On Day 1 of the NEF Bootcamp, we heard from Chris Coleridge, lecturer at UCL and responsible for a large portion of our entrepreneur training this year. But what, exactly, are we being trained to do? It isn’t simply how to start a business, since that could be anything from a lemonade stand to a McDonalds franchise; neither of which are the intended outcome of the NEF programme. Rather, the aim is that we should become what Chris called an ‘Expert Entrepreneur’. An expert entrepreneur is not simply someone who starts a business. They exhibit the following 5 behaviours:
- Expert entrepreneurs leverage existing resourcesOne of the most important things that separates an expert entrepreneur from your average joe is that he or she doesn’t wait until ‘the perfect moment’ to start working on a business or project. They get started anyway using the manpower, money, skills, etc that they already have, and don’t put things off over and over again. You will never catch an expert entrepreneur saying “Once I’ve learnt how to code, then I’ll be ready to start my business.” Or, “Once I’ve read that book, then I’ll have learnt everything I need to start my business!"
Instead, the expert entrepreneur just gets started anyway. If you can prove that the idea is a good one then you can worry about resources, but if it turns out to be no good then you will not have wasted valuable time and money on a project that would never have succeeded.
- Expert entrepreneurs seek surprise and a ‘secret’The basis of the advantage that an expert entrepreneur has is fleeting, local information. By embedding themselves in a particular industry or domain, it’s possible to gain the insights necessary to spark a great business idea. If it was possible to identify opportunities by just sitting at home browsing the internet, then everyone would do it. But by working in a particular industry or living in a certain city, the expert entrepreneur will put themselves in a position to gain the right information and perspective.
The key, then, is to get out into the world and talk to real people about their pains and problems.
- Expert entrepreneurs form partnershipsThere is no such thing as a successful solo founder. An expert entrepreneur is able to form a strong network and form partnerships with individuals and organisations that will benefit all parties involved. The expert entrepreneur should be confident about reaching out to others to propose this sort of win/win proposition.
- Expert entrepreneurs manage risk - i.e. the affordable loss principleRelated to number 1, the affordable loss principle is the idea that you should spend as little time and money as possible on a business until you can determine whether or not it is a valid business with real potential for growth. No matter what the odds of success are, the price of the next move an entrepreneur makes must be as low as possible.
- Expert entrepreneurs manage without predictionThe typical managerial approach is to decide on the desired ending point, see where we are right now and then determine an action plan to join up the dots and reach the goal. This is not an option always available to the expert entrepreneur; things change quickly and it is likely that you will have made some incorrect assumptions along the way. You can’t simply write an action plan that will lead you to your end goal, since who knows what you have missed or what will change?
Instead, the expert entrepreneur manages based on their means - they manage based on what they have and where they are right now.
So, we have our definition of the expert entrepreneur! It’s most likely the case that many people have some of these qualities, but the expert entrepreneur is not so common. How often do we hear people talking about what they would do if only this or that were the case? How many people get on and act rather than sit in their rooms and plan and plan with no end? Our next training with Chris will be about idea validation; the first step to becoming an expert!