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Early Careers Event- with Independent Strategy Consultant Ben Hedley

Every year Freshminds runs the “Ones To Watch” program which consists of peer nominations of second-year students, from top universities across the UK. These individuals have been nominated by their peers as potential leaders or individuals to look out for throughout their career. We had around 1000 nominees, who went through a thorough selection process to be part of the 2019’s select group of 50 Ones to Watch.

The event was an Early Careers and Networking evening for our OTW candidates and alumni, with an intro from our MD James Callander, followed by an inspiring talk from one of our remarkable consultants, Benjamin (Benja) Hedley. His journey from consulting to disrupting fairly traditional companies to turning passions into businesses, the tale is just breath-taking. Benja himself has founded 6 start-ups (so far) and he shared his career lessons with us: including his trial and errors (some in the most painful way), having the confidence to go out there and just do something (but start softly) and ensuring that your idea is actually solving a problem.

It was interesting to hear him talk about how it all started a long way back including learning the strategy consulting skill set. This opened most of the doors for him later on and is something here at Freshminds that we are particularly passionate about. These skills included a capability with data analytics, understanding the market landscape and commercial acumen which was acquired through a solid training and exposure to an array of organisations. In turn, this helped him to take his first leap into making a huge difference. In a fairly traditional logistics company, Benja was the one to spot a process improvement opportunity, resulting in millions of savings and making him a young director.

Our Ones To Watch aced the Q & A session in order to dig deep and understand how they could follow a similarly successful path:

Some of their brilliant questions (and Benja/James’ answers) are below:

Should we start our company fresh out of university or is it smarter to train in a consultancy firm and then make the move?

Benja, alongside Freshminds MD James Callander, agreed on the latter for mainly two reasons. The training that you have from consulting firms or a corporate job will lay the ground to start a business in a smarter, commercially focused and leaner way. If the tide changes, you’ll always have that career/experience to go back to (which means, practically speaking, that you are more placeable). James also added that, statistically, it is more likely that a start-up whose founders are experienced in the business world are more likely to succeed.

If you have several ideas, how do you decide on which one to pursue?

Benja guided us through by saying “do what I say, not what I do” since he’s founded several start-ups and has, himself, a lot of other ideas too: he said that the golden rule is to focus and to delegate. Find people who can do what you do, and can do it fast. That way, you’ll be able to dedicate yourself to other ideas and projects. Also, make sure that you use your time in the smartest way possible: outsource what doesn’t require your expertise, so that you can focus on what matters.

How do you juggle between your start-up and your day to day job?

“Back in the day, you used to have a 9-5 job and then a 5-9 one” – Benja said. You will probably miss out on social events and work a lot, so make sure you’re starting something that you’re interested in. If this is your first job, though, focus on the day to day job until you’re doing well (at least the first few months). “Remember that the first bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese” – you don’t have to come up with the best innovative idea, it just has to be better than the first one. So if that means that your start-up idea will set aside for a year or so, let it be; you will have time to do it smarter later on.

With a few more brilliant questions from the Ones To Watch 2019 class, Benja and James wrapped up an exciting evening, followed by an enthusiastic round of applause and a huddle of eager students networking for the next hour or so. I’ve had the chance to meet several of these for the first time and to hear about their plans to conquer and achieve over the next year(s). A mix of corporate, strategy consulting experience and a bunch of ideas to start the next ‘thing’, they are definitely the ones to keep an eye for.