It's all about Teamwork

I've just got back from Helsinki where we have given a Business JumpStart course introducing scientists to business concepts by using their own ideas for future businesses and taking them from Ground Zero to pitching to investors in 48 hours. Intensive, for sure, but the participants were very much up to the challenge and it has been a great success for all involved.




    Team Breeze, winners of the Teamwork Challenge






      Overall Winners Team Home Med






I'm proud to say it was my idea, it was my concept and I believed all along it could be as good at it actually was. I knew these students could do it, I knew that what they could produce in that timeframe would be worthy of the esteemed panel we gathered, and I knew we would be able to create the learning experience and materials to enable them to work to their highest potential.

I've seen similar happen before, this wasn't a totally blue-skies approach, but it was something unique and we were in uncharted waters.  I had faith that it could be done.

However, I also knew that it wasn't something that I could do alone. I know my skill set, and it's not complete. To get to the level of training materials and to have the quality of mentoring that I wanted to provide I needed assistance and complementary additional skills and knowledge. I'm lucky, SSC already has that built into its structure through my colleagues Frederic and Sheila. I know that with them we can together provide top quality lectures, backed up by real insight from real experiences, and because of the familiarity and co-operation between us this will be delivered in a way that allows us to have confidence in what each other will provide and therefore the focus becomes the needs of each individual attending the course.

Given our philosophy, this new product needed to have new branding, from the outset, not a last minute effort. The name of the course will be trademarked and through the extra skills provided by Cesign graphic design  we have fresh interesting, vibrant branding for the logo, the course folders and slides.

Is that all the teamwork required then? No, not by far. The success of this event required even more teamwork than just ourselves. We had support from the University itself. Eeva Sievi, the co-ordinator of the Health Sciences Doctoral School, was our link to making this happen. She arranged the venue, she recruited the attendees, she provided the physical bits and pieces that don't easily fit in a suitcase, and she enjoyed seeing the success too.

Is that it then? No, not even then – this success also depended on getting the right panel. Not just a group of randomly chosen contacts and acquaintances in the local area, but having people who really understand the fears of a first ever business pitch situation and really understand what would be required if the participants in the future decide to do this for real with the same or other ideas.

What about then? - well, nearly.....all the ingredients at the ready, the last bit of success comes from making sure the participants get what they expect and need from the event and are in a comfortable enough mental place to be able to try new thoughts, and learn new skills, and that is partly down to enabling teamwork with them and within their groups throughout the course.

So where does my pride actually come from? In all honesty, from seeing the faces of the teams at the end as the presentations were awarded. From being in the room with happy, smiling, enthusiastic people who didn't know each other 3 days before and who had shared a positive fun experience. It comes from being allowed to be part of that overall team – the 16 students, the 5 panel, the 3 trainers and 1 Co-ordinator.


So much more than doing it alone. 


Real Passion, Real business

Real Passions make Real Businesses
Over the past few years I've often pondered about what makes businesses work, what makes them sucessful and the clear conclusion is that they need to have passion in them.
But that needs to be a balanced passion between love of the technology, the science or the product and and passion for exploiting it and achieving a good, on-going relationship with a growing and engaged customer base.
Too much fascination with the nuts and bolts doesn't allow for good and smooth commercialisation as there are too many opportunities to "perfect" this product, rather than allow it out the door to market and begin work on the next generation. Too many ideas can clutter the mind and create confusion in the market place about what the company stands for and what it is seeking to achieve. 
Too much emphasis on being the best, the biggest, the most popular might drive sales and increase revenues, but at the deteriment of respect for the customer and the technical uniqueness of the product.
But no company will survive if the CEO isn't passionate about their role, able to convey confidence in the product, in their team and genuine interest in achieving recognition for their company.

Chasm of Mistrust

Science and Sales shall never be friends in the minds of many scientists - but fundamental to a successful company is the ability to sell your service or product. There has to be revenue generation or else you are company soley financed through investment and grants and effectively a research group with a commercial label rather than an academic one.
The gap is a "chasm of mistrust" and it takes a brave researcher to leap the gap and begin to understand the process of sales and marketing from the other side and even more to be able to advocate for the inclusion of these processes early in the development of a company or commercialisation process.
This chasm exists in many ways.
It exists in Universities where students and young researchers are channelled into a tight research focus and not often exposed to the benefits of business understanding - despite the best efforts of many Knowledge Exchange colleagues seeking participation in Business Academy/Dragons Den/Young Enterpreneur Scheme programs.
It exists in companies where there is little appreciation of the need for an appropriately worded website. One which allows your company to hold its head high in comparison with your competition. I have heard several senior managers in various companies say that they don't use the website to sell with, they rely on getting face-2-face meetings and developing the relationship from there. This is doing it the hard way -  and requires you to sell the credibilty of your company and technology in spite of the main marketing communication tool being a negative influence.
However the reaction of participants when they are put "in touch with their non-technical skills" and experience the freedom to express their science in a creative manner is often life changing.
I know - I've been there.