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3 Reasons why we are involved with careers education

Red Potato believe passionately in careers education.  So we wanted to be the first to “sign up” as an Enterprise Advisor at Hertfordshire LEP.

Hertfordshire LEP are delivering The Careers & Enterprise Company Programme.  This forms part of a nationwide network being rolled out across LEP areas.

The ambition is to:

• inspire and prepare young people for the fast changing world of work
• shape the future workforce to meet local business needs

Why careers education is important

Here are three reasons why business leaders in Hertfordshire should get involved with this programme:

  1. “What you sow, so shall you reap” – firstly, your business can gain important insights into what your next generation of customers wants and expects from your business.
  2. The young people will give you especially relevant feedback and new insights.   Hence, you will learn how to improve your business.
  3. Most of all this is your opportunity to give back to Hertfordshire. As a result you can help future generations create wealth and prosperity in the local economy by sharing your experience and insights with young people.

Careers Education

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What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

Well first of all, if our straw poll is anything to go by, most entrepreneurs wouldn’t describe themselves as “entrepreneurs”!

In our survey the most common words business owners used to describe themselves were “positive, determined, optimistic”.   Not one of them described themselves as an “entrepreneur”. This is understandable, because the truth is not all business owners are “entrepreneurs”.

If Wikipedia has quoted the Austrian Economist, Schumpeter correctly then “Entrepreneurs are innovators who use a process of shattering the status quo of the existing products and services, to set up new products, new services.”   So using Schumpter’s definition, to run a business you do not have to be an “entrepreneur” – you could run a very unsuccessful business, you could be very fortunate to receive finance from a benefactor, or you could inherit a customer base unable or unwilling to move.  There are probably lots of other ways to run an “unsuccessful” business, but this article is about business owners and entrepreneurs who need to innovate to deliver results.

Businesses need to innovate to make money to employ people, sell more, invest to grow the business, pay suppliers and contribute to the wider community.  The ability to make money from your vision, hard graft, and superior offer is what drives a successful business owner.   To do this the business owner has to have a firm grasp of their value.

The value of the business owner could be defined by existing customers. What do the customers perceive to be of value? Is it the business owners insight, experience, customer focus – if it is all of these things you are running a successful business! Equally the business owner needs to understand the monetary value of their time, and stay focussed on the business goals

 

And if all this sounds like hard work, then you are right it is- that is why as well as the ability to innovate, true entrepreneurs have to be “determined, positive, and optimistic” – so better get on with it!

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Mentoring for life: Are troubled teenagers and business entrepreneurs made from the same stuff?

When it comes to mentoring it can mean very different things to different people: ranging from social befriending through to a strict focus on shared objectives mentoring.   Befriending may include things like helping someone to take small steps to overcome a fear of open spaces for example.   The warmth, encouragement and support from befriending can be crucial in helping, as sometimes statutory services are more interested in measuring the output of their work and encouraged to maintain a professional distance from “clients”.     Other benefits such as building confidence may occur following from those first steps outside the home, but in the case of befriending this isn’t the aim.

In my opinion, strict enterprise mentoring involves working with the client on agreed objectives which are stated and agreed from the start – for instance how to prepare a business for trade sale, or entry to a new market.  Any social relationship achieved is incidental to the business objectives.  SFEDI (Sector Skills body for Enterprise) says that mentor/mentee relationship should enable the mentee to “develop goals that will have a positive impact on their business enterprise”.    There is a clear focus and aim for the mentoring relationship.

In contrast to the business objectives of enterprise mentoring, community mentoring is about helping adults and children develop as individuals, so that they find their true self.  To do this the mentor needs to understand their own personal boundaries.  Without an understanding of their identity, the mentor can end up confusing the mentee about who is the client!

So having established the differences between enterprise and community mentoring, I’m now going to say in many ways they are also very similar.  For instance building a relationship based on equality, openness and trust is common to all types of mentoring.    Perhaps less obvious though is the possibility that those same troubled young people could with the right form of guidance and mentoring  go onto to set up and run the next generation of enterprises.   Even if you ignore the other reasons to get mentoring, the powerful impact of mentoring on life chances and entrepreneurialism, should be a strong motivator for business people to get mentoring.

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Do the preparation, check the destination

The  project has been completed, the final report, finally approved, the diary is clear of project update meetings and the virtual team has gone its separate ways.

But what has changed?   How have things improved?   Have things got better for local people?   These are the questions which we need to be answered for any project involving public resources and aimed at addressing local community need.     Sounds obvious but how good is the sector at addressing these questions – from my own experience I think the picture is mixed.   There are some genuine efforts to communicate with residents about project outcomes and whether the initial objectives were achieved.      There are also some pretty poorly executed attempts at corporate back-slapping based on fairly limited progress.

The reason for this is measuring outcomes means we need to state clearly at the outset of the project “how will people be better off”.    Mark Friedman discusses the process of “turning the curve”; describing the outcome to be improved and what is likely to happen if nothing changes.   Actions are then measured against this projected baseline.  By taking effective and timely actions, improvements are made against the baseline.

The trick is doing the preparation beforehand to agree the metrics by which the project will be judged, including milestones to check progress along the way.    And regularly communicate with residents must be central to the project.

If people don’t feel that things have changed then the project can’t be claimed to be a success.

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Change is tricky

OK so you’ve got this great idea – it hits the “green” button, it will reduce costs to your organisation and provide greater insight into how the organisation works. Simples, all you need to do is tell your boss what you plan to do and then wait for the plaudits from the Chief Executive.

How wrong can you be?

Thing is that what you may see as a change for the better, will have unintended consequences across the organisation.   Those vested interests will do their best to frustrate the changes, hence the importance of taking the time to build a strong coalition of people who see change in their interest.  Also having a clear vision and sticking with it.    And finally keeping the common touch, while inspiring all to greater things.   Easy really!