Enterprise Rehearsal


Why is it a large proportion of the workforce want to work for themselves but only a few actually go for it? My view is that fear holds so many back – the fear of not being able to pay the mortgage, have holidays or enjoy nights out at weekends. The key challenge to overcome is getting yourself conditioned to recognising there is no pay cheque going to land in your account at the end of the month. This can often be the biggest barrier to going forward.

Well there are other ways of thinking about being your own boss and indeed rehearsing before the big performance. Speaking from experience I have found that an interest or hobby can be turned into a small business. I remember some twenty odd year ago when taking the plunge was just not an option but it was a burning desire. A young family, and mortgage meant that rehearsal was the only way, and gosh did it pay dividends. Turning a passion for contemporary art into a small business taught me loads about suppliers, customers, doing the books, VAT returns, dealing with awkward people – the list goes on.

These experiences can help so much in the conditioning process and with very little outlay can unleash a profitable stream of revenue. There are opportunities that so many of us just overlook, here are some ways you can rehearse:

– Buying and selling on eBay

– Car boot sales

– Take a market stall at weekends

– Take a stall at an art/antiques fair

– Buy a small property do it up and sell it

– Explore the buy to let market

– Look for innovative products overseas, find an outlet in the UK

– Turn your hobby into a weekend service e.g photography

I feel that some of these tiny nudges can get us thinking more entrepreneurially. The markets in the UK are desperately trying to encourage more traders and we should not over look them as the training ground for the next generation of entrepreneurs – maybe feels a bit Del Boy and Rodney but from humble beginnings big things can result.

After all you only need to look at the Sunday Times Rich list and I know for a fact a number of them built their fortune starting from a market stall.

Liverpool – a global city


The scale and potential of Liverpool as a truly global City hit home to me last week when I was at Princes Dock. Sat in a meeting room on the third floor of the building directly opposite, looking straight ahead was the Queen Mary 2 – an impressive sight is really an understatement. Exiting the cruise liner were hundreds of tourists, off to see the sights of the City. Then on Saturday, the same, another cruise liner, with loads of people getting ready to go and spend the money in the City.

There has been much debate about Liverpool being a “turnaround” port – the place where cruises start and end. Whilst I understand the issues surrounding competition and State support, Liverpool has so much to offer, the attractions, Albert Dock, Tate, Museum and its heritage blows the socks off Southampton.

The impact of Liverpool turnaround status on jobs, new business starts, facilitating growth of existing companies and the tourist economy would be amazing. Starting my holiday in Southampton or Liverpool….not a difficult choice. Lets get this in the North…

Are the universities letting the next generation down?


I am a firm believer that the UK has some of the best universities in the world. However, does a game plan to raise the bar of performance feature within their strategic plans, particularly in relation to what happens when they wave good bye to their graduates.  We turn out amazing talent, equipped with knowledge and expertise in writing highly intellectual theses and essays. But what happens when they try to get a job. As an employer and interviewer of graduate talent, what comes across my desk every day is CV’s that lack depth, an inability to articulate a point of differentiation and to be honest a document so generic it misses the point. The resultant effect is we send out piles of “no thank you” letters, this must be highly discouraging to those poor graduates who thought their degree was a passport to the world.

Well I think its time for a rethink of how we make the talent pool more ready for the work place – many universities have a careers advice service, but just how effective is it?  Employers are looking for a tailored CV, crisp and to the point, giving evidence led narrative, supported by an interview where the applicant is prepared and up for the pitch. Attitude is just as important as qualification.

So where does the responsibility lie for job readiness? Is it the employer or the university? My view it’s the latter. If it’s going to be the growth SMEs that create new jobs, I believe it’s the universities role to turn out more rounded graduates ready for the work place. Those who have been taught the importance of self motivation, the power of communication, researching employer needs and writing CVs that hit the spot. If we don’t get a grip of this we will end up with graduates whacking out hundreds of CVs and applications with many of them receiving the obvious replies – this will manifest into bright sparks becoming depressed and ultimately lacking self worth. A thought for policy makers.

The Enlightened Company


What is it about some companies that make them shine way above the rest? They have differentiated propositions, take a massive lead on competition, build a strong brand and just outperform others.

More specifically, I am really interested in some of those massive companies that have entered onto the world stage and become literally global phenomena in less than a decade. Great examples such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google come to mind. These outstanding founders often become labeled unfairly as techie geeks. However when you probe further into their academic background some are obviously technical many have an arts degree. Reid Hoffman founder of LinkedIn – BA in Symbolic Systems and MA in Philosophy, his co-founder Peter Thiel also of PayPal fame BA in Philosophy, Chris Hughes co Founder of Facebook BA in History and Literature, and Eduaro Saverin also co-founder of Facebook BA in Economics.

For me it raises a number of questions that I would love to delve into further – would knowledge and technology based businesses benefit from a founding team that combines scientific/technical and creative talent. Does this create an enlightened company? – One that sees opportunities from different angles embraces ambiguity and curiosity and also one that is willing to explore various options and keep an open mind as to what is and what is not possible.

We are continuously being reminded that the UK needs to commercialise its R & D and knowledge assets and we massively lag behind the US in this arena. Equally we are told that academics and technologists need to become more entrepreneurial if we are to reverse the fortunes of turning IP into revenue. So what is the missing link?

In 1981 Roger W. Sperry won The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine – he discovered that the left side of the brain was associated with analytical thinking the right with more creative thought.  Is it fair to say that when the mindset of a founding team combines both; greater is the likelihood of success? So what are the implications on all those massively talented scientific individuals who are exploring a business idea – given they are probably dominated by left-brain thinking, would an injection of right brain support help to accelerate the idea to market process?

Just how important is the role of combining technical/scientific functional mastery with creative thinking. Would university incubators and others involved in stimulating high growth businesses and spin outs benefit from bringing individuals from humanities and arts faculties into the mix.  After all diversity and interconnected thinking drives innovation.

It’s about time Manchester and indeed the rest of the UK started to create some of the Gorilla companies such as Facebook – after all we have the talent. Maybe we just need to get the so-called geeks talking to the creative’s – and throw an accountant in there as well!