This weekend, thanks to the new president of the Enterprise Society at Manchester University: twitter.com/freewayjoe, I had the pleasure of meeting Doug Richards, the serial entrepreneur and ex dragon on Dragon's Den.
Doug has decided to give back and do so by starting his very own School for Start-ups. The nine hour workshop did not start too well, mostly because I had been to see the South African sensation that is GoldFish the night before and had managed to cram in just a few hours sleep. Regardless, several cups of coffee and an entire galaxy bar later and I was wired and ready.
The early hours were well spent covering, essentially, all the 20 questions Doug reckons you need to ask yourself before starting a business and when pitching to investors. It looked to me like a business plan, only don't tell Doug that... he hates business plans. During one of the intervals I went down to meet him, and I won't hide the fact that my knees were shaking. I asked him a few questions about talking to investors with an idea that is not easily protected and he gave me relevant and insightful answers. We also talked briefly about Seth Godin as he had referenced him and Purple Cow in his discussion on marketing for start-ups.
One thing I really enjoyed was "volunteer breaks". Every now and then Doug would take a break and ask people from the audience to stand up, give their elevator pitch and he would drill down into the details, give advice (or criticism) and help the people along their way.
Time and time again, Doug suggested the rules which apply to big businesses regarding what they should and should not do, do not apply to start-ups and often he even suggested that it was the exact opposite which took precedence.
However, if there is one thing I took away from the workshop that I would like to share with everyone, it is "BE SHAMELESS"... let me explain. Costs are in our complete control, while revenue we can only influence. So as a start-up looking to survive he suggests we shamelessly look for opportunities to survive by (a) limiting our costs of operation through several key methods and (b) by shamelessly pursuing revenue - Always Be Closing!
All in all, I left inspired, with renewed motivation and belief. Big Up to Doug Richards: twitter.com/douglasrichard