Boston reflections - Five minutes with Paul Blackler of Drink Baotic
I am a strong believer in learning and personal development. This is a culture we try to foster within Drink Baotic and the business.
Paul Blackler was one member of the recent cohort who joined us in Boston in May 2019 to help develop his global perspective. Head of Executive Education at ES, Jules Lancastle grabbed five minutes with him to better understand what value and key learnings he gained from the programme and what impact the experience will have on his business. Here’s what he thought:
Paul, the programme with ES is a blend of activities designed to DEVELOP, INSPIRE and CONNECT entrepreneurial leaders to the insight and support they need now. In addition to the Babson learning, how didme the programme help you in this regard?
Having time away from the business in a new and interesting environment allowed me to gain new energy and inspiration to tackle challenges and keep driving the business forward. An important part of the programme was connecting to lecturers and the wider business community. I was able to link up with Scottish development international and conduct market research via retail store visits and make connections to further plan our export strategy.
Meanwhile Babson exposed us to a very different style of learning. The course, content and delivery were hugely thought-provoking by looking at content, theory and practice with a new and interesting perspective. It was delivered in a way that opened the mind and challenged thinking and approaches to business. Having time away from the business in a new and interesting environment also allowed me to gain new energy and inspiration to tackle challenges and keep driving the business forward. Another important part of the program was connecting to lecturers and the wider business community. I was able to link up with Scottish development international and conduct market research via retail store visits and make connections to further plan our export strategy.
Before you left Scotland, you were asked to consider what your strategic focus would likely be on when you returned from Boston. How did this contextual focus support your learning?
My core focus was centred around sales, building a sales and marketing team and shifting from a development culture to a commercially led enterprise whilst retaining the social values that motivate us. But I came away with far more than that; having a core focus helped put some early thought into current challenges and opportunity within the business so that I could plan ahead and get the most out of each session and the connections made along the way. I felt some flexibility to embrace the course, and the different subjects were useful. A theme from Babson was to let yourself 'wander' but they were also highly skilled in moving with the discussion and interest from within the group.
You were joined on the programme by entrepreneurial leaders from sectors as diverse as fintech and construction, and with a range of experience from start-ups to 150years old! Was this helpful to you and if so in what way(s)?
Yes, in many ways it was one of the most interesting parts of the experience. Diversity brought an interesting element. It was the first time I had been on a programme that had a firmly established business (6th generation!) and not just start-ups/scale-ups. I felt, I learnt so much from those interactions and discussions, particularly around sustainability and staying true to your values. I found it truly fascinating, and it felt like a privilege.
Reflecting on the programme since returning, to what extent do you feel it has helped you develop entrepreneurial thinking to plan for the future, despite uncertainty?
It’s difficult to quantify learning, especially in the areas of entrepreneurial thinking and mindsets which are so important to resilience, longevity and surviving uncertainty but it was an area that I believe was highly impactful from the course. Babson covered so many approaches, concepts, frameworks and ways at looking at challenge and opportunity that it can be applied at various times regardless of uncertainty. I have my 100 key takeaways, a notebook full of notes and a memory full of experiences that I am constantly reflecting on and using.
…and can you give us one example of the impact of the programme on entrepreneurial action since returning?
As a business, we had developed an exciting, innovative and functional health drinks range and grown several growth opportunities quickly but have more recently had challenges transitioning to higher volume production. Babson came at a time when we were close to launching into a national online retailer but also looking to redefine our product line and strategy to improve the challenges with production and ease our route to market. Babson brought a myriad of learnings that allowed me to look at this pivotal moment in our business with fresh eyes and to gain fresh hunger to tackle the opportunity. It has given me a mindset of 'strategy as a hypothesis' to accelerate these plans, balanced with the enterprise and sales frameworks that will hopefully not just strengthen our market offering but also the way we approach enterprise as a whole.
How important do you feel it is for entrepreneurial leaders to invest in themselves if they share Scotland’s ambition to become part of the most entrepreneurial society in the world?
I am a strong believer in learning and personal development. This is a culture we try to foster within Drink Baotic and the business. As an entrepreneur, you are always learning, stepping outside your comfort zone and often stretching yourself in many different directions. So much so, that its often difficult to put the work down to step to one side and take a fresh perspective, or to allow your mind to wander and explore in different directions. Investing in 'classroom' learning like this, away from daily distractions and learning from the very best adds a whole new dimension and will often allow you to apply fresh energy and focus.
Want to develop global perspective like Paul? We will be returning to Boston in October for our upcoming programme ‘Equipping Leaders for Change & Growth’. Join us!