During the last academic year I was the President of the Southend Enterprise Society. For those who don’t know what an Enterprise Society is, they are societies designed for students to exercise there entrepreneurial abilities and learn more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. This is done in many forms; from talks and seminars from entrepreneurs and experts to business plan competitions to actually participating in the running of the society itself (keeping members informed, arranging events, helping potential student businesses and so on). As you can see, these are not your average societies! It takes more commitment than usual and leading a society gave me some small insights into what it takes to run your own venture.
‘You’re only as good as the people around you’
Whenever I heard that I used to think it was a tired cliché. It always happened at award ceremonies and the like – the winner thanks the whole team and says that he couldn’t have done it without them. I had never really been a leader before but I realised how important it is to have the right people and to get them working. One thing that makes it extra hard in an Enterprise society is that it is essentially volunteer work – nobody is getting paid so finding reliable people was very hard. However those that took leading roles never let me or the society down. In fact, there was another lesson for me to learn here. Don’t try and do everything! I realise now how hard it is for an entrepreneur to cede control but it’s essential if growth is the objective.
Know your customers
Seems like a relatively obvious insight – the customer (students in this case) are the people who the business is essentially for therefore it would make sense to know what they want and how they want it. However sometimes you can get so wrapped up in new ideas you have or making it something that you would be proud of that you forget the end user. For example, I brought down a speaker that I certainly enjoyed hearing but they may not have connected with students as much. Also the way we contacted students changed, from email to text. Having the customer in mind for most of the processes is certainly something I will carry forward with me.
It’s not what you know
Another cliché for you! I’m sure you already know how important this is but it’s interesting to see how this plays out when you’re leading a ‘business’. The contacts that we we’re able to make within the University and outside have enabled us to do some special things such as go to Germany and invite some great speakers to the society. It was purely when we got out about in the local community that we we’re able to meet politicians, teachers, entrepreneurs and so on and this enabled us to expand our membership and gain publicity for the things we we’re doing.
Never give up!
The simplest lessons are usually the best ones and this was certainly it for me. Though I am proud of what I did and the society as a whole achieved, we could have done more. Yes we had classes and exams but we didn’t finish the year like I wanted to. Certain circumstances prevented us from finishing on our big event but as I stated it is all lessons. I admire all the entrepreneurs on this website and beyond for their grit and staying power in the hard times. This is what makes the entrepreneur. I was aware of this before but like they say experience is the best teacher and it taught me some valuable lessons in the world of entrepreneurship this year.
For more information on Enterprise Societies and the work they do go to nacue.com
By Dubem Menakaya