Wednesday, October 4, 2017

on being professionally referred to as a 'tool'...

Throughout my professional life, I've been referred to as being/likened to all sorts of things: Darth Vader, Derren Brown, Shakespeare, a Guru, the A-Team, and even a 'neo-liberal stormtrooper'!

However, my most recent public naming was as a 'tool' in front of 50+ students (and twitter!) at Salford University's launch of their enterprise support programme for students and graduates.

I was there as a long-standing supporter of the University's enterprise support programmes and initiatives (although for the sake of some of my other clients, I should probably highlight that I do also work in a similar role within other universities and educational bodies...). The idea of the evening was to inspire and encourage a new intake of students to consider how enterprise could enhance their future options and opportunities, and to that end there were inspiration speakers, details about grant funding available, and pizza. My task was to get those people attending to have some practical experience of what 'being enterprising' might look and feel like in practice through quick activities and games.

However, what was probably the most important part of the event was the Q&A from students to us speakers - in preparing for what we delivered we could only try and second guess what might be most important and relevant to such a large and diverse group; but having time in the programme for open questions helped us to better understand what people's motivations and priorities were. And it was as part of this part of the event that there was a question about the role and value of advisers to a growing business. Jamil Khalil, the founder of Wakelet and keynote inspirational speaker, suggested that he viewed such advisers as 'tools' - in response, I openly wondered if he meant that in the context of a toolbox, or if it was a reflection of poor business support he'd received in the past...

Thankfully he clarified that it was the former, but it created an opportunity to highlight the importance to any enterprise or startup of needing to take multiple approaches: building your own toolbox of resources including professional advice being only part of what you need - there's also value in some of the startup and business planning processes, and my 'games' highlighted the critical need for both a good network of contacts and self-confidence.

So to my fellow advisers and enterprise supporters out there - let's celebrate and revel in being seen as 'tools' ;-)

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