I was looking for an presentation on an old hard drive and found this – I wrote it in 2008, edited in 2010. There has been a lot of progress in the last 5 years, but much of this is still relevant, and this is a project that will never, ever be over and done with. It’s curious how some of the topics and websites that were relevant back then are just gone now.
Richard Lucas November 4th 2014
Goal 1. Improve school business links in Poland, learning from the experience of Oaklands Secondary School and others. (See Appendix How to run a school-business partnership). Use free of charge open networks like www.Goldenline.pl and www.nasza-klasa.pl in Poland and Facebook internationally to encourage alumni of schools and universities to interact with current staff and students
Nasza-Klasa has come from nowhere to being almost the most popular web site in Poland and is obviously an ideal platform on which to launch interaction between schools and their alumni.
It is hard to co-ordinate and manage voluntary activities, so I propose not trying to, but instead facilitating open networks and infrastructure which facilitates low/no cost learning and voluntary activites. Obviously there are circumstances where someone has to take responsibility when children are being cared for, but this can be solved case by case by drafting appropriate guidelines.
- Leverage Poland’s participation in Global Enterprise Week (November 2008) to be a spring board for advancing the cause of enterprise education in Poland. http://www.unleashingideas.org/3. Facilitate the development of programmes like those at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL) in Cambridge like Ignite, and Enterprise Tuesdays in Poland
http://www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk/programmes/enterprise/index.html4. Use existing networks and technology to gather and develop free resources to help with enterprise education projects, probably using Connexions
Develop sustainable low cost know-how spreading and activity supporting infrastructure. The ability to mobilize large numbers of people very quickly in Poland for voluntary activities is remarkable, take the examples of http://www.wosp.org.pl/ and now www.Nasza-Klasa.pl
There is plenty of course material available. Finding good teachers and coaches may be more of a challenge.
This would create the possibility of modular input into existing projects and courses. Parents participating in making presentations to the school their children attended in Poland would be motivated to think that their materials would be available free of charge for anyone anywhere in Poland.
5. Promote awareness of low cost social lending projects like http://www.kiva.org/ in Central Europe and Russia
6. Use no cost volunteering programmes like http://www.socialedge.org/ in Central Europe and Russia to get people in to help, but also develop local resources.. You may be more aware of the NGO situation here than I am. In Cracow there is a thriving Malopolskie Centrum Wolontariatu. http://ogloszenia.ngo.pl/ the Volunteering group on the Polish networking site http://www.goldenline.pl/grupa/wolontariat-w-teorii-i-praktyce
- Leadership entrepreneurship summer camps project, like www.Youthcan.org
- Develop a roster of “entrepreneurship evangelists” in Poland like Guy Kawasaki and others who can give compelling talks about business to Polish school children
Appendix 1 Winchester College revamps its careers service
Thank you for your long and interesting reply. There are things in there I must think about. With the turmoil of Christmas nearly upon us, would you mind if I replied in more detail in the New Year?
An old member of my house lived in Cracow for a year, teaching English. It sounds a very lovely city. Eastern Europe is one of our hoped-for destinations some day but I’ve got to retire first!
With best wishes,
Sent: 18 December 2007 09:20
To: Baldwin, David
Subject: RE: entrepreneurship and careers
Thanks for the speedy and detailed reply. It is obvious you’ve done so much that I wonder how much I can add. I hope I am being this productive when I am 65.
A few comments and ideas
Have you thought of asking the director of the Crown and Manor club if they are interested in having volunteers from your network give support to the Youth Club in London? It will be easier for London based OWs to visit Hoxton than Winchester, and certainly those involved in business could give some valuable insights. Self employment in some ways has big advantages for those without a strong CV. I am planning to write anyway, but obviously the amount of support I can give is limited due to geography. (By the way, its 1000 miles, not 2000 from Cracow – Winchester)
2 I write about business topics for a blog, magazines, and our own web sites, and am interested in the spreading of good ideas and best practice, I would like to write up your experience as an article (on the brave assumption that it is best practice). It seems to me you have achieved a lot in a short period, and many schools could learn from it . If you are ready to facilitate this, I would come back to you later, with a series of questions.
- I remember Rupert Younger – he was my exact contemporary. I do remember you as well, though sadly not that much of what you taught me.
- Web Presence Getting information about what you are doing, and copies of presentations onto the Win Coll Careers web page would make sense in terms of making the presentations available to those who cannot attend, or are interested but don’t qualify, and reduce your workload by reducing the number of enquiries about what you are doing, if you have a contact with the College Webmaster it should be very simple to set up.
- I need to review my other commitments before promising to come, but at first sight it looks as if March 14th might be feasible. I’ve pencilled it in to my diary.
- Internships at PMR – This isn’t a firm commitment, because I am not the final decision maker, but at PMR we might have placement for 6 months (or longer) based in Cracow in either international sales/marketing or for report and web portal news journalism, article writers and authors. If they were native level speakers of languages other than English this would be an advantage. I will discuss this with colleagues next week. Other companies I am connected to also might be interested in anyone who can write software, particularly anyone interested in Ruby on Rails/Agile RAD environment. Anyone who has the drive and commitment to consider living and working in Cracow Poland independently for a while, could write to me directly.
- The Pembroke College Parmee prize awarded GBP1000 to one student and GBP500 as a runner up. I don’t know if you are planning to follow the format of the TV program exactly, but there were various features of the competition that made a positive difference (like having an internet exchange of information about business ideas in advance via an internet forum). If you want me to review the format you are planning and make suggestions, I’d be ready to do that
Thank you very much for responding to the note in the Alumni Newsletter. It has been quite productive. Thank you too for offering to be of assistance.
Since taking on this job only last year, I have introduced two careers events a year, plus a business awareness seminar. The latter used to be done by one of the many outfits offering this sort of service – it was becoming very expensive and the people they sent were a bit past it. So, with the assistance of the wife of a colleague who is quite high up in retail marketing, we set up our own intro to the world of business. Marketing has always been something people looking to succeed in business has always needed to understand. Knowing how ringless voicemail works and other marketing techniques is an important part of being successful in business. I got hold of two OW entrepreneurs (Rupert Younger and Colin Howman, both of whom had been with me in Chawker’s) who talked about their own experiences and the boys taking part were then set the task of making a business pitch. For this coming term, I have the services of two more OW entrepreneurs and we will give the boys more freedom to choose what they wish to pitch for and will run a sort of Dragon’s Den with the entrepreneurs forming the jury.
We also arrange visits from various big finance institutions when the opportunity arises – we had Deutsche Bank here last term explaining how a big bank works and they have offered to have a party up to visit the trading floor.
The two careers events are pitched at boys in the Lower Sixth (VI2) in March (14th 4 to 6.30 p.m.) and the third year (GCSE – Vth Book) in June (20th 2 to 4.30 p.m.). I have managed to amass a very diverse range of speakers from OWs and present parents and my aim is to give the boys insights into all sorts of professions in addition to the usual bankers, financiers, accountants, lawyers and medics. These will also be represented, but I have managed to get hold of archaeologists, journalists, broadcasters, an actor, a theatre designer and entrepreneur, someone from the Navy and the Army, an architect, hopefully some ex-gappers and so on – almost an embarrass de richesses. The format is a carousel of 18 or so speakers, from which the boys choose to listen to 3 or 4, each talk/presentation to last no more than 25 minutes, but the whole thing followed by refreshments at which the boys can meet the speakers more informally and feel freer to ask questions. This worked well last summer.
Further to this we have also built up a bank of people who can help find work experience for boys seeking to do it, and we do stress the importance of doing so. And I recently asked for further help on this from present parents.
We also offer preparation for SATs, a commercial outfit (Kaplan) does this, a weekly law course, and interview guidance from two different outfits, about which I still reserve judgement. I shall be going to look at alternatives this coming year.
We still offer the ISCO/Morrisby psychometric profiling which is done in Vth Book. It sometimes comes up with some good things for the boys but the main thing is to get them thinking about themselves and their aspirations.
Another part of my job is university entrance and for this we have visits from American universities, the occasional Oxbridge college and other universities. I oversee the university application procedure.
So that is the state of play. I am sure it could be improved, but I think we offer a pretty good service. There is a good careers/university library full of brochures and guidance leaflets and boys come and go all the time, asking for advice.
I came back out of retirement to take this on, but I shall be 65 next June and may have to go. I might however stay on for one more year, so hope to put a few more things in place by then.
If you are interested in contributing to one of the careers events, or coming to do a presentation of your own, which I am sure we could fix up, then please do let me know. I would be delighted, if it could be possible, even though you are coming 2000 miles. Is that still Poland or is it now further than that?
I look forward to hearing back from you. I shan’t be in the office much more now, but still look at my e-mails from home.
With best wishes for the season,
David Baldwin, Head of Careers/UCAS, WinColl
Sent: 13 December 2007 04:52
To: Baldwin, David
Subject: entrepreneurship and careersDear David
I saw you were interested in contact with OWs who could talk about their professions. I’ve been doing this for a while, most recently in Cambridge http://www.careers.cam.ac.uk/sectors/camconnect/entrepreneurship1.asp
I’d be more than ready to come to Winchester at some stage during 2008. My particular focus in self employment and entrepreneurship.I do work shops, and training, and was on the panel of judges for the Parmee prize at Pembroke College a few weeks ago. as described here:
You can see some information about the businesses I established in the attachments, and examples of materials of talks I’ve given.
I also wrote an article about internships that would be relevant to gap year http://www.pmrcorporate.com/internships.html
I am interested to know what you and the school are doing at present in terms of enterprise education, with respect to business and social entrepreneurship.
There was very little education of this type when I was at Winchester 1979-84. I remember two talks in the 5 years I was there, one from a local Winchester company called something like Magnet which made Portakabins, the other an “industry day” where someone from Shell came in to give a talk. Both made a great impression and influenced me a lot, but I could have benefitted from much more.
We could have a discussion by e-mail about what the most useful things I could do are- given that I live 2000 miles away, I would like to make the visit as productive as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you. We can have a discussion by e-mail or perhaps talk on the phone once I have a better idea of the current state of play for careers/enterprise education at Win Coll
Appendix 2 How to run a school-business partnership
By Michael Skapinker
Published: December 3 2007 19:38 | Last updated: December 4 2007 03:19
Tower Hamlets is the most deprived borough in London and the fourth most deprived area in England.
Oaklands secondary school, which nestles amid rows of Tower Hamlets public housing, has all the marks of deprivation, too. More than half the pupils are eligible for free school meals. The majority speak a language other than English at home.
Which all goes to show how little bald facts tell you. The east London streets are spotless as I make my way through them one recent rainy afternoon.
The students emerging from Oaklands look cheerful, as they should. A school inspector who visited the school in September described Oaklands as “outstanding” – the highest grade that the school inspectors ever award.
The inspection report said behaviour at the school was “excellent”. Social, moral and cultural education were “outstanding”. Lessons were “well-ordered, stimulating and harmonious”. The head teacher led the school with “openness, insight and clarity of purpose”. Although the students arrived at age 11 with “below normal levels of attainment”, they left at 16 with results above the national average. The school’s “value-added” – the degree to which students progressed during their years there – put Oaklands in the top 3 per cent in the country.
The inspectors also commended the school’s “creative relationship with a large City bank”. Lehman Brothers has been working with Oaklands for 10 years. Many companies have adopted schools, but this school appears particularly successful.
On the day I visit, Oaklands is throwing a party to celebrate the first decade of its link with Lehman Brothers and I have come to ask what makes for a productive partnership between a business and a school.
Patrice Canavan, who is in her third year as head teacher, says Oaklands was in pretty good shape when she arrived. The reasons for Oaklands’ success are uncomplicated, although difficult to achieve: clear and well-enforced standards of behaviour, a pleasant physical environment and high aspirations.
Her task, she says in a rare bit of management-speak, is to take the school “from good to great”. Because life is not a fairy story, Oaklands still has work to do. The inspection report said that the most able students did not perform as well as they could.
Peter Sherratt, vice-chairman of Lehman Brothers in Europe, has chaired the school’s governing body since 2001. Lehman staff help in classes, mentor students and teach them job interviewing techniques. The school holds its Saturday morning pre-examination revision classes at Lehman’s offices at Canary Wharf.
I ask Ms Canavan and Mr Sherratt what the main ingredients of a good school-business partnership are.
First, says Mr Sherratt, the school must lead and the business partner follow. The teachers are the ones who understand education. The bank provides what the school asks for.
Second, you have to look for areas of shared culture. This might seem a stretch when talking about an investment bank and an inner-city school, but it helps that Lehman’s ethnic mix, with 60 nationalities at Canary Wharf, is even greater than Oaklands’.
Third, you need to produce tangible results. Mr Sherratt says the Lehman staff can see how well the school has done since they have been involved.
Fourth, says Ms Canavan, students must see both sides working together. When the inspector asked about Lehman, she says, the pupils talked about the bank “as though they were a department at the end of the corridor”.
Finally, says Ms Canavan, there is “filthy lucre”. Mr Sherratt estimates Lehman has invested about £500,000 in the school over the decade, although he says the real contribution is Lehman staff time. The money supports the school’s aim of broadening the students’ horizons. Using money from Lehman and the British Council, Ms Canavan took a group of students to Beijing. She plans to take a group to New York.
There is an unspoken aspect to this, too. The school is smart and freshly painted. Ms Canavan dresses like, well, an investment banker. At the reception to mark the decade of partnership, there are no plastic cups. There are proper glasses with soft drinks and wine, and the canapés are the sort you get at Canary Wharf. The message to the students is clear: none of this is beyond you.
There are a few speeches. Sofian Amrani, a former Oaklands pupil who plans to join Lehman when he finishes his economics degree at Queen Mary college, London, mixes with the kids, teachers and local dignitaries.
A choir of girls and two brave boys sings a song by R. Kelly: “If anybody asks you who I am, just stand up tall. . . and say, I’m that star up in the sky, I’m that mountain peak up high, hey, I made it.”
You need stiff self-control to remain entirely dry-eyed throughout this performance and your correspondent didn’t quite make it. Appendix 3 Europe’s school books demonise enterprise
By Stefan Theil
Published: January 8 2008 02:00 | Last updated: January 8 2008 02:00
-There has been much debate over the ways in which historical ideology is passed on to the next generation – over Japanese textbooks that downplay the Nanjing massacre, Palestinian textbooks that feature maps without Israel and new Russian guidelines that require teachers to acclaim Stalinism. Yet there has been almost no analysis of how countries teach economics.
In France and Germany, schools have helped ingrain a serious aversion to the market economy. In a 2005 poll, just 36 per cent of French citizens said they supported the free enterprise system. In Germany, support for socialist ideals is running at all-time highs: 47 per cent in 2007 versus 36 per cent in 1991. In both countries, attempts at economic reform have been routinely blocked by a consensus against policies considered “pro-market”. Might some of this be traced to the ideas instilled at school? In a project for the German Marshall Fund, I analysed French, German and US high-school curricula and textbooks for their coverage of the economy, the welfare state, entrepreneurship and globalisation.
“Economic growth imposes a hectic form of life, producing overwork, stress, nervous depression, cardiovascular disease and, according to some, even the development of cancer,” asserts Histoire du XXe si?e , a text memorised by French high-school students as they prepare for entrance exams to prestigious universities. Start-ups, the book tells students, are “audacious enterprises” with “ill-defined prospects”. Then it links entrepreneurs with the technology bubble, the Nasdaq crash and massive redundancies across the economy. Think “creative destruction” without the “creative”.
In another widely used text, a section on innovation does not mention any entrepreneur or company. Instead, students read a treatise on whether technological progress destroys jobs. Another briefly mentions an entrepreneur – a Frenchman who invented a new tool to open oysters – only to follow with an abstract discussion of whether the modern workplace is organised along post-Fordist or neo-Taylorist lines. In several texts, students are taught that globalisation leads to violence and armed resistance, requiring a new system of world governance. “Capitalism” is described as “brutal”, “savage” and “American”. French students do not learn economics so much as a highly biased discourse about economics.
German textbooks emphasise corporatist and collectivist traditions and the minutiae of employer-employee relations – a zero-sum world where one loses what the other gains. People who run companies are caricatured as idle, cigar-smoking plutocrats. They are linked to child labour, internet fraud, mobile phone addiction, alcoholism and redundancies. Germany’s rich entrepreneurial history is all but ignored.
A typical social studies text titled FAKT has a chapter on “What to do against unemployment”. Instead of describing how companies create jobs, it explains how the jobless can join self-help groups and anti-reform protests “in the tradition of the East German Monday demonstrations” (which in 1989 helped topple the communist dictatorship). The text concludes with a long excerpt from the platform of the German Union Federation, including the 30-hour working week, retirement at 60 and redistribution of work by splitting full-time into part-time jobs. No market alternative is taught. FAKT blames unemployment on computers and robots – a recurring theme in the German books.
Describing globalisation, another text has sections headed “Revival of Manchester Capitalism”, “Brazilianisation of Europe” and “Return of the Dark Ages”. India and China are successful, the book explains, because they practise state ownership and protectionism, while the freest markets are in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa. Like many French and German books, it suggests students learn more by contacting the anti-globalisation group Attac.
It is no surprise that the continent’s schools teach through a left-of-centre lens. The surprise is the intensity of the anti-market bias. Students learn that companies destroy jobs, while government policy creates them. Globalisation is destructive, if not catastrophic. Business is a zero-sum game. If this is the belief system within which most students develop intellectually, is it any wonder French and German reformers are so easily shouted down?
The writer is Newsweek’s European economics editor. Reproduced with permission from Foreign Policy #164 (January/February 2008) www.foreignpolicy.com. Copyright 2008, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Newsweek and the anti enterprise culture
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2008 11:21:43 +0100
From: “Stefan Theil”
Subject: Re: demonizing enterprise
Agree on all counts.
There’s a new project for a global Enterprise Week / Entrepreneurship
Week, which you might want to tie into. JA Poland would know about it,
otherwise check Enterprise Insight or the Kauffman Foundation.
On Jan 15, 2008 11:17 AM, RL wrote:
> Great, thanks,
> There is a lot for me to review.
> There is no point in un co ordinated actions not taking account of the work
> of other
> I am talking to a voluntary group in Ukraine about leadership and enterprise
> summer camps for school kids they have been doing to see if they can be
> A key issue is how to teach these things when they are compulsory, or
> whether such initiatives can only work when they are voluntary. The evidence
> in your article suggests that compulsory negative education is going on at
> the moment so presumably complusory positive education could work
> If there are subjects like the British PSHE which leads into citizenship
> type training in other countries , at least have a debate about enterprise
> could be a start… The issue is very hot because all countries are forced
> to think about their identity and values now thanks to issues of terrorism
> etc if this is an opportunity to get iniative and enterprise onto the list
> of European values, it should not be missed.>
> Best regards
> Richard, thanks for the links. Here are two more articles I’ve done on
> the subject. I worked with Junior Achievement European HQ in Brussels,
> DG Enterprise at the EU commission is active in this, and the Brits
> are doing a lot, e.g. Enterprise Insight, which has Gordon Brown’s
> backing. Also check out what’s going on in Norway and Denmark. In
> Germany, there are various private sector groups going into the
> schools, including the Banking Association and IW Koeln / Junior
> Projekt (the German branch of Junior Achievement).
> On Jan 15, 2008 10:51 AM, RL
> > Hi
> > Thanks for getting back to me so fast. I’ll keep you up to date with my
> > initiatives in this area.
> > re:the basics of entrepreneurship.
> > There is something like this that I heard about from the Polish office of
> > Junior Achievement.
> > You could try contacting their Director Zbigniew (Zbyszek) Modrzewski
> > firstname.lastname@example.org
> > He told me a few years ago that schools have trouble delivering on this
> > aspect of the curriculum,
> > my knowledge about this will be less than his.
> > Is there a web page where I can read what you have written on this
> > and are you aware of any organisations or individuals who are making an
> > effort to address the anti business bias you have identified?
> > My idea is to develop a network of allies and organisations, who are doing
> > things towards promoting social and business entreprise, give a platform
> to > > views such as yours, and challenge representatives of Ministries of
> > Education > > in countries with “pro business” governments to change the curruculum, or
> > least insist that students be told about alternative sources of opinion
> > it won’t be easy, but it is worth trying.
> > I wonder if companies could be persuaded to devote their CSR budgets to
> this > > sort of thing. most CSR is captured by a CSR industry. my views of CSR are
> > here
> > Thanks/regards
> > At 09:59 AM 1/15/2008, you wrote:
> > Dear Richard,
> > Thank you for your feedback and interest. I’d be happy for you to link
> > to the article. Let me know if I can help you with anything else.
> > I actually have a question for you: I’ve been told that Poland now
> > requires, as part of the regular high school curriculum, a one year
> > course that covers the basics of entrepreneurship. Do you know
> > anything about that?
> > Thank you and best,
> > Stefan
> > —
> > Stefan Theil
> > European Economics Editor
> > Newsweek | Chausseestrasse 5 | 10115 Berlin | Germany
> > Tel. +49 30 8870-9426
> > email@example.com
> > On Jan 15, 2008 7:58 AM, RL
> > > hi
> > >
> > > I am a businessman living in Poland involved in enterprise education
> > > school kids on a volunteer basis and found your recent article in the
> > > very thought provoking
> > >
> > > I am considering taking some action to lobby to change the situation you
> > > described, and wondered if I
> > > could
> > > a) get permission to link to this article, use it when appropriate
> > > b) ask for your advice and involvement in an advisory capacity. I don’t
> > know
> > > if I will get any money but I won’t ask for much in terms of your time.
> > >
> > > If you are interested, I will write to you in due course with more
> > > information about what I plan to do,
> > > and would look forward to your constructive critical feedback
> > >
> > > thanks/regards
Appendix 4 – the case for enterprise education
Never too young to be an entrepreneur
Published: November 21 2007 02:00 | Last updated: November 21 2007 02:00
From Mr Carl Schramm
Sir, Peter Thal Larsen posited an intriguing question in his recent column about the venture capitalist Sir Ronald Cohen: “Is it realistic to suggest that large numbers of people can become successful entrepreneurs? Surely most of the population does not have the skills or drive to set up a business, and is probably better off sticking with a safe job?” (“An evangelist for the risk-takers”, November 8.)
It is difficult to answer the question properly because too many people are never introduced to the possibility of being entrepreneurs. And Sir Ronald identifies a key reason: the lack of entrepreneurial role models for young people. While both US and British school-children are taught about the great inventors of the past – from Newton to Edison to Einstein – they are less frequently introduced to the living, breathing innovators of today. People such as Bill Gates, Pierre Omidyar (the founder of Ebay), and Sir Ronald are ground-breaking business leaders who built successful enterprises when they were not far out of school themselves.
Teaching entrepreneurship to young people, by example and through practical experience, is essential to spurring economic growth and technological advance, as well as addressing a host of other challenges, from alleviating poverty to eradicating disease to developing cleaner energy supplies. We need the young leaders of the world to put their creativity and ingenuity toward meeting these goals.
Next year’s first Global Entrepreneurship Week, November 17-23 2008, has just been announced. It is an effort that builds on successful American and British programmes bringing enterprise training and education to young people. The goal of Global Entrepreneurship Week will be to connect and inspire potential entrepreneurs around the world, with the simple message that one is never too young to be an entrepreneur.
Success in this endeavour will mean that more of the globe’s population will possess both the skills and drive to leave safe jobs behind and chart their own path to success. We will all benefit in the process.
President and Chief Executive,
Kansas City, MO 64110, US
Evangelist for risk-takers
By Peter Thal Larsen
Published: November 7 2007 23:09 | Last updated: November 7 2007 23:09
Entrepreneurs have rarely enjoyed a more prominent position in the British popular imagination. Not that long ago, the ruling classes looked down on the self-made man (or woman). Today, successful entrepreneurs are feted in the media and the fruits of their efforts documented in newspaper “rich lists”.
Television shows such as The Apprentice have dramatised the cut and thrust of corporate life while making household names of Donald Trump and Alan Sugar. Other programmes, such as the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, fuel the notion that almost anyone can have a go at setting up their own business.
Sir Ronald Cohen, one of the founding fathers of the British private equity industry, is well placed to tap into this trend. As co-founder of Apax, one of Europe’s largest private equity groups, he is a successful entrepreneur in his own right. The nature of that business means he has spent several decades observing and working alongside entrepreneurs backed by Apax.
Now he has tried to distil those lessons into a book. After stepping down from Apax on his 60th birthday in 2005, he initially embarked on the project as a way of passing on some parental tips to his child ren, aged 20 and 16. But he now sees it as a kind of handbook for the budding entrepreneur.
Speaking at the London offices of Portland Trust, the foundation he has set up to promote economic development and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, he says he was not attracted by the idea of writing an autobiography: “I wanted to write the book that I would have found useful when I was 26 and starting out,” he says.
Polished and deliberate in conversation and with the faint trace of an accent, he argues that entrepreneurs can benefit from uncertainty and by anticipating trends. This is summed up in the book’s title – The Second Bounce of the Ball – a phrase originally coined by Maurice Schlogel, the first chairman of the company that became Apax.
Sir Ronald’s own background provides plenty of material. He was born in Cairo in 1945 and fled to Britain with his parents, following the Suez Crisis, at the age of 11. Although he did not speak a word of English on his arrival, he excelled at school in London, winning admission to Oxford university and then to Harvard Business School. After a brief spell with McKinsey, the management consultancy, he left at the age of 26 to set up an advisory firm with some of his Harvard classmates.
That business eventually became Apax, which backed successful companies such as Autonomy, the search company, and PPL Therapeutics, the biotech group that created Dolly, the cloned sheep.
Through Apax, Sir Ronald pioneered the development of the venture capital business in Britain. However, he suffered setbacks along the way. Within a few years of setting up the business, his original partners had quit. It also took him almost a decade to establish Apax as a venture capital business and overcome widespread scepticism to raise his first fund.
Today, private equity groups have become buy-out specialists pursuing mega-deals that have little to do with identifying or backing entrepreneurs. Even Apax recently announced it would stop making early-stage venture capital investments.
But Sir Ronald still thinks today’s 26-year-old could find new opportunities in the business. He points to healthcare venture capital, investing in distressed debt or exporting the model to other parts of the world: “There are going to be fantastic private equity firms built in China,” he says.
He is also a fervent believer in what he calls social entrepreneurship, the application of business ideas in the charitable sector.
Yet the premise of the book invites a question. Is it realistic to suggest that large numbers of people can become successful entrepreneurs? Surely most of the population does not have the skills or drive to set up a business, and is probably better off sticking with a safe job?
Sir Ronald acknowledges that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. It requires a state of mind that encourages people to look for opportunities. “It’s the urge to do your own thing that leads you to look for the opportunity. It’s seldom the opportunity that leads you to decide that you should do it.”
But he also believes that a greater number of people could set up their own successful businesses than are doing so today. With an enthusiasm that borders on the evangelical, he lists the advantages of being an entrepreneur: the satisfaction of doing your own thing, the benefit of not having to take orders from others and the greater rewards than are available through paid employment.
So why are more people not taking the plunge? The first problem is the lack of suitable role models. “In Britain we’ve tended to have the role model of the crafty, shrewd business person that saves every penny and somehow cuts corners, or, at the other end of the scale, the role model of the mad inventor,” Sir Ronald says. “I don’t think we’ve had the role model of people who can build businesses. What the book is all about is what it takes to build a substantial business from scratch.”
The book is honest about some of his mistakes. Apax chose not to invest in James Dyson, inventor of the eponymous vacuum cleaner, who went on to create a successful business. Sir Ronald also describes his involvement with Sir Clive Sinclair, the technological entrepreneur whose ability to come up with innovative new products was not matched by his management skills.
Above all, Sir Ronald believes potential entrepreneurs are being put off by a fear of failure that persists in Europe. He agrees that the perception of risk-taking in Britain has changed. He points to the outcry over the British government’s decision to change capital gains tax rules as evidence of the greater influence of small businesses. But he still believes Europeans are less accepting of risk-taking – and the likelihood of failure – than their counterparts in the US.
Yet it is only by embracing risk that entrepreneurs can hope to succeed. “The key lesson from the book is that you only become really successful if you can take advantage of uncertainty,” Sir Ronald says.
“You can’t really make a huge success out of a market that is totally transparent for everyone to understand what it takes to be successful.“
‘The enemy within’: when Sir Ronald weighed in to the tax debate
Sir Ronald Cohen has stayed out of the spotlight for most of his career. This year, however, his public profile was raised after he weighed in to the UK debate over the taxation of private equity.
In June, he suggested that larger private equity funds should pay a higher rate of capital gains tax, a move that prompted Jon Moulton of Alchemy, the private equity group, to describe him as “the enemy within”.
Sir Ronald subsequently warned about the social tensions that could arise from the growing divide between rich and poor.
His statements have been given added weight by his perceived political influence: he is a prominent donor to the Labour party and is close to Gordon Brown, the prime minister.
But his stated opinions have also opened him up to accusations of hypocrisy. Sir Ronald’s fortune, estimated at about £250m (€360m) ($530m), has been boosted by the favourable tax treatment of private equity. He has also faced persistent speculation about his own tax status, a subject he refuses to discuss.
Since leaving Apax in 2005, Sir Ronald has devoted his time to Bridges Community Ventures, which invests in companies that will bring social benefits, as well as spearheading a proposal to use dormant cash in UK bank accounts to finance the creation of a new social investment bank.
Appendix 5 delivery via University careers advisory service
Colloborative creativity and enterprise education
Charles Leadbeater talks here http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/63
About the power of users getting together to enhance content. This is very relevant, as if
School children and students can collaborate with teachers and business people in an open source open network format there will be much more gain than. The power of education where the course material is generated by at least some of the users. This is particularly relevant to teaching about entrepreneurship, because there is no defined set of rules. The other idea is the power of open networks, where we facilitate the creation of value among alumni of programmes such as Szkola Liderow, and School enterprise projects