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Bridging the Gap between Manager and Entrepreneur

Brian Dorricott set the scene for the Institute of Manager and Leader’s first Spark Festival panel event “Bridging the Gap between Manager and Entrepreneur” on the 19th October with two amazing facts:

Those over 55 are twice as likely to be a successful entrepreneur than those aged 20 – 34.

75% of successful entrepreneurs have worked in their sector for over six years.

And things are only going to get better. Why?

Since the inversion of business principles has taken place over the last thirty years, conventional businesses are finding it challenging to complete. Luminaries such as Prof Clayton Christensen, Eric Ries, Geoffery Moore, Peter Thiel, Rosser Reeves and many others have researched and created a pleather of competing processes for getting ideas to market. Each concept is different so the skill comes in selecting the right tool at the right time – the principle espoused by the concept of Lean Commercialisation. So we now have the tools to minimise the cost of testing our ideas and building a “tribe” of early adopters who will pay to make our ideas a success.

The panel introduced their journey from corporate life to starting a company and then took questions from the audience. The four panellists were:

John Babet Non-executive Director of Next Realm whose co-founder wife, Libby, is the new trainer for Channel TEN’s “The Biggest Loser”. Next Realm owns fitness businesses and is branching out into nutritious food.
John Linney Director of Innovation Force which is a company dedicated to making every business a centre of excellence in innovation.
Karen O’Connell-Shea Karen has 20 years HR industry experience and consults to SMEs and is an Academic at SIBT and Macquarie University
Samir Sinha Samir is the Founder CEO of Robonomics AI and has around 25 years experience of building startups within larger multinational corporations in consulting, sales and delivery.


During Q&A our panel provided three key insights about their journey through corporate and to branching out and starting their own business.

Frustration. That’s what made it happen. Frustration with the way that things were being done in their corporates led them to realise that there was a better way. But the jump can be frightening. As Linney said on his first day he thought “Oh no, what have I done?”. That was 15 years ago and he’s not regretted the decision. On the other hand Sinha found the transition more straight forward since he had been an intrapreneur for the last decade, creating new divisions within HCL Australia and SAP.
Black swans Both Sinha and Babet talked about the impact and uncertainty created by having to handle unexpected events almost every day. Babet counselled “It is important to be flexible and take the opportunities as they arise”.
Harder / more work Sinha started by saying “I left my 40 hour a week job… for an 80 hour a week job. And I’m still happy because it’s what I want to do.” This was echoed by all the panellists.


There was disagreement on the last question: “How do you manage all the ideas and focus on future v. present activity?” Babet said he quickly apprised the idea and decided to try it out or leave it: “Some of the best result have come from spontaneous ideas”. The coach on our panel, O’Connell-Shea, had a different approach. All those ideas not for immediate action were written on a post-it note and saved. Every three months her team reviewed all the notes to identify which to run with.

Overall a great morning with real insights. A big thank you to our hosts: the Institute of Management and Leaders and our panel: John Babet, John Linney, Karen O’Connell-Shea and Samir Sinha.

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