ASK DR BUSINESS – What barriers do entrepreneurs encounter?

In this week’s post, we ask Dr. Business to identify some of the barriers new entrepreneurs encounter.

Dr. Business says:

“The biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs is not squandering their scarce start-up resources. Since most entrepreneurs have not developed a business plan before they start their business, they cannot anticipate the typical cash consuming pitfalls that could have been avoided by having a plan. This is followed by the need to find investors to begin marketing their unique value proposition. The majority of any entrepreneur’s start-up cash is usually consumed in the process of getting ready to do business. For example, starting a bagel shop, pizzeria, or developing an App, requires time and money before you sell anything.

Once these basic challenges are dealt with there then comes a host of other operating challenges having to do with: finding employees, attracting initial customers, accounting for the business, legal issues, and the time and energy required to convert their entrepreneurial idea into a commercially successful and profitable business. Not to mention the “buy-in” required from family members, partners, and others. “
If you have a specific startup problem, share your problem with us and we’ll have Dr. Business share his advice.   Send us your info at

Personal Branding: It’s Not For Me?

It’s really hard to believe that we’ve entered a phase in history where employees have to brand themselves to gain access to opportunity.  There was once a day when people could just work hard within their company for which they would get rewarded with raises, bonuses and promotions.  However, it seems that these perquisites have become endangered and almost extinct.  Companies have created organizational structures that don’t resemble anything we studied in business school.  In fact, some companies say they don’t have any structure at all.  This could be a sign that those once great benefits of work are scarce and you’ll have to figure out how to get one for yourself.  With a lack of structure comes a lack of a visible career path.  This small change has allowed companies to step away from the career development of their own employees.  Basically, it’s all up to you now.

If this wasn’t enough, recruiters and HR have changed the rules of hiring by seeking out what they call ‘passive’ candidates.  In the old days, we didn’t do this.  It was considered to be ‘poaching.’  Some companies today still have rules against ‘stealing’ each other’s talent.  If they are disgruntled and unhappy, that’s one thing but if they are satisfied, we just left them alone.  Today, the passive candidate is a target for new opportunities.  Passive candidates are the people who are working already but not actively looking for another job, leaving those who are unemployed at a disadvantage.

Let’s take a look at a few other things that may be impacting that elusive little critter we call ‘opportunity.’  Technology has greatly improved productivity, which has resulted in a reduction in workforce.  We all thought that this would be a temporary scenario but it wasn’t.  Companies are striving to do more with less.   Another huge game changer is organizational change.  A constantly changing economic landscape means that skills that are in ‘demand’ today may likely be in ‘supply’ tomorrow.

Another challenge is that many professionals feel that new opportunities are found online, exclusively.  While there are many jobs listed on company websites and job boards, it doesn’t mean that’s how you’ll gain access to those opportunities.  I recently spoke with employees at a company who has posted over 50 open positions.  These employees stated that submitting your resume through their website won’t help you get a job.  “They don’t use those resumes.  They use recruiters to find who they want,” one employee stated.  Getting your resume in front of the hiring manager is difficult and best done by someone on the inside.

Even when you are within reach of an opportunity, companies put up more barriers.  The hiring process, according to a study by Glassdoor, has gone from 13 days in 2009 to 23 days in 2013.  The cause for this dragging of the feet by companies is unknown at this time.  Professionals are just embracing the new prolonged interview and vetting process.  I think this stems from the fact that hiring managers are finally being held responsible for making hiring mistakes.  Therefore, they are taking more time to find a candidate that is ‘safe’ but not necessarily the ‘best’ choice.  Of course, as companies continue to reduce headcount, everyone must be able to do more than when they were originally hired.  This leads to inefficiencies in the process.

Lastly, managers, leaders and HR have taken on a whole new mindset when it comes to handing out opportunities.  In the old days, inclusion was the driving principle.  We would look at a person to determine what they had that we needed.  Today, we look first to see what they have that we don’t want.  It’s an exclusion mindset where we seek to rule all candidates out until we find one that just seems to fit.

I know all of this seems to be overwhelming.  It is.  Finding opportunity, even in the land of opportunity, is not easy.  In fact, it’s just as hard to find as anywhere else in the world.  We discriminate on every possible aspect of a person, though we’ll never admit it out loud.  So, how do you fight such forces that seek to separate you from opportunity?  You brand yourself.

Unless you have connections inside the company, you’re unlikely to manifest influence on decision makers.  The best way to bring opportunity closer is to draw those with opportunities closer to you.  Check out the infographic.  There are opportunities and people are looking to give them away.  Are you poised to be found?  Will people like what they see?

Branding is required and that need is here to stay.personal branding infographic

MBAs: Using the Summertime to make the SWITCH

You’ve just graduated with your MBA and are looking forward to your opportunity to get into management.  While we may want to use the summer as a time of reflection and a little job searching for that new leadership position we so desire, graduates should be taking just a little time to  publish the history of their transition to leadership before contacting potential employers.  While top tier MBA programs are connected to companies that will hire their freshly minted graduates, smaller to medium enterprises, as well as startups, need experienced talent.  If you’re in the market for this type of opportunity, painting yourself as a new leader won’t get you very far.  Let’s take a look at what the summertime should hold for your activity plan.

As an MBA graduate, you likely have high expectations for improvements in your career mobility brought about by your increased understanding of the operational aspects of business life.  But these aren’t the expectations you should focus on initially.  Employers want to know your value proposition.  They expect you to add value to their business through such things as helping identify and obtain global opportunities, developing products and services, finding unique solutions to problems, utilizing exceptional communication and leadership skills, and building high performing teams.  Is this the value you offer?

Making the switch, or changing careers, is normally a stressful activity.  If you’re thinking that the MBA degree will be enough to convince employers you’re ready for management, you might be in for a surprise.  Relevant experience is more important than the degree.  You will need to be able to prove that you already have significant relevant experience as an MBA.  Otherwise, you’re viewed as someone the company will have to train.  Oh, training budgets hardly exist today.  Most companies focus on hiring the “right” people, which means they won’t train them.  Your proof of value starts with your resume and social network profiles.  If your resume doesn’t communicate much because you don’t really have the experience you need, here are some things you can do this summer.

Volunteer.  Small to medium sized companies need help.  Why?  Well, not every business owner is highly educated, formally speaking, on the many aspects of running a business.  There are plenty of places to find companies who need support.  You can contact a city’s chamber of commerce, small business service centers, SCORE, and many other groups setup to help small businesses.  All of these can be found with a simple Google search.  Finding projects will help broaden your expertise and provide success stories that you can offer to potential employers.

Learn to speak publicly.  Toastmasters is a great place to learn to speak and is fairly low cost.  They also have branches everywhere.  The best thing about them is that you can develop and practice any speech.  More specifically, you could have an audience that helps you tell your stories.  Maybe you can develop the speech that articulates your desire to transition into management and all the steps you have taken to make that switch, the things you’ve learned and the value it has to an organization.  Can you imagine how well this will sound once practiced over and over?

MOOCs.  Yes, I know.  You feel you already have enough education, especially after spending two years working on your MBA.  Well, I’ve graduated quite a few times and am always finding reasons to learn more.  Online classes, which are mostly free of charge, are a great way to build expertise on a topic that you might be interviewing for.

Consult.  Gaining experience rapidly is best done by freelance consulting.  There are numerous websites that can help you find projects to work on.  Just do a quick search online for MBA freelance jobs to find a lot of them.  I’ve worked with MBA & Company and people per hour.

These are just a few ideas on what to do with your summer, assuming you haven’t made the switch you planned on.  The business world is moving at a fast pace, requiring MBAs to learn more and more, all the time.   Remember the old saying about competition in the marketplace, “if you’re sitting still, you’re losing ground.”  Get busy building evidence of the value you can offer as a manager to companies.  You don’t have to be a fresh graduate with no experience.  Experience is too easy to get.  You just have to do something to get it.

Ask Dr Business – What are the biggest challenges in being an entrepreneur?

In this week’s post, Dr. Business address the following question:

What are the biggest challenges in being an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur requires having a unique passion for your solution along with the willingness to commit the time and energy required to bring it to fruition in the form of a profitable business. Entrepreneurs also need to be able to accept rejection from the myriad of naysayers they will encounter along their way to success. Besides these fundamental challenges an entrepreneur has to be able to ask for help, which is typically against their nature and concern that someone will steal their idea.

Lastly, entrepreneurs do not like controls so they resist the need to develop a business plan. As a result, they encounter a variety of critical pitfalls that could have been avoided if they had only taken the time to go through the inexpensive and educational exercise of putting a business plan together before they started. Developing an even more fundamental break-even analysis for the first year of operations is also a challenge for many entrepreneurs. Without doing these basic business exercises many entrepreneurs exhaust their meager start-up funds and fail before they even launch their solution for a better world.

“Nobody plans to fail…they just fail to plan” – Doctor Business