Six-Minute Mentor: Professor Stefan Allesch-Taylor CBE
We ask the financier, educator and serial entrepreneur to share his recipe for success
You might not recognise Professor Stefan Allesch-Taylor’s name, but there’s a good chance that you’ve tasted his coffee. As the chair of Coffeesmiths Collective Inc., the operator of a roster of roasteries including the multi-award winning Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Nordic Bakery and Baker & Spice, Stefan has co-founded and invested in more than 100 new companies operating across 15 countries. Alongside this, Stefan co-founded and chairs a selection of award-winning charities that have provided poverty alleviation to over 1.5 million of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Eager not to keep his experience and knowledge to himself, Stefan was also recently appointed the first ever Professor of the Practice of Entrepreneurship at King’s College London, where he shares his expertise with start-ups and businesses across all stages of development and lectures at King’s Business School.
Here, the polymathic entrepreneur tells us what he’s learned, and shares his recipe for success.
I never listened to advice. Sensible people listen to advice, and others have to learn everything the hard way. Sadly, I was the latter. But I would say that ‘try to see yourself as others see you’ is very good advice. It took me a while to get to grips with what that meant, but it’s helpful in all things. The worst piece of advice anyone could give you is to try and ‘fit in’.
A few years ago, I’d have told you that Imposter Syndrome isn’t a real thing, but frankly it is. We live in a world full of exaggeration and self promotion through the rise of social media on one hand, and this pervasive feeling of inadequacy on the other. In my experiences of both becoming a mentor, and benefitting from a mentor, I have seen that mentoring can have a great effect on combating Imposter Syndrome. You would be amazed at how much you know and can share, and how much you can still build on your success with a mentor that shares your values.
In an evolving world, it’s becoming harder to define entrepreneurship. For me, it is a leadership role where an individual has to create and lead the execution of a strategy as well as assessing risk and financial outcomes. Entrepreneurial thinking is awesome but it should not be the sole purview of personal wealth creation — it’s such a waste! I’d love to see more entrepreneurial thinking in the NHS and government. God knows we have never needed it more than now…
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in business? I can’t help but drop into a cliché here. But it is true — both failure and success are relative terms. Both can be as wondrous as they can be toxic.
Mentoring and practical advice is invaluable to a new generation of entrepreneurial thinkers. It’s worth far, far more than just investment. Money comes and goes, knowledge is forever. (That was my second cliché I know!)
There’s one common characteristic that all of the top business people I have met share: everyone wants to win. I’m not saying that negotiation tables need to be hostile or even adversarial, but it’s a negotiation and if you don’t get what you need then you’re probably in trouble. If I can be more constructive, I would say learn to win an argument and not make an enemy.
I always remember that there’s life beyond whatever I’m dealing with in business at any particular time. Being driven by anything other than what makes you proud of yourself in the final analysis will ultimately catch up with you.
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