Posts Tagged change agent
Think about why some companies succeed despite their characterization as risky. For example, one of the most risky businesses people think of is to start a restaurant. The failure rate for restaurants is high, but those that succeed have some special qualities. A good business needs to adapt to what people want.
I am originally from Chicago and I distinctly remember a restaurant chain that became very successful because of its ability to provide what people want. If you have ever heard of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. you may have a good idea what I mean. Richard Melman with Jerry Orzoff started Lettuce Entertain You in 1971 with $17,000. Melman wanted to start an upbeat restaurant directed at young singles interested in rock music, casual clothing, and healthy food. R. J. Grunts became the company’s first eatery in Lincoln Park followed by Fritz That’s It! in Evanston and Great Flying Food Show in 1974. In 1975 Lettuce Entertain you introduced Jonathan Livingston Seafood and Lawrence of Oregano opened in 1976. Lettuce Entertain You mastered the avante garde casual restaurant business with its unique themes (Anonymous, 2012).
A good business needs to anticipate what customers want like Melman did with Lettuce Entertain You. Traditional restaurant startups do not typically think about what will make a restaurant stand out to a certain crowd and will take a more conservative route. A good entrepreneur has an open mind and anticipates providing a service or product customers will want. Lettuce Entertainment did not stop with the off-beat casual idea, but opened more restaurants with more ambience like the Pump Room on Chicago’s Gold Coast and Ambria in partnership with renowned French chef Gabino Sotelino. Later Melman introduced several other themes by opening a series of other restaurants (Anonymous, 2012). My personal favorite is Tucchetti’s.
An open mind is important to becoming a successful entrepreneur. This notion reminds me of a TED talk by psychologist Jonathan Haidt I viewed not too long ago. Haidt explained five key differences between conservatives and liberals (Haidt, 2008). Entrepreneurs with closed minds often do not succeed because they fail to anticipate what consumers want. Lettuce Entertain You showed how new themes can entice people.
Think about your business! Does your business need an attitude adjustment? Lettuce Entertain You provides a good example of how an open mind can open doors for a new business and keep customers happy. If you want to start a new business I urge you to start now to explore how to keep an open mind by working with us. Learn more.
Anonymous. (2012). Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants. Lettuce tell you our history, from http://www.leye.com/about-us/history
Haidt, J. (2008). Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html?quote=339
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.
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.
Etter, L. and MacMillan, D. (2012, July 16-22). Groupon tries to ‘Get Good’ at growing up. Bloomberg Businessweek.
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.
In another post I related my marathon experience to starting a new business. Let me tell you about the next episode related to my running experience. One of the people I met while training for the marathon included an avid triathlete. I started running with Bill who ran much faster than me, but liked shorter distances and preferred the challenge of the triathlon. Bill excelled most in biking, but ran fast at shorter distances. Bill often finished in the top three of his age group. Bill motivated me to buy a bike and learn how to swim. Soon after, I started training for my first triathlon. Unlike Bill, I found biking the hardest to learn and I had a fear of the water inhibiting me from learning to swim.
The triathlon taught me how to take on new tasks similar to learning new tasks involved in starting a business. Someone starting a new business has to learn new tasks all the time. The founder of a new business often fears new tasks just as I feared learning how to swim. Yet, as I jumped in the pool every day and started to swim laps, I started to enjoy swimming because it provided solitude and relaxation in the water without the pounding of running. I found this similar to a new business owner because sometimes a new business owner has to step back in solitude and reflect on what he or she wants to do. The founder of a new business continually seeks new ways to make the business fit and productive. Imagine having the resources to learn new tasks to avoid fear and learn new tasks.
Learning to bike created new challenges a as I learned to stay with the pack by drafting. I found bikers stayed close together in a pack to preserve energy and keep pace with other bikers. I also found this strategy is not without risk. I learned quickly if one biker went down, many would go down and when bikers go down together they are in great danger of injury. I also learned the best bikers pick themselves back up and continue the race despite their injuries. Good bikers learn from other bikers in the pack about preventing the danger and sticking with the pack. Experienced bikers work as a team to prevent mass wipe outs and hang together in unison.
Savvy entrepreneurs are much like the biker because they continually scan what other people in their business do. Entrepreneurs learn to keep pace and stay together to reach their goals, but sometimes take a spill and have to pick themselves back up and move forward. Risk is inherent in entrepreneurship and a business owner has to accept failure as a path to success. The savvy entrepreneur learns from mistakes and shares with allies to prevent further wipeouts. Think about having the resources of a team to avoid mistakes by working as a team.
When race day finally came I became nervous and had doubts about completing the race. When the gun went off I plunged into the water and began to flail away as people swam over me and bumped into me. I kept lunging forward and noticed the cold water had taken my breath away unlike the pleasing temperature I became accustomed to at the pool. I began hyperventilating and thought I would drown, but I kept stroking away and moving forward. I finally reached a turnaround buoy and caught my breath even though I had no safety outlet as I did in the pool. I started feeling good and could see the shore coming within reach. I realized I would make it to shore and still many people had struggled behind me.
Entrepreneurs also have their doubts when first starting out, but successful ones keep moving forward toward their goals. A business founder also takes his licks and recovers despite unfamiliar conditions. Sometime the entrepreneur feels like he is drowning, but catches a second wind by moving toward the goal. Successful entrepreneurs struggle just like the triathlete, but keeps the goal in sight and moves toward it. Imagine training diligently for an event like the triathlon and not finishing. Not finishing is not a choice for the entrepreneur. With a good coach the entrepreneur can find the encouragement to keep moving toward the finish line.
Upon finishing the swimming leg, I ran toward my bike and found my biking gear and prepared to mount my bike. The transition entailed finding my gear in a sea of athletes, bikes, and gear. I had to change and put on my socks and shoes after drying myself off with a towel. I watched others with more experience than myself who had the transition down to a science and minimized the time to launch into the biking leg of the race. Although I did not do too bad, I learned how to become more efficient by making the transition more of a process. I learned experienced triathletes practice the transition just like they do the three main legs of the race.
The transition taught me I can improve with experience just as an entrepreneur improves with experience. A small business also becomes more efficient the more process-oriented it can become. The entrepreneur learns how to become more efficient just like the triathlete in the transition phase. Consider how the entrepreneur can improve having someone with experience showing him or her the way instead of learning on the fly.
Once I began the biking leg I realized the pack of bikers I had to draft on had shrunk because instead of starting together, bikers began at different times following the swimming leg. I found I had to work harder to find enough bikers on which to draft and not let go. In some places I peddled by myself without a pack. I had no idea how to use what I learned in training.
An entrepreneur also faces uncertainties when conditions change unexpectedly. Just as the triathlete faces the lack of a pack on which to draft, the entrepreneur experiences unknown conditions through which to navigate by taking action. The entrepreneur at times feels alone without any support. The entrepreneur must work harder to find a solution just like the triathlete does without a pack. Imagine how the entrepreneur can improve by having some experience with change and how to adapt to it. Good entrepreneurs must learn to manage change just like a new triathlete.
As I approached the final leg I faced another transition from the bike to the run. The transition mainly entailed dismounting the bike and changing shoes. Again, I found experienced triathletes practiced the transition to cut down their time. The experienced triathlete made the transition so smooth it took very little time. Zaleski (2011) found entrepreneurs with experience have a competitive advantage.
The entrepreneur has to learn every facet of a business and gets better with practice, just like the seasoned triathlete. Entrepreneurs make running the business smooth through developing the right processes and checking them for problems. Although the triathlete measures the transition with time, the entrepreneur uses specific metrics to measure efficiency of different processes to develop a good working model. Blanchflower (2004) found entrepreneurs improve the chance of success by having a higher educational level. However, one does not need a traditional education to learn what the entrepreneur needs to succeed. Entrepreneurs learn on the fly.
As I started the run, I reaffirmed the running leg is my strength because I already had experience as a runner. I settled into a nice rhythm and looked for other runners to pace. Again, I found the field of runners much more spread out because of not starting all at once. However, I did find many people running on empty I could easily pass. I gained speed as I approached the finish because a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) running leg is much shorter than a 26-mile marathon. I had the long-distance conditioning in my favor. Whatever time I lost in the swim and bike, I made up for in the run. I finished in a good time, but still could improve by learning from my experience.
The entrepreneur is similar to the triathlete because both gain from experience and learn along the way. Both the entrepreneur and the triathlete learn to pace themselves and deal with unknown conditions. Action is critical to both the entrepreneur’s and triathlete’s success, and both strive to achieve fitness.
Do you have the tenacity of the entrepreneur? Act now if you do and learn more.
Blanchflower, D. G. (2004). Self-Employment: More may not be better. (10286). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w10286.
Zaleski, P. A. (2011). Start-ups and external equity: The role of entrepreneurial experience. Business Economics, 46(1), 43-50. doi: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/be/index.html
I started running late in life when two of the guys at worked challenged me to run a mile with them. I worked at a large hospital at the time and worked and often socialized with two guys. One managed patient accounts and the other was a consultant from Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). At the time, I was overweight and wanted to lose some weight. The challenge we made with one another stipulated that whoever quits has to buy whoever keeps running dinner. Guess what? I am the guy who did not quit and I went on to become fanatical about my running. The other guys treated me to a free dinner.
Good entrepreneurs are like runners because they do not quit. I used to tell myself, “one foot in front of the other.” Entrepreneurs should tell themselves something similar like take it a step at a time, but whatever you do, do not quit. Similarly, an entrepreneur should take an active interest in the business he creates. The entrepreneur should also give himself small rewards along the way like the free dinner I received from my work associates.
Okay, so after this first episode I continued to run. I started running about three miles about three times a week through my neighborhood, but then the fall came. Another friend of mine wanted to join a new health club so we could play racquetball. I went to the club and signed up with him to play racquetball, but we started our routine doing a workout. I noticed the club had an indoor running track and next time I brought my running gear so I could run a little first before playing racquetball.
Next time we visited the club, I started running first before our game. I met some nice people on the track who encouraged me to run the Chicago Marathon with them. My racquetball friend did not like running and our racquetball games quickly stopped, but running with my new friends continued.
Starting a business is like running because you develop and nurture new relationships. After our runs we would go upstairs to the bar and have a few beers and have a good time. We forged a strong relationship with each other. We talked about our plans for the marathon. Starting a business is similar to planning to run a marathon because a business founder plans his business and develops strong relationships in forming those plans. A business founder does not exist on an island, but collaborates with those he trusts. A good business depends on good relationships.
As the date of the marathon approached, we trained together encouraging one another. We trained inside and out depending on the weather. We continued encouraging one another on our runs and discussed different strategies to take to complete the marathon and run a good time. A few of my friends fell to injuries, but most of us went on to the marathon.
A new business is similar because some relationships will stop and others will continue depending on who is the fittest. The camaraderie continues as the goal comes into sight. The new business founder has to keep his goals in front of him just like a person wanting to complete the marathon. The new business founder continues to forge relationships with the fittest of his relationships.
The day of the marathon finally arrived and the weather was perfect. I started out slow to pace myself. I learned from running with my friends I am an endurance runner, but not too fast. However, my friends pushed me to improve my time. Running a new business is similar to the marathon because business associates push you to do better and recognize your abilities.
During the marathon I built speed as the race progressed and I loved the cheering crowd’s encouragement. As the I approached the twenty mile mark, runners started to hit the wall and drop from the race, but I continued to press on. Running a new business is like running a marathon because some people hit the wall, while others press on to the finish. Customer encouragement helps the new business put the final goal in sight. A new business needs customer feedback to stay on course and complete the race.
As I approached the finish I saw many struggling to continue. Some stopped or walked as they headed to the finish. I felt good as my training paid off and I decided to pass as many people as I could. I surged to the finish picking off as many competitors as possible and I could finally see the time clock at the finish. I knew I had beat my goal and a good feeling it was.
Starting a new business is like running a marathon because training pays off and allows an entrepreneur to surpass the competition. The goal of the entrepreneur becomes clearer as the founder approaches the finish line and it feels good to beat the goal.
As I crossed the finish, a few of my faster friends greeted me and I waited with them to see the others of us who finished. One by one I greeted the rest of my friends as they completed their journey. Running a business is like running a marathon because the encouragement continues throughout the journey. The camaraderie continues as those who make it have cause to celebrate.
Are you ready to run the marathon and start your own business? Learn more.
Once I took a position as the chief financial officer of an organization with a history of over 100 years. The institution in its early years thrived because of its location bordering a city nearly the size of Chicago with a booming coal mining industry. The location bordered on the one of the Great Lakes cutting off half the circumference of the target market.
Eventually, the coal mining industry declined and the city bordering the organization dwindled in population because of lack of other industry in the area. Recreation supplied the next biggest industry in the area because of ideal conditions for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and other winter sports. In the summer, the area provided ideal conditions for hunting and fishing. These industries failed to provide enough jobs and opportunities to keep the city alive.
The organization I worked for had its numbers drop by nearly 70% because the organization depended on people within a hundred mile radius of it. When I arrived I found the finances in a shambles and an accumulated deficit resulting in a negative net worth. At first, this condition alarmed me, but I knew I had a calling to turn this ship around.
A turnaround of this magnitude is like starting a new business because it needs a radical transformation. Fortunately, the executive team committed to a radical transformation of finding a new model for the organization that would turn around the organization and create positive cash flows. Weekly we explored new ideas and acted on cutting drains on the organization’s cash flows. In this way, the turnaround is more difficult than starting a new business because a new business does not have to deal with getting rid of existing programs causing a drain on cash flows.
The result of these efforts balanced the organization’s budget and identified new programs capable of producing positive cash flows. When I did my doctoral research I discovered that many companies that go public have accumulated deficits of the same magnitude and about 70% of them eventually fail. This revelation surprised me and I thought about how many companies can use the same help a turnaround expert provides. Big and small companies have similar failure rates. ‘
Although the cause is different, the need to identify a working model is the same. Without transforming an organization by finding a working model that produces positive results any organization will subject itself to failure. This revelation also caused me to think about the benefits of going public versus remaining private. Often, companies go public far before they rightfully should and prematurely remove the founder whose role it is to find a working model.
Public companies start to create more bureaucratic settings, while the organization needs to stay nimble enough to allow the working model to develop and meet consumer needs. Bureaucratization adds costs and reduces flexibility to adapt to make the model work. I believe many companies act too fast to go public because they believe it provides a safety net for raising capital. I believe a slower more deliberate growth may benefit many companies and allow the founders to keep their company and learn how to manage it instead of getting shown the door. Founders work hard and if they are serious should hold on to their creation and learn how to improve it.
I believe other consultants place too much emphasis on getting big too fast. Companies might do well to slow down and grow organically than fall prey to seeking the safety net of a public company. Slowing down allows the founder to start to see the forest from the trees and build a sustainable model without risking the founder’s position.
My company works to build organic growth by building on gaining the experience and education needed to grow organically. I believe a serious entrepreneur has an attachment to his or her creation and needs a different focus to preserve an identity with the company the founder creates.
What is your goal in founding a company? Would you prefer to stay involved in the company you create or do you want to exit and put the company in someone else’s hands? Please leave a comment to let me know your view.
If you are serious about preserving your identity with the company you want to create I urge you to try the services of my company by signing on now.