Posts Tagged risk management

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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Bigger is Not Better: Discover the Sleepers!


Entrepreneurs can do extraordinary things no one ever imagined! Often people believe to succeed in an established industry bigness matters. Judith Rosen (2005) dispels this notion explaining how several successful writers like Walter Mosley do well using small publishers instead of “big six” publishers. Rosen noted that each year some of the best books come from the smaller publishing houses.

As an example, 82-year old Kurt Vonnegut, one of America’s most popular writers, used Seven Stories Press, a small publisher, to find his success. America knows Vonnegut for his Slaughterhouse 5 and Cat’s Cradle. Similarly, Steve Kaplan used Bard Press for his book Bag the Elephant on how to woo big clients. Bard Press had expected this book to land on the best sellers’ list which would make it the 12th publication out of 25 to achieve this status (Rosen, 2005).

Rosen (2005) offered four other titles, which became successes through smaller publishing houses. Publishing is just one industry, but the point is big does not mean better. Other industries can compete with the big guys just like the smaller publishers do with the “big six.”

The key is to develop products the big guys have not thought of or did not wish to invest in because they thought no market existed for them. Entrepreneurs take the risk to go where the big guys fear to tread. Entrepreneurs have an advantage because they are closer to consumers and understand what they want.

Are you a sleeper waiting for consumers to discover what you have to offer? Learn more.

References

Rosen, J. (2005, 2005/08/29/). Six sleepers for fall. Publishers Weekly, 252, 27+.

 

 

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Qualities of a Successful Entrepreneur


The story of Tariq Farid provides some insight on the qualities one needs to become a successful entrepreneur. Tariq is a Pakistani American who emigrated to the United States at age 11 with his family. By the age of 17 Tariq owned a flower shop with the support and encouragement of his family. Two years later Tariq successfully operated four stores. Making a better experience for his customers thrust Tariq’s drive that led to him to create point of sale software for the floral industry. Tariq later founded and led NetSolace, Inc., which provides franchise management solution software. In 1999, Tariq’s thirst for starting new businesses propelled him to start Edible Arrangements®, a franchise organization providing fruit bouquets, which grew to over 1,100 stores worldwide (Crowley, 2012).

Tariq developed his leadership style from the values instilled by his family while growing up. These values included honesty, integrity, and passion. Tariq believed in preserving these values and always returns to these basic values. For example, Tariq responded to an interview explaining how his drive comes from keeping honest with the consumer and himself. Tariq said he believe a true entrepreneur has a focus not so much on making money, but on keeping a social consciousness and providing for long-term profitability. According to Tariq the successful entrepreneur strives to do better and take care of the customer. Passion is the main motivation of the true entrepreneur not making money (Crowley, 2012).

Another striking characteristic of the successful entrepreneur is to embrace change because people enjoy new and unique products. Tariq believes in rethinking everything to stay on cusp. Tariq likes to employ people who embrace new ideas and who serve as change agents to customize products to people’s evolving needs (Crowley, 2012).

One other idea Tariq’s parents instilled in him is to work hard and go after the American dream. Success does not come easy. A person must work hard to become successful. Tariq realized he must work hard to confront risks and overcome them. Successful entrepreneurs must pay their dues and embrace a willingness to make mistakes (Crowley, 2012).

In short, genuine entrepreneurs are ” leaders who lead with purpose, values, and integrity; leaders who build enduring organizations, motivate their employees to provide superior customer service, and create long-term value for shareholders” (Crowley, 2012; George & Sims, 2003, p. 3).  Tariq Farid provides an example of an authentic entrepreneurial leader. Do you have what it takes to become an authentic entrepreneurial leader? Do you want to learn more?

References

Crowley, K. (2012). CEO perspective: Entrepreneurship with a point of view. South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, 1(2), 177-182. doi: 10.1108/20454451211252714

George, W., & Sims, P. (2003). Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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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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An Opportunity for Small Business Collaboration in Global Markets


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.

References

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

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Business Culture: Groupthink vs. “Teamthink”


Gibb and Schwartz (1999) argued groupthink paralyzes companies creating a culture that dismisses all social issues as unsuitable for management consideration. Gibb on and Schwartz claimed the best employees in the future will not tolerate a stifling top-down culture because better educated and networked employees will demand more participation. Chen, Lawson, Gordon, and McIntosh (1996) argued good decisions come from leaders who encourage an open decision-making process. Maharaj (2008) argued strict adherence to rules masks open decision-making and evaluation of alternatives and corporate boards should seek diverse skills and avoid groupthink. A well-rounded board leads to improved decision-making that considers its members knowledge and skills instead of perpetuating the good old boys club.

Solomon (2006) challenged the idea that dissent is undesirable and rational deliberation and consensus results in group decision-making. Neck and Manz (1994) explained “teamthink” as an alternative to groupthink as characterized by highly cohesive and conforming groups. “Teamthink” offers encouragement of divergent views, open idea expression, recognizing threats and limitations, valuing unique members’ views, and discussion of doubts. Neck and Manz argued self-managing teams can promote these values to encourage better decision making.

I believe companies still encourage groupthink at top echelons of an organization, but promote “teamthink” at lower levels. I believe this allows an organization to create a double standard to preserve top-down management culture, while promoting improved production from lower levels. The idea is that ultimately “the buck stops here” at the C-level. Does this double standard help or hinder building trust to make the right decisions?

Gibb and Schwartz (1999) suggested without improved participation good employees will leave a company they do not trust and seek employment elsewhere where they can use their education and experience. What do you think? Please leave a comment with your thoughts. If you need help organizing your company more productively I encourage you to learn more.

References

Chen, Z., Lawson, R. B., Gordon, L. R., & McIntosh, B. (1996). Groupthink: Deciding with the leader and the devil. The Psychological Record, 46(4), 581-581. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/212668876?accountid=35812

Gibb, B., & Schwartz, P. (1999). When good companies do bad things. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Maharaj, R. (2008). Corporate governance, groupthink and bullies in the boardroom. International Journal of Disclosure and Governance, 5(1), 68-92. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/196323941?accountid=35812 http://linksource.ebsco.com/linking.aspx?genre=article&issn=17413591&volume=5&issue=1&date=2008-02-01&spage=68&title=International+Journal+of+Disclosure+and+Governance&atitle=Corporate+governance%2C+groupthink+and+bullies+in+the+boardroom&au=Maharaj%2C+Rookmin&isbn=&jtitle=International+Journal+of+Disclosure+and+Governance&btitle=

Neck, C. P., & Manz, C. C. (1994). From groupthink to teamthink: Toward the creation of constructive thought patterns in self-managing work teams. Human Relations, 47(8), 929-929. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/231490747?accountid=35812

Solomon, M. (2006). Groupthink versus the wisdom of crowds: The social epistemology of deliberation and dissent. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 44, 28-42. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/218152905?accountid=35812

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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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