Enterprise is a journey from A to Z.
Except there is no Z.
The journey just keeps going on.
But imagine for a moment that ‘Z’ is finally having a stable secure business – that does what you need it to do. And that the enterprise journey is from A-Z.
The truth is that most, if not all, of our enterprise support services only go back as far as ‘W’. ie they only engage people who already have an idea or an aspiration that they want to do something about. And the support service implies that there is a logical, rational (if typically dull) process called business planning that will get you safely from W-Z. (Never mind that this is an untruth that misleads clients about the fundamental dynamics of enterprise.) We have spent a lot of time and energy on supporting the transition from W-Z. We have short entrepreneurship programmes, advisory services, planning software and templates. This is not where the vast majority of human enterprise potential is lost (although even at this late stage we still manage to waste a lot!)
The real waste is in the majority of people that never make it as far as ‘W’.
How do we get the vast majority who do not see themselves as enterprising to recognise the role that enterprise skills and behaviours can play in their personal pursuit of progress/happiness?
My argument is that if we can ‘unstick’ some of these very stuck people (especially with reference to ‘deprived communities’) we will start to build a ‘pipeline’ for enterprise from ‘where people are at’ (usually a-d) on the enterprise journey rather than where we would like the be (W).
Of course this does not fit the policy goals for instant enterprise…but it does reflect the reality of human growth and development and what we know about enterprise – that it takes time to learn how to do it well.
One of the challenges in communities that are ‘low on enterprise’ is that they have an inordinate number of ‘precontemplators’ – people who do not see enterprise/business as relevant to them.
They may watch Dragon’s Den/The Apprentice and be sickened at the prospect of moving in those circles. So when we ask ‘Have you got a great business idea’ their instant thought is ‘No! Yuk!’
The other large constituent in these communities are contemplators who have thought about it but decided ‘No’. Often because they don’t think they have the skills because we still promulgate the myth that you need to:
- be financially literate
- have good reading and writing skills,
- be articulate, visionary, powerful and persuasive,
- have a great product,
- be a strong marketeer and great at sales and
- be a fully fledged finance director
to succeed at the enterprise game.
Precontemplators and contemplators are the groups that effective outreach needs to engage to help them re-consider the reality of enterprise – what is is and how it relates to them and their dreams. At least if we are to really start transforming the enterprise culture in disadvantaged communities.
We also need to recognize that failure (lapse and relapse) is an inevitable (almost) part of the enterprise journey. It is part of the learning process. If you are Richard Branson then people pick you up from the failed budgie breeding project and the xmas tree farm and encourage you to try again. If you are from a poor non working class family the response is more likely to be ‘bloody typical of you to F**k that up as well’.
Few of our services help clients to prepare for failure and put it into context on their enterprise journey.
Few services pay serious regard to the power of the peer group and how that can be managed.
Outreach is not just about going to the places that mainstream support fears to tread. It is about presenting enterprise in a very different, much more accessible and engaging way. It is about understating the psychology and motivations of the client and and building a bridge to enterprise that starts from where they are at.