Is the emergence of the ‘Networked Entrepreneur’ anecdotal or really significant?

I meet more and more successful entrepreneurs who seem to be able to create real entrepreneurial opportunities and exploit them by using their networks. Interestingly, they are so good at this they create new networks if their existing ones can’t deliver. Combine this with the intrinsic ‘network power’ of the Internet and things could get very interesting!

I can think of three good examples of the former and hundreds of people who might get the latter.

So, what do I mean by the ‘Networked Entrepreneur’? They build innovative companies around core service offerings, which in addition to using ‘in house’ assets, integrate with their business networks. At first glance they seem ‘conventional’ but their ability to deliver is based on developing and managing these networks. No opportunity becomes too big and they can emerge in unexpected areas and win new business. The ability to manage or orchestrate these networks becomes a key skill.

Examples [pictures!] speak louder than words:

  1. Jonathan Hick, founding director of The Directorbank Group. He recognises opportunities across multiple sectors and knows the right people to exploit them. If you don’t believe me just look at his portfolio.
  2. Victoria Tomlinson, founder and Chief Executive of Northern Lights PR. She is establishing a new way of doing ‘PR’, which is based on her company being at the centre of a highly skilled and specialised network of service providers and senior business leaders. Of course Victoria builds a reputation in existing sectors but seems to be able to ‘leap frog’ into new ones.
  3. Tim Lockett, founding director of Deliver Net. (Yes, I know blood is thicker than water!) He is building a market leading company in a specialist sector by working in partnership with group customers, suppliers and technology providers to take costs out of the supply chain and empower the customer to really manage ‘cost in use’. Tim has probably forgotten the last time he talked to a customer about the price of a product.

And, who are the ‘hundreds of people’ who might understand the power of the Internet?

Many of my students instinctively see this way of working and that the Internet can be a key tool in achieving success. Well, of course they are the ‘Internet generation’. What they often lack is the market knowledge. However, all they have to do … is just find the right partner!

And, by the way, what are you doing to develop your ability to orchestrate networks better than your competitors?

Dr Nigel Lockett
Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (CEIM)
www.bradford.ac.uk/ceim
www.nigellockett.com