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5 business lessons that brought Akram Khan Company international success

Founded in August 2000, Akram Khan Company is one of the leading innovative dance companies in the world. It has won some of the medium’s most prestigious awards, and Akram Khan, Artistic Director, has worked with celebrities from Juliette Binoche to Anish Kapoor.

For a cultural enterprise to have achieved this kind of success, surviving the worst global economic downturn in recent memory, it has to be supported by a rock solid business model. Much of the credit for this can be given to Farooq Chaudhry, the company’s Producer.

Farooq’s vision for the company has been unshakeable. And by balancing artistry with business nous, he has impressed the corporate world as well as the arts world. He says: “One of the hardest things in any business is managing growth. I see a lot of companies fail when demand is so strong they can’t keep up with it. In 2002, that could have happened to us, but I took a step back and moderated our progress.

“Excitement is great, but without a destination in mind, we would have been set adrift.”

From that moment forward every step Akram Khan Company took fitted into Farooq’s “grand plan”. “One of the key problems in the arts is that it isn’t understood that good business discipline is fundamental to maximising artistic opportunities.

“Equally, businesses in other sectors can lack a creative edge. Some of the biggest brands on the planet – Apple, Virgin, the Body Shop – believe passionately in what they do and want to change the world.

“In an economic crisis, it is easy to diminish the value of what you offer. I think this saps confidence and morale in your business. You have to be able to tell the world that what you’re doing is worth investing in.”

5 business lessons

  1. To achieve truly great things, you must seek out risks to take, even if you are doing well. Businesses can stagnate once they’ve achieved a certain level of success.
  2. Plan ahead – don’t get caught up in the moment, whether that moment is good or bad. Circumstances can change very quickly.
  3. Don’t be afraid of reinventing yourself or your business.
  4. Trust your instincts. You won’t always be right, no one is. But it is very often worth taking a leap of faith.
  5. The way creativity works in business is by putting an element of surprise into what you do. Surprise your customers. Surprise yourself!

To find out more about the Akram Khan Company visit their website at: www.akramkhancompany.net

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK