Author Archive

An Entrepreneurship Revolution

Posted: July 5, 2015 by Chuck Matthews in People, Startup

Dr. Chuck Matthews“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

                     — John Paul Jones

On a recent trip to Philadelphia as I toured Independence Hall and stood in the very room considered to be the birthplace of the United States, I was reminded of the inseparable connection to commerce and the inevitable revolution at hand. In 1775, a host of economic, policy, and political issues fermented and festered until the colonists clamored for independence from the United Kingdom. It culminated in a secret vote by the Continental Congress declaring independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, quickly followed by the formal publication of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th with delegates stepping up to boldly sign their “treasonous” intentions on August 2nd. Commerce in the colonies was under attack often embodied in repressive taxation that limited both business and individual freedoms.

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Small Business and Innovation

Posted: May 17, 2015 by Chuck Matthews in Innovation, Startup

Dr. Chuck Matthews“There’s a way to do it better – find it.” – Thomas Edison

In recognition of National Small Business Week earlier in May, small business owners were celebrated for turning their innovative ideas and passion into successful business ventures. It is richly deserved recognition. In fact, research by the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy and others suggests small business owners outperform larger companies when it comes to driving innovation. Specifically, considering patent issuance as a measure of innovation, it is estimated that small businesses produce sixteen times more patents per employee than large firms. While small firms’ cumulative patents account for only eight percent of total patents granted, they contribute a fourth of the patents in the top 100.

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Health is Wealth

Posted: March 8, 2015 by Chuck Matthews in Uncategorized

Dr. Chuck MatthewsThe first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is estimated that sleep deprivation costs the average US worker over $2,200 in lost productivity each year or $63 billion as a nation. Moreover, a lack of sleep has been linked to a myriad of undesirable health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

For busy entrepreneurs, taking care of one’s health too often takes a back seat to the pursuit of what seems in the moment to be a more pressing objective – the survivability of the new venture. It is relatively easy to succumb to the temptation of taking our health for granted, especially when we are young and relatively fit and driven to make the nascent venture a success.

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Dr. Chuck Matthews“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

In the last few days, have you asked yourself, “Where did 2014 go?” Time is the most precious resource that any entrepreneur possesses. Although, time can seem to possess us instead of the other way around.

While the New Year prompts reflection about time, it also raises the specter of how we create value for our customers over time. The ongoing challenge for entrepreneurs is not only creating value at the outset of the business, but continuing to add value for customers today and into the future. The transition from one year to the next also brings into focus the nearness of the future. Tomorrow begins today.

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WISE Entrepreneurs

Posted: December 7, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Culture, Ecosystem, People, Startup

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” Socrates

Dr. Chuck MatthewsWhen it comes to new venture creation, never underestimate the power of experience and expertise. While there is no lack of attention appropriately focused on young entrepreneurs, the 50+ entrepreneur set has been quietly leading their own entrepreneurial revolution. Research by the Kaufman Foundation suggests that twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25.

Interest in the “post-retirement entrepreneurship” movement is due in part to the numbers of baby boomers “aging up” but who are far from slowing down. The indomitable music icon, Cher, once challenged that she was too old to be singing rock n’ roll, reportedly replied, “You’d better check with Mick Jagger.”

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Creating the Future

Posted: October 26, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Startup

Inveniet viam aut faciet.Lucias Annaeus Seneca

Dr. Chuck MatthewsAs summer morphs into fall, there is quite a bit of excitement surrounding the much anticipated initial public offering (IPO) for Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce business. It has been an interesting journey for Alibaba’s chief architect and founder, Jack Ma, (his Chinese name is Ma Yun) to go from pretty much dead in the water in 1995, to the biggest IPO in U.S. history raising nearly $21.8 billion USD in 2014. Watching this remarkable journey unfold over the past 19 years, it reminded me of the Seneca quote I learned from Fr. Schumacher, SJ my freshman year high school Latin teacher, “Inveniet viam aut faciet” or “He [Hercules] will find a way or make one.”

A slight variation of this quote “I will find a way or make one” could serve as the official motto for all entrepreneurs. While the diminutive Jack Ma is not going to be mistaken for the physical Hercules, he personifies the very essence of drive, determination, and dedication that it takes to turn an idea into a billion dollar venture.

Of course, to truly understand entrepreneurship we need not only see the success of the journey, but the process that transpires over time which brings the journey to the present. This conundrum of entrepreneurship can be quite perplexing as we tend to over focus on the $21 billion valuation and not the 21 years it took to get there.

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What Inspires You

Posted: August 3, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Innovation, Leadership, People

Dr. Chuck MatthewsThere is nothing impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”Audrey Hepburn

Summer is a reflective time. I enjoy the long days and still nights, especially when there is cool breeze, fireflies, and a star lit sky. Too often, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day activities and forget how important it is to pause and reflect on where we are, where we are going, and how we plan to get there. I hadn’t really thought about it in a while, but of course that gave me an excuse to stop and consider the importance of the sources of inspiration and renewal in our lives. We draw inspiration from all that is around us and use that energy to transform our work and our leisure.

This is especially true in the start-up and/or the running a small or high growth venture. Entrepreneurs are the busiest people on the planet, juggling multiple tasks, deadlines, and putting out a myriad of fires on a daily basis. They are inundated with advice, information, facts, figures, sales pitches, and more all on top of rapidly changing technology that is often more confusing than time saving.

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Things Are Looking Up

Posted: May 4, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Culture, Ecosystem, Innovation, Leadership, Startup

The optimist says, the glass is half full; the pessimist says, the glass is half empty; the engineer says, you’ve got about twice as much glass as you need for the job.” – Unknown

Dr. Chuck MatthewsWith new buds blooming on trees and flowers, birds chirping, and the return of baseball, Spring always signals a time for renewal and optimism. A positive attitude can certainly be motivating.  For small business owners, this certainly seems to be the case.  According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, small business optimism has hit its highest level in five years jumping 21 points in the first quarter of 2014. They cite a number of key drivers that contribute to this overall increase in small business optimism: improved cash flow, improved access to credit, and expected increases in revenue and hiring.

Challenges of course remain.  The good news on this front is that according to the WF/GP Index, these concerns are more focused on attracting customers, and targeting business opportunities than on continuing challenges from the overall economy or government issues (regulation, taxes, healthcare).

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A Philosophical Foundation

Posted: March 1, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Leadership, People, Startup

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Dr. Chuck MatthewsOne the great joys of being in an academic or teaching profession is seeing one’s former students succeed in life.  Such was the case this past December when a former student of mine from the 1990’s, Andy Kaiser, called and stopped by to see me.  Catching up is always exciting as he told me about the birth of his start-up idea in 2004, the subsequent birth of his now five children, starting with twins born 2005, and the re-birth of his business idea in 2011.  As he related his 10-year start-up run, I was struck by the underlying philosophy that drives and sustains him.  This past week, I invited him to speak to my class and there it was again, the unmistakable core philosophy.  In fact, on his company’s web site, he outlines not only his entrepreneurial journey and business, but his core philosophical foundation.

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Rest, Reflect, Act

Posted: December 29, 2013 by Chuck Matthews in Culture, People, Planning, Startup

Dr. Chuck Matthews“And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.”

          – Rainer Maria Rilke

With the 2013 rapidly fading into 2014, it is fitting that we take time at the end of the year to pause and reflect on where we have been and where we are going.  There is something exciting about looking back on successes, failures, good times, and not so good times and realizing that the future beckons us to look forward to new vistas, hopes, fears, and dreams.  The writer Carl Bard captured this excitement very succinctly when he said, “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

This is especially true for entrepreneurs, who constantly seek to solve problems, introduce new methods of production, innovate new products and services, and generally seek to meet and exceed customer expectations at every turn. 

A very successful entrepreneur once told my class that entrepreneurs are doers not dreamers.  They take action – not tomorrow, but today.  They get off their butts and make something happen.  In essence, entrepreneurs marry thought (ideas) and action to generate goods and/or services that address a “pain point” in an unserved and/or underserved market.  They execute ten simple steps (six strategic and four tactical) that propel them forward.   (more…)