People power is best asset

Student    memories: Kal Atwal, group director of BGL Group, speaking at the Sheffield Hallam University Enterprise Awards dinner.
Student memories: Kal Atwal, group director of BGL Group, speaking at the Sheffield Hallam University Enterprise Awards dinner.
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People are the biggest asset of any company.

That was the message from successful businesswoman and Sheffield Hallam University graduate Kal Atwal, speaking at the University’s annual Enterprise Awards Dinner.

Ms Atwal studied International Business and Spanish at the University and went on to become managing director of Comparethemarket.com, which took the car insurance market by storm with its meerkat-based advertising campaign.

Now director for brand led businesses at Comparethemarket’s parent group BGL, she was recently awarded an honorary degree by the University for services to business.

“The greatest assets of any company or organisation won’t be found on the balance sheet. It’s the passion, enterprise and expertise of its people,” Ms Atwal told an audience of leading local business people and graduate entrepreneurs.

“My philosophy is that you should never miss the opportunity to learn from the people you work with,” said Ms Atwal, urging young entrepreneurs not to be afraid of making mistakes.

“Setbacks have made me keener and challenged my behaviour,” she said.

“Most successful entrepreneurs get it wrong before they get it right and the idea of being knocked down and picking yourself up again is a good one.”

Ms Atwal said some of the best memories she had were of the fellow students and lecturers she met at Sheffield Hallam 20 years ago.

“Most of my closest friends today are the people I met here,” said Ms Atwal, adding: “When I was a student here I couldn’t imagine I would be heading up one of the UK’s most successful online companies and using that knowledge to start up similar companies in similar sectors in different countries.

“It is down to developing a team with expert skills and not being afraid to do things differently. For me, being an entrepreneur is having an entrepreneurial outlook in quite large organisations. People are always looking at better ways of doing things, never satisfied with the ordinary are more likely to be successful.”

Sheffield Hallam University vice chancellor, Prof Philip Jones, said enterprise had become a big issue for the University’s students.

More than 220 teams of students and graduates had entered this year’s Enterprise Challenge – almost double the previous highest number of entrants.

One in four of the University’s current students said they probably or definitely intended to become self employed.

The University was increasingly incorporating learning about self employment and enterprise skills as part of its strategy of helping students increase their employability.

In all, 1,600 of its students were taking part in 110 project involving local businesses and organisations this year as part of its Venture Matrix work-based learning scheme that aims to develop enterprise skills.