Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Tips From A Conservative Entrepreneur

Posted: February 8, 2015 by Jerry Malsh in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

jerry-malsh-2015I was a late bloomer.

It took me 37 years to finally become an entrepreneur!

When I graduated from college in ’69 (that’s 1969, not 1869), there was a recession going on and the only place that offered me a job was Sears, Roebuck in Chicago … writing catalogue copy for the automotive department–specializing in mufflers, tailpipes and tires.

Pretty glamorous, eh?

About 4 months of that grind was all I could take, so every night I cut out pictures from magazines, pasted them on the cardboard backing from my laundered shirts and typed in my headlines and copy for what I thought would be good ads.

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To Grow as a Leader, Stop Making Decisions

Posted: February 1, 2015 by Bob Gilbreath in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

Bob-G-2015We often praise leaders that stand at the center of decision-making. We marvel at the technology CEO who personally chooses buttons for a new phone, the actor who also produces and directs his next film, and the pro sports coach who negotiates the power to “buy the groceries” as general manager. It makes for a good story, but often a horrible organization. Most successful leaders get there by minimizing the number of decisions they make.

For entrepreneurs, the day is filled with decisions small and large. It is a function of the habit of being the decider from day one, but also comes from the personal pressure of owning the company. For those who start a business because they think it’s good to be the king, this model is great. For the rest of us who are striving to build a sustainable, scaling business it can mean disaster.

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Getting Started with your Business

Posted: January 25, 2015 by Jessica Reading in Leadership, Startup

jessica reading miamiIt’s that time of year when New Year’s Resolutions are still on a high, and every bit of willpower is being used to do that extra ‘thing’ we’ve always wanted to do. If starting a business is one of them, willpower simply doesn’t make it happen.

This year, you don’t need to be a would-be entrepreneur.

Really, a lot of it is about removing a few assumptions, and just taking a few steps that will jump-start what it takes to call yourself an entrepreneur.

  • Get rid of the assumptions about your own skills.

Working with over 1,000 students in our entrepreneurship program, we see every bit of assumption why someone is not ‘ready’ to build a business: I don’t want to leave everything else behind to do just this. My idea isn’t perfect yet. I don’t have the skills to make it happen. It’s a lonely process. I’m not ready to be my own boss – the list goes on. Starting a business is not an outcome, it’s a process. You learn and grow the things you need for your business as you move through the process. Don’t worry about what you don’t have yet. Focus on what you do have.

  • Disregard the apparent legal and administrative complexities.

GOOGLE is your best friend. Seriously, there’s no need to worry about your background in education, or history, or engineering holding you back from being business savvy. There are millions of resources online, or in Cincinnati. It’s an ecosystem of support: from the incubator and accelerators to the investment groups in town.

  • Talk to people.

You probably told your closest friends, family and dog about your idea. That doesn’t count. Go out and actually ask your potential customers that your product would help them with a problem they face. Ask if they would actually buy your product. If they say no, then well, it’s best you didn’t spend the year focused on building that product.

  • Start with the problem, not the solution.

When you talk to people, focus on the problem. Too often, would-be entrepreneurs say, “But my solution is going to solve all of your problems with this.” The problem needs to be big enough that you can actually make a business out of it.

The most common characteristic of a successful student team in our entrepreneurship program is that they are willing to take all the preceding steps with a listening ear. What does listening look like? Being willing to accept criticism, take feedback, ask questions, adapt, and change. The change is part of improving your product and solution, and becoming a real business.

Starting a business this year doesn’t have to be as far-fetched as it may seem. With the abundant resources available and growing credibility of the region, the timing couldn’t be better to get going.

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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Rule of Awesome

Posted: December 28, 2014 by Micah Baldwin in Culture, Leadership, People

Micah BaldwinFor years I have struggled with the concept of “hiring only A players.”

After all, what is an “A player?” Is there a test? Is there a list of characteristics that outlines the specific nature of an A player?

On top of that, the concept of an “A player” extends beyond just the skill set into the ability of that employee to engage and comfortably integrate into a set company culture.

The famed Facebook and Google interviews don’t always expose top notch employees. It certainly is a process that scares off a fair number of folks, but it doesn’t guarantee that the new employee is that unique combination of skills, personality, drive and compassionate intelligence necessary for the perfect fit within your organization.

About eight months ago I started to recognize a commonality among the employees at my startup and others that clearing indicated “A player”-ness.

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Zach-Taylor-3Recent articles published by Inc Magazine & Harvard Business Review have capped the increasing amount of attention paid to ‘Customer Experience’.  Apple, and the way they handle the massive crowds at their retail locations, catapulted the customer experience conversation that has exploded in the past two years. The concept originated in the service industry – hotels and restaurants – then moved into the retail environment (ie. Apple, car dealers, etc.), and is now everywhere we look.  The importance of customer experience continues to gain momentum in the B2B arena.  As the world gets smaller and competition grows, great execution of customer experience in the B2B space is now paramount.  While still not perfectly measurable, the strategy is sound: deliver an amazing customer experience and your customers will never leave you (they will buy more and provide referrals).

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Fear Instant Gratification

Posted: November 2, 2014 by Tom Heuer in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

Tom Heuer, Miami University Center for EntrepreneurshipAll businesses and their leaders experience fears.  The fears could range from products being disrupted to the defection of top talent to the loss of important customers.  Fears are also real and ever present in start-ups today.  Will we be able to attract the talent to launch the business?  Will funding be available to launch the business?  Have we really identified our primary customer?    These fears are real and are generally self-inflicted because we lose patience and seek instant gratification.  Business success – whether in start-ups, small businesses or large corporations – requires patience and the shunning of instant gratification.  But, the race to achieve short-term results is a magnet for instant gratification thinking.  It is simply says “let’s take the easy route versus expending extra effort to become great.”

I have lackadaisical students every semester believing that the business world is just waiting to draft them in the first round. It is hard to dissuade them even with intensive coaching. There will be NO instant gratification during the recruiting process. Start-ups rush to launch their business even though they have not fully identified their primary customer or differentiated their product.  Companies recruit external talent into key roles without fully understanding whether the candidate’s personal values fit the organization’s culture.  Instant gratification treats these recruits like mercenaries – make things happen now.  Senior management places pressure on the sales force to close deals prematurely so the quarterly numbers look inflated.  This action mitigates the short-term problem but creates credibility issues going forward between senior management, the sales team and the customer.  Instant gratification’s major purpose is to minimize potential.

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Preparing Millennials for Startup Success

Posted: October 5, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

BobGilbreathAhaAt a recent career fair our startup’s booth was besieged with students. It seems that startups are the sexy career choice for the generation hitting the job market today. We startup founders certainly need their energy, but too often the reality of the work shocks the Millennial graduate used to much more structure and support than a startup can give.

One could argue that the culture of startups is a product of 20-somethings. Many of the faces of the movement, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have defined the work-hard, play-hard culture that startups take on. Google and Apple headquarters feel like the college campuses that Millennials so recently left. Social media and texting are commonplace ways that work is done. Face-to-face conversations in the workplace now are carefully scheduled, if they happen at all. There are natural pluses and minuses to these changes, but the rest of us have to get used to it.

However the Millennial generation must also adapt to succeed, especially if they wish to join the fray at a startup company. I have had the privilege of leading hundreds of Millennials across two entrepreneurial ventures in ten years. Based on this experience, I would offer these three ways in which startups fit their needs, but also need them to adapt quickly.

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Back to School Reading

Posted: September 28, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

bill-cunninghamNow that Fall has arrived, it’s time for everyone to go back to school. Here are some recommendations about what you need to study to enhance your entrepreneurial knowledge and skillset.

The Startup Owner’s User Manual written by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf are a must-read for every aspiring entrepreneur. This essential guide complements all of the current “Lean Startup” ideas and gives you a step by step approach to a successful startup. The reading makes sense. The work is hard. The benefits are fantastic.

Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner (E-Corner) hosts a collection of podcasts and videos based on the Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s Thought Leaders Seminar. The seminar is a weekly lecture series on entrepreneurship featuring entrepreneurs, innovators and industry leaders. Stanford students earn credit for attending the series by registering for Management & Science Engineering Course 472. The series is also free and open to the public. If you don’t happen to be in Silicon Valley on Wednesday afternoons, you can get access to all the past speakers through the e-Corner website: http://ecorner.stanford.edu or subscribe to the series via iTunes.

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Yoga is Judgmental

Posted: September 21, 2014 by Micah Baldwin in Leadership, People, Startup

Micah BaldwinThe next time someone says to me “Don’t worry it gets easier,” I am going to punch them in the face. They call yoga a practice, which by definition means that not only will I not be perfect, but that I will also improve over time.

As an entrepreneur, this is a powerful concept. It’s not about perfection, but about the pursuit of perfection. Startups are our practice. We never are able to create the perfect startup, but we can improve them over time.

The most perfect you are is right now.

Being present is a concept that is often thrown around as a practice of focus on what you are doing, and worrying less about what came before or after. For me, the idea that I am doing the absolute best I can in that moment, that regardless of my previous success or perceived future success, I am accomplishing everything I can in that moment, blows me away.

Less is more (more…)