29 November, 2012, by Francine Pickering

Ingenuity Fishbowl – the Experts tell us why they’re involved

Heather Stanford and Linda Frier

Fishbowl Experts: Heather Stanford and Linda Frier

This week saw the launch of the Ingenuity Fishbowl, an online initiative that follows three young businesses and the challenges they face, and offers them support from a panel experts from within the University and from the local business community.

I caught up with five of them to find out why they got involved and how they are expecting to get involved with helping the “fish”.

Heather Stanford (@HeatherStanfor1) from Nelsons solicitors, like many other experts, was recruited through some informal networking over a cup of coffee. She is able to bring her own expertise to bear and tap into further knowledge within the firm – a real benefit for our fish.

Heather told me, “I really enjoy networking and social media so the idea of being part of a business community that help these young businesses really appealed. Lawyers do not come cheap for start-ups but it really is important that they get some ducks in a row before they lunch themselves on the world.

“I’m hoping I’ll be able to get them to sort out the really essential, the essential but not urgent, and the “icing on the cake” issues to get the fish off to a good start.”

Linda Frier (@lindafrier) from Nottingham accountants, Coalesco, is a regular at the Ingenuity breakfast events where she learned about the Fishbowl and was immediately intrigued.

“Start-up businesses always need to watch their finances closely but that’s not usually their area of expertise. Nor is it something they particularly enjoy,” Linda said. “I don’t expect I’ll convince them to love keeping on top of their accounts but I do hope that I’ll be able to help get them into some good habits from the start, as well as sharing some of my own experiences from starting and running my own business.”

One of the fish, BAC-IN, is a social enterprise and Graham Gardiner (@grahamgardiner) is the man to help. His business, Aspiren, supports social enterprises and he is also the driving force behind the Nottingham Social Enterprise Hub.

“I’m not a typical business adviser,” Graham told me. “I’m keen to use this opportunity to promote the fact that social enterprise is about business – business with a heart – and that social enterprises should see themselves as such, not as part of the voluntary sector. I’d also hope to encourage other businesses to give greater consideration to their social purpose.

“I’m anticipating questions around funding which is often a particular concern for social enterprises. And I’m also interested in being able to advise on the challenges that come for a business that needs to maintain its own values and sense of identity whilst playing a part in a consortium or collaboration. It’s an issue specifically for BAC-IN but could apply to any small business at some time.”

Sarah Dale from Creating Focus (@creatingfocus) is an occupational psychologist and coach, as well as another long-standing member of the Ingenuity network. As a graduate of the University who is now running her own business, she told me, “This background gives me a real interest in the business-university dynamic and the Fishbowl seems a refreshing way of developing the sharing of knowledge between the two spheres.

“One thing I’m anticipating helping the fish with is the natural, unbounded enthusiasm they have for the business which might run away with them or might tip into anxiety and fear. As a coach it’s something I see often so I hope that I’ll be able to help them harness that energy and enthusiasm productively.”

Ian Sterrit(@IanSterritt) of I-Qube agreed with Sarah’s enthusiasm for the closer connections of business and university. “I’m looking forward to being a Fishbowl expert and being part of this innovative way of connecting business and university. It will be interesting to see how these connections can help businesses benefit from university expertise and how their experience can feed back into new research.

“For myself, I’m expecting to be responding to questions from the fish around how to take a customer’s perspective on a technical product. Working with high growth businesses, I often see business owners focusing on their technical “solution” whilst overlooking how the customers regard the problems they want solving. I hope to help the fish to take that customer perspective which is so important to determining how to sell a technical item.”

It’s very early days for the fish and the experts but with such a great mix of knowledge, experience and expertise our fish are bound to enjoy their time in the Ingenuity Fishbowl.

Meet our full panel of Fishbowl Experts…

Posted in Fishbowl