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From Startup to Stay Up - Bournemouth Uni EBC Event

From Startup to Stay Up - Bournemouth Uni EBC Event

Tonight I attended what I hope to be the first of many more local events aimed at Entrepreneurship, Technology, Business, Startups & Digital Media. This particular event, held on the 7th Floor of the Executive Business Center of Bournemouth University, fits into the category of general business advice.

Steve Taylor talks about his theory of Systematic Business Innovation, a subject that he has covered alongside well known startups & creative industry organisations like NESTA, Creative England & the British Council in helping entrepreneurs throughout the UK and in developing economies such as China and India.

The talk itself covered a lot of general issues faced by all new business owners, without focus on any specific category or industry sector. Though, Steve was explicit in defining the particular stage of company, characterised by the number of employees, where he particularly specialised.

Start Up to Stay Up - 10/12 employees

Stay Up to Grow Up - 30 / 35 employees

The Startup to Stay Up phase of a company (hence the name of the event) is where Steve concentrates his expertise and experience. It is at this stage where signals of stress on the company will culminate in the prevention of growth - something that Steve says can be overcome through a strategy for Systematic Business Innovation.

The key steps towards such a strategy, in Steve's words are;

  1. Benchmarking - a real and honest look at the business' position today.
  2. Draw your Vision - the ability to visualise your vision in a graphical format
  3. Build an Integrated Roadmap - a systematic view of the business and interdependencies e.g. see Disney example
  4. Bake Innovation Skills into the Management Team - the learning process of innovation skills 
  5. Apply Innovation Across Business Model & Engine - treat the innovation of business processes in the same way you did the original idea / product / concept
  6. Get Management Information Flowing - real, useful business data (which many companies just don't have or use) is imperative to quality, innovative decision making.
  7. Develop the Entrepreneur's Business Skills - As the business grows, the demands on the entrepreneur means that often the need to grow business management skills outpaces the actual growth.
  8. Develop a Senior Management Team - A top level strategic cluster that can effectively step out of the operational activities and apply strategy in the face of the day to day demands of the business.

Now, I know I've missed or consolidated some of the main points, but I think illustrates it well.

Braindu Chart of notes, links and additional sources.

Braindu Chart of notes, links and additional sources.

My opinion on the content of the talk was that it was a bit fluffy, in general, skirting around areas which could have been better served with real examples, definitive and specific applications of the theory instead of vague associations. Not sure if this was due to client confidentiality reasons (Steve is, I gather, a paid consultant), a dumbing down of the content for an incorrect perception of the audience or just room for improvement next time.

The Q&A was a little cringe worthy as Steve struggled to answer with clarity and conviction, and instead resorting to slightly off topic answers that didn't really address the question asker's need.

Nonetheless, done so in a light hearted and not too dissatisfying way, in that the general underlying subject of the talk provided some significant value - being able to step outside the day to day of the business, visualise and communicate a vision, create a strategy towards that vision that can galvanise a small company to work towards a cohesive, common goal (albeit a very fluid and iterative one).

My feeling is that a day's session with Steve would be very useful to get a crystallised sense of your vision or make you realise just how different the path's of you and your co-founders are on. Be warned.

My Event Score:

Venue ****

Refreshments ***

Content **

Networking **

The "Thomas the Tank Engine" ethos to creating products.

usefulengine.jpg

Many of you will now think I've finally lost the plot. Probably a fair assessment.

For those of you, like me, with a 1 - 6 year old - you'll know exactly what I'm talking about before I even start talking about it.

The lesson I have learnt, from reading the same damn books a thousand times over and over again, listening to the same set of stories again via sky plus over and over again, is one overarching rule of thumb that I think we would all do very well to remember in our pursuit of technological and entrepreneurial greatness.

"Be a Really Useful Engine"

It really is about ensuring that the thing you are creating is ultimately REALLY useful for someone. Just one person. Hopefully a lot more people, and if it's really useful for one person chances are it's going to be such for a number of others too. Then, the only question is how many?

Thomas and friends frequently find themselves spewing off onto a tangent, normally driven by the pursuit of fun, a short term, short lived thrill-seeking journey that normally ends with some form of disapproval from the one Sir Toppum Hat. It normally is followed by the wrong-doing engine putting right, by remembering that whilst it's fun to: 

  • Play tricks
  • Speed along the tracks
  • Annoy farm animals
  • etc.

It's even more important to be a Really Useful Engine.

So next time you think it's a great idea to build another geo-location checkin app, a facebook for chefs, an airBnB for dogs... ask yourself. Is it REALLY USEFUL?