Alex Mitchell, chair of the IoD’s entrepreneur community, led a delegation of 15 members to Fukuoka in May to attend the summit of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance. He reports on the event’s highlights and shares some of the insights they gained from it
Relationships are key in all aspects of our lives, from work to home and everywhere else in between.
For me, business is all about relationships. You want to deal with people who are not only good at what they do but also easy to get on with.
If you can work with people you trust and form partnerships based on openness and honesty, you can build lasting commercial relationships. This is what struck me in particular at this year’s G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance summit in Japan.
The event brought together more than 400 business founders from around the globe. I was extremely lucky to lead the UK delegation, which comprised 15 IoD members.
Most of us were unknown to each other until we all met in Fukuoka for the welcome reception. Within an hour we had bonded into a strong, supportive group. By the end of the evening (possibly helped by one or two sakes) we were sharing some of our deepest business concerns. It was as though we’d been friends for years.
All the other delegations reported having a similar experience too. When you have so many people with a shared purpose in one place, you know that great things will happen.
British delegate Lorna Stewart, CEO of Leap Consortium, summed this sentiment up perfectly on our return. “I was able to build a global network of like-minded people, all of whom are passionate about building their dreams and making the world a more inclusive place,” she said.
The theme of this two-day conference was “Imagination economy”. Sessions covered topics ranging from the potential of tech such as AI and XR (cross reality) to the enabling of “internal creativity and responsibility in the digital age”. Having a book on business buzzwords and acronyms to hand was a great help to me…
There was an excellent pitch competition on the first day, where contestants had to create a solution for one of the UN’s sustainable development goals. There was also an interesting panel session – featuring British delegate Marion Marincat, founder of Mumbli – that considered whether changing the way value is measured could help start-ups to focus on the long term.
The most powerful session for me was the one that split attendees into small groups and encouraged them to share their experiences of failure and what they had learnt from these.
Rather than sitting on their hands, afraid of discussing their biggest mistakes, everyone wanted to open up. Overrunning by nearly an hour, the session covered blunders ranging from hiring someone on the FBI’s “most wanted” list (by accident, I hasten to add) to causing an international trade dispute.
Many of the mishaps were ones that I’m sure many of us can relate to – eg, recruiting the wrong person, falling out with a co-founder etc. These can make you feel very exposed and make you question what you’re doing. But don’t worry: no matter what happens, someone went there before you – and they made it out at the other end.
Why do we attend such conferences? Isla Falconer, founder of What If Events, put it in a nutshell when she explained what had motivated her to join the delegation. She said: “I wanted to hear the unexpected: ideas so different that they seem too risky for investment, yet could change the world.”
At a time when national governments seem to be getting more insular and the world is becoming more divided, this summit highlighted in the clearest sense that your creed, colour, sexual orientation or anything else that makes you you doesn’t matter.
If you bring open-minded people with a shared purpose together – wherever they come from and whatever their sector – barriers will be broken and strong relationships will flourish.
For video interviews with some of the IoD members attending the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance summit, click here
When the delegation returned to the UK, it visited 10 Downing Street to deliver a communiqué on the alliance’s behalf. This document called on the government to take measures such as facilitating the cross-border mobility of entrepreneurs; creating digital infrastructure to reduce barriers to funding; and supporting more sustainable business models. For video coverage of the presentation, click here