Recap: Are opportunities spotted or created?

On Tuesday evening, we hosted the first guest speaker event of the year. Dr Richard Tunstall chaired a panel discussion on whether opportunities are spotted or created. He was joined by four entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors and businesses:
Louisa Henry, Founder of Opposite Cafe (GS10KSB graduate and Enterprise Ambassador)
Jonathan Seaton, Managing Director of Twinkl (Enterprise Ambassador)
Elliot Herrod-Taylor, Owner and Founder of Easy Student Living (Year in Enterprise student)
Rob Greenland, Empty Homes Doctor

The panel members shared their experiences from their initial business idea to its implementation and the changes the business had to go through to get where they are today. They shared advice that they themselves would have given to their younger selves.

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The first two years you set up and do well and [then] do you take the project to other cities or use your contacts in Leeds to get involved in other things? – Rob Greenland

Rob emphasised the importance of patience when it comes to business and the balance of that and setting something up. Elliot talked about relationships and partnerships and how critical these can be in your first steps as an entrepreneur. Jon talked about his ‘unwavering focus to doing the right thing for the customer‘ and how the moment you forget that is the moment things start going wrong. And last but not least, Louisa noted how delegation is key and you need to learn to delegate and take a step back to allow your business to grow faster.

The discussion then turned towards how each of the panel members approach opportunities. Louisa distinguished two types of opportunities for her business; the ones that come from within, usually from her staff, on product changes and those she seeks out to expand the business. She stated that ‘the people that have the best ideas are my staff‘. Jon highlighted the core competencies as a theory and how Twinkl applies these in order to decide whether an opportunity fits with them or not. He also noted that innovation within the organisation is encouraged, agreeing with Louisa that opportunities can also be identified from within. Elliot’s formula is to ask whether the opportunity at hand is relevant to students, his target audience, and if so, whether they’d buy the product coming out of it. Rob mentioned the 5-step process that Social Business Brokers use when it comes to identifying and approaching opportunities which stems from looking for clues.

Attendees had the opportunity to ask their own questions aimed at the panel members. One of the attendees asked whether any of them would consider quitting what they are doing at the moment and getting a job instead working for someone else. This was a very interesting question that comes up often. The views from the panel were surprisingly very similar. Rob admitted he’d consider it but that one of the benefits of being an entrepreneur is that change is in your hands and can happen quickly instead of getting caught up in bureaucracy and investors’ interests. Elliot, especially since he’s in the early stages of his career, noted he would probably end up working for someone else in the future, depending also on how successful his business turns out to be. Jon said he would want to work for someone else as long as he agreed the organisation culture and he had a real purpose in that job, emphasising how money is not as important as enjoying what you do. Louisa mentioned that she already works for another company and she enjoys having ‘the best of both worlds’.

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Thank you to Louisa, Jonathan, Elliot and Rob for sharing their insights with our students.

When you’re starting a business with other people, you need to be very specific about what you want those other people to do. – Jon Seaton