Next week is Global Entrepreneurship Week an activity which has grown enormously over the last few years. In 2011 there will be some 40,000 events in 104 countries engaging somewhere in the region of 10 million people. Certainly ‘entrepreneurs’ are being highly popularised at present with programmes like The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den and The Secret Millionaire all playing a part. This is all great and there are some very inspirational people doing great things but I do get concerned that the image of entrepreneurs is all about creating huge multi-million pound businesses from scratch which, although a valid angle, is not the only route.
What I mean by this is that the common behaviours typically used to define entrepreneurs are just as important whether you set-up your own business, run someone else’s business or work pretty much anywhere within an organisation. To me it’s about vision, drive, passion, approach and execution; from identifying opportunities to creating value – all of which apply across the organisation, at all levels. One of our core values is innovation, working with our customers to drive continuous improvement, delivering new solutions and improving existing ones. Within that framework every employee is empowered to look for, and drive, ways to deliver more value for the customer and the company – this ranges from basic cost reduction to coming forward with ideas for entirely new services, products and markets.
Sparking the passion to do something great, different or better is part of what Global Entrepreneur Week is about so we have for many years done what we can to support activities around education and enterprise. This year we will again be running our hands-on Global Business Simulation for 120 pupils at a local school, an activity which aims to give a small insight into business for 13-14 year olds in an engaging and challenging way.
Alongside this we have been working with Bath University to support their Student Enterprise Shop Competition where groups of students get to create and sell a product of their choice for one day in the centre of Bath over a period of two weeks. This then feeds into a larger competition to develop the winning business further with mentoring from experienced business people which we will also be involved with.
Last week I also gave a talk at Bristol University to a group of students and budding entrepreneurs about our journey in creating a business – not the glitz of the television entrepreneurs but the real challenges for small businesses, the ups and downs and some honesty about what we did right and, more importantly, what we did wrong.
Although having a week focused on entrepreneurship is great it really only scratches the surface. We have been building on our existing activities to try and deliver some year round approaches. For example we have a very active summer placement and intern programme which we have now extended into working with Bristol University on a final year project, a project which encompasses both innovation and business aspects. The last piece is a relationship we have developed with the Bristol University Research & Enterprise Development Department to jointly develop a business idea with their Entrepreneur in Residence.
I guess the key point of what I’m saying is that we can all do our small bit to create the passion and inspiration for our future entrepreneurs, it’s not just for the people on the television programmes.