MADE festival – business leaders can learn from entrepreneurs

MADE festival entrepreneursLast week I spent two days at the MADE festival for entrepreneurs, which promised a lot and managed to exceed that promise.  And by a large margin.

You could tell that even the leading politicians who spoke, Vince Cable and Michael Fallon, were quite taken aback by the energy of the event.  And they go to a lot of events.   The Duke of York also gave a ringing endorsement and much encouragement as well.

So in my mission to understand what works and what is not effective, I have reflected on what happened and why so many people left the event fired up and so excited to have been there.  There were numerous tweest on the day after of people complaining of withdrawl symptoms!

This comment from Michael Hayman brings it home how good it was.

I walked out onto stage to open the festival, and I have never felt such an overwhelming sense of positive energy and palpable hope. It made me think that entrepreneurs are a tribe. It’s about mindset,

First the promise from MADE was big

What can you do in 48 hours? Come to MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival – a two-day masterclass in building a Great British business. From panel discussions and exhibitions to fringe events and quick-fire speaker slots, MADE is the country’s biggest and most inspiring festival of entrepreneurship.

“If you’re not at MADE, you’re never going to be MADE. You need to be there.” Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones CBE

Described as “the Davos for entrepreneurs”, the festival brings together 3,000 guests with 35 high-profile speakers in venues across the city of Sheffield.

Be inspired by Britain’s top entrepreneurs. Network with your peers. Discover how to turn your vision into a world beater. Share insider tips on cracking global markets. Learn how to super-charge growth.

This video conjures up the mood and the pace.  The music was used as a signature throughout the event and had a powerful effect.

Pretty bold stuff  Why did it work so well?

There a number of features of the format that helped a lot and gave it stand out from other events.

  1. It was a great idea. Putting so many entrepreneurs, business owners and business leaders in a room was always going to create a buzz. But when you have so much positive energy and so much practical advice, it is an infectious cocktail. There were 2500 people on day 1 looking at business growth and 500 on day 2 examining export opportunities
  2. There was a lot of real experience shared. There must have been over 50 people who spoke on the stage over two days. That is a lot of wisdom and avoided the pitfall of just listening to a few experts.
  3. There were professional facilitators who kept the energy up. The professional hosts of Ross Westgate and Oli Barrett made a difference. Michael Hayman the programme’s founder was pretty good and came across as genuine and enthusiastic
  4. It was fast paced. Timings were rigidly adhered to. No-one was allowed to speak for more than 10 minutes and many sessions involved a panel of 5 people.
  5. The use of music between speakers.  This again gave the event pace and flow.  It was very thoughtfully dine

What did I learn?

It is hard for me to distinguish between things I learned that were new to me and things I knew before, but need to be reminded of and encouraged to do. But Hey Ho, the difference between these two does not matter. So here are a few of the things I took away.

  1. Find out more about the customer’s problem that your business is solving. Get feedback on how well you are solving it. Use these insights to …
  2. Stick with what you believe and stick to your original idea, do not be deflected by the “that won’t work” opinion that some people feel that they need to share with you.
  3. Success comes from taking action, determination and hard work. Successful entrepreneurs find this easy to do and easy to understand. To become successful these basic principles must be applied.
  4. Collaboration between businesses and entrepreneurs will become increasingly common
  5. The phrase “I’m from the government I’m here to help” might not be as frighteningly chilling as I thought. I met Sarah Adams from the SEIS scheme at the Treasury and Nick Baird of UKTI and gained an impression they were doing really good stuff.
  6. Exporting is easier than you think in an internet connected world. With nearly all the growth in the world economy coming from emerging markets (e.g. BRIC) then we should be looking for opportunities there. The recent boost to the “British” brand from the Olympics will only help us.
  7. There are no fixed rules about where you should go to get funding for your business. Apart from having a great product or service that solves a problem better than anyone else has done before you. If you have that you will be succeeding to some degree and will be able to attract funbding to develop new product or expand distribution.
  8. Funding can come from yourself, friends and family, crowd-fund, crowd-loan, crowd-invest, business angels, or AIM. AIM is not as scary or as inaccessible as you might think

Some thoughts I noted on setting up great events

  • Have a high energy facilitator
  • Change the pace through the day
  • Keep everything short (10 minutes per person).
  • Use panels to get more people up on the stage
  • Encourage the “Twitter buzz” no Chatham house rules
  • Be broad in your invites. Delegates at MADE were from students to £mm’s business leaders

How is this relevant to Effective Growth Leadership in established businesses?

Now I mainly work with business leaders in established businesses to reignite sales growth in their products and services.  I help them become more Effective Growth Leaders to drive higher sales.  Is this stuff relevant?  Well I think it is incredibly relevant

It is easy to think that what Entrepreneurs do is somehow different from what Effective Growth Leaders in established businesses do to be successful. But all of these lessons are valuable for established businesses who are looking for growth. It is true that the skills needed to take an established business to the next level are not the same as those deployed by entrepreneurs in start-up mode. Mobilising an established business organisation imposes particular requirements. But the things that need to be done are the same. They just get called different thinks in the world of corporate speak.

Who did I meet that inspired me (there were a lot)

There were many I had the good fortune to talk with. Here are some I met personally and I would like to take this opportunity to thank for stimulating conversations.  (alphabetical order).  Links are to their twitter feed.

  • Andrew Haigh and The Coutts Bank team – I learned that Coutts is interested in providing banking for entrepreneurs not just rich people
  • Andrew Rawlinson – Coutts Bank – Entrepreneurs group
  • Annette Kramer – Business performance coach
  • Dale Murray – Entrepreneur and angel investor
  • Dan Kirby – Colab a new venture to facilitate collaboration between businesses and expert help
  • Edward Wray – Founder of Betfair
  • Gem Misa – Founder of Loverighteous new food company
  • Ilona Alcock – software business development expert – developing software
  • Mark Fahy – AIM Head of UK Small and Mid Cap markets – providing funding
  • Michael Edwards – Olympic Swimmer and now affiliate marketer
  • Michael Hayman, Chairman of Made and Co-founder Sevenhills
  • Nathan Bestwick – Product engineer and Founder of Yormii Kitchenware
  • Nick Baird – Head of UKTI – help businesses establish in export markets
  • Oli Barrett – People connector and high energy meeting facilitator/presenter
  • Penny Power – Founder of Digital Youth Academy – creating new apprenticeships
  • Priya Lakhani – Founder of Masala Masala – Fresh better tasting Indian foods
  • Ruth Amos – Inventor and founder of Stair Steady – helping people live at home
  • Sarah Adams – Head of Enterprise Invest Scheme – HM Treasury – encouraging investment
  • Scott James – Recruitment agency that is focused on candidates not clients

Needless to say, I will be going next year.  It was worth it for the energy boost.  And it only cost £50.  How does that compare with many corporate targeted events?