Tuesday 8th March 2016
Following the delicious Spring Lunch on board HQS Wellington, Deputy Master Sir Paul Judge, introduced the Guild’s guest speaker for the day: Claire Cockerton, a serial entrepreneur and global leader and CEO of ENTIQ .
Claire took as her theme, on International Womens day, Promoting Gender Parity in Modern Entrepreneurship.
It was, she said, 100 years since suffragettes marched on Trafalgar Square from Londons East End, and, although great strides in gender parity had been made, there was still much to do.
In particular, Claire drew attention to statistics that showed that men are twice as likely to receive funding for their businesses, ambitious or entrepreneurial ventures. She said part of the problem is that there are not enough female investors on the other side of the table who can relate to the entrepreneurs and those business. Understand. And the media fails to portray the many female role models to show the path for aspirant entrepreneurs after all, so few of them look like Richard Branson!
Claire spoke briefly about Fin4Fem a programme she launched that evening, that is looking to empower investment-ready female-run business to source capital. It is a short course and pitch event which is planned to run regularly.
Overall, she remarked, there needed to be more equality for women in business. Unfortunately, professional women still suffer from a pay gap, a lack of diverse leadership teams, unconscious bias, and a lack of flexibility and support for mothers, many of whom need better support retaining their positions and returning to work.
Claire mused that she was asked to present formally on a topic of relevance to modern business – then outlined the following common characteristics of the modern entrepreneur:
- Entrepreneurs are not just passionate, they are ‘super-passionate’ in rallying clients and teams behind their ideas and direction forward;
- Entrepreneurs are set in their ways, and proudly wear the badges both of success and the circumstances of failure (this, she said, was a positive trait to hold on to!);
- Entrepreneurs feast on social media to talk about their business – the most powerful marketing today is free and your business messages can now be best distributed by your entire staff.
- Entrepreneurs have a portfolio approach, often with multiple businesses, and roles. This mulita-disciplinary tendency is critical to success.
- Entrepreneurs face a resource problem it is incredibly hard to hire the digital, agile, proactive intra-preneurial staff members so valuable to business today. Millennials particularly are a challenging segment, as their expectations of the working environment can be very different than that of traditional corporate hierarchical culture – there are new expectations of flexibility, autonomy, diversity in role, professional development opportunities, freedom of speech that can be challenging to manage in traditional business structures.
Claire’s favourite definition of entrepreneurialism is the relentless pursuit of opportunities regardless of the resources at hand, and she felt that rather summed up the entrepreneurial journey of many of the members and guests present. Translated to the modern day requirements, the pursuit of opportunity meant the pursuit of innovation, and with changes in technology, comes changes in approach to business models, processes and people. Entrepreneurs in the 21st century should think less about their own organisations, their own technology, and more about the ecosystems in which they operate. They should listen keenly to customers, identify and create partnerships (even, as unpalatable as it might seem, with competitors). Entrepreneurs should be less focussed on retaining a tight hold on their intellectual property, and more open to branching out and sharing information and ideas.
Modern businesses should create and develop an entrepreneurial culture in order to succeed, and creativity, Claire said, is the currency of the future. Her message was that modern businesses should give staff the channels to present new ideas (with mentorship to refine and evaluate them), and to thereby create a culture of creativity.
Claire touched on another of her favourite themes that of the triple bottom line (being from Canada’s deep country, she confessed to simply liking green things). Employees want to work for a business that has a vision beyond profit, and customers want to buy into a business with values. Businesses should create and consider other metrics by which to measure success:
- Environmental impact;
- Social impact; and
- Economic impact
Returning to her theme of women in entrepreneurship, Claire’s closing remarks were that diverse organisations make better decisions, and perform better. Entrepreneurs should not be deterred from hiring, promoting, or collaborating with members of the opposite sex (or, indeed, with people who sound or look or speak differently to themselves).
Multi-cultural multi-disciplinary people are, Claire observed, quite simply good for business.