Invent

2011 May


Choosing an entrepreneurial university

Even if you don’t what to start a business after university, you should think about leaving university with some amazing enterprise skills and experience which you can use in business, your own or someone else’s.

The development of these skills is important in building knowledge and experience which business can use, want to use and can use. Enterprise skills are employable skills which businesses want.

When selecting a university you need to think about what is and is not available in term of enterprise development, So what is best practice within the sector?

The first items to investigate are student societies. So look for an enterprise society, which is a student lead organization which allows like minded students to develop ideas, network and build business relationships while in a university environment. The second society is called, SIFE, Students In Free Enterprise which allows student with social responsibility to developer both their entrepreneurial skills while helping others.

Does the university offer an additional enterprise extra- curricular module for all students and does this create additional credits towards your degree. Employers like enterprising people and this is a great way of ensuring it enters your CV.

Then take a good look at the careers, enterprise and innovation departments will run skills development workshops which are outside the students course. These skills should include networking, ideas creation, sales, marketing, business and financial planning.

The entrepreneur in residence is the centre of the university enterprise culture, they have done it, started a business and don’t just speak about it. They have real experience which can be used as a sounding board which young students can use to explore, develop their ideas and find mentors which can help take the idea forward.

There should be a place where students can just walk-in and talk about their ideas about business and have an informal chat. Is this accessible and do any of the staff know anything about business, enterprise and development of skills.

Once the student has an idea, they are a number of options which should be made available to the student. The first point which most students needs is some funds, so the university making micro loans available can help move the idea forward. So ask what financial support is available?

Once you have an idea, an incubator can provide a space where you can get a desk, network with others and get a lot of business start-up support in the early stages. Its important to have a support network, which you can use to develop the skills and network.

The majority of universities will provide business start-up bootcamps which allow students over three days to develop their idea and plan the progress they need to build an idea into a start-up and then onto a growing business.

Not everyone will want to start a business, but the skills are very important, especially when working in small business, which accounts for 97% of UK businesses.

While at university having an internship with entrepreneur or a small business will help. Some universities offer this intern year spent developing the students’ own businesses.

To conclude, a university which allows you to gain real experience in which you can learn by doing and network with like minded people should be your choice. This will set you up for life and is worth every pound you will have to spend.


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Ideas Evaluation for Entrepreneurs

One of the best skills to have as an entrepreneur is being able to evaluate ideas. Ideas are cheap and don’t actually create any value, it’s the person that acts on an idea who starts to create value. I often meet people who want to protect their idea more than act on them. However, acting on any idea doesn’t provide a great recipe for success. You have to act on the good ones which you have the skills to make into a successful enterprise.

The first principle is to write your ideas down, keeping a chronological log of your ideas. This allows you to reflect on them, review them and refine them into something you can start to see true value. Idea’s have their time and place. So today, you may not have the time, money or ability to act on your idea, however in time things change and you may be well placed to make this idea a reality.

The ability to evaluate your ideas is split into personal skills, knowledge and aptitude on the one hand and logical, systematic evaluation on the other.

Your personal skills are constantly changing and developing, this allows you to develop as an entrepreneur and gain new valuable skills. Practical hands-on skills are one of the most value assets an entrepreneur has. The second most valuable skills are those of their team, the entrepreneurs team are core to their success and more importantly possible failure.

Knowledge for an entrepreneur is normally based around an industry sector and this asset is the foundation to building successful businesses. Without it you have a very loose idea of what is going on around you, you have no ability to influence or act on daily news stories or gossip. All successful entrepreneurs spend a great amount of time developing this knowledge to a point whereby they can plan for guaranteed success within their sector.

Many entrepreneurs stay within an industry. Many only look at businesses with a certain business model. Many take businesses they can run within a certain region. Everyone have a certain aptitude for business and only these business ideas will start to spark within the entrepreneur.

At this stage in an idea evaluation you have a series of soft skills, hard knowledge and a gut feeling. These three determine if the entrepreneur can add, see and benefit from the value of the idea.

The next is putting some form of logical plan around it which can executed to deliver on some form of business plan. The ability to look at an idea and develop a quick business plan and gut feeling on the returns allows the entrepreneur to see the merits of the idea. Who is the customer, how much are they willing to pay, what are the costs, liabilities and issues in delivery. How many staff, where and what type of people. What type of management team would be required. How much investment, money, time and skills will be required from me?


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Developing Enterprise Skills at University

University allows a student to start one or more of three entrepreneurial paths; Intrapreneur, LifeStyle Entrepreneur and High Growth Entrepreneur.
The vast majority of you will follow the intrapreneur route, a path leading to a job and career within a chosen subject. While in this career you may become a manager and take on an entrepreneurial role within your organisation. If this is you, your time at university should prepare the student for this. You will need to develop your people and team working skills, general business and industry knowledge while taking your course.
For those with who require further study, a MBA provides the ideal opportunity to learn and develop management and business thinking.
Some of you will develop a life-style business built around your course subject or hobby which has developed through university. These people develop into the role of an entrepreneur, building friendships and confidence with time. They are not looking for fast growth, but the enjoyment of being master of their destiny or being emerged in their chosen business. The important skills to learn for this role are networking, time management and self esteem.
Some of you will have a high growth or high technology idea which can be developed through incubation, Science Park and this is the business which universities and business support agencies like, understand and what to work with. The important skills to learn for this role are financial management, managing people and powerful presenting.
The humble student society provides the opportunity for most students to run an enterprise which is focused on a particular sport or activity. These are great places to learn by doing and develop an understanding of how to behave in a business like environment. They have all the aspect of a small business, the focus, the polities, bureaucracy and of course customers who require service.
All employers want their prospective employees to have some work experience. This can be found at local businesses, student union or volunteering. The development of your professional business approach is something you should master before you start your career and should be in place when requesting interviews. Developing it after is too late.
Enterprise Activities and competitions is one way of gaining experience and being able to add it to your cv. Enter the business plan, Flux, Apprentice and Business Idol competitions which provide you with the opportunities to develop entrepreneurially.
Every student should demand the ability to learn in an environment which is safe, secure and provides the ability to reflect on the learning. This learning enables us to move forward with our understand and hopefully building on entrepreneurial success.
Finally my message is to learn by doing by putting yourself in situations whereby you have the opportunity to develop skills and have a few failures which will not be counted against you.

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