It is universal accepted by policy-makers, businesses and academics that entrepreneurship is an essential skill for the survival and advancement of both large and small businesses. Therefore, an important skill to obtain whilst at university or college. There is also strong evidence exists that educational programmes in entrepreneurship have a positive effect on developing individuals’ entrepreneurial attributes (The Impact of Entrepreneurship Education on Entrepreneurial Intention), raising awareness of career options in entrepreneurship and advancing a positive attitude towards entrepreneurship.
However, its in the extra curricular activities that the students mindset is developed, through empowerment, self actualization and the further development of the entrepreneurial mindset. This is bore out with the wikipida definition of Entrepreneurship which is the act and art of being an entrepreneur or one who undertakes innovations or introducing new things, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods.
This means that the development of the entrepreneur is through experimentation, the tried and tested process of trial and error, with reflection and fine running at each stage. Never giving up but also taking a clear judgment of the progress and opportunities. This was presented by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford’s model (based on David Kolb’s model of experiential learning http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles).
This is why student led societies are so important in the development of enterprise within our universities and colleges. If we list of attributes of an entrepreneur we can start to see why Societies are great places for the development of these skills and why employers should be looking for these students.
1. Ambition. Society leaders not only want to be successful, they need to be successful, driven by the ambition they put in 70 hour weeks. They are obsessed by their sports, the goals of the society (RAG, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rag_%28student_society%29) and also driven to ensure they will leave the society in better shape than any previous leader.
2. Persistence. Failure is not an option. However learning from your mistakes, failures and the continual persistence to drive forward to create a winning team. I see societies such as the Eco-House Initiative (http://www.ecohouseinitiative.org/ who gained RBS ESSA Accreditation) who are trying to fix major world problems whilst still a student society.
3. Creativity. Solving problems is the name of the game. Developing solutions for life’s problems creates opportunities , if its trying to run five minibuses for the team, developing a speaker series (http://manchesterentrepreneurs.org.uk/events) of successful entrepreneur on no budget or organizing twenty committee members to be in one place.
4. Tenacity. Everyone learns to the walk the same way, you try to stand, fall over, try again, fall over again and continue with this, many many times until you get it right. You know you will succeed, everyone around you walks. So just be stubborn and get on with it. Again sports teams know this, other societies learn it over a period of time.
5. Risk tolerance. Life is full of risks, we survive by learning to gauge, understand and control these to an acceptable level. However, it’s the tolerance to risk which is personal, some people like to take larger risks than others. So standing for president of a society may be too risky for some, as failure and ridicule are too much to handle. Others will see this as an opportunity to promote themselves and get to know a wider social circle which ensures the have a more powerful network. The management of the society also handles risk as any other business, and this learning within a society is invaluable when applied to business.
6. Personality. People like people who like them, so developing your personality whilst at university is, some will say the only reason, the main reason to go to university. Whilst some of the most successful entrepreneurs are geeks, the majority of successful people have a great personality, which engages others. In most societies the leaders are voted in and therefore presenting and conveying your personality is important for a successful outcome.
7. Communications. In a worlds with several social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, pin interest, Youtube..) and emails coming in from all directions, the average student is very difficult to get hold of. The importance is understanding the medium which works with your community and putting in a way your audience understands.
8. Leadership. While an entrepreneurial leader organizes and assumes the risk of his or her society, there will likely be others who follow to help make the society a success, typically a management team. Managing members and key team members is an important ingredient for a successful entrepreneur. Motivating the team to take 400 students on a skiing trip (http://theessa.com/case-study/skum-2/#.UV6aFxlAuBU) might sound easy but the research, planning, resource allocation and responsibility can not be under estimated.
9. Adaptability. The average society has around 200 members from numerous schools which run their own timetable. Change is inevitable and is the only constant in an evolving world. An entrepreneur leader will adapt to technology, market trends, financial pressures and their customers/members. Those that have tried to organize students will know that adaptability is the core skill.
10. Intuition. Understanding the trends and having an idea of what people want without doing a market survey (Steve Jobs never did one market survey) will allow our entrepreneurial leader to have a vision which others can only buy-in to and also have to follow.
This is why being part of a society is so important in developing student enterprise and also creating an entrepreneurial environment for students to learn and tune these valuable skills. Enterprise Societies can help create this space for student reflection on their extra curricular activities.