“If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” – Hillel’s Maxim

From the above maxim I take this – if we are not about each other then forget it, being distant from each other debases ourselves, makes us question our value. Life is about reciprocity and serendipity, if we are not out there helping each other today, then tomorrow we may regret it. That is a maxim I ascribe to.

NE Essex and Suffolk is my adopted home, but never before have I felt so impassioned about this area, its future and what it can achieve. I have lived here for 30 years – but it is only recently, the last seven or so, that I have really stopped to appreciate all that this region offers. For the bulk of my time here, like many thousands of those around me, I commuted daily into London. It was only at weekends and on my holidays that I ever really managed to connect with this region’s ‘sense of place’ and even then only superficially. I always saw things from the perspective of a visitor not a inhabitant, unconnected to the culture and life, devoid of strong roots.

Seven years ago I was made redundant from a 28 year career in finance, and like many people who have had this happen to them, the challenge that I faced was to rediscover who I was and what I stood for. Change is an empowering force, it makes us reconnect with emotions that may well have been dormant for some time. I was fortunate that this happened when I was two-thirds of the way through my degree with the Open University since my topic Leadership and Management was a journey of self-discovery and change in itself. Academia had never been my thing (one A-level was testament to that) – learning was for me about creating experience and applying that knowledge to future situations. It was not about seeking recognised theories and adapting these to an experience, experience instead led to a desire to discover. I saw this as a very different thing from the rote learning practices of formal education.  Learning became a living force in my life when someone put a pound note in front of a formula, numbers came alive, or when reading literature, fictional and non-fictional that instilled a thirst in me to understand and deepen my thought processes. I naturally took what I consumed and applied that thinking across every facet of my development and accordingly the business development I was a part of.

During my degree I read extensively, talked with amazing people and developed around me a circle of mentors who willingly gave their time to help re-centre my life. At that junction academics became a driving force, one to this day that helps me think more deeply and strive to make a greater impact in this world. Now in my second year of a three year masters, my love of academics has flourished even more.

Education and mentoring are powerful tools to lift people up, to unburden the baggage of limiting beliefs that hold us back and, at the same time embed a core of self-belief that creates real resilience. My work with start-ups goes only so far. Conversations with artisan entrepreneurs normally starts with the phrase ‘I do not want to be a millionaire’ – limiting belief number one and something that must be set aside. Cap a business and we kill it, use the language of containment and you lose people, they may turn up but they are not turned on. A business is a dynamic force, it has a life of its own, not your slave but your partner, we therefore cannot cap what is not ours to do so, instead we learn to appreciate how we manage complexity, unleash potential and scale through effective leadership and the relationships we forge. If you create an intelligent vehicle that can work without you then the opportunity to move from the front seat to the back-seat to handover the keys will materialise, but to be at the wheel, alone, when the car runs out of fuel on a motorway, that’s a crying shame.

At my core are three motivations; – a love of entrepreneurism that is scalable, full of drive and energy changing people’s lives; secondly, education that makes us better than who we were, connects us to the brilliant and bright, inspires us to never stop inhaling life and thirdly, this region, the people of this and future generations that need a better life filled with opportunity that wants to make them stay, build something beautiful and inspire their children to do the same.

If there is just one thing I could change it would be the daily exodus we reside over, it takes life away, moves the creativity from our towns and puts it to work in distant shores. It dilutes our regional strength and places wealth in the hands of the few. Trickle down implies time needed for the drips to seep out from our cities before they permeate through into the towns and suburbs we call home. That’s even if they make it – chances are they will evaporate in the heat.

How much better then to build and empower our backyards – we may live in a global market place where a digital footprint knows no bounds, but we do not ‘live’ in a global world. We are humans who still need roots, we still need to draw succour from the land beneath our feet and we still have a duty to tend that land, fertilise it, and make sure that the next crop is healthier, stronger and more in love with a sense of place. The global entrepreneur, the nomad is indeed a reality, globe trotters, wealth creators not defined by borders or barriers may be an appealing concept – but community, physical, connected with shared vision and a sense of place – that is where my heart is.

That is why we need regional mentors, people with life learning experience, willing to share that experience to help people build amazing businesses here, in this region. If you feel you want to help build a better future for your children and grandchildren then I would love to connect with you.

Relocon is the vehicle by which we join the dots of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, mentors are just one way we achieve our vision.

Contact me, James, at jcracknell@relocon.co.uk or visit the website (still a work in progress) www.relocon.co.uk to find out how you join our mentor panels and help business to flourish.