Archive for July, 2012

Evidence Social Entrepreneurship is on the Rise


I have expressed the view previously the next great wave of entrepreneurship will come from social entrepreneurs. I found evidence the rise of social entrepreneurship is on the horizon in an article I found in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek.  The article is about a firm headed by Chamath Palihapitiya called Social+Capital Fund. Palihapitiya is a former Facebook executive, who left about a year ago to launch the new venture capital firm (Bennett, 2012).

Palihapitiya believes properly placed venture capital can solve the world’s biggest problems left from gaps caused by the shrinking scientific ambitions of government, foundations, and other global organizations (Bennett, 2012). Politicians demonize government handling of social problems leaving  social entrepreneurs as the suitable outlet for dealing with these problems. Universities have dwindling funds devoted to research and can no longer deal with social problems.  Bennett explained how Kauffman Foundation, an independent organization, has failed to produce results in dealing with issues it funded over the last 20 years. Palihapitiya believes private equity or as he puts it “purpose-driven money” is the answer to solving such problems (Bennett, 2012).

Social+Capital has amassed an army of technologists and entrepreneurs to find and build products aligned with solving problems in the health care, education, and the financial services industry. These people include Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Sean Parker (Napster and Facebook), Kevin Rose (Digg), and Joe Hewitt (Mozilla and Facebook). Several companies funded by Social+Capital have already started to deal with social problems in these industries. The idea is for these companies to make money while solving societal problems. Palihapitiya’s idea is to find brilliant people of the Steve Jobs variety and invest in them to develop solutions to societal problems (Bennett, 2012).

Palihapitiya admitted inequities in the global economic system precipitated his idea to find brilliant leaders to solve societal problems by making money (Bennett, 2012). Between 1987 and 1997 nonprofit organizations grew to 1.2 million or by 31% (The new nonprofit almanac & desk reference., 2002; Noruzi, Westover, & Rahimi, 2010). These numbers show a growing need exists for social entrepreneurs to solve societal problems. Palihapitiya has started his firm to fund innovation solutions and allow entrepreneurs to make money, while solving such problems.

Social entrepreneurs will play a major role in the global economy. Innovative solutions from social entrepreneurs will create great value by addressing societal needs. I encourage prospective entrepreneurs to start now to take advantage of this opportunity. We can help you get started and I encourage you to learn more.

References

Bennett, D. (2012, July 30 – August 5). The league of extraordinarily rich gentlemen. Bloomberg Businessweek, 54-56.

The new nonprofit almanac & desk reference. (2002). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Noruzi, M. R., Westover, J. H., & Rahimi, G. R. (2010). An exploration of social entrepreneurship in the entrepreneurship era. Asian Social Science, 6(6), 3-10. doi: 2233824571; 56997641; 137930; SSCS; INNNSSCS0000567695

 

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Small Business 101: Lessons Learned from the Dog


 

One of the most important ways for entrepreneurs to learn is to watch others, and what better way than to learn than from watching the pets we love. I have learned so much from my dog, a yellow Labrador retriever, and I want to share some of the tricks I learned from her. Abby is my most loyal and obedient partner and I value the lessons she has taught me. I hope you can learn from what she taught me.

One of the first tasks an entrepreneur needs to learn is how to hunt when hungry. Abby has the distinct ability to sense when she needs a meal. She knows how to hunt and find food to satisfy her appetite. An entrepreneur is hungry often when first starting out and must also find a way to hunt to satisfy the urge to eat. Too often I find entrepreneurs taking hunting for granted mistakenly believing hunting is not an important task, but I find hunting is one of the most basic primal tasks an entrepreneur has. Good entrepreneurs learn to hunt early and often because they  need to eat to prolong their existence. Hunt if you want to survive.

Abby also taught me to keep digging. An entrepreneur’s work is never done and to find what one needs one must always keep digging and not let obstacles stand in the way. If a fence or roadblock exists dig under it and find the way to what you need. An entrepreneur never knows what he or she might find, but keep digging and the treasure will come. Dig to find your way.

Another trick I learned from Abby is to keep my sights high. You never know what might drop from the sky. I have seen Abby look at the squirrels on the fence or in the trees and one misstep causes them to drop to the ground in striking distance. I have seen the same result when Abby kept an eye on the birds that did not leave themselves enough room to climb back up and dropped to the ground. Entrepreneurs should keep their sights high as no one knows if something good will drop in their lap. Keep up your head and salvage what drops from the sky.

On a related note, I also learned from Abby to make my presence known. Abby lets me know she is there and if something falls from my grasp she is there to reclaim it. Squatters rights matters! The entrepreneur can also claim something that falls from a competitor or supplier’s grasp and use it to make life better. Claim the prize by making your presence known.

Once Abby claims a prize she also never lets go. Once the squatter’s rights rule takes effect, entrepreneurs need to hold on to what they have gained presuming it has value.  If the entrepreneur fails to protect the prize the same can happen to the entrepreneur that happened to the competitor or supplier. Never let go if you want to keep the prize.

Similarly, Abby taught me to keep an eye on the prize. If you have not yet gained the prize this step is most important because once you take your eye off the prize, the more apt you are to lose it. Entrepreneurs need to stay focused and continually look for what they are after. If you want a prize bad enough you have to keep your focus. Never let your eye off the prize.

Once Abby finds a prize, she taught me not to waste anything. Waste violates the survival rule as the entrepreneur should always set aside enough for down times. Squander what you find and do not use as it can come in handy when business is down. Never waste what you have, but keep it for when you fall on hard times.

Another trick I learned from Abby is to have a sixth sense and keep prepared. When someone comes to the door Abby is on her way before anyone knocks or rings the bell. Good entrepreneurs need to prepare for the unknown and have a sixth sense. Anticipation puts you in front of others. So prepare yourself by having a sixth sense and anticipating what is to come.

Abby has another natural knack that I learned that has to do with networking. Abby keeps abreast of the trends and setting by networking with her peers. Entrepreneurs need to scan the environment to find their niche and identify new opportunities.  Sniff out opportunities by looking at what peers do!

One other find from Abby’s behavior is to play the game by your own rules. If Abby has the opportunity to define how to play the game she does and lets others play by her terms. Entrepreneurs need to define the rules by which to play the game or risk letting someone else control how they play. Define the rules to benefit how you play and do not rely on someone else to set them for you.

With what I learned from Abby, I have conferred on her the doctor of fine bones degree. I think she has earned her degree and can teach others many good lessons about entrepreneurship. I hope you have found her teachings informative. I continue to learn from Dr. Abby and you can too. I encourage you to act now and learn more.

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America’s First Entrepreneur and Founder


“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor” (Franklin, n. d.).

Ben Franklin is America’s true founder and first entrepreneur and his story can teach us many lessons. Franklin exemplified the supreme risk taker because he signed the Declaration of Independence with 55 other men who risked their lives to forge America’s future. Franklin educated himself by reading and had a reputation as a contrarian, humorist, and adventurer. Franklin used his will to build a successful business and a nation the world would envy (Otto, 2011).

Although Franklin started his life in poverty, he died in great wealth and had a passion for his Christian religion and a movement called the Great Awakening. This movement believed in the welfare of the people and had a contempt for cruelty and corruption. Because of his religious beliefs, Franklin thought politicians should serve the country without pay (Otto, 2011). Franklin also stressed the importance of creditors supporting inexperienced entrepreneurs to foster  representation and build a national culture. Franklin believed in public projects benefiting the nation  and appealed to working-class people (Baker, 2000; Mulford, 1999).

In 1729 after working for his brother James for a few years, at age 17, Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette.  Franklin began publishing the Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1932, which became the most popular publication in America. Apart from his publishing career, Franklin founded the first proprietary library as part of the Academy of Pennsylvania, which later transformed itself into the University of Pennsylvania.  Franklin also helped develop the postal system and became the first postmaster. Beside this accomplishment, Franklin invented bifocal eye glasses, mapped the Gulf Stream off the East Coast, and provided evidence lightning is electricity by inventing the lightening rod (Otto, 2011).

Besides his inventive prowess, Franklin served in the Continental Congress and became the oldest member to sign the Constitution. Only six people signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and Franklin is one of these people. Franklin had an instrumental hand in uniting the founding fathers to sign the Constitution despite some who did not fully support it (Otto, 2011). Entrepreneurs unite people with a common vision and Franklin personified this role.

Ben Franklin saw the greatest vision through in the history of this country and deserves credit for his remarkable accomplishments. Because of his vision, the United States became a great country and a haven for people to gain and respect individual liberty, freedom of expression, and have a government representative of the people (Otto, 2011).  Now is a good time to reflect on the vision of America’s founder. Franklin united the country through his vision and entrepreneurs should have a special place in America because of it. Yet, today entrepreneurs do not have the same esteem despite their role in creating economic growth and jobs.

I want to hear your thoughts on what this country can do to regain Franklin’s vision and return entrepreneurs to the prominence they deserve. Post your comments here.

References

Baker, J. J. (2000). Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and the credibility of personality. Early American Literature, 35(3), 274-293. doi: 64935335; 1281372; 14371; PEAL

Franklin, B. (n. d.). Greatest Benjamin Franklin Quotes. Great Quotes – Powerful Minds. Retrieved from http://www.great-quotes-powerful-minds.com/benjamin-franklin-quotes.html

Mulford, C. (1999). Figuring Benjamin Franklin in American cultural memory. The New England Quarterly, 72(3), 415-443. doi: 45962354; 1065448; 29070; NEQUA7; PNEQ; 04514915; 99454974

Otto, L. (2011). Benjamin Franklin: America’s original entrepreneur. Leadership & Organizational Management Journal, 2011(4), 132-149. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ent&AN=73204254&site=ehost-live

 

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Reclaiming the Entrepreneurial Spirit


I read an article in Bloomberg Business Week about Andrew Mason. Mason is the headwaiter at a Japanese restaurant in Chicago’s Wicker Park. However, the job is Mason’s part-time evening job as by day he is the chief executive officer and founder of Groupon. What struck me reading the article is that Mason has matured from his playful childlike demeanor, which allowed him to develop the Groupon concept. Mason has become a more seasoned entrepreneur trying to hold on to what he started and run it in a more businesslike manner (Etter & MacMillan, 2012).

Although investors and analysts have challenged Mason’s running of Groupon, he has kept a lock on what he created. Mason wants to improve Groupon without giving it away to suitors offering him large amounts of money to buy the company. Mason turned down an offer by Google to buy the company, which would have allowed Mason to cash out. Mason turned down the offer despite problems it has had with profitability and holding up share value.  Mason admitted the company has had problems with its operating system and commented, “we have to get good at this” (Etter & MacMillan, 2012, p. 50)

Meanwhile, executives at Groupon have noted the level of seriousness has notched up and the company now employs more lawyers and accountants. Groupon has even purchased other companies and has set up a location in the Silicon Valley in California.  Despite his critics lashing out at him, Mason wants to preserve control over the company he started and claims he is in the business for more than just the money.  Mason said his company wants to solve a business problem, which is his main motivation (Etter & MacMillan, 2012).

Although Mason may have much to learn, he has the entrepreneurial spirit to perfect and hold on to what he started.  Mason still has a vision and he wants to cement it instead of giving it away to someone else.  Mason still studies the disconnect in the operating system as maitre d’ of his part-time job at the Japanese restaurant and has learned from the experience. Even though Mason has learned from his experience, he realizes still has much to learn.

Only time will tell if Groupon can get to the next level, but I admire Mason for his stick-to-itiveness. I believe Mason has the characteristics of a genuine entrepreneur as he loves what he does and wants to perfect it. Money is not his only motivation and his quest for perfection overshadows any thirst to get rich quick. Mason continues to learn from his experience and enjoys every minute of it. Mason does not fear failure, but looks it straight in the eye. I believe more entrepreneurs need to reclaim the entrepreneurial spirit.

What is your take on reclaiming the entrepreneurial spirit? I want to hear from you. If you want to develop the entrepreneurial spirit I suggest learning more about how you can starting now. Learn more.

References

Etter, L. and MacMillan, D. (2012, July 16-22). Groupon tries to ‘Get Good’ at growing up. Bloomberg Businessweek.

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Stop the Predator Soothsayers


One of the traits of a good entrepreneur is to stop people trying to take advantage of them by foretelling the future. So often I see people trying to sell their products and services telling the small business founder if he or she does not buy the product the sky will fall on them. Savvy entrepreneurs filter the predator soothsayers claims to conserve capital.

My advice to a new business founder is to buy goods and services as you need them only if they are absolutely necessary to the business’s plans. Predators will try to sell the small business founder everything under the sun. If the predator is so hungry, the small business founder should ask for a free trial with no strings attached to see if the product or service performs as intended. Before signing on, business founders should ask themselves if the product or service is absolutely necessary or if they can get by without it.

Capital preservation is critical when a business is in an embryonic stage. The small business founder should take great care to preserve capital. I have seen too many small businesses spend foolishly and eat the capital the company needs to survive. A savvy entrepreneur learns to make do with less. Learning to say no is a tough assignment, but pays dividends in the long-run. When in doubt, return to the business plan and only say yes to those items included in the business plan.

Are predator soothsayers knocking on your door? How do you deal with them? If you need help learning to say no I encourage you to get help now. Contact us for help.

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Starting a New Business Doesn’t Have to Be Taxing


One of the most often forgotten about benefits new business founders overlook is the ability to carry forward and carry back a net operating loss. Founders of new business struggle to find sources of cash flow available to bootstrap their way to sustainable profits. A new entrepreneur founding a business should consider the benefits of cash flow from the net operating loss.

A company has a net operating loss when its business expenses exceed it business income. Business expenses excludes any capital losses, personal exemptions, and 50% of the gain from the sale or exchange of a qualified business stock. Business expenses also exclude alimony paid, contributions to an individual retirement account or self-employed retirement plan, payments to a health savings account, and most itemized deductions with some exceptions.

A founder can carry back a loss two years before the year in which the company incurred the loss creating a refund of previously paid taxes. A company can carry forward any remaining losses for up to 20 years reducing future tax liabilities. When a new business struggles to make ends meet it should not lose sight of this important tax benefit.

Most new businesses take 3 to 5 years to achieve profitability, but meanwhile the company can preserve cash. Using the net operating loss deduction can produce cash from the refund of taxes paid previously. This refund produces cash a business owner can use in the business.

Have you built the net operating loss into your cash budget? If you want to take advantage of the net operating loss, but have not already done so I encourage you to get help now. Contact us.

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Have You Had A Frontal Lobotomy Yet?


Often I hear the advice the way to improve products and services is to keep all the costs involved to a minimum. Although keeping costs low is a good way to achieve enough of a margin to make a product or service viable, cost cutting can create other problems. For example, the product or service can have less value to the customer or consumer and cause them to select other more desirable products and services. In short, cutting all costs indiscriminately often is counterproductive.

Just yesterday I listened to a video interview of Steve Jobs and he embraced the idea the main goal is to produce products that customers want and need. Jobs commented that when he came back to Apple when it had experienced financial difficulty many of the corporate managers had a hard time understanding the idea of creating value customers want and need. The approach of Apple corporate managers focused more on cost cutting and less on creating value.

Jobs highlighted the idea that one-size-fits-all approaches do not work as well as more reasoned approaches that consider what customers want and need. Jobs said his philosophy to the turnaround of Apple came from thinking like a small company. Jobs found many good people still existed in the company even after he left. What made these people stay is their belief in the product despite the push by management to cut costs at every chance.

Creative people need space to create value and can substitute parts instead of cutting costs at every opportunity. Jobs explained Apple created the I-pod using substitution instead of cost cutting at every turn. Substitution allows creative people to consider consumers needs and wants instead of putting out a product that has less value to them. Job’s philosophy to work like a small company relies on the communications between company employees and consumers unlike big companies focusing strictly on product margins.

My advice is not to let anyone tell you to leave your brains at the door. Cost cutting is desirable when used correctly, but can also have adverse effects. Think of customers and consumers first before demanding cost cuts. Cost cutting is not an end-all solution. Have you had a frontal lobotomy yet? What does your company tell you?

I want to hear your comments. If you want some other ideas I encourage you to get help now. Learn more.

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Do Entrepreneurs Matter?


Imagine a world without electricity, refrigerators, cars, highways, water distribution facilities, agricultural equipment, health technologies, and telephones. Add to the list electricity, airplanes, radios, televisions, Internet, computers, air conditioning, and many more innovations invented in the last century. Combine these with the innovations achieved in the current century and the list goes on. Entrepreneurs play an integral role in society and add value by creating economic growth and jobs.

People sometimes question if entrepreneurs matter and I believe the resounding answer is yes. Entrepreneurs are a different breed and enjoy the freedom to think about what is possible instead of what is. Entrepreneurs seek to make the world better by envisaging innovations that will serve unfulfilled needs and working ardently to bring them into fruition. The consummate entrepreneur is not satisfied until he or she achieves a vision and even then works to improve the products and services brought into existence.

Sometimes business people look at entrepreneurs as free spirits and unmanageable, but entrepreneurs transcend this view because they want to lead instead of follow. Entrepreneurs lead us to creations and services often thought unimaginable by others. Creativity breeds followers wanting to take part in creating these innovations and perfecting them.

Entrepreneurs are close to consumers because they understand their needs instead of catering to existing products and services. Consumers have evolving needs and entrepreneurs recognize them where others fear to tread. Consumers appreciate the services entrepreneurs offer when others are unbending or intolerable.

Next time someone puts doubt in your mind about entrepreneurship think about some of the reasons entrepreneurs matter. Entrepreneurs do matter and if you want to become one I suggest visiting us now. Learn more.

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