My first year of University.

My first year of university has flown by so quickly. So quickly that I still feel like a new student, It hasn’t felt like a year, however a lot has happened since I started in September until now.

To give some context, the course I am on is BA Entrepreneurship, and the goal is learning by Doing approach. The way we learn is described in an earlier post (Click this link) and our aim is to build a team company comprising as the name suggests, as a team of now 18 people.

We started in September, rather more fresh looking than now, confident and possibly looking back, a little arrogant.

We started with the orientation which was a week introducing us into the Entrepreneurship course, and we completed a series of business challenges. The first was organising an event we didn’t know what was about and who would be arriving. The being given a day to sort it!

We however did it and did it well, and had a lot of fun while doing so too!

Our second challenge was at Mass Challenge. We were given three real start ups, who posed problems to us and we were given 24 hours to solve them. My group was given an App called ReRoo, a train line ticketing app that gets you cheaper tickets using the ticket splitting system. We were given the task of telling them how they should launch their app. We did win that one and lets just say I couldn’t see how we couldn’t win, clearly the best team but I am slightly biased!

The week ended there, and we had a quiet conclusion to reflect on the happenings of the week, how after only a week into the University, we had conducted two business challenges and networked with many business contacts and startups. This was a huge reality check about what we were getting ourselves into.

The weeks that lay ahead were ok, we were getting along rather well and everyone was happy, the group dynamic was good and we all were fine. Then came a week I can’t remember exactly when but everything changed.

We hit the chaos.

The chaos being, it was November, we had no business yet, no group structure, no formation, and no direction. Many of us were wondering what was the point of doing this degree?

This is when we Skype called Team Academy Finland,  who were more advanced position to us at that point. They established they had a leader, team roles, small group cash generating projects and a vision, a goal, a direction. This was everything we were lacking. The result of this call was me being elected the first team Leader of our company, which was now named Team Future.

I set out that we needed a direction, a structure and money! Without these we have no foundation for a bigger idea in the future that we can develop. I also wanted to streamline our communication as a team, WhatsApp groups were not working, so I set up a Slack for the team and this worked well. I also wrote an agenda and set up a Thursday team company meeting for us to hunker down and talk/ work on team future.

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This worked well, In January my group made their first revenue and eventually profit by selling Valentines day hampers, and the same group continued to make more money with other projects like smoothies and juices. Then at the end of February I stood down and made way for two new leaders, who were elected to create a new longer term strategy for team Future, that I didn’t agree with at first I have to admit however looking at it from our position now I can see their swift action was needed.

With the new leaders in motion, we have online social media presence, a website that I built, and we decided to create a social media management company, called Collective Media.

This helped us greatly as we started to develop a brand, build awareness, and pitch to potential clients.

We then had a change up near the end of the year that I can say was rather unexpected. We shifted, the social media company was now to be a project, not the overall business. The business Team Future is now and will always be an Incubator, so our businesses can use it to share as a community and thrive together.

The social media business also got its first potential client. We pitched the business and what we could offer and did it to a great reception, and we are now negotiating terms and what else we can offer to try and solidify the deal.

So now we look to now.

Team Future is bright. We have lost some people and there have been times where the end just didn’t seem clear. However now we have a goal, a vision, a direction, an end in sight. We are now building our own businesses, like myself with Serenity Co, so that hopefully, when we graduate, we can take them on full time and reach and aspire to our dreams of running our own businesses.

Its been a crazy first year, with many firsts academically and socially. As a person, I feel more confident, more open, more passionate about my cause, and overall a stronger person after being leader. People have annoyed me and will probably continue, I have probably also annoyed others, but thats life. Things will never be easy, when they feel easy, we are not working hard enough!

However, looking forward, I cannot wait for what the next year has in store, and Im fully ready to go into second year with my head held high, and ready to take my business to the next level.

That was my first year of University!

Brandon x

The June Election is Genius

The Election called for June is genius. I am an advocate for Theresa May, I think so far she has done a very good job, she has been given a huge role. Tasks so big no other PM has faced for decades. None of them her doing either, which we sometimes forget. Then she faces a terror attack and the Scotland problem on top of Brexit, which in itself is a career defining negotiation.

So calling an election right in the middle of all this mess would be stupid right?

No.

May wasn’t elected, and thats her biggest problem going forward with Brexit negotiations, and this isn’t from domestic hostility. When negotiating thats a big trump card to put to the table to deny May her plans as she was never voted in, she was chosen by a select few to fill the role left vacant from David Cameron’s departure. She also knows she will win the election, as Labour, and myself being a member of, is failing. I am ashamed to be part of this party and have been thinking of jumping ship while I can for a while. Jeremy Corbyn can’t run a party let alone the country and deliver a successful Brexit that works for all. So for the first time in my life I shall be voting conservative, not for the values of the tories, but for Theresa Mays solid leadership.

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So by calling an election, she has the opportunity to strengthen her hand in Europe as a democratically elected leader of the people, and this gives her credibility and more stature to deliver a better and more rewarding deal in Europe while the United kingdom prepares to withdraw from the EU.

Even outside Brexit, this gives her more stature to go against Sturgeons calls for Scottish Independence, which I also completely disagree with at this present moment in time, its very stupid to conduct independence while dealing with Brexit.

So this is my opinion, you may have different ones or agree with mine! Comment below and lets have a debate! Love a good old debate!

Brandon 

The wind can be strong, but don’t fall.

If you have read my last posts, life at the moment has been rather stressful for many different reasons, however the biggest reason of them all to come to head this week was moving out. Being a student in London, I want to move out, be independent and stand on my own two feet. I stayed home for my first year of Uni however for the second year I made it my aim to move out. The original plan drawn out was for five of us to move out and occupy a five bed flat, and split the rent, however again being in London, made this rather difficult. Students that were there wanted to stay, and then the ones available were very expensive due to high demand, so we were effectively priced out.

This made me stress a lot. I didn’t want to do the move and then regret it because I couldn’t afford it financially, as I don’t want money problems effecting my work that I have to do for my degree. We faced some very difficult questions at this point.

However we found this great place in wembley that is currently being built as we speak and will be ready when we move in September. Its student accommodation but has free access to a 24/7 gym, cinema, and great social space. Its modern, new and bright and open, it was perfect! (We viewed the building in shore ditch that will be recreated in Wembley). We also get access to this workspace called WeWork that houses offices for our own project, and again more social space that works for the entrepreneurs we aspire to be.

Now This is when the mega stress from this week comes in. The spearhead of the house hunting had their heart set on a room that was priced at £195pw, and then also put down their deposit, leaving the rest of us flummoxed. I could do and was ok with that price, however when i found the same building does rooms that take two students and the rooms £160pw, my heart was set on that, saving more money and being able to be in the same building and get the same benefits.

However disagreement continued between the ‘head’ and the rest of us, who wanted to branch off and go down the cheaper route. Two of the group did move and left the two of us.

To top this fine story off, I was then selling the benefits and the reasons why we should go to a two bed flat and save money. However he then slapped me in the face with a rather pathetic excuse for not moving and remained set on the £195pw room, leaving me left stranded, as rooms where going fast.

Luckily I secured one of the rooms I wanted, slightly higher at £180 but only because it was a more ‘deluxe’ so to speak room.

The morale I got out of this story is that people can paint the picture they are fully behind you. They support you every step of the way and they do indeed take your opinions into account. Be warned. Not everyone is like this however so let me be clear, Im not in anyway saying be careful of everything every single one us say, but be cautious. As his true colours showed in the end, and almost ruined my ambition to move for this year within an evening.

However I am glad it happened now and not if we did end up living with each other, because now I have got the room I wanted, the place I wanted and I am still around the others who were also subject to this sudden darkness that overshadowed our drive to be independent. Don’t fall down and back down to disbelievers and individuals who seek to make you bend to their will, their agenda, your an individual too! Make sure you get your say in things, your voice heard, don’t be unwillingly pushed into something that you don’t believe in.

So enough about that, Now Im happy, as Im typing this post, the sun in shining to a very bustling, yet mellow day in London!

So ciao!

Until the next post! (Which will be soon!)

Brandon x 

Reflecting on my time as Team Leader.

(Written to my team, or Post Motorola)

In terms of expertise and skills, I learnt the importance of gaining peoples attitudes and views, and incorporating these views into my leadership. At first my first appointment as leader was to construct a weekly agenda. My aim was to make this fully inform the group on what was going to happen in the week ahead, so we could ideally have consistency and prior knowledge of what to think about in the meeting. This didn’t work so well, at this stage of the business, as I have a lot of feedback saying that most people didn’t read it. This shocked me, and I had wished that more people said this earlier so then I could have altered or changed it, or possibly scrapped it all together but this was one thing I had learnt from being leader. Another aspect of being leader, taught me the importance of decisiveness. At the time of my election, we were at ‘rock bottom’ and were not moving anywhere, so really I was elected at a point of crisis. This meant that things had to be done quickly and effectively to help build the motivation of the group. I feel personally I did act quickly, but maybe not on the right things. I enacted and constructed the agenda straight away, and within the first week appointed leaders for the departments that we had created before my election. I wanted these leaders to act as a ‘board of directors’ and pathway for communication to the group, as having everyone contact me would be too much. However as we didn’t have a running business at this time, the departments were non existent, and therefore the department leaders were really rendered useless, so I decided to scrap them, and continue on the path that we have now.

On a personal level, being leader showed me some very interesting things about myself that I had not known before becoming leader. I realised that I was very emotionally driven, maybe not so good trait when trying to be decisive at times of crisis, so this may not have helped things for the team company, and did make me in the words of Jonathan, ‘too liberal’, however I feel this also had its benefits. This meant that conflict was avoided at times when conflict was not needed, however I personally feel conflict earlier in the process may have progressed the team further than we have gone now, but this is a view helped by hindsight so something we cannot help, its just a learning outcome. I also discovered what leader I am. After a long hard think, I feel that I am not a an effective leader, when trying to ‘germinate’ the company, and actually create it, or at least need improvement. I can’t answer for everyone, but I found this incredibly stressful, and brought me mentally down at many times, especially when we returned from the Christmas break. I found myself hitting a mental block, that i had hit before in the past and that had worried me, but again it made me think, Im putting my all into being leader, but maybe Im doing too much and need to delegate. This is something else I think I should have done earlier, but more effectively than the department leaders, for example tracking absenteeism. The discipline of the group. My biggest flaw, I know, is my nice nature. At times when stern action is needed, its not my strong point. I feel I have improved slightly just through the process of stress and being under pressure, but still have a long way to go int terms of being the best I can be.

On a personal level, being leader was a great achievement and honour for me. To have people elect me in was a bonus, and having the support from the team was a great boost to my esteem and my confidence as a person. I do not feel I did the right thing all the time, and at times, I feel I could have been better, but this is what this experience is about, learning and finding out how to improve your leadership and entrepreneurial skills. I learnt a great deal from my time as leader, skills and techniques that I will take with me into my future career prospects going forward.

Lastly to conclude, I feel in myself honestly I think I could have done better. I have learnt a lot from being team leader both professionally and personally however I feel with in myself I could have done better, but that in itself is a learning curve. As a whole, I hope and feel that my tenure has stabilised the company in terms of the ‘crisis’ we were in, and even though we may have made some small progress, which is much better than no progress, I want to believe and hope that I have left the next leaders, a better performing team than when we first started. I did throughly enjoy it and wish the next leaders the very best.

The Importance of delegation

This is only a short article but an important one.

Delegation is a powerful and important skill to posses if you lead a team.

I have learnt this very recently. A leader can always very easily take up too much responsibly and drown under the workload of the team. I am guilty of this a lot!

You hear the word lead so then you take up everything under your wings and try and do this yourself. Trust me I’ve done this and this doesn’t work.

It can really weigh you down and cause more harm than good, so when you are leading a team situation, remember the team members around you. They have many different strengths that you can take note of and use. If you find accounting difficult, someone may be good at maths so would do it better. Someone may be better at writing emails, someone may have a good skill at writing and sending emails.

You are a leader, but I have now fount that with leadership, comes great physical strain. So never forget, you have a great time around you that can take some of that strain, and make the team run more efficiently.

Delegation is key.

My Leadership Lessons, and woes.

I am only 18, so I can’t really speak from immense experience, but I feel that I would have learnt a lot more if someone like me, of similar age, had written something similar to this.

My personal ambition is to start my own business, preferably in the Technology industry. I love technology and the power you can harness from very little. Its something that has always intrigued me.

I have got half way there, as In starting a business. My business, Serenity Co, has been running for three years from when this post is written, and has been doing well. I am also a developer, self taught, and code various apps for various platforms mainly focussing on Windows. I love doing it but at the moment it feels more like a hobby than my business. University and study doesn’t help that as that has to take priority, but then thats when my degree comes in.

I do a great new course called Entrepreneurship, its not a new subject, but a new course in London, in the University of Westminster, that has been running in various areas around Europe. For the first year we set up a company, the second year grow it, and then third year sustain it, as a team. So all in all the course to its core is setting up a real business as a team.

I’m first year, so still new to the whole thing, but the things I’ve been able to achieve regarding my business have been huge!

Now I am deviating, you may ask what does this have to do with leadership advice. Well, here goes.

I was elected the first team leader of the team company, with my ‘Term in Office’ standing for the second semester and ending in April. I felt elated because I am a natural leader when it comes to business, its the place I most fit in, and I had my eye on the job since we started. It wasn’t an easy start at first, and thats the reason why I am now writing this article. This was the first proper ‘team’ company I had run, my personal business was always me until now. I now want to share some of things we do and some advice that I have learnt through doing!

The Circle, the best practice of dialogue 

One thing we know well on our course is the circle. Our room has no tables, only a circle of chairs. This is how we do dialogue. For two hours, we talk in the circle, no one has more authority or higher level than anyone else. This is my favourite way to engage dialogue in a team. Its natural, not artificial barriers such as tables and boards, no PowerPoints, just 21 people (The amount of us in the course) with great minds exchanging great ideas.

The first thing we do is something called Check In. This is where we go around the circle and share something we have learnt between last meeting and now. We then do Check Out at the end and this is when we share what we want to learn for the next meeting. Its great because it makes you think, “What have I learnt today?”. It makes the time between meetings useful, the meetings sort of act as a reflection rather than time where work is completed, the work is completed outside the meetings and the meetings are pure reflection.

Too many chefs spoil the broth

This was definitely a problem with our team in the starting phase. For the first two months, we had no leader, nor direction, or anything. We were to put it bluntly a confused mess going no where! I personally wanted a leader straight away, because of previous experience in these situations.

LESSON ONE: LEADERS ARE KEY TO A TEAM

When people say that a leader isn’t needed, they are lying. This is one thing we learnt the hard way, at the cost of a lot of time and effort. We thought that twenty one of us would agree and we could go by votes. This didn’t work, we got nowhere. If you are reading this and disagree, then contact me I would love to have a well informed debate, and if you didn’t have a leader and succeeded please tell us the secret!

In my opinion I feel people were fearful of dictator style leaders, which I can understand, and being dictated orders too. Leaders are not for that purpose, that is a dictator. Dictators and leaders are two completely different people. Leaders provide direction, and spark conversation, the team members do the rest. Leaders lead, not dictate, once they dictate things with no harmony with the group then they are no longer leaders.

Leaders lead, not dictate, once they dictate things with no harmony with the group then they are no longer leaders.

A leader provides streamline communication. A centre focal point in the group that can relay things to the appropriate people and a person to relay any concern or questions. They can also decide the final decision which has been placed by the group, this speeds up decisions and speeds up business process. Too many people taking control and having a free for all spoils the broth and the business or project or process just doesn’t work. It really doesn’t.

So when you get given a team task, elect a leader.

LESSON TWO: COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNCIATION

Communication was one of my biggest pledges when I got the job of leader. It’s something that just has to be right for things to work. I never was good at communication. I have always been a quiet individual and never liked to take ‘the spot light’ if you would put it like that. Since starting college, and more so in University, I have really come out my shell for this reason, because groups will bicker, groups will argue, groups will get demotivated if things are slow, which they will be when you are first trying to start a business.

I had to use my voice. If I didn’t I would appear weak and not up to the job. We don’t have to be the biggest voice in the room. Most often the biggest voice in the room actually has the least amount to offer in terms of useful ideas, so that’s why they use their voice, not always but in most cases. However, the quiet people in the group usually are the most vibrant with great ideas to go forward but don’t have the ability to share them in a group situation. I wanted to be in the middle, not the loudest but not the quietest. I wanted to not offer the ideas of where we were going, but use my voice to kick start these conversations. I put together a loose agenda each week so people in the team have an idea of what we will be talking about in the upcoming meeting.

This is what really helped me, and also I hope helped the team too.

Last but not least, is be motivated 100% of the time. I like to share quotes from a range of people, mostly Steve Jobs, because he was an idol to me and one of the main reasons I wanted to go into the world of business. His life lessons and teachings have become teachings I like to offer the group, through these motivational quotes. They may not be big or huge ways to motivate, they may not be a great charitable run, or money, or a huge buffet at the end of a gruelling day of exercise. However they are the most effective. They play on your mind, get into your head, and soon enough become your bread and butter. ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’, a simple mantra, but effective.

 

I hope someone reads this and takes something from it, Im not saying I’m the best leader in the world, far from it! Im only young and have a lot to learn in the future, but this is what I have learnt and if anyone was like me at 16, and wanting to lead their own business, a post like this would have really helped!

 

B 🙂