Jake Baker – Reflective Essay

“To be, or not to be? That is the question.” William Shakespeare.

Introduction

The start-up module has finally allowed me to answer William Shakespeare’s question, after endlessly debating it through University.  Do I or don’t I start up my own business after University? The answer is an undoubtedly yes! This module had developed both my soft and hard skills better than any other module. It has helped build strong foundations from which I can achieve my goal of setting up a health, fitness and adventure business.

During this module I have realised the harder you work on a business the luckier you get. That’s why I have worked very hard on setting up Simplex and as a consequence we returned a fantastic profit from the ICE CAP. Working hard during this module was easy, as I could see developments in both myself and the product. I was able to put theory into practice and make my learning worthwhile.

There has been four key learnings points throughout this module, that have been developed though; taking the Ice Cap to market, learning from mentors, learning from module leaders, making mistakes and by identifying my weaknesses. Learning from the above will be essential when achieving my goal of setting up my own successful business.

Creativity & Passion

Through the product creation phase I learnt that in order to develop a good product or service, you need to be passionate about the subject. I found it extremely difficult to be creative and passionate about others interests. Simplex consisted of five students all with vastly different passions. However the diversity in the group taught me that in order to be creative under pressure and with others interests, I had to talk about others ideas constructively and Look for Inspiration in their areas of interests. Allowing me to identify how I can align my passions with an idea that initially turns me off. By linking the idea of Ice Cap with my love of traveling, I could relate my interest and therefore created passion for the product.

This has improved my ability to create passion and therefore creativity in others interests. This is important when starting my own business, as I will need to develop a number of different creative solutions in a number of subject matters. It will also improve my interpersonal skills while networking and seeking business partners.

 Strengths:

  • Ability to listen to ideas and understand people’s perceptions
  • My creativity and excitement in personal interests

Weaknesses:

  • Stubbornness not to take others ideas over mine
  • My lack of ability to articulate my ideas

Meeting

Leadership & Management

I experienced a steep learning curve in leadership. At the beginning I managed the project like the rest of my modules, with a democratic Laissez fair approach. I did not realise that the rest of the group wanted to be managed. I thought by doing this I would be overbearing, as it was only a University module and not a “real business”. I was very wrong. As soon as I realised the group needed managing we started to see results.

As Managing Director I learnt how different people prefer different management styles. For example some members of the group liked to be told exactly how the job should be done, while others like to be given the objectives so they can go off and do it on their own. Two management styles appeared during Simplex’s stat up, paternalistic and democratic. I learnt how to adapt my management style to each individual. Although I lead a team to a profitable business with a fantastic product, my biggest failing as a Managing Director was not taking it seriously enough. There were many periods where I should have exercised more authority over the group, to ensure we kept on track and maintained momentum.

The lesson I learnt on management that will be implemented into my future business is, leadership and management regardless of the size of the project should always be taken seriously. Also that different people needed to be managed differently in order to get the best out of them.

Strengths

  • My natural leadership ability and feeling confident doing so
  • Emotional awareness allowing me to see how others want to me managed
  • Once a decision is made, I have tenacity and make it happen and accept responsibility if it does not go to plan.

Weaknesses

  • Taking leadership seriously
  • Leading 24/7 and accepting that it is not a 9 to 5 job

Group 1

Presenting

Yet again presenting in this module has been a fantastic learning opportunity. The key learning points are;

  • Present a clear message that informs the listener of the business idea.
  • The importance of appearing and sounding confident while presenting.
  • Confidence and clarity of message is key to listener’s engagement and understanding. By looking confident it helps listeners listen to your message rather than looking at how nervous you are.
  • I learnt how important it is to practice the presentation before hand, this improves delivery and allows the message to be packaged in an engaging manner. Helping to sell both yourself and the product.

The skills I have improved while presenting will allow me to better sell my business ideas after University. By combining innovative Ideas with a well delivered pitch, I will be able convince the listeners and gain buy in and support. I now understand the significance of the how the first 30 seconds of a business or sales pitch, are the most important. These skills will help me when negotiation deals with suppliers, gaining finance, selling the idea and making people believe in my future business.

Strengths:

  • Confidence
  • Ability to catch the audience attention
  • Improvisation

Weaknesses:

  • Articulation
  • Ability to present an idea clearly
  • PowerPoint

 Sales

The start-up module has helped identify my love for selling. I learnt that I have a natural ability to sell a product. My personable non-pushy approach helped me sell 40 Icecaps. I had to leave my inhibitions and establish a mental resilience to rejection. I learnt it could take up to ten no’s to get one yes. Without resilience to rejection I would have never made a sale because I would have been scared of being turned away or embarrassed. It is important to connect to the customer and identify how the product can improve their life. It was essential to highlight a problem that the product solves and our customer can relate too. Without this, I experienced customers walking away and making excuses not to buy the product before I had finish my sales pitch.

I will take resilience to rejection, embarrassment and the ability to overcome nerves to my future business start-up. I learnt in order to make a sale you have to be persistent and professional. I have also learnt to identify different scenarios of how my product or service can solve a customer problem. By identifying multiple scenarios I can adapt my sales pitch to different customers and make a stronger impact. The sale of the Ice Cap have taught me to employ sales people with a personable personality with few inhibitions.

Strengths:

  • Resilience
  • Personable
  • Energy

Weaknesses:

  • Nervous
  • Articulation of sales pitch

IMG_1891

Learning Curve

In addition to the four core learning points, I have learnt that failure and making mistakes is essential to progression. There have been multiple mistakes made during the life cycle of Simplex, including:

  • Accepting poor quality product samples
  • Not taking leadership seriously
  • Poor negotiations with manufactures

Making mistakes is acceptable if you learn from them. Without making mistakes you do not progress because you are not taking enough risk. This module has allowed me to take risks in a safe environment and learn from my mistakes, allowing me to develop my entrepreneurial and business skills. By making mistakes, I have enhanced my knowledge on a variety of topics which I will use during the start-up of my future business.

Thomas A Edison once said when inventing the filament light build “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If by making 10,000 mistakes means I can own and run my own business then let it be.

The skills I have learnt during this module have expanded my skillset and understanding of start-ups. The core skills of creativity & passion, leadership & management, presenting and sales have improved my chances of developing a successful health and fitness/adventure business. Early stages of a start-up require a well-rounded person that can adapt to multiple job roles. I believe this module has given me the skills to do so. As well as answering the question, should I start a business? The module has helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses, motivating me to development myself further. Ultimately this experience has pushed me to take risks and step away from my comfort zone. To make life an adventure and embrace the highs and lows that my own business will bring.

Can Cap 2

Mock 1

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Final Count Down

We surpassed our break even point and started to make a profit at Kingston Trade Fair. Only 18 units were sold at the fair due to poor weather, it was freezing cold and raining. Not the  ideal weather to sell a product which one of its main objectives is to keep a drink cold.

Nevertheless Simplex has officially made a profit! Our journey from rags to riches (Ha!) has been one hell of a ride. Lots of lessons have been learnt and news skills have been developed. Our endeavors have resulted in the following achievements:

  • 100 Units Sold
  • £283.16 Sales
  • 47.2% Profit Margin
  • Sold in 6 county’s (Spain, Pakistan, Dubai, Denmark, Norway & UK)
  • 231 Facebook Likes  

We still have a long way to go to make Aprils target of 200 units, but nothing is impossible. The biggest lesson I have learnt so far through participating in the Young Enterprise Award is perseverance and determination is the key to achieving your goals. In the months I worked my hardest the luckier I became.

It would have been easy to admit defeat when our products arrived from China and they were not 100% leak proof or when we didn’t win any awards as Kingston University product fair. But we persevered and our core objective to break even was achieved. Not only that we have made a profit, secured external shareholder capital, gained sponsorship and developed an original product that has not been sold in the UK.

I truly believe that this module has highlighted that the best way to improve and develop personal traits such as Self Belief, Passion ,Flexibility and Vision is to set up and run your own business. When life throws you lemons during your own business venture you learn how to make fantastic lemonade on your own, however when life throws you lemons in a corporate office job it takes 6 weeks for you to find out what someone wants you to do with the lemons.

Why You Should Own Your Own Business 

There are literally one thousand benefits of owning your own business. The link below shows you a handful:

20 Reasons to Start Your Own Business

This module has taught me that setting up your own business is difficult, regardless of the scale or size of the operations. What makes the business is the individuals within it; there are certain traits that people need in order to develop a successful business.

A list of theses traits can be found below:

The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

For me the biggest benefit of setting up your own business is the personal traits you develop and the personal development you can achieve. This surpasses the amount of money you can make, the sharper and better developed your entrepreneurial traits are the more money you will make.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Jedi Master.