Posts Tagged uncertainty
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
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?
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
Errico (2010) shared the following story about the Great Hill:
Before time was time, there was a Great Hill.
And on the Great Hill there lived the Yolks.
The Yolks spent their entire lives climbing the Great Hill, trying to reach the top.
Some Yolks climbed fast.
Some Yolks climbed slowly.
One Yolk in particular was a very slow climber. He was different than the rest of the Yolks.
When he climbed, all the other Yolks passed him.
It was hard for him to watch them pass by.
He felt like the worst climber in the world.
Some Yolks made fun of him as they passed.
Some Yolks wanted to help him climb but he didn’t let them.
It was hard for him to climb. It was even harder when it rained because the ground got slippery. Sometimes it seemed like it was only raining on him.
But it wasn’t.
There were times when he felt like he wasn’t moving at all.
But he was.
Then one day he met another Yolk who climbed even slower than he did.
He helped the slower Yolk climb.
“Thank You,” said the slower Yolk.
“You’re Welcome,” said the slow Yolk, “I can’t be of much help to anyone else since I climb so slowly.”
“Slowly?” asked the slower Yolk.
“Well yes. I watch other Yolks pass me all the time.”
“I do not know if you are slow or fast, but I do know that you helped me, and that you are still climbing.”
The slow Yolk said goodbye to the slower Yolk, and kept climbing.
“Still climbing,” he thought to himself.
“That is true.”
And he smiled.
So the Yolk kept climbing. He climbed when it was nice out, he climbed when it rained, and he even climbed when it snowed.
As he kept climbing he got better and better.
Sometimes he would pass other Yolks and sometimes they would pass him.
He had stopped paying attention.
He also noticed that some Yolks were no longer climbing.
When a yolk stops climbing it stays where it is.
Some Yolks stop climbing because they are happy with how far they have gone.
Others stop climbing because they don’t want to climb anymore.
The Yolks that had stopped climbing did not like to be passed, and they made it harder to get by.
But the Yolk kept climbing, right over them!
There were still times when the Yolk thought he was climbing an impossible hill, but he kept climbing.
Always, always, climbing.
Do you think he made the top ?
The Great Hill story highlights the entrepreneurial journey. Often entrepreneurs climb slowly to get to the top of the hill, but must persist to reach the top. Entrepreneurship is about persistence and keeping focused on the end goal (to reach the top of the hill). Some entrepreneurs climb more slowly than others, but the challenge is in the journey to the top.
Entrepreneurs recognize others want to trounce them and say, “I told you so,” but filter out the negativity and keep moving on the journey despite the odds against them. Few entrepreneurs are on the fast track, but advance at their own pace. Successful entrepreneurs preserve their passion by settling at a comfortable pace instead of racing to the top of the hill.
Most important, successful entrepreneurs do not let the competition intimidate them. Successful entrepreneurs want to help others succeed in their journey. The key is to keep moving toward the top of the hill no matter what position the entrepreneur is in at a given time.
As the entrepreneur approaches the top of the hill he or she notices other entrepreneurs quitting or conceding on their journey. The successful entrepreneur just keeps going no matter what the pace. The successful entrepreneur knows his or her limits and works within them.
Think about the Great Hill story! How do you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Are you working within your limits at a comfortable pace or are you trying to race to the top of the hill? If you want to get to the top of the hill and avoid stalling before getting there, let us help you find a comfortable pace and help you work within your limits. Learn more.
Errico, D. (2010, December 7). The great hill. Free Children Stories. Retrieved from http://www.freechildrenstories.com/story_details.php?st_id=156
“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.
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.
Jones (2007) defined transaction costs as costs involved in negotiating, overseeing, and controlling costs between people. Organizations need to keep these costs low by managing exchanges between organizations. Jones used the health care industry as an example. According to Jones, 40% of the United States budget for health care has to do with managing exchanges between doctors, health-care providers, government agencies, insurance companies, and other merchants. Imagine if the health-care industry could remove these costs how much less health-care goods and services would cost.
Small businesses also have to manage transaction costs to achieve sustainability. Transaction costs involve many kinds of costs. For example, an organization can experience costs resulting in duplication of effort, power imbalances, intellectual property protection issues, knowledge transfer issues, and preserving alliances. Nooteboom (1993) argued small firms have a particular disadvantage with transaction costs because of scale, scope, learning, and experience. Such costs are bounded by rationality, opportunity, uncertain conditions, and transaction specificity. When many firms add value to products or services each firm adds transaction costs multiplying the cost to the consumer for each firm involved in producing the product. On the other hand, outsourcing parts of the production offers economies of scale to spread the cost among more units. Bureaucracy costs can offset the transaction costs saved by larger organizations because of their capability to deal with scale, scope, learning, and experience issues (Jones, 2007).
Small businesses need to weigh these exchange costs in making their products and services competitive. As in the case of health care 40% is a significant added cost for a customer to bear. Unless a firm has the ability to deal with transactions costs it can have a significant disadvantage compared with a larger firm that has these skills. Any time a firm can erase these costs or hold them to a minimum the firm will put itself in a better position to achieve competitive advantage.
How do you manage transaction costs? If you have not considered transaction cost management and want to know more I urge you to contact us to learn more.
Jones, G. R. (2007). Organizational theory, design, and change (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Nooteboom, B. (1993). Firm size effects on transaction costs. Small Business Economics, 5(4), 283-295. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoh&AN=0328531&site=ehost-live http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100338
Often small businesses build relations with various suppliers and channel partners only to later find the relation is not as strong as first thought. The small business entrepreneur needs to protect against interruption occurring in the supply chain and make sure that everyone involved is on the same page.
I have had the unfortunate experience of working with a channel partner only to find later the channel partner only had its own interests in mind. I found the channel partner did not share a common vision and did not want to genuinely build a lasting relation. After working hard to build a good relation, the channel partner let the company down by not performing up to expectations. I call this the “snake in the grass” syndrome.
Because of this experience, I encourage small business entrepreneurs not to put all their eggs in one basket. As much as an owner likes a particular channel partner, competition is good and promotes efficiency. An interruption in the supply chain can have devastating effects on the small business. Consider what would happen if a missing link exists in the supply chain. Finding a new channel partner at the last minute is not easy and could harm the quality of the product or the service provided to customers. I suggest finding at least three suppliers for every slot in the supply chain to avoid last-minute problems.
Another step a small business entrepreneur can take is to make at least an annual evaluation of all channel partners in the supply chain. A business is only as strong as the weakest link in its supply chain so it pays to remove weak channel partners and replace them with stronger ones. I suggest developing a formal written evaluation form and think about what is important to the business.
Do you have a procedure to evaluation channel partners in your supply chain? I want to hear your thoughts? If you want to know more about how to remove the “snake in the grass” I urge to get help now. Learn more.