Entrepreneurship has become very fashionable over the past 10 years or so, as an accessory for politicians, celebrities and the media. Meanwhile, here at Cranfield, we have been ahead of the game since our Enterprise Group was established in the 1980s. Ever since, we have been inspiring and supporting our students and alumni to start and grow businesses.
One of the earliest entrepreneurs from this group was Robert Wright, a serial entrepreneur who, most recently, held the position of investor and Director of Wizzair. He used the MBA at Cranfield as a jumping off point from a career in aviation to becoming a top line serial entrepreneur.
Other entrepreneurs who have made a serious jump in their growth trajectory through our Business Growth Programme are big brands including Hotel Chocolat, Cobra Beer, RinGo and Go Ape. There are dozens of others who have been extremely successful. Quiet businesses, if you will, in engineering, manufacturing, transport, security, travel and a myriad other fields. No speculative unicorns in this portfolio of alumni, just good job-creating growth businesses that make profits!
When do you stop being an entrepreneur and become a CEO of a super growth business?
It’s a question we might ask. Or do you ever stop being an entrepreneur? Do you remain, at heart, an entrepreneur while learning the disciplines of leadership and management?
These role models grow their companies and impact society in various ways. We can also learn from them, through their:
- creative solutions to growth, such as re-defining business models
- courage to let new managers run
- different ways of funding growth; creating pace and energy with their ambition
- changing routines and processes in their businesses.
These entrepreneurs talk in terms of dominating big niche markets, embedding themselves into their customer base, by optimising operations and ensuring they sell value propositions rather than give away margins in price wars.
They are also thorough with managing their teams. On the one hand they are fun, energetic and driven by vision. On the other hand they will not carry passengers. At least, not for long.
Here at Cranfield, we also hold deep links with family businesses. These form the bedrock of all societies and demonstrate a different form of entrepreneurship, the form that is here for the long haul. From generation to generation, they thrive on strong values, which are much more powerful in some ways than financial returns.
It is this community of entrepreneurs and management teams that we have been nurturing for nearly 40 years now and happily bringing some of them together for our annual Venture Day (22 September).
Our work continues to fit with the vision of the founding “fathers” who wanted Cranfield to provide leaders for industry. We continue to do this with pride in the area of entrepreneurship as well as with big business and society.
So, when we celebrate entrepreneurship on this wonderful day, we wish to do so with growth-oriented entrepreneurship in mind, where teams are not challenged by growth, but see their futures as big companies that are starting small.