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News > Business & Finance > OT Entrepreneurs: 'Soft skills' spell success

OT Entrepreneurs: 'Soft skills' spell success

Andrew Langdale (JH 78-82) and Toby McBride (SH 08-13) hold talk on entrepreneurship at Tonbridge School

 
Andrew Langdale (JH 78-82) and Toby McBride (SH 08-13) gave Tonbridge boys tips and advice on how to stand out from the crowd at the school's Business and Entrepreneurship Careers Evening on Monday 11 March. 

Both have followed an entrepreneurial path since their time at school and university, and they emphasised the value of work experience, persistence and determination for someone wishing to follow in their footsteps. They also stressed the importance of ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to communicate well and work as part of a team. 

Starting his career in the 1980s as an accountant, Andrew went on to run multi-national companies in the printing, aviation and food sectors. In recent years he set up The Management Academy, an organisation which aims to identify and train young managerial talent, and to help such people fulfil their potential in business and in leadership roles.

Drawing on his experiences of interviewing business leaders in the UK and overseas, Andrew said that all of them rated soft skills more highly than academic ability. “Having a good education and doing well at school and university is really only the very start of the journey. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone will be well equipped for the modern workplace,” he told attendees.

“There is often a skills gap, and it is mastering other skills that will make a difference. Top of the list is to be a good communicator and a good team player. Then there are other essential skills, such as problem-solving, motivating, and showing empathy. Listening and questioning skills are vital too. These are all what we think of as soft skills, but they are vital if you are going to be successful, and it is surprising how often these are overlooked.”

Andrew added that any top entrepreneur has plenty of energy, too, and total dedication to their chosen path. He also advised anyone setting out in their careers to “enjoy the journey”, to have fun and to work in an area they are passionate about. “In this respect, there is no right or wrong path to take, and don’t be afraid to fail, as you will learn from this” he added. 

Toby McBride left Tonbridge just six years ago and from university days started making his name in the area of solar cars – electric vehicles which are primarily charged by the sun. He rose to the position of Head of the Business Team for Durham University Electric Motorsport (DUEM), a fast-growing organisation in the design, construction and racing of these vehicles. 

“We showcased our technology at world-renowned events such as the London Motor Show, the UN Climate Summit and Formula E, and our success and innovation helped make us Britain’s most established and leading solar car team,” he said. DUEM managed to attract donors and sponsors from around the world, and even Lord Sugar has Tweeted good things about them.

“Get involved and try to be the best at something outside of your degree and studies,” Toby told Sixth Formers who might have an eye on starting their own businesses one day. “Experience is the most important part, in my view. Gain as much of it as you can in the business world, whether this is with major companies or start-ups. Seize every opportunity, learn as much as you can and find opportunities to stand out.”

Also speaking at Tonbridge was Lucy Stonehill, the founder and CEO of BridgeU, an award-winning top 20 European Education technology company with offices in London, Madrid, Hong Kong and New Delhi. In 2016, Lucy was selected by Forbes as a ‘Top 30 under 30’ European technology innovator, and has been named as an ‘Entrepreneur Role Model’ by the European Commission. 

The talks took place in the newly opened Barton Science Centre, and is one of a series of events organised by the school’s Higher Education and Careers office.

 
If you would like to speak at a careers evening, contact us at:
T: +44 (0) 1732 304253
E: tonbridgesociety@tonbridge-school.org
































 

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