Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Neil Marshall, the Development Director of ChangeSchool. I had previously attended Neil’s entrepreneurship workshops with the ChangeSchool and found them tremendously helpful. His guidance has brought more clarity to my entrepreneur vision for Kaitlin Zhang Branding.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Neil.
ChangeSchool is an executive and business education company working to disrupt the elite business knowledge market dominated by Business Schools consumed by a small fraction of corporations. ChangeSchool believe business education shouldn’t just be for the elite, and that everyone could do with working smarter. An example of this approach is bringing world class education to the budding entrepreneur.
Kaitlin: What are you currently working on?
Neil: We’re running intensive workshops to get people building their businesses, testing the idea that there are people out there doing the 9 to 5 who would much rather take control of their working lives and build something of their own, for profit and for good. We go from ‘I’ve got an idea’ or even ‘not sure about this but…’ to ‘I can see it clearly, I know how to test it and who my customers will be’ in 2 days. It is called Entrepreneurship: Start-up Bootcamp for the Budding Entrepreneur. It is on evenings and weekends so people who are at work can fit it in their busy jobs and develop an alternate life.
We do much of our work in India and the Gulf. The aim for 2017 is to expand back into the UK. To do that we’re building on our work in London at King’s College, University College London and London South Bank University.
Which one of your past experiences really contributed to the success of your current business?
In any given situation, you draw upon different parts of what you have done. The more you do, the more you have to draw upon. For our executive education work I draw a lot on my MBA, the time I spent in management consulting, and the time I spent as a teacher. Working in Entrepreneurship, actually running a firm with my business partner as we do it means we have to learn all the lessons we then try to pass on.
- Worrying about the idea. Business is 95% execution. Whatever world beating idea you think you have, will change completely the moment you talk to a customer. So just start.
- Worrying about the competition. The competition doesn’t buy your product, the customer does. The customers are your focus. Unless the market is 95% dominated by a handful of companies, you can always work around competition by differentiating. Competition is just where you can get all your free ideas from!
- Starting with the product. That comes last. The first thing to do is talk to your customers. Find out what they might want or need. Build and test your product around that.
- Worrying about the admin. You see a lot of blogs and lists talking about setting your company up which talk about business plans and accountants. Don’t waste your energy until you have a customer who wants to buy something. And taxes (another fear) come much later in the cycle.
The world of entrepreneurship has changed so much in the last 5 years. Unsurprisingly the first on my list is “Lean Startup” as it focuses on product market fit before burning a lot of cash. Less well known is “The 5 Year Entrepreneur”, a load of practical advice from Dom Moorhouse who started, grew and sold a consulting company in 5 years – no mean feat.
I also like some (not all) of the videos on “Mixergy”, an online US based video platform all about starting and running your business.
Why should entrepreneurs today care about their personal brands online?
Your personal brand is all you carry with you. The more you build it, the more connections you have, the more opportunities will come your way, and the more good you can do in the world. It is part of Effectuation, a philosophy that really works for an entrepreneur.
How do you de-stress?
For me that is about doing something positive, something emotional, something that feeds your heart and your soul. In the last year that thing for me has been acting. I am lucky because I have one of the UKs best drama schools just up the road, so I have taken 3 courses there, and am about to do another. Fantastic fun, filled with laughter and love.
What can someone expect after going through the ChangeSchool programme?
In a word, clarity.
The Start-up Bootcamp for the Budding Entrepreneur is designed for people who want to make a start on their business, and just need to know how best to get off the ground. Over a weekend, we will guide you through the steps to take, giving you the best tools from Harvard, Stanford and London Business School. We will reveal techniques used by successful entrepreneurs, and give you the experience that we give our entrepreneurs from the Entrepreneurial University of the Year, London South Bank University.
The Bootcamp is a high intensity, high immersion, interactive 2-day program. If you already have a business idea, you can work on it. If you don’t, you can develop one. Either way, what you’ll get by the end is how to judge an idea and convert it into a successful, sustainable business. By the end, you will know where you are, what you want to do and what you don’t. You’ll know whether the entrepreneurial journey is right for you. Sign up today.
Thank you very much, Neil!
Thank you for visiting me!
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