How Hedgehogs can Rock Your Career
Speaking to a room full of students, Christian Barden talked of the importance of the simple “be, do have” way of operating and that, despite your qualifications; there is no substitute for hard work. He spoke candidly of his own graduate and executive experiences and how Jim Collins “Hedgehog Concept” has helped him to keep making better professional, personal and business decisions through understanding what you can be deeply passionate about, what you can the best in the world at and what drives your economic engine.
The Hedgehog Concept was originally based on an ancient Greek parable, which stated, "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." In the parable, the fox uses many strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races, and plays dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, its nose pricked by spines. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one big thing perfectly: defend itself. It's all about learning the art of simplicity, like a hedgehog, and creating a clear focus for you, your team, and your business.
Rightfully, the audience came into the room unsure as to how a hedgehog anything to do with business, let alone a career. By then end of the night the students in the room were thinking hard about their own skills, passion and capabilities.
In his own career, having worked up through a graduate program and across numerous executive positions in big PLC and SME’s, Christian now works in the FMCG, technology & hospitality industry and is the starter of Kegstar in Europe in 2016, a smart app and cloud enabled one-way keg rental and collection service to drinks producers, mainly breweries. He’s also a non-executive advisor to 2 further businesses, one of which is another technology start up providing a simple comprehensive customer relationship marketing solution to bars, restaurants and hotels.
He offered the simple Hedgehog Concept that has driven Kegstar’s success which is simple by design and “not complicated, just i) be passionate about our beer and cider industry, ii) be the best in the world at saying sorry, thank you and cleaning a keg and iii) send, collect and reuse kegs faster and faster to generate the right returns. With only just now 15 employees and a turnover of c.£10m in less than four years, he points out its all down to ”team” and always will be, with high startup stretch matched with high support, a customer experience focus of helping get more great beer out there easy, and being very aligned on their hedgehog.
One example he gave of the perseverance needed for anyone to succeed was the maker of Angry Birds, everyone's favorite time waster app and now global franchise which took 51 tries before they created the perfect casual game having battled back from bankruptcy to become one of the hottest entertainment companies in the world valued at $1.1bn in 2017, just 10 years after they started.
One of his personal values that resonated with the audience was the idea of ‘Being’ and “Doing” rather than ‘Having’. If you are so consumed with the idea of having things, whether that is monetary or material goods, you will never be really satisfied. Instead, focus on being the kind of person you want to be. Be the kind of company you want to be. Be the kind of company that your employees or team love to work at and where they do their best work. That means creating the right environment where they know it’s safe to take risks. He knows his own personal, family, professional and team achievements would not be the same if the goal was simply “having” the largest bonuses, highest salary or biggest house.
In a far reaching and fun Q&A, the answer that surprised us most was in response to being asked what of his favorite job was. One the early jobs Christian had was as a refuse collector in a summer break whilst an undergraduate at Coventry University. He said he loved it “…I got to walk 12.5 miles a day, pick up 3.5 tons of rubbish by hand and meet some very different people to me.” He played rugby to a high level, so it was like being paid to train in the sunshine every morning. It was so different to anything he’d known before and he finished the summer with a letter thanking him and offering him a work place as he’d taken nearly 45 minutes off the routes and teams he was assigned to.
Christian kindly gave his time to come and speak to our IoD Student Members at Nottingham Trent University. The IoD East Midlands works closely with local Universities to ensure the future directors of the world have access to information and the opportunity to gain experience in business. If you are interested in working with students through our £10 Challenge or giving a talk, please contact our regional office.