5 actions to refine your business idea


Guest Blog written by Stuart McClure, Co-founder of Lovethesales.com

adult-bar-brainstorming-1015568(1)Creating business ideas is exciting. Working on an idea that you have thought of is both liberating and rewarding.  However, narrowing your ideas into one cohesive business plan is a challenge in itself, one which if done right can set you on a path to creating your dream business.

Here are 5 actions you can take to refine your business ideas and ensure you have the best launch pad for your next project.

Choosing the right idea

Having focus is important for an entrepreneur. You might have thousands of half thought out ideas and not know which one to focus on. So how do you know which is your best idea? I’d suggest keeping a list of all your ideas. Then, when you’re ready, you should put each potential idea through this exercise.

Take one of your ideas and write the name for it in the middle of a blank A4 page. Then answer the following questions, writing the answers around the outside of the idea:

  • What problem does this solve? How big is that problem? Why are you sure it’s a problem?
  • Has it already been done?
  • What barriers to entry can you create? (What would make it difficult for someone with more resources to come in and compete against you?)
  • What’s the potential market size?
  • What money would you need to invest to start the business and make it profitable?
  • What skills do you need in your team to get it going? How will you find people with those skills? Can you get it going by yourself?

After this exercise you should be able to filter out implausible ideas and be left with your most viable options.

Putting your proposal into one sentence

You need to have a clear picture of what your business offers, who it will help and what is its biggest benefit. You should be able to put all that information into one sentence, like the one in this template:

(“My business is, _(insert name of business)_, we develop _(define your product or service)_ to help _(define your audience)_ _(the problem you are solving  for them)_ by _(main benefit of the business )_”).

Mine looked like this:

“My business is LovetheSales.com, we are a discount aggregator that brings the sale products from 850 retailers, into one place. We help shoppers save money on the brands they love by finding the best deals across the web.”

This exercise is really useful for the actions below, where you will need to describe your idea succinctly to people (Will they understand it?)

Test your idea

Start sharing your idea with the people around you. Anyone who can spare 5 minutes to hear your proposal. This is a great way to get direct feedback on what’s good and not so good about your idea. Did they understand it? Do they have problems with it? Try to collect feedback from at least 30 people. It would also be an added bonus if some of them are your target customers.

It can be difficult to listen to criticism of your ideas from others, however it’s really important to try to elicit this kind of feedback without getting defensive. It can save you a lot of wasted time and effort. Getting early feedback, no matter how brutal it is, will help you to adjust your plan and give you a higher chance of success.

Tip: Try and get peoples uninfluenced and unbiased opinions. Refrain from interrupting or trying to change their objections with new information. The best feedback is fresh, unaltered first impressions.

Attend regular events related to your industry

You should try and become a mini expert of the industry you’re about to enter. Like a research project, you’re finding out who the major players are, the supply chain, the audience it attracts etc. Don’t try and overload yourself with all the information at once, it will take time and doesn’t happen overnight.

The best way to start is to attend regular events that would concern your business. For example, if you are starting a recruitment company, you want to attend recruitment conferences, business talks and meet ups that involve relevant people in that industry.

Eventbrite is a great tool to find these types of events near you. If you have a niche business and you can’t find events relating to your idea, try broadening your search to general business lectures, Marketing & PR events and so on.

Tip: These events are also fantastic for networking. Set up a LinkedIn and have it open and ready to share with new contacts you meet.

Find a good mentor

Good advice is like gold dust and having the right team around you is a critical part of successfully building your idea. Reach out to your university business professors, the Enterprise team at your university or join the entrepreneur society, try to find people who wouldn’t mind offering you bits of guidance from time to time.

There will be plenty of entrepreneurs and business leaders that are happy to pass on their wealth of knowledge. LinkedIn is also a great tool to keep in touch with these contacts.

Author

IMG_3279Stuart McClure is the co-founder of a company called LovetheSales.com – a website that aggregates sale items from 100’s of retailers into one website, helping consumers to find the best deals on products they want.

He has 14 years experience in digital marketing and business management and, before starting his company, worked in a number of multi-million pound businesses in senior positions.

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuartmcclure/

LovetheSales.com – https://www.lovethesales.com/

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Why Start-Ups and SMEs can be a great place to start your career


Guest blog written by TalentPool , a recruitment platform matching recent graduates with job and internship opportunities at start-ups & SMEs.

When you enter your final year of university and you start thinking about your graduate job, it is easy to end up feeling like big companies and graduate schemes are the only avenues into the world of work. In fact, it may interest you to know that 9 in 10 graduate jobs are in start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). These companies can offer you a unique and valuable route into your career with great opportunities for development. Here are the top 3 reasons why we think you should consider starting your career at a start-up or SME.

You will be given responsibility

adult-brainstorming-business-1181622At  a start-up or SME the team you work in will be small, so each person’s contribution counts! Far from being kept away from the core of the business until you are more experienced, at a start-up or SME you will usually be given high levels of responsibility very early on. You will be working in a small team, so you will receive lots of feedback and your work will not get ignored among a mass of other tasks. This will allow you to build your skills and see the impact of your work – pretty good for a fresh graduate! ! You’ll get a real insight into how a business operates and get to try your hand at a range of different tasks and projects.

The work is exciting

Working for a start-up or SME means working in a company that is constantly growing and evolving. Your role will probably develop throughout the years you work with the company, so you definitely won’t get bored! In many smaller businesses, due to the close-knit teams, employees from all levels of the company are involved in the big decisions. Seeing the work you do has a real impact on your company’s growth and development is one of the most exciting things about starting your career in this sector.

The company culture

Often at start-ups and SMEs, the environment you work in is more relaxed than it would be in a larger corporate. Dress codes are not as fixed and there is often a less rigid hierarchical structure to the team. Lots of these businesses have socials and team members get to know each other quickly. At a start-up you will be working alongside emerging talent and creative colleagues, making the company culture at a small organisation a very exciting one to be a part of.

An insight into the York Students in Schools Programme


colored-pencils-color-wooden-pegs-pens-draw-schoolEvery year we help hundreds of students to volunteer in local schools through the York Students in Schools Programme. We’ve been asking some of our current and former volunteers what their experience was like, so if you’ve been considering volunteering in a local school, read on to find out what it’s really like.

There’s still time to apply to volunteer during next term but the deadline is this Sunday 28 October. Apply online! 

With thanks to our York Students in Schools volunteers – Hannah, Rosie, Alex, Thomas, Aillen, Anh and Rebecca

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Decoding our Events Programme


Every term Careers and Placements organises events on campus. Now that we’re in week 5, you may have seen emails and social media about some of our careers events so far or you may have been to an event or careers fair. We’ve organised over 100 of them for this term alone!  If you haven’t been to a careers event before or you’re not sure they’re for you, here we’ll explain what they are, the different types and what you can expect to happen at them.

Events in your department – information talks led by a Careers Consultant. These focus on career essentials but are tailored to the department you’re studying in. Some examples of topics covered include, making job applications, CVs, interview skills and career options. You’ll find details of these on your timetable and they’re also listed on Careers Gateway.

Skills and Information sessions: Highlight and explore a particular skill or profession e.g. teacher training applications, career planning, enterprise and assessment centre exercises

Employer presentations: promotional talks from a single organisation. Sometimes they focus on a particular skill sought by the company. They provide a good insight into the culture and recruitment process and if it’s a company you’re thinking of applying to, go and meet the staff and use the opportunity to find out as much as you can to help sharpen up your application. Likewise if you’re not sure whether you want to apply to the company, use the opportunity to find out more about them and whether they would be a good fit for you.

UoY_Careers - Careers Fair - October 2018_Alex Holland-95Careers Fairs: large scale recruitment events that focus on a particular sector. We run three fairs in the Autumn term – Law, Technology and a general Graduate Jobs and Internships Fair. At a careers fair, you will encounter large companies with established graduate recruitment schemes who take on a sizeable cohort of new graduate recruits each year.

Panel or networking events: these events bring together speakers from a particular industry and aim to give you an idea of what it’s like to work in that area and how to get there. We try to focus on sectors that typically you wouldn’t see at a careers fair. In the past we have focused on media, arts and heritage, environment and sustainability and also non-profit and public sector. We invite York alumni and individuals to these events who can talk about their own experiences of their role and sector. If you want to find out about a particular industry or what a role involves or just to get an idea of the type of person who works there and the culture of an organisation. You can get all the basics off a company’s website but you can find out so much more from meeting people in the flesh.

 

What’s coming up this week?

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With input from graduate recruiters, come and experience some of the activities used at assessment centres. The event will consist of three employer-led workshops focusing on a particular exercise you could encounter at an assessment centre. Featured employers include Charityworks, Bank of England and Teach First.

You can see a list of what else will be happening under the Events menu in Careers Gateway or in the What’s On section on our website.

 

 

Going abroad? Check out GoinGlobal!


 

Students sometimes wish they’d done a bit more research before studying or working in another country – and we have a great online resource to help you do just that!

How do you know about…

  • Business practice and workplace etiquette?
  • Suitable gifts when visiting someone – and which flowers can cause offence?
  • Bargaining when shopping – is it expected or unacceptable?
  • How to greet people?
  • Eating out – and whether or not people share the bill?
  • Conversations and discussions – and whether it is OK to interrupt another speaker?

GoinGlobal can give you the answers to these and many more questions. GoinGlobal features country career guides, a jobs and internships database, lots of information about finding work and business culture as well as practical information such as healthcare and cost of living.

From the home page select Country career guides and choose from a list of 40 countries.

You will be able to access job search resources, information on growth sectors and areas where your skills could be needed, advice on CVs and interviews, and overview of visa requirements and information on living in that country – all compiled by people who live there.

Similarly, the City guides (mainly US cities and around 30 more cities worldwide), provide a toolkit of jobs resources and cultural advice.

Access GoinGlobal from our International work page and see what you can discover.

Spotlight on Placement Years


40908_Placement Year_officeSo you might have heard people talk about doing a ‘Year In Industry’ or a ‘Placement Year’ and wonder what it’s all about?

There are 8 departments here at York who have a Year In Industry programme. They are the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Electronic Engineering, Environment and Geography, Mathematics, Politics and The York Management School.

Students in these departments have the option to work for a year as part of their degree. In most instances the placement they do is strongly aligned to their degree programme.

For other Departments, as of last year, there is now the Placement Year programme. Students on this programme, can do a placement in an area that is either related or unrelated to their degree programme.

So it’s now an option for pretty much all York students to work for a year as part of your degree!

What are the benefits?

There are lots of benefits for doing a placement year as part of your degree. Two key ones from talking to employers and previous placement students are:

It provides you with what employers call “CV Gold”. It’s gives you a substantive piece of work experience to add to your CV – you can confidently talk to future employers about your experiences of working in a professional environment, the skills you develop and reflect on the organisational fit, which suits you the most.

It’s also a career taster – you might have a few ideas of where you’d like to work once you graduate – why not find out what you’d prefer now? Alternatively, you might have no idea of where you want to work – why not give something a go now before you graduate? No work experience is bad experience.

What could I do on placement?

venveo-609390-unsplashYou can do a placement in the UK or overseas. It’s down to you to find the placement that’s right for you and we will support you through the process.

There are a variety of advertised roles with a range of organisations – Finance, Marketing, Advertising, Market Research, Analysis, HR, Technical, Corporate Social Responsibility

It can be quite overwhelming to know where to start. Top tips to get started:

1) Take a look at current placement student stories on the Placement Year Padlet

2) Have a look at the reviews on Ratemyplacement – these are anonymous reviews by placement students

3) Refer to the guides on Prospects, to get an understanding of the different types of job roles and typical destinations for your degree area

If the advertised roles don’t interest you, why not contact organisations you are interested in working for directly? This is the ‘hidden market’. The world is your oyster so don’t delay in getting started with your search.

Registration for the Placement Year programme is now open for 2nd year students. If you are looking to pursue this option, register now and benefit from the support available to you.

Blog written by Lucy Brookes, Placement Co-ordinator, Careers and Placements

GUEST BLOG: The Recruitment Wish List – what skills do employers look for?


rawpixel-660716-unsplashGuest blog written by Jessica Ching, Digital Content and Marketing Executive at graduate recruitment experts,  Give a Grad a Go

It can often feel like employers are looking for a very specific person in terms of qualifications and work experience – but in reality, there are a number of other things that employers look for in their graduate hires.

If you can show that you have these desirable attributes on top of your degree, you’ll make your job application stand out from the crowd:

  • Transferable skills – A degree is an important part of any job application; but if you can demonstrate the skills you’ve learnt throughout your education, and relate them to the particular role you’re applying to, you’ll show the employer what you can offer their business. “Soft” or “transferable” skills can include communication skills (an employer favourite!), teamwork, time management or problem-solving skills – and can be demonstrated through your achievements, involvement in extra-curricular activities throughout school and university, and other hobbies or interests.
  • Commercial awareness – Employers across the board are becoming increasingly interested in hiring graduates who can demonstrate commercial awareness (an understanding of the business world). Show you have an understanding of businesses work by reading up on the market, taking an interest in news and current affairs, running your own business venture at university, or organising a fundraising event.

  • Culture fit – As much as skills and attributes are important to employers, they’ll also be looking to hire someone who will fit into their business and work well with their team. The best way to get a feel of the company culture before you apply is to check them out online (LinkedIn, Facebook, even a quick Google search). If you think you’d be a good fit for their company, show the employer your enthusiasm and dedication to the role throughout the interview process!
  • MemorabilityThe graduate jobs market is incredibly competitive – so if you can make yourself memorable to an employer this is a huge plus. They’ll read thousands of very similar CVs – so a unique design or an interesting combination of skills will make you stand out from the crowd.

  • Research – Preparing for an interview and doing your research around a company is looked on very favourably by employers. If you can drop things you’ve read about their organisation, product or service into an interview, you’ll show that you have a genuine interest in their company and the wider industry.

Find the latest graduate jobs on Give A Grad A Go’s website!