For one weekend only, the graduating Fellows of 2016 left their ordinary comfortable lives of new employment or post-graduate studies to occupy a seat at the executive table of New Horizons Financial Services. This pilot Accelerated Entrepreneurship Assessment Lab spearheaded by the Association aimed at developing the personal and entrepreneurial mind-sets of the latest cohort of fellows.
One would think that having being on the Foundation from year engage to experience, the Fellows would be well equipped to develop and implement a turnaround strategy in a company over a weekend. The reality of the situation was that when faced with decisions relating to cutting costs in order to achieve a higher returns, Fellows needed direction as to how to do this effectively. This highlighted the fact that no matter how well read you are about entrepreneurship, you still need guidance through the practical elements in order to succeed.
Over the course of the weekend, Fellows were tasked with managing a company in the financial services sector for three years. A high pressure environment was created by the volume of information that teams had to digest in a limited time period. And competition, of course. The mandate for the three years was clear: increase return on equity, customer and employee satisfaction while simultaneously decreasing costs. Teams were given a board pack outlining the operations, strategy and financials of New Horizons from which they had to develop a strategy on how to achieve the objective at hand. After each financial year, the teams’ performance was evaluated. Some teams made bold moves by firing half of their work force in the first year only to hire most of them again in the second and third year. Other teams decided to focus on staff development in order to improve client service and sustain brand loyalty while others increased capital investments in the information technology and systems integration. It was evident that all the teams knew which aspects to focus on. The difficulty came in prioritising which aspect to focus on and when.
These decisions resulted in robust discussions amongst the Fellows that challenged them to think about entrepreneurship holistically instead simply focusing on increasing return on equity. The winning team, Multiply, comprised of engineers and a scientist. Multiply won because they were confident in their strategy despite the poor financial performance they experienced in the first year and consistently applied their strategy. This reinforced the idea that entrepreneurship is about diversity of thought amongst people who are willing to work together and endure the test of time in order to achieve a common goal.
The simulation did not only give Fellows a skillset on how to make the tough business decisions but also challenged them to think about what entrepreneurship means to them individually and what it looks like. As fellows returned to their ordinary lives, the facilitators encouraged them to interrogate the initial intention driving them towards entrepreneurship and the need this intention addressed. The Accelerated Entrepreneurship lab unlocked each teams’ entrepreneurial potential. Now it’s up to the Fellows, “to harness it, hone it, tap into it, nurture it, nourish it, guide it and watch it grow.”