I deliver workshops and coaching / mentoring as part of Generator’s Digital Futures programme. It was launched last summer with this description:
“Music development agency Generator is hoping to drive growth in the North East’s creative and digital sector with the announcement of a new funding programme.
Awarded £1.7m from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the company says it will use the investment to drive and develop the wider commercial creative and digital industries in the region.
‘Digital Futures’, a programme spanning 30 months, will assist new and existing businesses as well as potential entrepreneurs within the creative and digital industries based in the North East Local Economic Partnership area.”
In this post, I share some details about what I’ve been up to.
What I do
I’ve delivered three sets of workshops (two at Campus North, and one in Durham), based on the Lean Startup framework. These include an introduction to Lean Startup methods and mindset; the use of the Validation Board to run business experiments; product management tools and thinking; and how to fill out a Business Model Canvas.
The coaching and mentoring I do aims to quickly establish rapport with individual Founders, and teams; create safe space for them to share intimate details of the business idea(s) and traction; permission to grapple with the emotional struggle of entrepreneurship; and to ‘structuralise’ their thinking so they can work out what to prioritise.
With both these strands, I employ wallcharts and Post-It notes to help Founders along the lines suggested by a female Founder:
“I particularly like that you help get ‘ideas out of your head’ that’s one thing I’m trying to push at the moment. It’s easy when it’s in your head, but when you have to explain it – that’s the challenge.”
I have coached one team through two accelerator applications, and am preparing them to pitch to investors. I also make introductions to those in my network, such as a House Builder. This facilitated a first-time meeting between the Founders, the Builder and a council planning officer – giving my team valuable customer insights.
My take and goals
My take is that these are accessible and learnable skills, which are straightforward, but not simple. Further they are open & beneficial to anyone willing to put the effort in to acquire and develop them, and available to people from any background & situation.
My goals for those I work with are to: empower workshop attendees and coaching / mentoring Clients; educate & challenge them; and guide them to find answers from early adopters. Above all, I seek to assist them in finding the ‘watch movement’ which details how the business actually works through validated learning, and the path to product / market fit & scale.
I think my sweet spot is working with Founders (and corporate innovators) at the earliest stages, definitely before they are ready to write a business plan.
Topics I cover
- Product / service introduction & management:
- Vision for product
- Product components
- Customer archetypes
- Structuring work in sprints
- Business Model
- Business Model and Value Proposition definition and innovation
- Finding traction and doing more of what market wants
- Customer development
- Customer interviews
- Co-creating solutions with early adopters
- Running experiments
- Visual Business Design
- Using visual tools: wallcharts, Post-It notes, Sharpies
Typically I work with people around the themes of resilience, effectiveness, and authenticity.
My own practices
I endeavour to use these tools, approaches, and mindset myself: e.g. I have a Business Model Canvas for Souter Consulting, as well as a personal Business Model for myself.
In terms of my personal practice, I meditate pretty much every day, and have done so for four years. I keep a gratitude diary, writing in (at least) five things for which I’m grateful for, every night. However, there is still a long way to go to being in flow, and it’s a daily practice with much still to learn…
I’ve just closed out a full twelve hours coaching & mentoring with a pair of co-Founders. One of the reflected:
“Justin is a great start-up mentor. His deep knowledge of start-up culture and his familiarity with the lean start-up model, have been extremely valuable. He’s been tirelessly challenging us to go out to speak to customers to validate our value proposition. Moreover, Justin took a great interest in our business also outside of mentoring sessions by ways of introductions and flagging of funding opportunities, etc. All in all, if you want to get an idea off the ground, Justin can help you find traction quickly, or pivot to something that does.”
Another of my coachees told me a story of them being in their bathroom and thinking of their business. They relayed: “Justin, I think it was an epiphany”. That’s set a benchmark for me to replicate with everyone I work with.
Another workshop participant* stated:
“Made what sounded really complicated incredibly simple and put into perspective the next steps we need to do to for our business”
Onwards & get in touch
My goals for Founders is for them to find the source of their own success so that they can prosper after we have worked together. The ‘fit’ isn’t always right, so I seek to learn from all my experiences to continually improve how I show up and the assistance I provide. I come to life by empowering others to do well, and I judge this by what they say – and how they say it. Body language is truly a dialect of its own!
Bernard of Chartres (and later Isaac Newton) is attributed with the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants”. I would like to recognise my debt to thought leaders such as Eric Ries, Steve Blank, Alex Osterwalder, and Roman Pichler. Also authors and educators such as Ash Mauray, Jeff Gothelf, Alistair Croll, and Ben Yoskovitz.
* of StartupFUEL