Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

ASK DR BUSINESS – How do I brand myself as an entrepreneur?

In this week’s post, we ask Dr Business about branding ourselves as an entrepreneur.

Question:  How do I brand myself as an entrepreneur?

Dr. Business says:

“The most successful entrepreneurs brands are a reflection of themselves e.g. Steve Jobs was Apple, and Apple was Jobs. Likewise, Ralph Lauren is Polo and Polo is Ralph Lauren, and Bezos is Amazon, etc., etc. Typically, entrepreneurs create a solution for a problem that they have themselves and pursue the commercialization of their solution with a passion that is a reflection of themselves. So, in essence they are the embodiment of the brand that they create.

If we take Jobs as the classic example of an entrepreneur that actually branded himself as an entrepreneur, he did that by coming up with one wonderful solution after another to problems that consumers did not realize they had until he delighted them with one neat new electronic i device before the last one was fully adopted. In so doing he embodied the epitome of cool creations. Others, like Bezos and Lauren continue to introduce new ways to delight consumers. I would say that the closer you can come to emulating these entrepreneurs and others the more obvious it becomes as to how necessary it is. 

The bad news is that you can’t copy these great brands easily. You can, however, execute the basic strategy. You must focus on doing things better or, better yet, uniquely. Demonstrate a passion for the details of your business more than your competitors do. Develop innovative ways to communicate and connect with your customers. Circle back and improve the things that can get better, and replace the things that can’t with something else. Then repeat this over and over. “

If you have a specific startup issue, share your problem with us and we’ll have Dr. Business assess it.   Send us your challenges at info@blitzteamconsulting.com

The Prime Mover Inside the Entrepreneurial Mindset

Years ago, I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  The book does a good job of explaining the mindset that holds many people back from ever becoming an entrepreneur.  Ironically, Robert’s story compares the advice of his academic dad (i.e. poor dad) and his entrepreneurial dad (i.e. rich dad).  Robert suggests that working hard and earning good grades isn’t the best advice anymore.  Working for someone else won’t lead to financial independence, which is where you’ll likely end up by earning a college degree and hoping for a corner office in a big company.  You’ll find that the people you work for aren’t willing to give up the good life or share much of it either.  The biggest gains go to the shareholders.

I can attest to Robert’s concept myself.  My dad was the employee with the great work ethic who worked in the same company for over 30 years and I was the son with all the college degrees.  Neither one of us found financial independence that way.  Today, the young professional mindset is changing slightly.  Professionals are getting the college degrees and then chasing the entrepreneurial dream.  They are using both paths.  The downside is that most of the lessons they get from academia and the parents who haven’t owned businesses still lack some important truths about entrepreneurs.  Here are the truths that will help you understand the makings of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Don’t just think about it, do it.  All through college, you spend your time solving problems that already have answers (i.e. they’re in the back of the book).  If you brave the world of graduate school, you’ll likely solve problems analytically because you can’t really test your solution in the real business world.  I think all of the analytical techniques are great to learn and easily taught by academia but it forces you into a state of analysis when you run into a situation for which you don’t know the outcome.  In other words, the more educated you are, the less likely you are to take risks.  Why?  Because you’ll spend too much time estimating the risk rather than just taking it.  Risk can also result in failure which could damage your “I’m a smart person” self-image.  If you plan to be an entrepreneur, you need to get over this idea and develop the “anything it takes” self-image.

“Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice.” – Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author.

You won’t figure it all out.  Most startups don’t create a business or marketing plan before they launch.  So they don’t have a good picture of what resources and effort are really needed for the initial phase.  This leads to considerable effort figuring out how to do many of the activities that must be completed.  Another factor that makes this overwhelming is that startups also begin with as little resources as possible, which forces you to spend too much time on what I call non-value added activities.  For example, if you plan to use social media as part of your marketing plan and you aren’t good at it, find someone to do it.  You need to spend your time selling and directing the business.  This is why you build your plans before you launch.  The other benefit of building plans early is that you can do this while working another job.  Then, you can easily step out and launch the business.  There are a lot of benefits to planning early and defining who will do what. Plan it first and use expertise where you can find it.

You will fail, hopefully.  Most startups fail, roughly 9 out of 10.  Failure is inevitable.  This is worth saying twice.  FAILURE IS INEVITABLE. The key to overcoming the failure, at least according to the 10% of companies that succeed at startup, is versatility and teamwork.  Challenges and setbacks are a huge part of success.  They often put you back on the right track.  Versatility is the possession of numerous skill sets among your team.  If you’re launching your company alone, your versatility will be limited.  You might consider building a team or getting a partner.  Teamwork will then become vital in rebounding from setbacks and failures.

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” Beverly Sills, opera singer

Be a punching bag.  As a business owner, you’ll get feedback from customers, vendors, suppliers, employees and investors.  The majority of this feedback will be unfavorable.  The success of your business will depend on how well you handle it.  You can’t become aggressive and fight it.  You can’t just rollover and accept everything either.  Feedback is some of the best learning you can get and most of the time is offered to you at no cost.  Soliciting feedback is the ideal way to extract information about your product and how well it meets your customer’s needs.  This is key in getting them to buy your product.  So why wouldn’t you eagerly accept this advice?  Don’t let your passion and ego get in the way of growing your business and allowing others to help you do it. You’ll grow faster that way anyhow. Just remember, every blow you get will only give you more information on how you are doing and will help you find ways to improve.  If you’re unfamiliar with making feedback actionable, check out this article at Entrepreneur.com.

Don’t make all the decisions.  Just as we discussed above, you’re not going to be able to provide all the answers to your questions, but you are going to feel compelled to answer them.  It’s your company after all.  Well, if this is what you’re going to do, you need to create as many habits as you can.  These habits will save you time so that you can focus on the tough problems.  One of the most important habits you need to develop is to reduce the number of decisions you make, especially the little things.

Even President Barack Obama avoids making the little decisions that don’t usually mean so much to the success of his business.  “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”  Focus on the major value adding decisions and create habits that don’t steal your time.  Again, this is best accomplished when it is laid out in a business plan.

There’s nothing easy about being an entrepreneur.  Those that can’t handle it become employees.  It’s not for everyone.  If you’re considering it, it’s critical that you establish the right mindset.  Remember, entrepreneurship is a journey, not an event.  It will be difficult and all consuming.  It will eat everything you have (e.g. time, money, energy, passion, drive, attitude) if you don’t adopt the right mindset.

Entrepreneurs Beware The MBA

The big trend in the MBA today is NOT to follow the flocks of graduates rushing to the corner office in the traditional corporate jobs in finance and management.  Today, newly minted MBAs seek to become their own boss by becoming an entrepreneur or joining a startup.  In a study by the Wharton School of Business, 7% of their MBA graduates were bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at graduation, while historically about 25% of their graduates had dabbled in entrepreneurship since 1990.  The first thing these go-getters learn after graduation is that business school taught them a few things that aren’t really true when you own your own business.

  1. Plan. Plan. Plan.  Business schools like to focus on building plans for everything. That’s great if you don’t have any time pressure, like when you’re in a classroom.  However, when you’re in the thick of running a business and dealing with rapid change, planning is a task that requires significant resources and time.  These are luxuries that new entrepreneurs and startups don’t have.  Business is messy, unpredictable, amorphous and always changing.  Even the big companies use the most common method of business planning; that is, trial and error.
  2. Hard work is the key to success. This was echoed to me so many times in grad school.  I know I’ll have to work hard and in the corporate world, this exacerbated by competition for bonuses, promotions and fun work.  However, the new MBAs coming directly from business school aren’t seeing the benefits being hailed by professors.  Organizations aren’t giving away those perqs like in years past.  So, if you’re going to work your butt off, you might as well do it for yourself, rather than some organizational leaders who won’t appreciate what you have to offer.  There is a small caution to this tale.  Entrepreneurs will be pushed and pulled from all angles, so rest and release are critical to maintaining sufficient motivation.
  3. Learn what others do first. “Play it safe” sentiments are echoed through the hallways of business schools.  “Get a corporate job and learn how companies are running their business before tackling your own company” a professor always told.  Isn’t that what business school is for?    Besides, if there is ever a time for taking risk, it’s when you are young and full of energy.  Young MBAs have to chase their dreams while they can afford failures.  Diving into the corporate job can quickly lead to domestication, which comes with a family, mortgage and lots of activities that eat up time you don’t have.  There’s nothing wrong with these things, as I have them all.  But you can always fall back on your MBA to get you a decent job if the entrepreneurial thing doesn’t pan out.
  4. You need to acquire funding. The big MBA programs give out badges for raising a lot of capital to start a business.  Money is important but not necessarily when you’re starting out.  The biggest focus for you as a new entrepreneur is to figure out what the heck you’re doing.  Learning business in school is not the same as putting it into practice.  You aren’t solving problems that are easily defined and have easy solutions.  Learn the business first.  If you’ve seen the hit TV show, Shark Tank, you already know that investors don’t like investing in an unproven concept.  They want to see that you can make money with the idea, not risk their money trying to figure it out.

One of the big criticisms of business schools is that they don’t employ professors who’ve actually started and run businesses.  Of course, you will also find that the corporate world is full of those types too.  As an entrepreneur, learning is critical and has real value in all you do.  It’s psychotic to think that business school will give you all the tools you need.  That’s why we’ve brought a great resource for you here on our blog….Ask Dr. Business.  Send us your questions and we’ll get you answers from a tried and true entrepreneur.

An Interview with Dr. Business: Professor Robert Donnelly

Recently, we’ve been asked by our clients to share more on entrepreneurship.  Typically, we promote a lot of discussion on the MBA and general career advice.  Now, we’re adding a little more for all of you overactive professionals who want to do their own thing.  Yep, Entrepreneurship will be part of our discussions here on the Blitz Blog.  We’ll soon be adding a column, called Ask Dr. Business, where you can ask Professor Donnelly questions for yourself.

To kick this off, we decided to provide a short introduction to Professor Donnelly and ask him a few questions.

About Professor Donnelly:

bobProfessor Donnelly is an author, educator, and brand builder for businesses and individuals. His latest book, Personal Brand Planning for life, and his earlier tome: Guidebook to Planning – A Common Sense Approach, are both available on Amazon. Professor Donnelly has been teaching in MBA programs for over 20 years now and concentrates on Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Strategic Brand Management. Prior to academia he held senior management positions with IBM, Pfizer, and EXXON, and was the CEO of the North American subsidiary of a Dutch multinational firm. A prolific writer he was the Editor of the Entrepreneurial CEO column for Chief Executive Magazine for many years and still writes for CE. His columns and blogs appear frequently in the global entrepreneurial space.

Here’s my interview with Dr. Business.

Todd:  From a career consulting perspective, we are seeing a lot of MBAs move towards entrepreneurship.  Why do you think this is happening now?

Professor Donnelly:   Due to the uncertainty of long term careers in corporate America brought on by continuing advances in technology coupled with the implications of Big Data and Predictive Analytics, MBAs are naturally attracted to take advantage of their education and experience to become entrepreneurs by utilizing their skills to contribute to developing customized solutions to new problems emerging in the new world of work. Every semester several of my MBA students implement the business plans they developed in my course to start new businesses.

Todd:  Is transitioning from an MBA mindset to an entrepreneurial easy?  What are some of the challenges professionals will face?

Professor Donnelly: The biggest challenge is taking risks, which are the epitome of the entrepreneurial mindset. Professional managers are risk averse by nature and have become enamored with the safety net provided by the typical corporate umbrella. This false sense of security represents a safer place to be than venturing out on their own where their success or failure is based solely on the decisions that they have to make themselves. Secondarily, they have to have a passion for what they are doing and make the time commitment required for success. This is far different than a corporate situation where decisions are often made by others and you can go home at 5 o’clock without a worry about tomorrow.

Todd:  We know most universities don’t provide entrepreneurial classes.  Where can students and graduates go to get some real advice on becoming an entrepreneur?

Professor Donnelly: It’s unfortunate that entrepreneurship is often an elective, and courses on personal branding are few and far between, if available at all. Entrepreneurship can’t be gleaned from a textbook. It has to be studied by following the now well worn path of successful entrepreneurs. Every business starts with a solution to a problem. Peter Drucker, the guru of management, said “the purpose of a business is to create a customer, and the job of the leader is to grow the value of a customer.” Just think about the problems that you have all day every day. Each one of those problems represents an opportunity to devise a solution. Shake Shack started with a food cart in a park in New York fourteen years ago and just had an extremely successful IPO. The challenge is to implement a better, faster, cheaper solution – Uber, Zip Car, The Swiffer, Tide Spot Stick, whatever.

Thanks, Dr. Business, for sharing a few moments with us.  We look forward to your column on this site and bringing a unique perspective to entrepreneurship to this blog.

So what questions do you have for Dr. Business?