My interest in enterprise, and more specifically social enterprise, stems from my time at School (King Edward VI Five Ways), where I was part of the SLAM! project, known at my school as the ‘Leadership’ programme. My role in the project varied over the years, I started as a pupil of the training and mentoring scheme, after around 2 years of training, I worked as a planner, teacher and project leader then finally as the Head of the project in my final year. During my time in the SLAM! project, I witnessed its growth, from a relatively small scale, training focused programme, to a fully-fledged social enterprise bringing in around £40,000 a year.
When it came for my turn to work as Head, I saw much potential in the project. However, it was my own ambitions coupled with fears that the programme would plateau during my time in charge, which motivated me to want to expand existing projects and add new dimensions – essentially, I wanted to make my year in charge as successful as possible and leave a lasting mark on the programme. I think that this ambition when beginning a new project is shared by many, however if I can pass on some advice to new leaders and entrepreneurs: Remember not to over-stretch yourself, setting sensational goals and targets, before laying sound foundations first.
Therefore, after some advice, rather than focusing on adding new ideas at the beginning of our year, my team and I first consolidated what we already had. We developed and restructured our training programme, writing a formal syllabus and targets for each session. Secondly, we set about collating all plans or documents from previous years, we needed to understand what had been done so as not to be repetitive, but to also gain inspiration for the future. Finally, we introduced an evaluation procedure for both inside the training programme and in our social enterprise. We understood that to achieve the ‘exciting’, we had to first know our organisation inside out, so spent the first half of the year ensuring that all areas of the project were the most effective they could be. After this and ensuring our current project was so familiar it was almost autonomous, we were able to expand and improve with ease.
Successful growth can only sprout from a strong base, and the stronger the base, the more prosperous the growth. During our year, we introduced two new ‘half-term’ sport programmes, giving our pupils a chance to work with external sports professionals, we visited the Netherlands for the first time in the projects history, speaking about the effectiveness and scalability of SLAM! We received visitors from across Europe and saw the highest turnouts in our Saturday and Summer School programmes, alongside the most applicants and members for our mentoring and training scheme. None of this could have been achieved, or certainly not to anywhere near the same extent, if we had not first looked inwardly.
Although many often talk about the volatility of the world of business, I feel that knowing your work inside-out, building solid foundations and setting realistic targets can vastly reduce the risk and increase the chance of achieving your goals and leave a lasting mark.