Online Resource for Enterprise Coaching

Time to get a little more collaborative methinks.  I love writing about enterprise, entrepreneurship and community.  And now I want to up the ante when it comes to collaboration and sharing of good practice.

So I have set up a wiki for all things Enterprise Coaching where we can hold discussions, share documents and collaborate on writing stuff.


Join the wiki here:

The Education Plot…

Bob McKee talks about the education plot as one where the protagonist ‘changes their attitude towards life’.  Sounds like the work of the true enterprise coach…


Where is Your Enterprise Service At….?

I love 2×2 matrices.  But there are worse crimes I suppose. Of course they oversimplify things, deny shades of grey, limit ‘nuancing’ and so on.

But they work for me.

They help to clarify where we are, where we need to be and can generate ideas about how we get there.  Take this 2×2 for example which maps the credibility/utility of the service we offer versus its visibility/accessibility.

Visibility versus Credibility

High/High – ‘The Real Deal’ or ‘The Hen’s Teeth’

This is the goal.  Credible services that work and are visible and accessible to the people they are intended to serve.  Likely to have  a low marketing overhead as word of mouth and the power of attraction will keep the clients coming.  Well evidenced, high value for money services mean that funders cannot afford to withdraw from it.

High Accessibility/Visibility but Low Credibility – ‘All Mouth and No Trousers’ or ‘The Emperor…has no clothes’

This is the norm.  Sadly.  PR companies on large retainers to buy square inches in the local press.  Social media strategies, web sites, leaflets, posters and inspirational strap lines and branding guidelines abound.  Every one knows it’s there – but most of us know it doesn’t do ‘what it says on the tin’…The service relies on heavy self promotion to find a continual source of new referrals.  Word of mouth strategies including introductions and referrals don’t work.  They often have to rely on ‘inducements’ such as soft loans, grants and free lunches to get people to ‘sort of’ engage.  They can have plenty of clients on the books but few of them do anything very interesting.  Failure rates are high.  Many new entrepreneurs soon fall out of love with their ‘dream’ businesses and loan default rates are high.  Often have lots of front line staff on the ground all looking for ‘good’ clients.  Added value is low.  Management strategies involve efforts to ‘bluster our way through’ until the funding stream ends.

High Credibility/Utility but Low Visibility – ‘The Hidden Gem’

So we have a great product and service that does the job – but people don’t know we are here.  Don’t worry about it – this situation won’t last for long – perhaps 6 months?   If you have a product/service that reliably and consistently does what it says it will do – transforms lives, starts dream businesses and contributes to economic and community development the word will get out.  In fact you will soon be winning prizes and if you are smart making serious money.  Perhaps give a little thought to promoting a word of mouth strategy – learn how to ask for referrals, and introductions and you will soon have them beating a path to your door.  Make sure you can evidence your effectiveness and trademark/copyright your service.  It is worth a bomb.  This is a great place to be….

Low Credibility and Low Visibility – ‘No Style – No Substance’

Actually not as bad as it sounds.  Perhaps most new enterprise services should recognise that this is the starting point and where we might spend most of the first year or two of a new project.  Learning about what works in a particular community, about which partners are the ‘real deal’ and which are ‘all mouth but no trousers’.  Sniffing out the hidden gems to work with.  By deliberately keeping a low profile, but working on the long term impact of our products and services with a modest volume of clients we can gradually build a great service.  Once we have moved into the ‘hidden gem’ category we can then make the transition to become the ‘real deal’.

Working with Stakeholders

Of course when we use this in our own services we tend to have a bias towards the ‘real deal’ and ‘hidden gem’ quadrants.  But if we ask our clients, our funders, our experienced advisers, or an informed outsider to place us in the matrix then the results can be enlightening and provide powerful clues about the way forward – if we are smart enough and honest enough to listen.

  • Is this matrix useful?
  • Are you in the quadrant that you want to be in?
  • Do you have a clear strategy for getting to be the real deal?

Community, economic and social development…

While Pittsburgh’s government and business leaders pressed for big-government solutions – new stadiums and convention centers – the city’s real turn- around was driven by community groups and citizen-led initiatives. Community groups, local foundations, and nonprofits – not city hall or business-led economic development groups – drove its transformation, playing a key role in stabilizing and strengthening neighborhoods, building green, and spurring the development of the waterfront and re- development around the universities. Many of Pittsburgh’s best neighborhoods, such as its South Side, are ones that were somehow spared from the wrath of urban renewal. Others, such as East Liberty, have benefited from community initiatives designed to remedy the damage done by large-scale urban renewal efforts that left vacant lots in place of functioning neighborhoods and built soulless public housing high-rise towers. That neighborhood is now home to several new community development projects, including a Whole Foods Market, which provides local jobs as well as serving as an anchor for the surrounding community. This kind of bottom-up process takes considerable time and perseverance. In Pittsburgh’s case, it took the better part of a generation to achieve stability and the potential for longer-term revival.

The Great Reset copyright © 2010 Richard Florida (emphases are mine)

Read more

If this IS true, and could also be true of Leeds, then what does it mean for the focus of community development workers in the city?

Working on the Press Gang..?

The work of the enterprise coach is, for me, about providing a relationship that people can use to explore how they might transform their lives and whether or not this is a journey they want to undertake.   It is a relationship characterised by trust, confidentiality, skill and often the long-term. It is not directive; the coach has no ulterior goal that they are steering the person towards.   The only goal of the coach is to help their client to become the kind of person that they really want to be.

The relationship provides a chance for them to really transform their life. Of course this doesn’t always happen – but there is a chance. The transformation may come about through starting a business. Or through getting better housing, becoming a better parent, tackling an addiction or pursuing an ambition. The job of the enterprise coach is to enable people to take more control of their futures. To find their power in shaping their own lives. It is a truly valuable, challenging and privileged role.

It seems to me that much of the Enterprise Coaching world sees things a little differently. For them the enterprise coach is part of a smiling press-gang, working ‘in the community’, promoting the benefits of enterprise (narrowly defined around self employment, employment, business start-up or expansion) and encouraging people to grow their ‘dream business’. Clients are usually recruited to workshops after a limited amount of 121 work, given a crash course in business literacy and referred to the mainstream – where they take their chances. It is a directive process where the only positive outcome is a referral into the business support industry. It is about skimming talent and potential rather than a longer term engagement to change attitudes, habits, beliefs and decisions.  The whole process is lubricated with the judicious use of free lunches, celebrity speakers, community transport and the potential of getting some cash.   This is traditional pre-start up business support.  We have been doing it for a long time in various communities.  It feels safe, and it does produce start ups.  But I have yet to see it transform communities.

Sometimes  it even damages the very communities that it is intended to help.  I would suggest three mechanisms by which this unfortunate and unintended consequence sometimes occurs.

  • Firstly the service helps to skim off the most able and talented in the community: those that already have the confidence and self belief to start a business and helps them up and sometimes out of the community.  Those that succeed do so, not because of the support of their community, but often in spite of it.  Enterprise is seen primarily as a process for personal progress rather than community building.
  • Secondly we engage large numbers of people on the enterprise journey that we are unable to work with in sufficient depth or for sufficient time before they are referred into a mainstream that is not resourced to work with them.  Failure, disappointment and frustration are commonplace.  Word spreads and the reputation of the service provider drops.  Numbers engaging with the project fall away and the community becomes even more suspicious of the enterprise agenda.
  • Thirdly is the mechanism of reactance.  The more we persuade people to look at enterprise as something that is potentially good for them the more likely they are to resist our persuasion.   Flood a community with pro-enterprise messages and perversely you may decrease enthusiasm for it.

But back to the two visions of Enterprise Coaching that I opened with.  At the moment we are losing the chance of realising the first because of the funding that is being pumped into the second.  I meet and often work with great coaches who are trying to deliver the first vision for enterprise coaching, while being performance managed by a system that is demanding the second.  The consequences are inevitable.  As I have written before, enterprise coaching is being broken.

The question is – what are we going to do about it?  Join our LinkedIn group to find out…