Essential viewing especially for all of you who promote fast start-ups:
How do we provide enterprise coaching that provides spaces where people with ideas can meet, swap and take on new forms?
It is a team game after all!
I am glad to say we have been getting much better at this in Leeds recently thanks to tremendous efforts on things like Bettakultcha, Cultural Conversations, and Progress School all helping to build an environment and an ecology where slow hunches can brew.
I tend to agree with JG Ballard when he said:
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?
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?
- the seeds of your (your clients) future are often sown early – go back to the early years to see if the basis for an enterprise were sown then
- just because it sells does not mean it is good – heroin is not better than tofu – even if it does shift more units – selling stuff is not the be all and all – truth and beauty matter too
- provoke, invoke, evoke – apparently John Lennon said that – not a bad JD for an enterprise coach either
- 5 years of crappy jobs and being on the dole – being on the dole were the ‘happy days’
- ‘ideas burning on the inside’
- managers/editors can leave you with tears streaming down your face and your soul ripped out and thrown on the floor
- the bad times provide the fuel and drive to allow the good
- an incessant streak of optimism helps – on being rejected by judges in a portrait competition Frazer chose to believe it was because he wasn’t important – ‘although it might have been because, then, I wasn’t very good’
- it takes a lot of time, training, passion and life experience to really master your subject
- great technology combined with great passion and skills produce remarkable, beautiful and important results
- sometimes you need someone to say ‘chin up – you will be alright’
- sometimes when your art is ripped off it gets you great new gigs – life-changing breaks…
- be a slave to the muse – let the story dictate the style – if the story is trivial don’t expect to get great results
- it is really about finding out who you are and what you can become – enterprise is about the emergence of identity – the process of becoming…
- treat me as a ‘pencil monkey’ and you will get mediocrity
- in the comic world a lot of bad product is there because of poor management – comics and every other industry on the planet – management is perfectly designed to get the results it gets
- if it is bad it is (nearly always) because the managers/editors have put the wrong people on the job
- if you have recruited the wrong people then forcing them to compromise WILL lead to mediocrity
- recruit great talent carefully and then trust it to deliver on its own terms – not yours
- when your hobby becomes your job – you get another hobby
- musicians jam and sometimes the results are great – what is the jamming equivalent for you?
- be careful about your reputation – one person saying you might not hit a deadline in a public forum can be a killer
- sometimes it is best not to claim the credit for all your ideas
- it really is full of ups and downs – but you come out of the downs with even more resources – psychological and technical if not financial
This was a great networking event – convivial atmosphere – great facilities – good food – great speakers and good management.
If only all networking opportunities were this good!
Success in the long run has less to do with finding the best idea, organizational structure, or business model for an enterprise, than with discovering what matters to us as individuals…For the most part, extraordinary people, teams, and organizations are simply ordinary people doing extraordinary things that matter to them.
Success Built to Last – Porras, Emery and Thompson
cited in Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland pg 120
One of the things that LEGI has stimulated in ‘deprived areas’ all over England is a renewed interest in Enterprise Centres.
Many of them have a very wide remit to:
- Provide serviced workspaces for social enterprises as well as more traditional ‘for profit’ businesses
- Make available hot desks in open plan environments to encourage ‘start-up’ entrepreneurs to network and support each other
- To provide access to business advisers and other professional sources of advice and support
- Community Cafes/Restaurants
- Conference facilities and meeting rooms
- Crèche facilities
This breadth of focus should provide a real strength – a business community that is diverse in terms of goals (making profits AND making progress) and stages of development (start-ups mature businesses and high growth all under the same roof) and from a variety of business sectors. However it is also a potential Achilles heel as it easy for the various market places that the centre sets out to serve can become confused.
For example in Leeds this was recently written about one of the Enterprise Centres being developed in the city:
‘Shine Harehills offers flexible and high quality serviced accommodation for Leeds growing companies’
‘The space, being marketed to the city’s growing creative industries includes 14 office units, each around 600 sq ft, plus spaces from 50 sq ft.’ – ABOUT LEEDS – Summer 2008
Now this makes it sound ideal for a small but growing business looking for space in a professional, high quality and creative ‘for profit’ cluster, but perhaps not an ideal choice for a small social enterprise start-up.
The new generation centres are usually located in the heart of some of the most deprived communities in the country. It will be interesting to see what the ‘creative professionals’ make of the location of SHINE! Especially if they follow the local media and buy into their characterisation of the community.
The fact is that not everyone will be keen to situate their office in the middle of one of the most challenging and diverse neighbourhoods and the third most deprived ward in the city. This may sound like a horribly middle class mind-set. Middle class or not – it matters. I recently suggested meeting a client of mine for a curry on Harehills Lane. However she was not happy about parking her lovely Audi TT convertible down there so we ended up in the Shadwell Tandoori (again). Audi TTs are the ‘runarounds’ in that part of the city. Finding entrepreneurs who want to make a profit and play a part in community life will help to ensure success.
The nature of the local communities could result in the new Centres being put behind large fences, surrounded by CCTV and feeling more like Secure Units than open and welcoming centres for community enterprise. Working effectively with local people, councils and the media to change community narratives from ‘impoverished and problem filled’ to ‘optimistic and full of potential’ will be critical to the successful development of new generation enterprise centres and the transformation of the communities themselves.
Being able to develop and market a cost effective and diverse ‘new generation enterprise centre’ will depend on engaging the right balance of different tenants – and helping each of them to quickly realise the benefits of being part of such a diverse community rather than looking for a more homogenous business environment.
They will also need to very carefully learn the lessons from previous generations of enterprise centres, few (if any?) of which have managed to stay close to achieving their social objectives as they have had to pursue almost ANY tenant who can reliably pay the rent and cover the additional operating costs associated with high quality managed workspace. When faced with the reality of developing a sustainable business plan, that is not dependent on long term subsidy, sometimes the quality slips as does the range of additional services and support.
These ‘first generation’ centres sometimes do little more than offer cheap office accommodation for entrepreneurs that live elsewhere, enabling them to generate additional profits that are spent in other more affluent communities. These centres often then provide only a handful of jobs in security, office administration and caretaking to local people. The actual regeneration potential of the centres for providing business incubation for local entrepreneurs to help to transform the enterprise culture of the local community is largely missed.
If this new generation of centres is not to fall into the same trap then passionate and skilful management will be required – as well as a strong nerve – to ensure that they do become powerful centres of regeneration for local entrepreneurs and not simply low cost profit machines for the already entrepreneurial classes. The centres will need to have strong boards that are held to account as much for their role in the regeneration of the local community as they are for the financial performance of the Centre. And, believe me, when centre managers report to their boards the first thing they talk about – sometimes the only thing – is the financial security or otherwise of the centre.
I hope the new generation centres are massively successful. I do believe that they can achieve both commercial and social objectives. I just hope that they are able to attract the executive and non-executive management teams that they need to keep a balance between their commercial and the social objectives and to keep funders and other stakeholders on board for what could be a long, bumpy but incredibly worthwhile enterprise and regeneration journey.
- ‘I just wanted to say thank you very much for the workshop, I thought it was absolutely brilliant and made me think on a deeper level of what community is all about. The book is great and very inspiring so thanks for that too. I had a lot of fun and it wasn’t one of those meetings where we were talked at it was very interactive and I really look forward to the next one’
- ‘good networking event’
- ‘good style of delivery’
- ‘good selection of talk and exercises – kept my attention’
- ‘met new people; found out about other organisations; loved the opportunity to share and learn from others’
- ‘excellent delivery and content’
- ‘the whole day was very good ‘
- ‘liked the style and format; good exercises and examples’
- ‘built rapport and gained more info on partners’
- ‘opportunities to network and see the LEGI bigger picture’
- ‘presentations very good. re-assured about things I did in the past. learned about innovative ways to deal with disaffected’
- ‘good mix in terms of style and delivery – light hearted but meaningful tasks – theoretical and practical
- ‘informative – with interesting ways of getting the points across’
- ‘good networking, meeting other LEGI partners, more information about enterprise, the activities were educational’
- ‘liked the interaction, presentations, venue, networking and the presenters’
- ‘liked the mix of activities – fun and engaging’
- ‘liked the process model and the stages, Boyatzis Model and the group work, the learning from the videos was good and the interaction with others’
- ‘I liked the exercises that put us out of our comfort zones’
- ‘I see that many people could really benefit from both you and Anne as I have to admit that I have been on so many workshops and training days but I have to say yours was the best by far’
- ‘I liked Anne, I think she is very knowledgeable and is a great presenter. She thinks outside the box and stretches other peoples thinking. I have just been sharing my day with [colleagues] and telling them how fantastic the workshop was. I would like to include the others from our team if possible onto your next planned workshop as its important that we can all learn as much as possible to benefit the people that we try and reach everyday within our jobs’
This was just some of the feedback from the first time we ran our ‘Engaging Communities in Enterprise’ workshop.
I am delighted to say that we plan to run it again in London on September 26th. You can find out more and book your place here.
I run the event with Anne Sherriff. Anne has a strong background in regeneration, in particular community engagement, communications and marketing, and developing effective partnerships. She joined re’new in 1996, having previously worked for Bradford City Challenge and before that the Community Development Foundation.
Initially appointed to lead and co-ordinate Leeds’ SRB2 funded East Bank regeneration programme, Anne’s role with re’new has developed to now encompass overall responsibility for all of the company’s work throughout East Leeds as well as leading the development of renew’s neighbourhood management and community activity. Anne also coordinates re’new’s corporate marketing and communications activity, and leads on the development of new business across the Leeds city region.
The East Bank regeneration programme encompassed housing and environmental renewal, economic development and social and community development. Throughout, the ability to engage successfully with local residents was key to the success of the regeneration programme.
Forming and sustaining effective partnerships – between agencies and with local communities – is fundamental to successful intervention at neighbourhood level. Anne developed and led the East Bank partnership and has subsequently coordinated the formation of the to’gether Partnership. This is a unique multi-agency approach to solving inner-city problems in east Leeds based on shared responsibility among public agencies and buy-in by local residents, including developing a ‘residents network’ of local people who have endorsed the to’gether Partnership, currently numbering over 1000 and still growing.
Anne has been involved in community development and community engagement for nearly thirty years, as a practitioner, trainer and manager. Committed to developing innovative and effective solutions to local issues, and to ‘joining up the dots’ between disparate interventions and approaches, she is an effective and creative strategic leader whilst retaining a pragmatic approach to getting things done. Anne is an experienced Investment in Excellence facilitator committed to enhancing personal and professional development opportunities for those working in or with local communities.
This 7 minute video from the US has some very powerful lessons about enterprise and entrepreneurship.
Especially when they talk about the nature of their business plan!