Monday, 28 February 2011

Student Entrepreneurs and Reshaping Britain

This weekend I attended the National Student Enterprise Conference (NSEC) in Manchester. You may wonder what a bunch of students from around the country, who usually spend their weekends indulging in booze and sleep deprivation, are doing at a 2-day weekend conference? It turns out that my peers were all there for different reasons among which there was one which we all shared – to become someone who drives change as opposed to merely accepting it.

The weekend was about how we can make a difference in helping the UK economy, how we can create disruptive innovations, how we can change companies from within and how we can start and grow companies that either make loads of money or help society, or both.

There was a perfect mixture of inspirational talks (from the likes of John Griffin - Addison Lee and Houston Spencer – Alcatel Lucent), panel discussions hosted by disruptive innovators (such as Rich Martell – Floxx.com and Kresse Wessling – Elvis & Kresse) and informative talks on various aspect of starting up a new business (Christian Busch – Sandbox and Ben Sheils – Accelerate).

I think, if you take away one thing from each conference you attend, then you can consider it time well spent.

My big "WOW" moment this weekend was Christian’s talk on “Creating the Winning Team”. I had given some thought to the fact that we would have to recruit some people almost as soon as we start but I thought of hiring like you think of finance, IP, operations – just another part of the system.

Christian managed to convince me in a talk just short of an hour that I was looking at this all wrong. He started with a saying VCs use in Silicon Valley:
"I would rather invest in an A team with a B idea than a B team with an A idea”.
Companies like Facebook and Google buy other companies not for their ideas but for the people behind those ideas, as well as people who made those ideas happen.

Christian discussed 5 ways in which you can convince high quality people to work for you (even though you may be offering them less pay than larger companies); see my video for more on this.

Finally he introduced us to Belbin’s team model as a useful tool for figuring out what kind of people are missing in your team:


As a final thought, you may wonder why people would work for a start-up or start their own business when the economic conditions are so unstable. From my NSEC experience I can give you two possible reasons.

The first is that starting your own business is actually less risky than working for someone else. You avoid all the risk factors which are out of your control: such as becoming redundant, not developing your skills, being unhappy with what you do and trade these "risk factors" in for: flexible working hours, an opportunity to develop and control over your own destiny.

My second thought on why becoming an entrepreneur is more rewarding than getting a job is based on the insights shared in this RSA video on what motivates us to work harder:



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