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Don’t Kill the Golden Goose

Entrepreneurial Spark is a business growth accelerator based in the UK. It is only 3 years old – in essence a startup!!

I am privileged to lead this little startup, which starts, grows and scales early stage ventures in all sectors. Like all startups, Entrepreneurial Spark has a culture that I have created on my own to begin with, then fostered within my team, those who back us and indeed the early stage entrepreneurs we serve.

In today’s world of brand essence, brand this and brand that, people seek words that describe or articulate a brand.  Adjectives that are emotionally based so as to kindle feeling in people and dare I say it, alignment.  Yesterday, as an exercise, I asked 10 people [startup founders] what they thought described the Entrepreneurial Spark brand.  I heard:

energy; spark; passion; edgy; pioneering; global; non-stop; disruptive

If I’m honest, that is what I would have expected to hear as we are living and breathing a fast entrepreneurial journey just now involving a quadrupling of staff across 11 sites in the UK.  We do things differently, don’t mess about, only have meaningful conversations and yes what we are doing is disruptive. In short, we have a chip on our shoulder and an itch to scratch. Entrepreneurs will know exactly what I mean… :)

This culture that is created is indeed edgy and as I believe wholeheartedly, while it’s been proved by the likes of Jobs, Gates, Branson and Buffet, that sticking to who you are is the best way to grow – with honest authenticity.  And that means at times… with fire in the belly.  Welcome to the world of the entrepreneur!!  This is what your backers and investors buy into and indeed bought into – who you are, the culture you create  – the Golden Goose

It’s often easy to criticise those who are in the throes of creating something special.   There is a great quote from Steve Jobs on how people buy into something, then recoil as it scares them as they partner or hire smart people :

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

As our enablement teams work with over 100 startups, some with basic ideas, some bringing in Series A million pound rounds, we do not tell these entrepreneurs what to do.  By the very nature of the beast, they do not like being told what to do :)  Our job is not to run these companies.  They are smart people and after a while they figure it out.  As they grow teams they create their own culture – their own Golden Goose – that will take them forward.

Entrepreneurial Spark is a smart team backed now by RBS and KPMG and 5 great Scottish Local Authority partners.  Big beasts with their own cultures and expertise.  It is just great to have them on board.

But, as a startup, at what point do we kill the Golden Goose?  Never!!

Working with great people in these organisations, the ethos is very much that they fuel and power Entrepreneurial Spark – not stifle it with corporate junk or give it corporate ‘feedback’.

This is exactly what has taken us to where we are today. And this is how all those investing and backing startups should, I respectfully argue, power them.

If you kill off the Golden Goose… you’ve wasted your money and time.

So, a huge thanks to Glasgow City Council, all three Ayrshire Councils, Edinburgh City Council, RBS and KPMG for allowing Entrepreneurial Spark to be who it is and work for its entrepreneurs…in its own way… one egg at a time.