By Parveen Dhanda, Future Fifty Lead, Tech City UK
Networks are powerful tools and when you become part of the right ones, it can amplify your skills and abilities massively. At Tech City UK we have several programmes aimed at helping businesses at different stages of growth. These range from the Digital Business Academy, aimed at those wanting to brush up their digital skills through online courses, through to Future Fifty, a programme which some of the UK’s best known and most successful tech companies like Zoopla and Just East have participated in.
One of the things that our Future Fifty companies say they really value from the programme is the ability to learn from their peers. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with launching a tech business, especially when it is growing fast. The cliche is that it is lonely at the top, but that is particularly true for entrepreneurs – many of whom are young and are doing this for the first time.
Entrepreneurs can find themselves hiring people, taking on new offices at home and abroad, becoming responsible for more and more people’s livelihoods. But there are also burdens that you may not want to share or worry your family over.
At Future Fifty and Upscale, our programme for smaller tech businesses that are beginning to scale, entrepreneurs really value the opportunity to compare notes and learn from each other at events, workshops and less formal meet-ups. People can be at similar stages on the growth trajectory or they may be six months further ahead, but you can always learn from other companies and people.
Our Future Fifty companies form tight networks, fast. When people are honest and open with their peers, they win their respect but they also learn a lot too. No one has time for the boastful or the bullshitters.
The networks you make when you are starting to build a business can be some of the most productive and useful you will ever have. This is your HR department, your legal department, your counselling session and your workmates all in one.
Exchanging ideas with people who are going through similar things as yourself is one of the best ways for chief executives and other senior managers to improve their own performance. It’s a great and free advice pool, which some people will rely on for years.
Conversations are always confidential so that those taking part feel comfortable trading ideas. In turn they receive honest and unbiased feedback that may be difficult to get from their board or employees.
Discussing sensitive strategic decisions with peers can also lead to unexpected collaborations and partnerships. Afterall, everyone wants to expand their business.
The willingness that we see from Future Fifty participants to apply their thoughts to helping others is inspiring and one of the reasons why programmes and accelerators are highly recommended by experienced investors and company founders.
What is also admirable is the willingness of so many people in the tech sector to give back, both in time and advice. We are now seeing an older cohort of experienced successful entrepreneurs and investors who are very generous in their help for those that are just starting out.