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05 April 2017

7 Practical Lessons from the AIB Start-up Academy Bootcamp

Posted By: AIB Business

Noel Davidson is the lead trainer with the Entrepreneurs Academy and the AIB Start-up Academy Bootcamp – our new nationwide initiative that aims to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to make their business a success. Taking place in 19 locations across the country, each Bootcamp is a comprehensive half-day workshop designed specifically for people for people who are in the first few years of their business – covering everything from market research to networking, sales and finances. We spoke to Noel to get some practical lessons for business owners direct from the Bootcamp programme. 

1. Take Time Out

Taking time out from your business is a theme that Noel returns to again and again. In fact, he sees it as the most important lesson of each Bootcamp. “For many people when they start up a business, it just becomes a job that they work on day-to-day and that they’re essentially stuck in,” he explains. “Our theory is that you shouldn’t see it just as a job. Instead, you should be aiming to build a business – work on the business rather than get stuck working in the business.”


2. Leverage LinkedIn

Noel is a staunch advocate of the power of the wisdom of crowds, and points to LinkedIn as an essential tool for business research. “The power of recommendation is huge,” he says. “If a business contact is recommended to you, you can look them up on LinkedIn and see the contacts you have in common. Which means you can research them before you do business with them.”


3. The Power of Search

Another everyday tool that can have immediate benefits for business owners is Google. It’s something that everyone is familiar with but Noel believes isn’t used to its full potential. “We’re all used to using Google every day,” he says. “But when we type something into Google, we often ignore the bottom of the page that shows you related searches. So, if you type in your business area or type, you’re going to see other things that people have been searching around that topic. Not only can that tell you what people want from your product – it can tell you whether they want it at all.” 


4. Network, Network, Network

One of the major benefits of the Bootcamp is getting the opportunity to talk to and learn from other business owners. But even if you’re not attending, Noel believes that you should still work on your networking when you can. “Setting up a business and running a business is a very lonely role,” he says. “Which is why it’s so important to talk to other business owners. You’ll be able to share learnings and, more importantly, contacts. If you have a hurdle you want to cross and somebody else at a different stage in their journey has crossed it already, their help can be invaluable.” 


5. Invest in Education

For a busy entrepreneur, it can be difficult to find the time to even open a book. But Noel sees continuing education as one of the best investments you can make in your future, and advises that there are tools available to help you do so. “You should aim to put a couple of hours aside each week to expand your business knowledge,” he says. “Audible is a super tool. If you don’t have the time to read a book, you can use it to have the book read to you while you’re travelling between meetings or in the car. It’s important to keep growing and developing. Otherwise, you just end up standing still.” 


6. Plan Your Week

With the day-to-day running of the business taking up much of their time, business owners can often find it difficult to make room for tasks that will aid their future development. However, Noel recommends setting aside specific days to catch up on essential tasks. “Dedicate one day a week to do some marketing,” he says. “You can have the greatest business idea in the world, but if nobody knows about it, you’re not going to have the demand that you hoped for. You should also dedicate a half day every fortnight to finances. No matter how hard you work, if you’re not getting paid and looking after cashflow, things are going to get difficult down the line.” 


7. Make Mistakes  

Launching a new product or service can be a daunting prospect, but Noel believes that making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn how to develop something for the better. “Go out with a minimum viable product and learn from it,” he says. “Going out with something that’s 80% there is ok, because you’ll learn about the errors in it through customer feedback. You can’t be precious about people telling you that there’s something wrong. It’s the best way of making your product or service better.” 


Interested in attending the AIB Start-up Academy Bootcamp?

If you’re an AIB customer and have recently started your own business or are in the process of doing so, speak to your AIB Business Customer Advisor to find out how to apply. You also can find out more about the programme at the Entrepreneurs’ Academy website. 


Please be aware that all of the views expressed in this Blog are purely the personal views of the authors and commentators (including those working for AIB as members of the AIB website team or in any other capacity) and are based on their personal experiences and knowledge at the time of writing.

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