Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…(unless you are policy wonk or their lackey…)

Not every small business or micro-enterprise owner needs a mentor. Mentoring is NOT the only helping relationship. Good mentors are rarely trained in 'mentoring', nor are they picked from a register. Successful mentors are usually selected from within the pre-existing network of the mentee.  They are spotted and developed as someone from  whom the mentee really wants to learn. Mentoring is an intermittent rather than a continuous relationship. Access to good mentors is usually restricted and respectful rather than a tradeable commodity. The success of the mentorship is usually down to the mentee rather than the mentor.  Good mentees know how to choose a mentor and manage the relationship with them to get the learning and the introductions that they need. The commoditisation of mentoring is not a good thing. Mentors are not coaches, advisers, consultants, counsellors or facilitators.  People looking to learn and develop themselves and/or their organisations should think carefully about the kind of 'help' they need. We should help people explore what they want to learn and how they are going to learn it - rather than prescribe yet another 'cure-all' that happens to be 'affordable'. We should focus our efforts on … [Read more...]

Elsie is Born…

I seem to have been a bit quiet on this blog, while I have been doing other things, including pushing Progress School along, working on Collaborate Leeds and incubating a new idea which has finally found the light of day today: The Leeds Community Enterprise Accelerator or Elsie for short.  This provides a community based network of support to local enterprise coaches, advisors, facilitators, in fact to anyone who is helping someone else in the community to make progress. I have high hopes for Elsie in post Business Link austerity economy.  I think it will provide a sustainable high value model to provide practical crowd sourced enterprise support to those that most want and need it. Have a look at Elsie and tell me what you think. … [Read more...]

Towards the Enterprising Community

No-one can agree on a community.  Is it defined by political geography? Physical geography? Economic geography?  Interest, practice, culture?  So how do we use such an elusive, slippery yet, for some of us, attractive and powerful concept? Well, personally I have given up worrying about how 'communities' are defined by outsiders (politicians, funders, missionaries of various kinds, what Paul Theroux calls the Dark Angels of Virtue).  The only thing that matters for me is the individual, or the usually small group sat in front of me, and their perception of their community, defined their way.  Any other attempt to work with the concept for me is just hot air.  We all define community personally and, very probably, uniquely. But that does not make the concept useless.  Quite the opposite. I spend a lot of time helping people to look at the relationships and contexts that they are a part of and the extent to which they help or hinder them to become the kind of person that they wish to become, accomplishing the things that they most wish to accomplish.  And I will spend time working with them on how they can get more of the support that they need from their 'community'.  I spend a lot of time and energy building networks … [Read more...]

Enterprising Communities – Missing a trick?

One of my favourite frameworks for thinking about team work was published in a book called Dialogue by Bill Isaacs. The model suggests that if a group is to make progress it needs to have 4 distinct roles handled effectively. Firstly it need Movers.  These are people who float ideas, lead initiatives and generally make things happen. Spontaneous, action orientated and often extrovert - happy to put their ideas out there. In a community I often think that these Movers are akin to entrepreneurs. But a productive group also needs skilled Followers.  These are people who can take the energy and ideas of the Movers and build on them, add to them, take of the rough edges, put in the hard work and generally get the job done.  They are close to what Mike Southon calls cornerstones.  People who help turn the vision into reality. But in addition to Movers and Followers a productive group also needs effective Opposers.  These are people who are going to check the facts, collect the evidence and if there is an objection to be raised, they will raise it.  Constructively, powerfully and effectively.  They will skilfully play the role of the Devil's Advocate and if there is a weakness or a fault-line in the thinking they … [Read more...]

What would a real Enterprise Zone be like?

So much for innovation in enterprise policy. The best we seem to be able to do at the moment is rehash 1980s style enterprise zones to distort the market in favour of some places over others through a combination of tax breaks and more relaxed approaches to planning.  An enterprise zone becomes little more than a place where we encourage entrepreneurs to put their businesses because of a few breaks that the state can afford offer.  They are often little more than a business park with flexible planning requirements.  It looks like there will be 20 of them, funded to the tune of £1.25m each per year.  And at that level of funding any tax breaks are likely to be tiny. But what would a real 'enterprise zone' look like?  Not some policy makers confection but a community that really knows how to support enterprise?  A community that does not try to pick winners in the pursuit of GDP but really supports individuals and groups in pursuit of whatever matters most to them? Well, the first pre-requisite for such an enterprise zone would be that a high percentage of the population really were clear on what mattered most to them.  They would be aware of the current situation (politically, environmentally, financially culturally … [Read more...]

Enterprising Communities: The Big Conversation

'Enterprising Communities: The Big Conversation' will bring together policy makers and practitioners to explore the challenges of developing and sustaining enterprising communities. Using 'Open Space' methodologies The Big Conversation will give you the chance to say what you need to say, exchange ideas with others and build your networks from across the UK. Topics for exploration might include: Enterprise - more than just business: enterprise for well being and community The competent community: the role of peers in supporting enterprise Fresh approaches to enterprise development: what could innovation in our industry look like? Opportunities and threats to enterprising communities: what are they and how can we respond? Enterprising communities: Do we know them when we see them? Connecting communities: the role of enterprise in building bridges between and within communities Enterprise and the economy: from enterprise to wealth creation. Sharing interesting practice: a showcase for innovative approaches. The Enterprising Campus: lessons for, and from, education The Coaching Community: can a coaching culture drive community? Is Capital still King?: the role of knowledge, social capital and finance in … [Read more...]

Dock Street Market – and the role of the Leeds communities

I went to a very wonderful opening for Dock Street Market last Friday.  It used to be a decent enough shop that had many fans and reportedly turned over a million a year.  But still it could not survive. Now the shop has been taken over by a number of local artisan producers and entrepreneurs, all of whom offer a phenomenal product.  We have fish and chips reinvented by the wonderful Fish &, excellent north Italian coffee and more from Bottega Milanese, superb breads from the Riverside Sourdough Bakery and more.  The people behind these businesses are phenomenally hard working and focussed on quality, service and value.  They are doing their bit to make the collaborative project a success. But my interest is in the role of the rest of us.  The fine citizens of Leeds.  Of the 700 000 plus people that live in the city, my guess is that the vast majority will not even know that the Dock St Market exists.  They are 'strangers' to the market.  Perhaps 10 ooo or so are aware of the market and certainly a couple of hundred rocked up at the opening last week.  These constitute 'prospects'.  People who know the market exists and may become customers. But customers so far, by definition, are a smaller group.  Having only … [Read more...]

A Community Ecology of Enterprise

Enterprise is not just about 'entrepreneurial types' and 'business ideas'. It is not just about business and commercial endeavour. If I want to make something happen to improve things in my community I may start a business, but I may start a campaign, or a festival, or a local action group.  I have worked with many people whose motivation was not to develop a business, but to make a difference, and in some cases setting up a business has been a means to that end.  No more than that.  It is simply a means to an end. Well managed and run these kinds of community based activity all contribute to a more enterprising community and provide the kind of community ecology and practice ground from which commercial endeavours may spring.  They also help to build the social capital that is essential to building a sustainable and resilient local economy and community. If LEPs were to think more about the kind of community ecology that supports enterprise and how this can be developed I suspect they would get a much greater ROI than on more traditional approaches of advice, managed workspace (we are awash with these in Leeds, mostly under-used and inappropriate for the communities they were built in) and access to finance. Yes … [Read more...]

Dear Lord Young…

Congratulations on your appointment as the new enterprise csar.  I am sure that the unpaid and part time role will keep you engaged. I am pleased that you will look at how to 'encourage people to start businesses rather than find jobs as employees'.  It makes a refreshing change from the usual line of the 'private sector creating jobs'.  As we know big businesses have, on the whole, been laying people off over recent decades rather than taking them on. And just how long can we keep going with the mentality of 'gizza job' and 'on yer bike/bus' in a 21st century globalised and localised economy? Can I suggest you take an early look at the semantics of 'encouraging people to start businesses'  and the very practical consequences that are likely to flow from it.  When a figure in authority, never mind Government, sets out to 'encourage us' to do something, some of us come over all suspicious.   Are you really interested in our well-being, or is there a more self centred game being played?  There is a good chance that in the very act of 'encouraging us' you serve to engender resistance to the very idea you wish us to entertain.  Psychologists call this reactance. I have not read in detail the guidance on the Regional … [Read more...]

After Business Link…Time for a change of tack?

So it was confirmed in the White Paper yesterday that Business Links will be gone by the end 2012.  All that will remain is a website, and perhaps a call centre. So what will replace £154m per year of business information, advice and guidance? Time for DIY support I think. Time for businesses and the wider communities of which they are a part to help themselves on their own terms. I am not talking about 'local'  Chambers of Commerce or Enterprise Agencies winning contracts from the State to deliver outputs and targets in return for tax payers cash.  That will just recreate the problems of the old regime: post code lotteries, sectoral discrimination, services designed to trigger funding payments and hit targets, rather than work in person centred ways to deliver just in time support to the people who are hungriest for it, groupies who learn to lunch with the bureaucrats and help them to deliver the targets while some people who are the most hungry for support are denied it because they are not aiming to turnover £2m within 24 months, live in the wrong part of town, aren't working in a priority sector and so on. DIY culture can provide support that is: more accessible, more inclusive, much less expensive and … [Read more...]

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