Archive for December, 2012

2012 – A Great Year of Enterpreneurship

Posted: December 30, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Ecosystem, Leadership, Startup, Technology

Bill Cunningham Bio2012 finishes as a fantastic year for startups in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.  How can I say that when we haven’t launched a Google or two here yet? I can because the region’s entrepreneurial culture shifted into high gear and gains momentum every day. Traditional measurements of how much venture capital investment or startup payrolls or revenue figures do not show our real spirit. These indicators lag the exciting work that happens daily in startups and the support organizations like the Brandery, UpTech, HCBC, QCA, GCVA, VFA, CincyTech and Cintrifuse. The fact that we have so many acronyms compared to a decade ago demonstrates the progress we have made.

In 2001, Bob Herbold, former COO of Microsoft and executive vice president of P&G marketing met with the original Regional Technology  Initiative team (forerunner of CincyTech.) With his intimate knowledge of Cincinnati and Silicon Valley, he relayed to us that Rome and the Valley wasn’t built in a day. Redmond, Washington became the center for all things Microsoft because that’s where Bill Gates was born. Research Triangle Park became a center for technology and pharmaceutical research in the 70’s because of a vision to develop the real estate began in the 50’s. His advice to our team was simple: begin laying the foundation for entrepreneurial development and be patient.

(more…)

Cynicism and Its Impact on Success

Posted: December 23, 2012 by Tom Heuer in Innovation, People, Startup

heuerIn our entrepreneurial leadership classes, I spend a significant amount of time discussing cynicism and its negative impact on innovation, business start-ups and people in general.  I have very rarely experienced cynicism in the classroom but more often on consulting engagements with companies who are struggling.  Recently, I had the “distinct pleasure” of engaging a cynic in a strategy session with an emerging company.  He was just “popping his chops” about all the “absolutely crazy decisions” the owners were making to cut costs and redistribute the resources to a risky but growing product line.  This encounter was everything that people had shared with me about cynics – very negative, a roadblock to success, a lot of wasted energy in dealing with them, a downer, and so forth.

Remember, this was a fledgling, entrepreneurial company fighting for its start-up life.  The company leaders initially responded to the cynic like most work groups – ignored him or praised his comments.  One owner strategized, “Let’s try to bring him into the conversation by agreeing with him.  He is important to us.”  Did I hear that this menace is important to this entrepreneurial company’s success?  (I later found out that the menacing cynic was the company’s CFO.)  As the session progressed, each participant realized how much wasted energy this guy created.  Loud disagreements, constant bickering and caustic comments accelerated.  It was destructive for this new team to hear.  As the outrageous comments continued, two guys had the courage to offer some coaching directed at his cynical behavior.  He listened, but it only served to raise his negativity.  (more…)

Happy Healthy Holiday!

Posted: December 18, 2012 by Chuck Matthews in Leadership, People

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.Mahatma Gandhi

Dr. Charles Matthews bioScott Adams, author of the popular Dilbert cartoon strip, often captures the essence of many contemporary business and organizational issues. This was certainly the case when a recent strip featured Asok, the office intern, asking Alice if she had any valuable career advice.  Alice replies, “Word so hard that it destroys your health and crowds out any chance of having a personal life.”  Asok, looking puzzled, replies, “Wouldn’t that make me… unhappy?”  Whereupon, Alice succinctly notes, “You didn’t ask for happiness advice.”

It is a quintessential business zapper – simultaneously eliciting a chuckle and a “hey, wait a minute” response.  With the Holiday Season in full swing, however, it does give us pause to stop and reflect on both the state of our happiness and our health.  Indeed, the two are inextricably interlaced and often overlooked when it comes to understanding the importance of health in the world of business, in general, and small, entrepreneurial, and family business settings, in particular.  While the national conversation often is focused on the availability of health insurance, we run the risk of losing sight of the importance of personal health. Let’s take a look at the role of health in building successful ventures, happiness, and taking care of ourselves and our loved ones.

(more…)

The Business of Non-Profits

Posted: December 9, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Ecosystem, Money, Non-Profit, Social Entrepreneurship

Bill Cunningham BioThink of all the great works that non-profit organizations give to our communities. They embody a lot of the characteristics of startups – passion for an idea, deeply held beliefs by the founders and impact on the region (market.) Although the term social entrepreneurship is relatively new, the process has been around for centuries. Instead of making a return on investment measured in terms of profit, social entrepreneurs measure their positive returns to society.

However, for-profit and non-profit organizations probably have more in common than differences. The distinction between the two really lies in how the Internal Revenue Service treats the taxability of each group. The 501(c)3 non-profits are exempt from income tax, sales tax and property taxes. In return for this benefit, they must meet stringent requirements so that society and not an individual is personally benefitting from this tax exemption.

In just about every other way, the non-profits look, smell and act like a for-profit business. Non-profits must take in more money than they spend. They must market their services and goods to their constituents (customers.) While often associated with volunteers, many non-profits have payroll for workers who make their living doing these good works. In order for non-profits to succeed, they must run like a for-profit business.

One of our first customers to test our service was Homestretch Hounds, a dog rescue shelter in Hillsboro, Ohio that provides a second chance for dogs whose time has run out at other facilities. This started as a small home operation and grew to accommodate the demand of the marketplace by providing a great environment for the dogs or by a great adoption network they have built. Like any other business, they have to buy supplies and services and as a donation-centric entity, they like to spend their money effectively. To maximize the impact of donations, they negotiated a great deal with a dog food manufacturer. Just like other small businesses, getting a great deal on the product doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a great deal on the shipping. In fact, the market charges premiums for small loads versus using an entire trailer. Keeping an eye on the budget, the founder caught wind of our service in Soapbox and Homestretch Hounds stretched their budget to save 33% on shipping. The lesson is that non-profits need to run their organizations like a business.

Many non-profits get started by non-business people. So how do you acquire the skills and knowledge to become a sustainable business in the non-profit world? Follow the paths of many non-profits by forming a board of advisors or directors that have different backgrounds: financial, marketing, governmental and more. Don’t appoint your people who all have the same background — build diversity on your board in multiple ways. Seek out the advice of other successful non-profits – they all had to start somewhere and like entrepreneurs, most are glad to help others along the way. If you are just getting started, ArtWorks offers an 8-week boot camp called Springboard, which provides you with the basics of starting your organization (for-profit or non-profit.)

Seek out these resources and you will increase your chances of success.

Find out more about Homestretch Hounds at https://www.facebook.com/HomestretchHounds

Find out more about Springboard at http://www.artworkscincinnati.org/springboard/

Bill Cunningham is the CEO of OneMorePallet.com and shop foreman at the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association.