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Award-winning serial entrepreneur, business coach, and advisor. We are lucky to be supported by mentors such as Assim Ishaque who can share their insights and knowledge in all aspects of business, inspiring Volvero to move forward. This month, straight from Nottingham, Assim shared with us his success and failures story, and how he sees Volvero.

Can you tell us about your experience as an entrepreneur and a coach?

I am a working entrepreneur, I’ve been working for myself for 18 years on mainly clean technology projects for billionaire property owners, governments, and for renewable developers, and then I invented my own products, taking my own ideas from idea, prototype and developing, and turning them into cash-generating businesses. 

So as a coach… I would love to say I’ve been very successful throughout my career and therefore I can teach anybody else to be successful. But I haven’t. I’ve had lots of failures and lots of things go wrong.

Having worked with many startup organizations in universities, I realized that they really don’t teach us how not to fail. They teach us how to do things on the basis that we live in a rational world, in that if we take X and multiply it by Y, you get X and Y. I realized that 60% of businesses fail, but the people that help businesses get moving don’t really support them to be successful by not teaching them how to deal with the difficult stuff.

I looked at where things had gone wrong for me and in those patterns, I created some models to help me. The first event where I taught my new tools was a class of MBA  students at Bangor University and they were very impressed with the seminar. So I thought I should be teaching more entrepreneurs ‘how not to fail’ because most of them do. If you take any room of 100 entrepreneurs, 60% will fail in the first five years and then, 90% in 10 years. If you were to buy a computer and you knew it was going to fail 90 or 60% of the time you wouldn’t touch it. There is not enough guidance to early stage entrepreneurs on the challenges they may face. So that started my journey to be a coach and a mentor for entrepreneurs.

I became a coach because I had terrible coaches that were more interested in being nice, being pleasant and being rebooked.”

What are you teaching right now?

I’m teaching entrepreneurs how to see danger signs before it is too late, to see risks that will cause you situational problems that are going to be very painful. I developed a number of models around risk and trust at every step from an idea to turning it into the money. 

I’m currently a mentor at NatWest Entrepreneur Hub, the European Union Institute of Innovation and Technology Climate Change focused entrepreneurs, I work with a couple of universities, I do lots of mentoring with startups as well as delivering my own unique seminars through some of these organizations. And I think the reason I’m good at that is because I’m not interested in keeping them happy. I’m interested in the situation they face and making sure we get to the root of it to fix it and find a way forward.

Whereas for other reasons I became a coach is because I had terrible coaches that were more interested in being nice, being pleasant and being rebooked. They never actually helped me with tough decisions. They would either agree, mildly object or gently suggest. And as an entrepreneur I needed somebody a bit harder and tougher, without being nasty. I’m very straightforward with the people I work with and I separate the individual from the situation. And that works well because they get answers. I don’t care if they agree with me or not. In fact, it is sometimes better that they don’t agree. But do something, make a decision, because we can always change the decision if it doesn’t work. But we need to make it and not just sit back and do nothing.

Volvero is a part of the EIT Climate KIC Accelerator, what can you say about the program being a coach there?

I went through the accelerator myself and I thought it was fantastic. It was run by Aston University in Birmingham. It was a great experience because I was with other environmental entrepreneurs who are motivated, intelligent, had great projects, so I was honoured to be within their circle. But the real step change for me was when I went on a masterclass by Bill Aulet on the 24 steps of discipline entrepreneurship, that’s the business basis of what Climate KIC does as their teaching methodology, and it was absolutely fantastic. I suddenly realized where I was going wrong and it gave me a systematic process. It also helped me figure out that there is a lack of reality in entrepreneurship. Bill Aulet is the best in entrepreneurship, the best instructor and mentor for entrepreneurs as far as I saw it. Although he gets you to test, test and re-test, still in the minds of the entrepreneurs, there are some emotional issues that are not addressed, like dealing with trust and risk. So I saw that as a gap and that motivated me become a coach and a speaker. I then delivered my masterclass for entrepreneurs all over Europe through EIT, who took an entrepreneurial risk with me, but it really made a difference because it helped me gain credibility as a speaker. And I met Marco there, as well as many of the entrepreneurs.

What is in your future?

I’m still progressing on my own projects. When I teach, I’m not a theoretical entrepreneur, I’m a practical entrepreneur. I’m actually doing some of the stuff I teach, I implement, which is great. I have done a reasonable amount of work over the COVID period and I hope to do a lot more, focusing around being a fearless entrepreneur and guiding entrepreneurs through the difficult challenges that they face in COVID and beyond it when we get back to the reality, helping them be stronger, clearer in mind, focused on reality and being more successful and avoiding the pitfalls and the dangers.

“Why do we need to buy a car or go through hiring a car through a rental company? Volvero could be a game-changing business.”

What is your opinion on how mobility changes, what influence did Covid-19 had on it and might have on Volvero?

I think people are using cars less. I have two cars, but I only drive one of them and I bought a bicycle instead. But If I were buying a car now, I would really have to think carefully about it because I am driving considerably less. 

The idea of being able to borrow a car or rent a car for a short period of time is going to be increasingly attractive. It could be a game-changing business. Why do we need to buy a car or why do we need to go through hiring a car through a rental company? I don’t need a new car. I just need it to be clean and reliable. So if Volvero keeps progressing through this challenging time, it will be the answer to cars sitting on our drives, car parks – waiting for a driver. The likelihood is that we could probably get away with half of the world’s cars if we use each of them more. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just rent a car instead, choosing from great variety? It is indeed the Airbnb for motor vehicles. I think it’s a game-changing business, so you really need to make it happen, and I wish you every success.

That is all from Assim, very insightful.