MADE is fantastic for Sheffield and the whole of the city region because it has become the entrepreneur event for the UK and it is rooted right here, in the heart of Sheffield. There are around 3,000 entrepreneurs in town on the same day or two; there can be no better time to build up your business networks.
The programme is devised in such a way that it is appealing to everyone in business; there is something for start-ups, something for scale-ups and something for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
MADE always features an excellent line-up of speakers, but as well as this there is a very strong fringe event, with a great deal of activity taking place outside of the main conference on 22 October. I have been involved with MADE for the last five years helping to develop this fringe, putting some great events on that do not clash with the main speaker programme.
Last year, we put on a successful business growth event with Barclays, chaired and facilitated by Jamie Veitch. This year we will, once again, run a business growth event which this time will take the form of three TED talks, covering leadership, digital marketing and scaling up.
The leadership talk will be given by Toby Bassford, who is currently helping to set up the UK operation of Giant Worldwide, a transformational leadership company based in the USA. The digital marketing talk will be delivered by local entrepreneur Dan Brookman who has been in business from the age of about 17 and now runs digital marketing company Airship. We also have a great speaker – yet to be officially announced – for the talk on scaling up.
Why scaling up is so important
A bit of a buzz term at the moment, ‘scale-ups’ are effectively established businesses that have the potential to grow significantly
Sherry Coutu’s 2014 scale-up report on UK economic growth presented evidence that the majority of net employment growth comes from a relatively small number of highly productive, fast growing firms. Coutu identified scale-ups as businesses with at least 10 employees which have the ability to grow by 20 per cent year on year for three years. The real key to ensuring these businesses grow as quickly and successfully as possible is providing adequate wrap-around support.
According to Coutu scale-up leaders need four main areas of support: access to private finance, access to flexible rent arrangements, super-fast broadband and access to like-minded entrepreneurs. MADE certainly delivers the latter of these, but there is also a good chance that the main exhibition will include at least one source for the other three areas of support as well.
“It’s like Glastonbury for business”
This is what someone said about a previous MADE event; and it makes so much sense. There is a great buzz to it, people come from all over to go to it and it gets busier every year.
It is all about maximising new connections and building relationships over that week. If you come to MADE you are going to meet so many people who you wouldn’t usually get a chance to meet, many of whom are on the same journey as you. You will also meet professionals who can help you grow your business, such as IP attorneys, lawyers, accountants and support organisations.
Going back to scale-ups, these businesses need leaders with the ability and willingness to invest in their own leadership skills. Typically, these are entrepreneurs who go out and invest in their own skills then use these skills to build their management team. Knowing where to start can often be the hardest step; and MADE can prove an ideal starting point. With all kinds of business support under one roof as well as a programme of fringe activity involving useful workshops, now could be the time to begin your scaling up journey.
Avoid that ‘morning after’ feeling
We’ve all been there. Attended a business event, listened eagerly to the speakers, jotted down notes, gone away feeling inspired… then turned up to the office the next day only to be immediately greeted with tons of queries and a backlog of work to catch up on from a day or two away from your desk.
Here are my top tips to get the most out of MADE and return to your office ready and able to take action.
This starts before you leave the office. Where possible arrange for someone else to deal with straightforward queries in your absence so you don’t have a pile of simple but time-consuming jobs to attend to when you arrive back.
Look at the schedule in advance and book yourself on to as many workshops as your schedule permits. There is a big push on exporting this year so if you think there is potential to sell your products outside of this country then make sure you sign up and take advantage of the free advice.
It’s an obvious one but do it as much as possible. Visit the exhibition stands and find out what the various organisations can do for your business. You might not need them right now but you could do in the future.
4. Collect cards.
Again, it may sound obvious but make sure you take a business card from everyone you chat to; even if it is just someone you make small talk with. Everyone at MADE is involved in doing business and wants to do business.
Once you get back to the office – or even on the train on your way home – make sure you connect with the people you have met. Drop them an invitation on LinkedIn or send them a quick email letting them know it was good to meet them. Never forget the old adage of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. It’s not always the case but it never hurts to have plenty of contacts.
Finally, I’d like to point out that this year the Wosskow Brown Foundation – launched at the beginning of 2015 by Wosskow Brown to provide practical help, inspiration and opportunities for people to reach their ambitions – is offering to act as a ‘clearing house’ for anyone who visits MADE and loses a connection or is struggling to find a way to take something forward.
As a foundation we have hundreds of connections in the patch so whether you are based within the region or have visited from outside we’re more than happy to be contacted by people who wish to connect with an individual or organisation in this area and help further strengthen business activity within the region and beyond.