mainly young people, to take up the enterprise skills offer in their schools, communities or places of work.
The annual Unleashing Enterprise conference takes place on the 31st March at the East Midlands Conference Centre. Entitled “Enterprise for All?”, the conference comes at an exciting time for those working in the field of enterprise capabilities with the enterprise skills agenda shortly to be included within the Regional Skills Strategy. With entrepreneurs heralded in popular media as much as in business journals these days, it is easy to assume that enterprise activity is readily understood and accessible to all. But is it? Or should it be?
2010 is a good time to take stock of activity that is being developed along the “golden thread of enterprise” and Enterprise for All will do just that.
Keynote speakers lined up for the conference confirmed thus far include:
- Mike Chitty, Author of the BLOG, “Enterprise & Entrepreneurship in the Community”
- Andrew Morgan, Skills and Communities Director at emda
- Toby Reid, Nottingham based entrepreneur and ex-graduate of NTU’s the Hive and founder of business reality website http://www.inafishbowl.com/
There will also be an enterprise market place showcasing the best of enterprise in the East Midlands. Attendance at the conference is free for delegates and agencies that want to participate in the market place.
If you wish to register for this event please complete the online booking form
Chance for those outside the East Midlands to see what’s going on.
Kevin Horne is the CEO of Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES) ‘one of the leading business support organisations’ in the UK. NWES is a members of the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies and Kevin has written a piece drawing attention to the NFEA’s Enterprise Manifesto.
Kevin goes on to describe the ‘Enterprise Escalator’ which provides a ‘comprehensive customer journey’, comprising:
- Outreach and awareness raising.
- Pre-start advice.
- Start-up training.
- One to one support.
- Access to finance.
On the surface, good sensible stuff. But it perpetuates a myth. The ‘escalator’ implies that, if start up is right for me, I just have to get on and I will effortlessly ascend to the next level. It is a false promise. It is the enterprise fairytale. Real world is less ‘escalator’ and more ‘snakes and ladders’. Less gentle trip to the shopping centre and more laying siege to the mountain. It is life making work.
And what if it is not right for me? Kevin rightly suggest that we need to signpost to other services – but will any of those really help? I have seen too many people with aspiration and potential be sent back to the job centre because the job of helping them find their enterprising feet will just take too long. It won’t fit with the neatly packaged funded services that look to provide a start up fast track.
Perhaps we should offer an enterprise sherpa service. Someone who has managed the ascent before – but who has also, on occasion, failed. Someone who recognises that this is a risky endeavour and needs to be carefully managed if it is not to cause damage. Someone who can recognise when the time is right to push for the summit and when the time is right to do more training and preparation at low levels.
If we are to engage people in communities then we have to engage them ‘where they are at’. Some will already have made it to base camp and are hungrily eyeing the peak. It might not quite be an escalator but we can certainly pass them the oxygen, clip them onto the fixed ropes and wish them luck.
But many remain in the valleys and seldom look to the cloud covered tops.
We have to personalise our services and we have to recognise that many are not yet close to being ready to start a business – now is not the time to launch an assault for the summit - but instead to weigh up the pros and cons of even considering a short trek.
Different people are at different places.
Some will be highly motivated but with few skills. Others will have skills (that they often don’t recognise) but little or no motivation. Some will have neither motivation nor skill. A precious few will have both.
The real ‘enterprise’ challenge is to engage those who have already decided that the ‘labour market’ is not for them and to encourage them to reconsider what they can do with their lives. It is about reconnecting them to their aspirations, helping them to find belief and confidence and finding ways in which they can unstick their lives and make progress. It is about helping them to see that their is an enterprise journey that might be right for them. Can we cost effectively extend our sherpa service to engage and inspire them? What are the costs of not doing so? This should be the realm of the enterprise coach.
It is often a protracted job that requires a long term, strong, supportive, challenging, trusting and non-judgemental relationship. It is not about the ‘Enterprise Fairytale’ and fast start ups. It is about the hard work of developing people and helping them to find ways to dare to move forward again.
I wonder if Enterprise Agencies have the skill and commitment to required to develop an enterprise based service that will really start where many people are at?
‘Business’ networking seems to have stalled somewhat in this part of the world at least.
The referral networks like BNI merrily do their stuff and, judging by the sheer number of imitations that spring up, must be making money and providing value. But there is more to business development than referrals and sales.
Then there are the publicly funded networks that seem to be ever more reliant on celebrity entrepreneurs telling their story to large groups, usually with limited Q&A sessions where perhaps 5% of the audience get involved. The audience is usually entertained, sometimes informed and often well fed by the taxpayer. The host organisation collects lots of ticks in the ‘business assists’ box and we move on. Personally I enjoy them – but from a business development perspective I am not convinced about their practical value.
Last night at the Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre in Halifax (a superb facility with PLENTY of space for new or growing businesses – no surprise that occupancy seems to be an issue) I’d guess over 100 people gathered to hear local girl ‘done good’ Linda Barker (Changing Rooms, I’m a Celebrity…) tell her story. She was fine. It made a pleasant change to have someone spontaneous and not ‘over rehearsed’ in her delivery. Linda was. I thought, natural, engaging and clearly pleased to be on home turf. The room was full. Vernon, our Business Link host, managed proceedings well and the sandwiches were excellent. He never missed a chance to promote Business Link. I did notice that Linda got her business advice from a ‘full blown Harvard MBA’ with a solid background in venture capital – rather than Business Link London.
This was the 10th event in the region in 10 days to mark ‘Creative, Digital and Cultural Week’ or something like that! That could be seen as a wonderful boost of knowledge and opportunities to a key sector, or (but only an old cynic would think this way) a push to get the numbers up and on track with targets. Either way it does feel a bit like the London Bus syndrome…
Personally, I think the time is right to move networking to the next level. As Henry Ford once said ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
Instead of passive ‘learning’ from celebrity anecdote, followed by polite but generally superficial conversations over sandwiches and cake we should invoke more powerful and inclusive methodologies for learning and building commitment to real business change. I have some partly formed ideas of how this might be done…
We should use ‘networking’ to start getting local businesses to ‘showcase’ themselves and their challenges and to seek support, advice and guidance from their peers. Perhaps in the course of an evening a 2 or 3 businesses could make a brief presentation on the ‘who, what, how and why’ of their business. But they should also have to present a challenge or opportunity that they are currently facing and their analysis of the way forward. Perhaps a live or recently completed assignment that presented challenges? Other networkers could then be asked (perhaps in small groups) to review the issue from different perspectives, to ask what else might be done, how else might the challenge be addressed?
From a diverse group are bound to come diverse solutions. But diversity is another challenge I would throw down to event organisers. We need to get the digital, cultural and creative types working with the money people, the marketers and manufacturers – instead of hiving off networking tribes by Standard Industrial Classification codes. The Law of Requisite Variety is one of my favourites! But I know the Regional Economic Strategy wants ‘clusters’….
The best ideas and insights would get surfaced for the benefit of the whole group. Last weeks ‘bettakulture‘ event at Temple Works in Leeds might provide some clues.
I would also have a web 2.0 infrastructure to support networking between meet ups – personally I would not build another ‘web portal’ (sorry Ha), but would use existing platforms including twitter, facebook, ning groups, blogs etc. We really do not need to spend money on web design – just learn how to collectively exploit what is already out there.
Such processes would demonstrate the benefits of networking and collaboration around problem solving. It would also allow patterns of emerging problems and opportunities to be identified and addressed. More participants would actually get to meet each other and contribute. Significant value could be created. Of course it would mean that we need to get our grey cells into gear instead of gawping at a celebrity from the passivity of our conference chairs…but isn’t that the point of business?
Of course it is likely that numbers might drop off considerably. Whereas 100 plus turn up to hear a celebrity speak we might get only a dozen who are really seeking to collaborate and add value to their business – but frankly the only people that will worry are those with boxes to tick. Many will not come near networking events as they are currently constituted because they consider them an entertainment rather than an education. And, as they say, ‘other forms of entertainment are available’.
So let us not worry too much about quantity but instead focus on quality – and let’s design some networking processes that deliver real value. People will soon get on board when word of mouth gets out that there is something interesting going on.
If we want to learn the ‘real life’ stories of celebrity entrepreneurs there are always other ways and means!
In all things balance. I am not suggesting we should not have any more celebrity gigs (just imagine the damage that would do to the mushrooming professional speakers circuit) – but let us offer clear progression routes so that those who are looking to get down to business development with and for our peers are able to do so.
What do you think?
Oh! I forgot to mention Linda is twitterer – @ReallyLinda But she follows nobody! Perhaps her Harvard MBA needs to look at her SM strategy?
All entrepreneurs should understand the power of the mentoring process and how it operates in the REAL world (where it is not funded by taxpayers) as it is likely that most of them might need mentoring at some point in their career. But is should never be a set component of enterprise development programmes and it is certainly not right for all.
So let us stop grabbing the cash and setting up the schemes and develop an understanding of the mentoring process that will serve our entrepreneurs and our communities for many years to come.