Posts Tagged managing innovation

International Entrepreneurs: Success Means Knowing Where to Go


In 1990, Robert Walsh, a Montreal engineer, launched Forensic Technologies inventing the Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), a crime-fighting tool so popular CSI and Jeopardy have featured it on television. Although Walsh had no knowledge of guns, his invention has become a sophisticated crime-fighting tool that fingerprints bullets and casings from guns by digitizing microscopic information about them. The company landed its first federal contract in 1994 in Washington and has gone global with sales in over 60 countries. Forensic Technologies has its technology installed in over 200 locations in the United States (Chapin, Righton, & Gallant, 2011).

Although Walsh founded the company in his native Canada, he noted the United States emerged as a natural place for this technology because of exploding gun crime. Forensic Technology’s vice president and general manager, René Bélanger, said expansion of the company did not come without challenges because doing business from one country to the next is quite different. Bélanger added a company has to pursue its target and know where it wants to go. Bélanger said a company has to tie to the segment of the market it wants to target to achieve success. Forensic Technology learned this lesson after trying to diversify its product offering, which did not go so well. Forensic Technology today boasts an IBIS hub at Interpol in Lyon, France as it targets the world (Chapin et al., 2011).

International entrepreneurs have to define their target market and go after it with a vengeance. Doing business across the globe is a complex task and a company has to know its customers. Do you have a business that you want to go global? Have you defined your market? If you do and have not defined your market you need to learn more.

References

Chapin, A., Righton, B., & Gallant, P. (2011). International success stories Canadian Business, 84(10), 52-54. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ent&AN=61074191&site=ehost-live

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Attack Never Defend: An Entrepreneur’s Key to Success


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.

References

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

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The Small Business Financing Disconnect


Most small businesses start with a business plan to get financing for a venture, but entrepreneurs prefer managing risk through effectuation. Effectuation entails entrepreneurial control over what an entrepreneur can do to achieve a wanted result when the means to that result involves taking an uncertain action. The effectual thinker takes action toward an imagined state incapable of continuous planning because the entrepreneur is uncertain about the result of the action (Gabrielsson & Politis, 2011; Read & Sarasvathy, 2005; Sarasvathy, 2001; Sarasvathy & Dew, 2005).

Entrepreneurs create business plans to achieve early financing and develop plans like they understand the outcome of their actions, but this often is not the case. Entrepreneurs performance typically is significantly off from early plans not because of bad planning, but because of uncertain actions taken toward imagined outcomes. Planning is valid when actions are certain to produce a known result.

Financiers fail to recognize this disconnect, and conventional planning does not fit when an entrepreneur works toward an imagined outcome. Financial planners rely on existing business models and not newly created ones. Not until the entrepreneur perfects the model can planning have true substance in predicting a wanted result.

Financial planning done for business plans at best presents a plan conforming to existing conditions. When an entrepreneur wants to create a new market or product conditions do not yet exist to support such plans. Such conditions cause financiers to rely on risky projections.

This disconnect raises a question about how to evaluate a venture without a financial track record when future actions are dubious. What can an entrepreneur do to convince a financier of the merits of the venture when financial planning projections are so far-off from true results? I want to know your thoughts. Do you want to learn more?

References

Gabrielsson, J., & Politis, D. (2011). Career motives and entrepreneurial decision-making: examining preferences for causal and effectual logics in the early stage of new ventures. Small Business Economics, 36(3), 281-298. doi: 10.1007/s11187-009-9217-3

Read, S., & Sarasvathy, S. D. (2005). Knowing what to do and doing what you know: Effectuation as a form of entrepreneurial expertise. Journal of Private Equity, 9(1), 45-62. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=19164962&site=bsi-live

Sarasvathy, S. D. (2001). Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency. Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 243. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=72362644&Fmt=7&clientId=13118&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Sarasvathy, S. D., & Dew, N. (2005). New market creation through transformation. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 15(5), 533-565. doi: 10.1007/s00191-005-0264-x

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Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned: Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Cake How I Wonder What’s Your Fate


As the song goes the bankruptcy of the Hostess Brands, Inc. brings to mind how many companies today rest on their laurels. Many companies have forgotten how to compete because rapid growth has gotten in the way. Kalson (2012) noted how the Hostess company blamed the company’s problems on its unions and dispelled the idea bad corporate decisions, financial shenanigans, outdated strategy, and inept management could have caused the problems.

The Hostess brand emerged from a troubled history at Continental Bakeries. Interstate Bakeries later bought Continental pursuing its strategy of growth by acquisition and mergers. Interstate had a history of run ins with its workers and focused on rapid growth instead of its products and people. For example, in 1982 Interstate Bakeries raided an over funded pension fund to pay off debt on its inefficient plants (“Hostess Brands, Inc.,” 2012).

The Continental merger brought new enzyme technology to the company allowing its products to have a longer shelf life, lowering delivery costs, and improving profitability. Continental like Interstate engaged in an acquisition strategy. Similarly, the company had disputes with its workers and in 2000  lost a suit in San Francisco brought by 19 black workers claiming racial discrimination (“Hostess Brands, Inc.,” 2012).

Again in 2004 the government probed the company’s worker’s compensation reserves and problems with a new financial system the company installed. In 2004 the company filed for bankruptcy still under investigation for how it set its worker’s compensation reserves. In 2009 the company emerged from bankruptcy and relocated to Kansas City only to file for bankruptcy again in 2012 (“Hostess Brands, Inc.,” 2012).

The lesson learned is growth through acquisitions often is a poor strategy leading to financial difficulty if not managed carefully. An entrepreneur would do better by focusing on products and people to grow organically. Entrepreneurs should learn from the Hostess story, acquisitions and mergers often leads to discord between workers and management, and financial problems. Duplication of duties is costly without a plan to remove these costs. A company’s business strategy can become blurred, and the company can lose its focus on its vision and how it best serves its customers.

Kalson (2012) noted how Hostess sold its soul to private equity firms, hedge funds,  and investors while amassing over $1 billion dollars of debt. Acquisitions seemingly erase the competition, but can also serve as the deathbed of a company. Entrepreneurs should think about losing their Twinkies before entering such a strategy.

Entrepreneurs should understand both sides of this strategy before committing to it. If you want to know more about the pros and cons of different strategies contact us to learn more.

References

Hostess Brands, Inc. (2012). Hoovers Academic. Retrieved from http://subscriber.hoovers.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/H/company360/history.html?companyId=15324000000000

Kalson, S. (2012). When all else fails, blame the union hostess gives the twinkie defense a whole new meaning Pittsburgh Post – Gazette. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1220357399?accountid=35812

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Small Business Alliances: The Case of Lehman Trikes


During the height of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Lehman Trikes formed a strategic alliance with Harley-Davidson. Lehman Trikes, a small publicly held company on the TSX Canadian  Venture Exchange, lead the industry in making three-wheeled motorcycles in Spearfish, South Dakota. Harley-Davidson announced it selected Lehman Trikes as its exclusive supplier of its Tri-glide three-wheel motorcycle. Before signing the alliance, Lehman made the three-wheeled motorcycles in the aftermarket. Harley legitimized the three-wheel motorcycle with its announcement bringing it into the established motorcycle market (Looney & Ryerson, 2011).

By the end of the summer of 2010, Harley-Davidson faced difficult times losing half its business. Harley-Davidson did not renew the agreement signed with Lehman Trikes. Harley kept the rights to the Tri-glide brand and granted no residual rights to Lehman Trikes, but in its original agreement clearly laid out its non-renewal rights and terms. Although Lehman feared Harley might not renew the contract, it understood the risks when it signed the original agreement (Looney & Ryerson, 2011).

Do you believe the alliance between Lehman Trikes and  Harley-Davidson met both companies’ goals? Do you believe the alliance had successful results? What benefits did the companies achieve because of the alliance? What risks did the companies face by signing the alliance? Did the alliance benefit Lehman Trikes, the smaller company? Do you believe Harley exercised its rights in a fair and transparent manner? Knowing that ending the agreement would limit its supply of the Tri-glide, did the strategy benefit Harley-Davidson? Did Lehman Trikes have a viable business model or could it have strengthened its model?

Let us know what you think? Do you want to know more about forming strategic alliances? Learn more.

References

Looney, D. C., & Ryerson, A. (2011). Lehman Trikes: A story within a story 17, 35-39. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ent&AN=69927663&site=ehost-live

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Small Business Risk Taking: History Repeats Itself


“History repeats itself” is a saying I hear on occasion and often wonder about. Today, for example, some businessmen say they cannot work because of uncertain conditions, yet Adam Smith designed capitalism as the “epitome of risk taking” (Bernstein, 1996, p. 19). According to Bernstein, up to the time of the reformation, the stable Protestant tradition stressed abstinence to avoid risk. Protestants considered the danger inherent in risk-taking as akin to gambling. Adam Smith (1904) introduced capitalism believing the danger attached to risk also came with opportunity. Instead of looking at risk as a zero-sum game where someone wins and someone loses, Smith believed trade resulted in a mutually worthwhile pursuit. Smith believed both parties to trade and risk taking could become wealthier contrary to practice before the reformation that relied on exploitation to gain wealth (Bernstein, 1996).

Recent conversations have talked about how unacceptable the transfer of wealth is from the elite to its underlings. Some business people espouse the pre-reformation idea that wealth transfer should only come from exploitation of underlings, while others see wealth transfer more like Adam Smith did. Smith believed business is risky, but full of opportunity and new wealth came to those adventuresome people willing to innovate (Bernstein, 1996). Today with the coming of supply-side economics, some want to return to the days of exploitation and stymie adventuresome entrepreneurs willing to innovate and create new trade. Does history repeat itself? Has the pendulum swung too far in the wrong direction?

I believe an efficient economic system has to balance opportunities with risk taking. If business people do not take risk, I do not see where innovation comes from under such conditions. Stable well-established businesses do not like to remove themselves from their comfort zone and their products and services eventually become stale and do not satisfy consumer needs. Meanwhile, society needs to provide more incentives to entrepreneurs to innovate and create new trade.

What do you think? Is our economic system returning to the stable pre-reformation days bereft of any risk taking relying solely on exploitation? Are you willing to take a risk in today’s economic setting? What incentives do you believe would help entrepreneurs to resume their efforts to innovate new trade? Please leave your thoughts here. Do you want to know more about incentives to small business entrepreneurship to its rightful role? Click here.

References

Bernstein, P. L. (1996). Against the gods: The remarkable story of risk. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Smith, A. (1904). The wealth of nations (5th ed.). London: UK: Methuen & Co., Ltd.

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Human Capital: Are Employees a Small Business’s Most Valuable Asset?


I have heard the words “employees are our most valuable asset” many times, but have rarely seen accountants embrace the idea of capitalizing human capital as an asset on the balance sheet. The theory goes that companies expense wages as employees earn them. If employees are an asset I believe the part of workers’ employment cost that adds value to the organization should appear on the balance sheet.

Although accounting rules forbid capitalizing human capital, they only recognize human capital on the income statement. Despite this oversight, many call accounting the language of business. At least one article admitted the problem and recommended alternatives for capitalizing human capital. Chen and Ku (2004) concluded, “The succession of the human intellect over machines and equipment in the contribution to industrial value makes a financial statement that relegates human capital expenditure to expenses inadequate if not obsolete” (p. 129). If accounting is the language of business why is the value of its most valuable asset excluded from the balance sheet?

This disparity leads one to believe companies’ accounting standards look at employees not as an asset, but as a liabilities. For example, in finance the main goal of the firm is to maximize shareholder wealth and accounting rules treat human capital as a period cost (expense) instead of an asset. In recent years many companies have reconsidered the view shareholders are the only stakeholders in a firm, and have expanded stakeholders to include customers, suppliers, and employees. Even with the coming of triple bottom-line reporting I have not seen accounting rule-making bodies espouse the capitalizing human capital (Elkington, 1994; Slaper & Hall, 2011).

Similarly, Reimers-Hild, Fritz, and King (2007) described human capital as a continuous investment leading to increased earning power. Reimers-Hild et al. further described human capital as responsible for innovation, creativity, and keeping pace with change.  Chen and Ku (2004) developed a theoretical classification framework that would capitalize certain formation and acquisition costs in early stages of development, learning costs in middle stages of development, and replacement costs in final stages. Chen and Ku argued for disclosing these costs as investments if the costs are unique and add value.

Do you believe employees are your greatest asset? I would like to hear your thoughts. Should your greatest asset show on the balance sheet? Please let leave your comments? Click here if you want to understand more about accounting for human capital.

References

Chen, H. M., & Ku, J. M. (2004). The role of human capital cost in accounting. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 5(1), 116-130. doi: 10.1108/14691930410512950

Elkington, J. (1994). Towards the sustainable corporation: Win-win-win business strategies for sustainable development. California Management Review, 36(2), 90-100. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=9410213932&site=ehost-live

Reimers-Hild, C. I., Fritz, S. M., & King, J. W. (2007). Entrepreneurial Career Development: Using Human Capital, Social Capital, and Distance Education to Achieve Success. Advancing Women in Leadership, 24, 1-N_A.

Slaper, T. F., & Hall, T. J. (2011). The triple bottom line: What is it and how does it work? Indiana Business Review, 86(1), 4-8. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=66506015&site=ehost-live

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Lessons in Small Business Organizational Change


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.

References

Jones, G. R. (2004). Organizational theory, design, and change (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

 

 

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How Small Businesses Can Acquire Competitive Advantage: VRINE


Companies can achieve superior performance and gain competitive advantage by using the VRINE model emphasizing value, rarity, inimitability, non-substitutability, and exploitability. These five factors influence a firm’s resources and capabilities to compete and achieve superior performance (Carpenter & Sanders, 2009).

First, a resource must add value to meet demand in the market. The ability to compete by itself does not offer an advantage, but can produce a normal profit. The value added assumes the firm can control costs and the product or services offer potential to consumers. Second, scarce (rare) resources can add competitive advantage at least temporarily. Until competitors can normalize this competitive advantage, the firm can achieve above normal profits. Third, if the products or services added are incapable of reproduction by competitors, the firm can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage earning above normal profits for an extended period. These products or services are such that competitors cannot imitate or substitute for them. Last, a firm has to have the capability to exploit the above four characteristics to achieve competitive advantage. The ability to exploiting these resources allows the firm to achieve improved financial performance than if it can only control them (Carpenter & Sanders, 2009).

Small businesses looking to achieve competitive advantage should employ the VRINE model and ask if it can meet these characteristics. The model shows how a firm can sustain superior financial performance by developing resources that meet the VRINE characteristics.

How does your firm do? Does it meet the VRINE model’s characteristics? Learn more.

References

Carpenter, M., & Sanders, W. G. (2009). Strategic Management: A Dynamic Perspective Concepts and Cases (Second ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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The Role of Entrepreneurship in Restoring the Economy


Before the financial meltdown of 2008, small firms in the United States in 2007 comprised 99.7 percent of all employer firms. These firms employed slightly more than half of all private industry workers, and paid 44 percent of private business payroll. Small firms produced 64 percent of net new jobs for 15 years before this time. Small firms created over half the private nonfarm gross domestic product, and hired better than 40 percent of high-tech jobs for scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. Further, small businesses made up 97.3 percent of all exporters producing 30.2 percent of known export values in 2007. Small businesses accounted for 52 percent of home-based businesses and 2 percent of franchises (Kolbe, 2007; Yallapragada & Bhuiyan, 2011).

A growing part of entrepreneurship comes from social entrepreneurship. Shockley and Frank (2010) distinguished social entrepreneurship from commercial entrepreneurship as consisting of a community orientation that forgoes private incentive for public benefit. Shockley and Frank connect the economic entrepreneurship theories of Joseph Schumpeter and Israel Kirzner to Western literature, namely Virgil’s Aeneid. The three main parts of Virgil’s (2006) Aeneid deal with using the mind to discover, developing a duty to community interests, and believing in the fate of the actor to avoid uncertainty or “unknown probabilities” (Knight, 1921; Shockley & Frank, 2010, p. 777).

Social entrepreneurship fills societal needs not met by commercial entrepreneurship and stresses discovery, community, and the fate to overcome unknown conditions. Commercial entrepreneurship is not exclusive of social responsibility, but in modern society has focused on the interests of enlarging profits for the benefit of capitalist investors. This motive is not to say entrepreneurs have no interest in societal interests as surely some entrepreneurs champion such issues before profits, but many companies put profits first after a founder finds a successful model. Social entrepreneurs can discover solutions to societal needs in either or both the public or private domain.

Schumpeter (1934/2002) argued new combinations affect the flow of capital and causes temporary disequilibrium aiding in economic development. Schumpeter (1994) put “creative destruction” at the center of entrepreneurship. Schumpeter explained how “creative destruction” leads to the demise of the entrepreneur and a temporary socialistic state to deal with new unmet needs because the entrepreneur becomes a capitalist and ceases to work as an entrepreneur. Shockley and Frank (2010) referred to Schumpeter’s works as foundational and timeless finding these same ideas in Virgil’s Aeneid.

Similarly, Kirzner (1973) put “entrepreneurial discovery” (p. 39) at the center of entrepreneurial theory. Kirzner argued the entrepreneur’s role is to stay alert to unnoticed opportunities and relies on unpredictable behavior akin to the fate in Virgil’s Aeneid. Both Schumpeter and Kirzner distinguish the entrepreneur from the capitalist because the entrepreneur risks no investment in discovery(Shockley & Frank, 2010).

The point of this literature is that both the role of the entrepreneur and capitalist are necessary in a market economy. Today, the role of the entrepreneur has succumbed to the capitalist and caused discovery to slow for the sake of promoting the profit motives of the capitalist, but the capitalist cannot grow without discovery. Capitalists choose not to meet societal needs. The temporary state to overcome the problem rests in Schumpeter’s notion of “creative destruction” where socialism takes over until the entrepreneur can return to the flow of the equilibrium process (Schumpeter,1994).

I see little effort today to recognize the entrepreneur’s role to resolve this problem despite the significant contributions entrepreneurs made before the financial meltdown of 2008. Some people have played down the role of restoring equilibrium and have extended the problem by suspending a capitalistic economy indefinitely. I see social entrepreneurship as a step to restoring discovery needed to return the flow to the equilibrium process.

I would like to hear your thoughts about how to restore capitalism by re-emphasizing entrepreneurship’s role and ending the state of “creative destruction” in which the United States economy currently resides. Learn more.

References

Kirzner, I. M. (1973). Competition and entrepreneurship. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Knight, F. H. (1921). Risk, uncertainty, and profit (2002 Reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Beard Books.

Kolbe, K. (2007). How important are small businesses to the United States’ economy. Office of Advocacy, Funded Research, United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census and International Trade Administration.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1934/2002). The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1994). Capitalism, socialism, and democracy (5th ed.). London and New York: Routledge.

Shockley, G. E., & Frank, P. M. (2010). Virgil’s Aeneas as the quintessential social entrepreneur: Juxtaposing selections from epic poetry and entrepreneurship theory to teach social entrepreneurship. Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 23, 769-784. doi: 2281649991; 58798731; 54851; JSBE; INNNJSBE0000605310

Virgil. (2006). Selections from Virgil’s Aeneid. In S. Lombardo (Ed.), The Essential Aeneid. Indianapolis, Ind. & Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing Co., Inc.

Yallapragada, R. R., & Bhuiyan, M. (2011). Small business entrepreneurships In The United States. Journal of Applied Business Research, 27(6), 117-122. doi: 2519801721; 65758121; 12637; JRH; INODJRH0007536491

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