Meet the Founder: Adam Bradford, ABA

Adam Bradford, 29, is a social entrepreneur and the owner and lead consultant at Adam Bradford Agency. The impact-focused consultancy business provides strategic and branding expertise to focused entrepreneurs looking to scale, and provides programmatic support to institutions who support entrepreneurs. Adam Bradford is one of the Queen’s Young Leaders and is a strong advocate for social business. He has recently relocated his base between the UK and UAE, and hopes to continue to strengthen economic development and provide fuel to entrepreneurs and the wider supporting ecosystem.

The extract below, including questions and answers, was taken from a ‘Just Entrepreneurs’ interview release, 8th April 2022.

How do you prepare for all the unknown obstacles when running your business?

Certainly, a tricky one! I love to travel and meet as many people as I can in both professional and social spaces – I believe that you can learn a lot more through people than you can anywhere else. Listening to the experiences and stories of new people is fascinating, and it might just turnout that what they tell you becomes own experience or ‘unknown obstacle’ in future. There’s a lot of learning to be uncovered through listening and visiting new places. Trying different things (in the professional space too) certainly forearms you for new or unknown obstacles.

What inspired you to launch your business and what is the end goal?

In 2007 my secondary school entered a local business competition called the ‘BIG Challenge’ which encouraged students to form micro businesses with an initial start-up grant of just £10. I loved the excitement the possibility and potential this open challenge presented, and I always had a passion for business and entrepreneurship for the same reason. Alongside my two brothers I set-up an organisation to provide interactive learning materials for teachers to use during lessons (alongside other physical products such as personalised and multi-functional equipment).

The inspiration for this is much the same now, in that engagement and involvement is key to student learning and success, so having the ability to present new ways to learn (through gamification, workshops and other more physical learning) was something I took head-on. We were successful and won thousands of pounds for the school through the competition, and even went on to achieve ‘Best Returning Business’ in the 2008 re-run. Similarly to our development of products in school for new groups of students, in life there will always be new people with a drive to learn, self-educate, activate and succeed. Adam Bradford Agency is a social enterprise and advocates social entrepreneurship, so as long as there are people driven to change the world there will always be further opportunities for us to support, champion and develop themselves and their business.

What plans do you have for your business over the next two years?

ABA launched in the United Arab Emirates in late 2020 with great commercial interest through some positive market testing. Throughout 2021 we grew further via the launch of various inaugural events, attracting new partners and clients alike. For 2022 and 2023 we are using our newly achieved business developments to reach new heights. We have a much bigger growth-led strategy in the pipeline which we anticipate realising across the next two years. Through our carefully selected partners and excellent company suppliers, we have a plan to increase our measurable reach and impact. ABA will soon be operating not just multi-nationally, but globally, and we anticipate a snowball effect when this new business plan is in its full momentum!

What’s the single most important decision that you made, that contributed to your business?

Quite simply, the decision to start the business back in 2011 was the most important decision I ever made. Without having the confidence, courage or motivation to make that leap I wouldn’t be where I am today, and we (as an organisation) wouldn’t have created the impact we have on so many young and aspiring entrepreneurs’ lives. I implore others thinking about starting their own business to go for it, as the reward for your hard work and dedication is most certainly worth the initial uncertainty.

Is it still possible to build a strong and successful business without social media? If yes or no, why?

This depends entirely on your business and its operating model. Sometimes a business can operate without any digital presence at all, particularly if the business offers an entirely unique or rare product/service (traditional trades or brand-new bespoke services for example) – quite often there’s an air of exclusivity if a business operates on word-of-mouth rather than through a diverse and rigorous marketing strategy.

Sometimes there’s no need for social media solely because a business doesn’t need new business and has a loyal client base to rely on. Of course, sometimes there’s a definite need for social media, not just for advertising, but also because it is the business. The term ‘Influencer’ is now quite often a job title or business in itself, and without social media that wouldn’t be a term used in such a context. ABA (through its CSR brand AdamStart) had a social media presence initially in order to drive applications to its variety of programmes, and this is what gave the Agency its long-standing partners. We don’t currently use social media as actively as we have done previously as we have a good partner and client base through our reputation.

Describe your business in three words:

Social, impactful, enterprising.

What’s the biggest risk to your business and why?

Reputational damage is likely a big risk to us given our business strategy. As highlighted above, we do not advertise as such now that we have a reliable and recurring client base. If our reputation was to take a hit for any reason at all, this would damage our brand significantly. We always ensure that our projects have clear briefs and regular sense checks to ensure we stick to our mission and vision. Our suppliers are quality-checked prior to onboarding and are chosen due to their passion and excellent experience. Of course, there are hiccups from time to time but through experience and challenges comes learning, as touched on at the beginning of this piece. Staying human and true to yourself and your brand is key, and being transparent with everyone in the stakeholder chain ensures a level of trust and certainty, even if there are moments of turbulence.

What are your top tips for entrepreneurs wanting to get their business out there?

Networking is a great tool that the digital age (and the pandemic) has likely done a bit of damage to. There’s no better way of getting advice, knowledge and empowerment than meeting real people who have been there and done it. Get yourself involved with your local chamber, business network, or enterprise hub and see what free-to-attend events you can visit, as one conversation could potentially change your life.

Research is also key, as you need to be sure your business idea or project is both commercially viable and in-demand – it should resolve a problem, gratify its customer and/or be attainable to the people you want it to appeal to. There are many platforms available online in which you can find both free and paid enterprise and business education, and this can be valuable if you need to establish a business model/case to present to market. To circle back, talking to people in your local business community not only empowers you, but it also gets you, your brand and your business out there! So go and shout about it and tell the world what you’ve got and why you’ve got it, and you might just find that this in itself is enough to get you on your feet.

How do you believe the evolution of tech will impact your industry over the next 10 years?

It’s sometimes difficult to foresee what changes there will be in a business landscape, but technology never stops evolving. In social enterprise these technological advances can be a great asset, as it means new ways to deliver our services, engage with clients/beneficiaries, and potentially even create a better quality of product or service.

In the past ten years, the rise in capabilities of smartphones, tablets and the Internet mean we can now deliver services digitally that we never dreamed of before – this has enabled ABA to support clients and form partnerships that might not previously have been possible (whether that be due to logistical costs or simply the unlikelihood of ever coming across the individual or organisation). The next ten years I envisage being similar in that further advances in technology (such as AI, AR, VR and more) mean we can create more engaging learning content, put people in places to present to aspiring entrepreneurs like we never could before, and deliver more of our services more efficiently, so to more people across more projects at the same time. It’s extremely exciting to anticipate and see it unfold!

What can other companies learn from food practices in agile software development to get better in creating value?

As above, learning and using modern technologies can often make processes and delivery options much more efficient and much more effective. Reductions in manufacturing costs of products, the ability to deliver a product/service quicker, a reduction in emissions from manufacturing and/or delivery, and the ability to potentially produce more products/deliver more services in the same amount of time are just some of the end-to-end benefits available from embracing modern technologies. Advances on the Internet and different variations of web-platform mean you may be able to market and sell more of your product/service too via an ability to highlight it in more detail, or simply by making it more aesthetically pleasing for the audience.

Embracing modern technology and ensuring you’ve got the right people to use/implement/manage it correctly is massively important, and quite often it’s young people who grow up with these advancements and are best positioned to get the most out of them.