Posts Tagged collaboration
Entrepreneurs do best in the face of uncertain conditions, but mature firms have a hard time with uncertain conditions because they plan for what is certain and has worked for them in the past. Entrepreneurs can succeed by doing what they do best and creating uncertain conditions for mature competitors.
ImproMed is one such company that has made “attack never defend” its mantra. Ron Detjen, ImproMed’s founder and president, says his company continues to grow and add employees because it keeps a competitive attitude. Detjen argues companies that go on the defensive can never grow as fast as companies that go on the offensive. Detjen encourages his employees to go on the offensive by finding something they excel at and keep working on it (Anonymous, 2011). What an excellent approach!
ImproMed is a company that helps veterinary practices deal with complex recordkeeping needs and has developed the world’s leader software products for both the business and medical needs of veterinary practices. ImproMed stresses a consultative approach for its employees is the key to its extraordinary growth (Anonymous, 2011).
A company that focuses on what its employees do well wins. Employees are critical to a small company because they are responsible for how the company performs. Encouraging employees to focus on strengths puts competitors at a distinct disadvantage because they do not know what to expect. A good entrepreneur works from his or her strengths and not weaknesses.
How does your company attack? I would love to hear your comments. If you want to know more about how you can design a way to attack using strengths you can learn more here.
Anonymous. (2011). 2011 Winners small business success stories Corporate Report Wisconsin, 26(7), 30-35. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/864104598?accountid=35812
Today small businesses find it tough enough to survive let alone expand in the global markets. Opportunity does exist, however, in the global markets through making alliances with strategic partners. The partners to alliances look at alliances as temporary or until considered no longer necessary and the alliance has served its need (Grosse, 2000).
The idea behind strategic alliances is to co-create value, but often businesses find it difficult because of the unwillingness to share or a lack of common values. The small business alliance depends on trust and openness to work toward a common value. The parties to a strategic alliance have to negotiate to fill in their strategic weaknesses and improve the competency of the alliance (Grosse, 2000; Mockler & Gartenfeld, 2001). Mockler and Gartenfeld argued effective negotiation at the start of the alliance cements the likelihood of a successful partnership.
Liu (2009) asserted international alliances should collaborate to find critical technology and knowledge in a strategic alliance and negotiate learning activities leading to competitive advantage. The partners to an alliance should structure the alliance so it becomes a “race to learn” by mixing competition in with cooperation, but this structure leads to instability. Grosse (2000) argued a one-sided alliance leads to unstable relations and the objective should seek to strengthen weaknesses in the competencies of the alliance partners.
Grosse (2000) claimed the strategic alliance partners need to find a strategic fit by settling the cooperation level, the effectiveness of the cooperation level, and molding the culture of the alliance. Partners should seek a significant understanding of each other to form an effective alliance. An understanding will help foster a successful work relation and avoid failure. A successful partnership will promote value creation through knowledge gathering. Planning has a critical role in forming successful strategic alliances.
Do you have what it takes to expand through inter-firm alliances to succeed into global markets? If you need help planning for global expansion contact us to learn more.
Grosse, R. E. (2000). Thunderbird on global business strategy. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Liu, W. K. (2009). Advantage competition of inter-partner learning in international strategic alliance. Journal of Global Business Issues, 3(2), 123-128. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/223750245?accountid=35812
Mockler, R. J., & Gartenfeld, M. E. (2001). Using multinational strategic alliance negotiations to help ensure alliance success: An entrepreneurial orientation. Strategic Change, 10(4), 215-215. doi: 10.1002/jsc.536
About 10 years ago the owner of Bimba Manufacturing Company located in Monee, Illinois decided to sell 90% of his stock to employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). The company produced aluminum cylinders and had two classes of employees. These classes included the managers who made policies and workers who obeyed the policies and performed the work. Under the ESOP instead of workers just obeying the orders of the managers, the company formed cross-functional teams to address problems and improve quality. The teams decided to meet regularly with customers to consider their needs and improve working relations (Jones, 2004).
The ESOP plan changed the workforce orientation improving working relations, accentuating excellence, and leading to a high quality products. Each cross-functional team hired its own workers and socialized together creating a cooperative new culture in the company. Employees effectively relearned their jobs by actively listening and interacting with each other instead of focusing on managers and workers. Managers acted more like advisers and workers gained a more cooperative spirit. Because of this organizational change the company increased sales 70% and the workforce grew 59% (Jones, 2004).
Although when first starting a business an owner can design a hierarchical organization for expedience, the firm stands to improve performance by reconsidering the organizational form. In my experience, hierarchical organizations in a small business can stymie the growth of the organization. I have personally experienced the difference and realized the benefits of redesigning the organizational form.
A more nimble team orientation can improve performance and cross-functional communication. The organization can respond better to the companies’ customers and better address their needs. The case of Bimba Manufacturing offers a good lesson in organizational change designed to improve worker and customer relations.
Have you reconsidered the organizational design in your firm? I would like to hear your ideas about changes that can benefit the organizational design in your firm. If you need help I urge you to act now and we can start to help you. Learn more.
Jones, G. R. (2004). Organizational theory, design, and change (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Many times people starting a new business find a partner they know little about. Defining the roles partners play in the business at the start is important to avoid problems later. Looking at a live example might help identify the problem and discover some lessons learned from forming a new partnership. This story applies to either a partnership or a small business corporation such as a limited liability company or an S corporation.
Joe and Jerry worked together as real estate agents at a local brokerage and decided they wanted to start their own. Joe had extensive experience in management and finance. Jerry came from the ministry after serving as an Episcopal priest. Joe and Jerry worked well together as real estate agents, but knew little about each other otherwise.
The two men worked together to develop a plan to start their own business. Joe and Jerry decided to divide the business equally and make an equal contribution. Joe and Jerry did not know is the role each would play in the business, but Joe believed Jerry had excellent marketing skills because of his dealings with people. Jerry believed Joe had excellent administrative and financial skills to run operations, but neither man shared their beliefs with the other or formalized the role each would play in running the business.
The men did work together to find a real estate office available at an excellent location and proceeded to lease the building. Jerry wanted to make the office comfortable and professional insisting on first-class furniture and equipment. Joe wanted to find sales Associates as quickly as possible to train and ramp up sales.
After leasing the office space, the two men worked to redecorate the office and lease furniture and equipment. Jerry took the lead on redecorating the space and Joe worked on incorporating a business. Each man did what he thought important to start the business and prepare for the grand opening.
Once the office opened, Joe worked feverishly to recruit sales agents to start finding business. Jerry showed up occasionally and worked from home. Joe quickly recruited 16 new agents and began to train them, while Jerry continued to work from home expecting a paycheck despite not having enough revenue to earn a salary.
Joe and Jerry started having discussions about how to develop enough revenue to meet continuing expenses. Joe continued working feverishly to train agents and teach them how to sell. Jerry continued to work at home contributing little to the operation. Jerry continued to insist he needed a paycheck despite a lack of revenue. Joe argued both he and Jerry should work the plan keeping the vision in mind for the future. Jerry continued to espouse his mission to earn a paycheck.
Although the sales agents started to develop, the revenue did not keep pace with Jerry’s mission for a paycheck. Joe felt good about the developing sales agents who started to ramp up sales. Jerry began withdrawing from the company because his sole mission relied on earning a paycheck. Joe started to feel overwhelmed because he had to do everything himself.
The lesson learned from Joe and Jerry’s experience is to know your partner and decide on their roles before starting a business. In this case, Joe took the role of the visionary leader to follow plan. Jerry’s only role came from his mission to receive a paycheck. A visionary leader needs to have teamwork. The missionary leader has more selfish motives and sits back waiting for business to develop.
Before taking on a partner consider not just how to divide profits, but what role each will play in running the business. Consider the expected time the business needs each partner to devote and what to hold each partner accountable for. Decide how often partners will meet and go over plans to stay on track. A few questions to ask include:
- How does the company track and share information?
- How does the company decide on use of available capital?
- How are organizing goals decided and carried out?
- Who is responsible for carrying out the strategic plan?
- What steps does the company need to seek more assets?
- Does compensation match with the role of the partner?
Are you thinking of taking on a partner? Have you defined the roles of each partner before starting your business? I urge you to do so before problems start to develop. Do you want help in setting up a plan and agreement for your partner? Learn more.
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 a blog post today about how banks have started to lend to small business again. Considering the bad treatment banks have given their customers I wonder how they will treat small businesses after cutting off lines of credit and other lending to them during the financial crisis. I suggest considering the credit union as an alternative to a bank for small business lending. Personally, I like getting treated as a person instead of as a commodity and credit unions have many advantages. I just opened an account with a credit union and I found the I received much better treatment and the credit union valued not just my business, but me as a person.
I remember an SBA loan I had with a small bank that a larger bank later took over. For several years the bank and I had a good relationship. One day I received a notice the larger bank had bought the bank and the new bank no longer wanted SBA loans as part of its business. The new management made it difficult to preserve the good relationship by charging new fees for everything imaginable. A few years into the recent financial crisis I saw this bank on a list of the banks the Fed had shut down.
Because small business financing sources have evaporated during the global recession, small business should consider using credit unions. Credit union unlike small banks are cooperative nonprofit organizations. As nonprofit organizations credit unions have an exemption from tax resulting in lower costs allowing them more latitude in making loans. Credit unions also enjoy lower costs from volunteer labor and employer sponsorship giving them the ability to offer lower rates. Besides offering small business loans, credit unions also offer other products like credit cards and car loans (Feinberg & Rahman, 2006).
The trend is for large banks to buy smaller banks especially in larger markets. This trend has resulted in less lending to small businesses causing a need for alternative funding sources like credit unions to service small businesses. Consolidating small banks has created less of an interest in small business lending. The lack of interest stems from the difficulty large banks have dealing with soft data, the more hierarchical bank’s need for more approvals, and lower credit supplies by the larger organization (Ely & Robinson, 2009).
Oriz-Molina and Penas (2008) found one way to mitigate opaque risk from small business is to shorten loan terms to watch the progress of small businesses. The more conventional approach is to want greater collateral over a longer term. Credit unions also have the ability to gain a better understanding of owners’ personal wealth. Although credit unions can focus on better addressing opaque risks using these approaches, larger banks often rely on credit scoring to approve small business loans to achieve a competitive advantage (Immergluck & Smith, 2003).
Despite the ability of larger banks to gain a competitive advantage in lending to small business, credit unions are closer to small business customers and able to forge better relations. Large banks have shown poor behavior in recent years making them less attractive than more personal, smaller thrift institutions. For example, banks have added new fees and restricted lending to only the strongest small businesses. Improved relations with small businesses promotes long-term relations despite shorter lending terms.
Consolidating small community banks into larger banks has caused banks to become less personal and more selective. Credit unions fill a social gap in the market because of consolidation of these community banks and the cost advantage they have from the nonprofit status. Credit unions can expand from solely personal to more commercial lending to fill this gap.
What sources have you considered for your business in achieving financing? Are credit unions part of the mix? Do you want to know more about the value of commercial lending by credit unions? Find out more about how you can benefit.
Ely, D. P., & Robinson, K. J. (2009). Credit unions and small business lending. Journal of Financial Services Research, 35(1), 53-80. doi: 10.1007/s10693-008-0038-3
Feinberg, R. M., & Rahman, A. F. M. A. (2006). Are credit unions just small banks? Determinants of loan rates in local consumer lending markets Eastern Economic Journal, 32(4), 647-659. doi: 1241333261; 35361511; 11879; EEJ; INNNEEJ0000065491
Immergluck, D., & Smith, G. (2003). How changes in small business lending affect firms in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, 8(2), 153-175. doi: 502848551; 8351081; 38473; DVEN; INODDVEN0000469300
Ortiz-Molina, H., & Penas, M. F. (2008). Lending to small businesses: the role of loan maturity in addressing information problems. Small Business Economics, 30(4), 361-383. doi: 10.1007/s11187-007-9053-2
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