Belfast Telegraph

By paying attention to smallest details, the aggregate returns can be enormous

By Lynsey Cunningham

As an entrepreneur development manager, I find myself having some truly weird and wonderful conversations, ranging from foreign exchange rates for markets in the Middle East through to debating the finer points of marketing water sports. It's certainly made me more 'magpie-minded' and open to new ideas from totally different fields.

As such, although I'm not much of a cycling fan, there is one idea - pioneered by UK cycling - that has intrigued me and gained a lot of traction in the world of business in recent years. It's all about marginal gains - a different way of looking at how to practice and improve in any discipline. The idea behind it is that it's more effective to conceive, and deliver, a 1% improvement in each individual step of a process, rather than having a larger, more abstract target for the whole process. It's an approach that means paying attention to the smallest details to see if there are any improvements that can be eked out - and that, although it might not be visible at the start, over time the aggregate gains are huge.

Working with early stage entrepreneurs has been really refreshing because their businesses are at a stage that they can really benefit from such lateral thinking - it's precisely because they are often just starting out that they are particularly well-placed to benefit from good habits. Formed early, these can produce real benefits over time - whether that's in terms of pitching their business to would-be investors or how to structure a marketing plan.

In particular, I've also seen how relatively small amounts of capital can have a transformative impact on the culture and output of an early stage business.

At our Entrepreneuring Awards, which took place recently in the Hatchery, more than £30,000 was awarded to local entrepreneurs who had demonstrated verve and vision in building their business - for their pitches, their help to others, or the speed of their success to date.

For an early stage business, this money is capable of generating an immediate and tangible return - whether it goes towards flights to go to London to meet a potential investor, or being able to invest in pay-per-click advertising to generate some much-needed scale for an online business.

Later in the year, I'll be working with my colleagues at Entrepreneurial Spark to identify how we can undergo our own marginal improvements in how we further support the local business ecosystem.

An interaction between the public and private sectors is an important part of developing that, and I'm excited to look at the ways that that might happen and how we can play our part.

One of the forums we'll be using to develop this is 'Opportunity Knocks', a conference we're hosting to provide a platform for businesses, entrepreneurs, and everyone with a stake in building the economy, to discuss and debate the ways that we can improve.

It's another small step - but one that will continue to add up to the great work that's already being done. In the months and years ahead I'm confident we will see a virtuous circle of returns.

Belfast Telegraph