How did it go, and how does it feel? Experiences from entrepreneurial group
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health is responsible for organizing coaching and peer groups for entrepreneurs over 55 years old in EntreFox project. The activities of the first group took place in autumn 2019. What an interesting and rewarding experience it was! At least, that is how we, the group leaders, have felt. How about the experiences, thoughts and feeling of the participants of the two-month journey? These are summarized below.
Before starting the group activities, the entrepreneurs were asked of what they expect from the group activities. One common expectation was peer support: the entrepreneurs hoped to get group support, encouragement, the possibility to share experience and knowledge, and have a sounding board for own reflections. These expectations were met by group activities. For example, identifying one’s knowledge and skills through peer support and perceiving that others have similar problems was considered a good practice.
We also wanted to think of a group as a place for coaching and peer support. The participants not only did exercises and reviewed educational content but also shared experiences and thoughts. As one of the sole entrepreneurs said: when there is no work community, you don’t know what things others are struggling with, and you can’t benchmark professional competence. You can only compare yourself to your imaginative picture of others.
The participants found sparring and tips from others valuable. This experience was especially linked to the exercise we did, in which we have reviewed together the situations brought up by the group. The review included concrete situations or issues described by the participants about their own business, for which they needed ideas and solutions from others. The participants said these types of exercises would be great in the future. We will provide more opportunities to address own issues for the next groups.
One of the most important entrepreneurial skills is marketing. The participants felt the need for help and tips in marketing and sales, to present themselves and their businesses. We have managed to find a great visiting coach, who have used an inspiring approach to make the group think, what they want to achieve with their businesses, what is their core competence and what customers want to pay for. We should have the coach visit the next groups as well!
How about digital skills and needs? Our group was quite diverse in terms of the use of IT and digital communications. The digital skills and needs varied greatly among the participants. Some entrepreneurs in the group had no need for social media in their work, while others used it as a key tool. We believe that this diversity is quite common on a broader scale. Thus, with our next groups of entrepreneurs, we need to think carefully about how we can respond to these individual needs.
At the end of the group activities, we asked for feedback. It was great to see that the group members openly expressed their thoughts on what worked and what could be developed. We’ve got some good tips for the following groups. This also contributes to the fact that a safe and open atmosphere for presenting ideas was built in the group. The group members were also very involved throughout the activities: most were present each time, and there were only a few pre-arranged absences. It felt like there weren’t too many meetings, and the feedback suggested having a few more.
This was a great start! Our next group of entrepreneurs over 55 will start in the early fall, and we hope it will be at least as exciting as the previous one. Interested? Information on the group activities to be held in autumn 2020 can be found here: https://www.entrefox.fi/yrittajien-valmennus-ja-vertaishmäat-2020/
Marjukka Laina and Heli Ansio