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I had acquired an entrepreneurial mind-set from home where my father runs his business. After studying civil engineering I started my professional career in a corporate company but always found myself wanting to make a change. Throughout my career I was always intrigued by business development aspects.
The EiA experience has helped me to create a bridge between my engineering and business knowledge. Helped me realise my true potential and made me appreciate my strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I discovered that engineering skills can benefit me in choosing the way towards entrepreneurship.
What have I learned about Entrepreneurship?
Today's entrepreneurial world is represented by knowledge sharing and multicultural environment. The economic growth of any nation now depends on advanced technology and entrepreneurial skills of their people. This opens a totally diverse market for engineers who can have an opportunity to access top careers by increasing their business and entrepreneurial skills through entrepreneurship education.
During this module I have learned many valuable lessons which provide an essential foundation for an entrepreneurial character. Following paragraphs are some of the key messages I learnt, which I would like to remember and embrace when I start my own company.
"The essence of entrepreneurship is about making a meaning" (Kawasaki. G., 2004). I fundamentally believe in making a meaning. If you are passionate about making a quality of life better for the people, you will be able to generate new ideas for the business and succeed.
According to Robert Price, a very useful exercise for a new firm is to develop an elevator pitch. Many entrepreneurs pay little attention to their ability to talk about what they do. Being able to sum up unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others should be an essential skill in today's world. It is an effective way to reach new buyers and clients with a convincing and winning message which has a direct impact on growing your business.
"You can come up with an idea as an entrepreneur but never go forward without checking it with your customer." (Lord Bilimoria, 2010). A unique idea does not make business a success but satisfied customers will. I will always remember this and will always try to cherish my customer's opinions.
What have I learned about myself from the EiA experience?
Coming from a civil engineering background I found myself to be the youngest and least management experienced amongst my executive MBA classmates. I felt low in confidence as i lacked management experience. I sensed fear of acceptance under the pressure of making an impression. But I was determined to chase my dream.
While generating the business ideas for the project I found that I was passionate about making world a better place to live. My ideas revolved around developing technological products which would need extensive research for it to become a reality and did not seem feasible to anyone in the team to do it within the project timeline. I was not able to communicate my ideas effectively to the team and i recognised that the team needed more details to accept my adventurous ideas.
I also realised that being an engineer good analytical and problem solving skills comes across naturally to me. I learnt that I am able to deal with uncertainty, changing environment, working under pressure in short time frames and with people from different disciplines, origins and cultural backgrounds. During this exercise it became more apparent to me that I possess good negotiation skills and I am always keen and open to learn new approaches and ideas. At the end of this experience I recognised my key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as shown in the figure below.
What have I gained from the EiA experience?
I have developed following skills through the EiA experience:
During the project work I struggled to communicate my business ideas effectively to the team. Thinking about great entrepreneurs of modern times: Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki etc. it is clear that they are powerful leaders because they have the ability to communicate their vision and inspire people. To be a great entrepreneur communication is the utmost important attribute. Therefore I started to observe the communication style of my team members. I adopted active listening method to improve my communication skills. As per Venables J., 2002, "Communication is a two-way process. Knowing how to listen is just as important as being able to communicate". As a result I was able to understand that the team needed less adventurous but more detailed explanations of new business ideas. By the end of the EiA project I learned to express my ideas more confidently with meaningful explanations.
I lack the experience of project planning and it was clear from the initial business ideas I came up during the brainstorming sessions. I realised that I had not considered the project timeline while generating my ideas. My team mates made me realise that no doubt, a good idea can change lives but when there is a time constraints everyone should focus and discard the ideas which are neither feasible nor practical and should not waste time on exploring and discussing them more.
To improve my time management skills I undertook the responsibility of developing the timeline for our project. To ensure the successful delivery of the project I identified the key tasks and key delivery dates and produced a detailed work programme for the team to follow. To make sure that all the members of the group perform their task on time I communicated with them on a regular basis to resolve any issues so that we can deliver the business plan before the deadline.
While working on the EiA project I have contributed to various activities as below:
Develop software and website design
Develop technical briefs/specs for the quotes from IT companies
Research outsourcing possibilities
Develop project timeline
Design company logo
Review and comment on other sections and compile the report
Outsourcing was one of the most interesting tasks of all. I realised the massive cost saving from outsourcing but also the difficulties involved in collaborating. And I thought I could not agree more with Peter Claydon (Co-founder of picoChip): "Outsourcing is the most challenging tasks of any business and majority of them can't get it right" and now I know exactly why. I also gained knowledge of how to write a business plan and what investors are looking for in a good business plan. Please refer to learning log in Appendix for my key learning points.
Through getting involved in various activities and communicating with others has given me the vision of the practical aspects which one must consider and focus on while starting up a new business. This whole experience has given a great boost to my self-confidence and has confirmed my hunch to become an entrepreneur.
The EiA experience has been an extremely simulating and enlightening for me. It has given me the opportunity to take time to think about my dream of becoming an entrepreneur and reflecting on my entrepreneurial skills. Although there is still a lot to learn, I now have a much better understanding about many different aspects and issues that needs to be considered for setting up my own business. This experience has given me confidence to chase my futures dream.
After all "The best way to predict the future is to create it" (Peter Drucker).