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How World Peace Begins With Everyday Leaders

AIESEC World Peace series highlights the stories and lessons from thought and everyday leaders from around the world on how World Peace may just be attainable. Contribute your story.

World Peace.

It has been humanity’s eternal, elusive dream. A dream that has inspired influential leaders like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Wangari Maathai, and Malala Yousafzai, to rise from being an ordinary citizen to becoming a leader to make a significant difference. There is also AIESEC’s very own alumnus Martti Ahtisaari, who was the 10th President of Finland and 2008 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his “for his efforts on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts.”

Ahtisaari states that AIESEC helped him “discover new passions about diversity and diplomacy.”

Leaders like Ahtisaari are not super heroes, but human beings just like you and I who have strived to achieve extraordinary accomplishments. They are everyday leaderswho care about the world and take action to defend human rights.

Ahtisaari AIESEC

The peaceful freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was once faced at gunpoint, but she did not give in. Instead, she demonstrated absolute courage and clarity by walking without fear to the line of soldiers and with the guns pointed at her, and walked passed it. Nobody was killed.

What would you have done in this moment?

The Lady Gunpoint

In the movie The Lady, Michelle Yeoh portrays Aung San Suu Kyi’s extraordinary life, challenges, road to peace and democracy in Burma, and is a compelling movie that showcases the power of nonviolence. The strength of this iconic woman is outstanding, and is a role model to show that fear cannot conquer our common humanity.We all live our own lives and we often turn down activities by saying “I’m busy.”

Pushing for world peace does not mean we all need to be walking in front of guns, but to take action even in the smallest ways. It is as practical as dedicating even a few hours a month volunteering for a cause that improves the lives of others, and yourself.

Being an everyday leaders means you are actively seeking for ways to improve the well-being of others in your community. An everyday leader can be as simple as:

  • Showing more compassion and empathy to those around you
  • Joining your grandparents for dinner even though you’re busy with work
  • Calling your loved ones to remind them of how thankful you are for their support
  • Volunteering for a social cause because it will make a difference in other peoples lives
  • Leading a peaceful movement of people to actively advocate for positive change in your community

These everyday actions, make a significant difference because you are now actively participating in your community.

Three specific TED Talks that will alter your perspective on the road to peace

In the Road to Peace playlist on TED, “these speakers offer inspired ideas, practical advice and real-world examples from around the globe of how it just might be attainable.”

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1997 for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines advocates for society to have a more realistic vision of world peace. The talk focuses on rethinking world peace to human security, and enabling people to live dignified lives.

Scilia Elworthy a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of Oxford Research Group that seeks to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, talks about how to deal with extreme violence without using force in return. Exploring the themes of how to overcome bullies ranging from countries to individuals without any violence in return

Julia Bacha a filmmaker who produced Budhrus discusses the power of attention, and how we often media and audiences pay attention to the violence, but not the non-violent leaders and peacemakers of the Middle East region that may very well bring peace to the region. Bacha advocates for us to pay attention to nonviolence.

AIESEC Youth Leaders

Progress will come, when all of humanity is awakened, moved to take action and not idly sit by to wait for change.

Young people around the world need to strive to become an everyday leaders and make positive change happen by taking actions that improve the lives of others.

How will you get involved in the global community and create positive change?

Submit and share your everyday leader story with us. Tweet us at @AIESEC or engage with me at @gdondon

 

 

4 Reasons Why AIESEC Provides the Perfect Education for an Entrepreneur: Part 2

This is part two of a Guest Blog from Tom Weaver, previous Member Committee President of AIESEC United Kingdom 2002-2003, Founder of Flypay.

On Monday, I introduced you to my AIESEC experience and how the skills I learned supported me in becoming an entrepreneur and founding my startup Flypay. Here are the other two reasons for why AIESEC provides the perfect education for the future entrepreneur:

Reason 3: Entrepreneurs need to have passion and belief in what you do

AIESEC is amazing at building passion.  It’s what makes AIESEC so successful and sustained over so many decades.  When people join AIESEC they learn how to channel that passion into getting other people just as passionate about the concept and the product.

When you create a startup, you need to really believe in what you’re doing, and feel passionate about it.  That passion will come through for your customers, partners and investors.  I’ve met founders who seemed bored with their own creations, and I wouldn’t put my money into them.

Reason 4: Entrepreneurs need to be accountable in a totally different way than employees are accountable to their managers

One of the most fascinating aspects of AIESEC (speaking, perhaps now, with a UK slant) is how Local Committees have non-contractual accountability to the Member Committees (national teams), and how Member Committees have accountability to their Board of Directors.

In the case of the Member Committees (MC), there are very strong similarities with running a startup.  The typical AIESEC Board does not “manage” the MC.  They are non-executive.  But the MCs are accountable to that board.

Having a startup that has gone through a funding round is the first experience I’ve had of being accountable to a board since leaving AIESEC.  Every job I had, no matter how senior, I was simply reporting to a manager.  The previous company I built, Flywheel, was a consultancy and did not need investment- the two directors were the board.

In Flypay, aside from the two founders (myself and my CTO, Chris), we have an amazing board to guide the organization, and to be accountable to.  I have one Non-Exec who has vast experience running very large restaurant groups and is very well known in the industry.  He gives us the “restaurant operator” insight.  We have a Non-Exec, who is also an investor, who knows all the CIOs in the restaurant sector personally and advises us on our business development.  And we have one Non-Exec, who represents two investors and has a lifetime of experience in technology investment and is steering us towards our second round.

My job as CEO in this regard is very similar to my role of Member Committee President.  I ensure we are being transparent to the board and giving them a clear picture of the state of the organization.  Monthly, I present how we’re doing, and get agreement on strategic items too important for us to decide just as founders, such as a funding strategy.  We often come up with strategic input, but we ensure the board has a say. Working with them closely and building a good relationship is critical to get the best out of my company and my AIESEC experience with accountability structures has been very useful.

Conclusion

Being an entrepreneur and starting your own company is an amazing roller-coaster ride.  But you don’t (necessarily) have to start a venture straight after AIESEC.  Have other experiences that give you ideas.  Often the best concepts for startups come from the frustration of spotting a problem in your current job, and knowing that your current employer or client is not geared towards solving it.  Understand what it’s like to be an employee before you have employees.

That being said, joining small businesses that give you good exposure to a range of problems can be a beneficial path to take. They may have nothing to do with where you eventually start your own business (I was in educational consulting, then design consulting, then customer experience innovation consulting… then Flypay!).  I’ve known other alumni that joined very large businesses, and have done exceedingly well to get in senior roles, but they are now used to working at a macro level and would struggle to deal with the minutiae you have to deal with as a founder in a startup.

Whatever you do, make the most of your time in AIESEC.  It is a wonderful incubator for your entire career, and I’m thankful every day I discovered it.

Flypay is running for the SMARTA 100 mobile business of the year and we would really appreciate your support.  Vote for us by clicking the following link: www.flypay.co.uk/vote You can follow the guys on Twitter at @flypayuk, or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/flypayuk

For more information on how to get  involved with AIESEC, please visit our website www.aiesec.org

4 Reasons why AIESEC provides the perfect education for an Entrepreneur: Part 1

This is two part Guest Blog post from Tom Weaver, previous Member Committee President of AIESEC United Kingdom 2002-2003, Founder of Flypay.

“A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” The only essential thing is growth.” 

– Paul Graham, investor & founder of startup incubator Y Combinator

My story: University, AIESEC and becoming an Entrepreneur

The AIESEC experience is like being thrown in the deep end of the swimming pool when you’ve just taken off your life jacket. Fortunately, this is exactly the induction that is needed for the aspiring entrepreneur. With AIESEC’s safe environment to try new things and fail, members are able to learn and acquire practical skills that are very much needed in the world of startups.

I felt I was in the deep end at every step of my AIESEC career, from a new member, to Local Committee President in AIESEC at the University of Southampton, to a trainer, and finally to National President of AIESEC United Kingdom in 2002.  The kinds of issues and challenges we faced day to day were well beyond what I needed to deal with for many years after, until I founded my startup company, Flypay.

At that point, I felt like I’d jumped into an even deeper swimming pool.  Fortunately for me, I knew a little bit about swimming by now.

Flypay’s Journey: From an idea to a startup

Flypay is an app that allows restaurant customers to check, split and pay their bill from their smartphone. The typical restaurant customer waits over ten minutes from the moment they are ready to leave, until the moment they are paid up and can leave. There are all sorts of difficulties with splitting the bill with others at your table. I felt that my business partner and I could solve this problem.

We launched in Wahaca, a major London Mexican restaurant brand, last month. We’re now slowly rolling out across their estate, as well as having some very positive discussions with some very large and well-loved UK restaurant brands.

Now we’re focusing on growth; growth in the number of restaurants using our solution; growth in the number of consumers using the app. And we need that growth fast! We need to get there before the PayPals of this world decide they can do what we do.

We’ve gone through one investment round, and will shortly begin our second, much more significant round.  We’ve had our first transactions, first users, first press, first positive tweets, and have just been nominated for Mobile Business of the Year (we need votes for this, so if you think we’re onto something please help by voting here)!

Through all of this, the skills I had gained in AIESEC were critical to our success, and I realized why AIESEC is such a perfect primer for startup founders.  Here are my four reasons.  It was three, but who needs to follow convention anyway?

Reason 1: Entrepreneurs need to be a generalist as well as a specialist

Aside from designing and creating the actual product, here are some of the things I’ve had to do in order to get Flypay off the ground. They may sound familiar to the well-seasoned AIESECer (a term we use for “members of AIESEC” for those of you who are not in the organisation):

  • Cold email the Managing Director of our first customer to persuade him to meet us
  • Persuade our first customer to take a chance on us in our first meeting
  • Persuade critical partners to work with us by selling them the vision of what we were going to achieve, and how they could be a part of it
  • Develop a business plan outlining what we were going to achieve (used as the basis for fundraising)
  • Pitch for funding (somewhat like going for sponsorship, only a bit of a larger number)
  • Build the best possible Board of Directors
  • Create a new business development and marketing strategy
  • Develop the product and execute the vision you’ve sold everyone
  • Sort the finances, and develop a very focused budget

Some people have very defined careers. They build up specialisms that determine their day-to-day job descriptions and projects.

Running a startup is not like that.  It is just like working in AIESEC- every day holds something very different.  One day I’m meeting a new client.  Another I’m networking with senior executives at a conference.  Today I’m running a board meeting and had a lot of materials to prepare.  We’ve got employees to manage, and product deadlines to hit.  I’m interviewing PR companies this week. I need to prepare a contractual agreement for a potential new client.

Being able to deal with a wide range of things from the very big picture to the very small details and shift from concept to execution very quickly is essential to the success of a startup.  This is what AIESECers do all the time.

Reason 2: Entrepreneurs need to be very good at persuasion and presenting

When you initiate a startup, you have a vision for something you want to change.  Often, you need to persuade a myriad of people to work with you.  We’ve needed to convince a lot of people that Flypay was worth their time- including our first clients, the restaurant systems that client used, a very large payment gateway provider, several merchant banks, investors and initial consumers.  They had to take a chance on something that (at early points) didn’t even have much of a product to put in front of people.

AIESECers learn to be persuasive because what they are selling is very conceptual (you don’t have a physical trainee there) and relatively complex (there is a whole process to go through).  That is a very useful thing to learn.

Once I left AIESEC I was blown away by how poor “normal professionals” are at presenting.  I saw, and still see, many highly paid and important, but insanely poor presenters. Yet, in AIESEC, we are used to getting up in front of large groups all the time.  It gives you a huge advantage.  When you go to pitch for investments you need every inch of those skills.  We had one presentation of five minutes in front of 25 “dragons” followed by five minutes of questions, but were told we were unusually good at presenting and made an excellent impression (and gained two investors and an offer of more from the experience).

Interested to hear more? Come back on Wednesday for the continuation of Tom Weaver’s guest post, as well as his final thoughts on AIESEC and entrepreneurship.

Are you ready to start improving the skills you need to become an entrepreneur? Sign up to become a member of AIESEC now!