December 18, 2011
You know, I’ve been thinking about Entrepreneurs and how to best help make schtuff happen for you for well over 7 years now. I’ve been on the private sector side as an advisor and as a business owner. I’ve also been on the not-for-profit support side with organizations like New Enterprise Forum (NEF), Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest (GLEQ), Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) and many more … and of course now at LEAP.
It’s clear to me that there is a balance between the the two kinds of help that is quite elusive.
If we, Entrepreneur Support Professionals (ESPs), as part of a non-profits provide all the help startup companies need at no cost, then the help is very rarely seen and treated as valuable. It shows up as 50% no shows for free workshops or counseling sessions. It also shows up as lack of communication and meeting commitments. It shows up in many other ways. This puts a damper on our ability to help those who really need it because we have to continually either lower our standards of helping others to pay for the programming or we have to be battling demoralizing fact that that our work isn’t valued.
If we, ESPs, as part of the private sector can provide some pro bono help but then are asked over and over to provide this, our own businesses suffer. It’s a very fine line for what we can do.
Entrepreneurs need both. But what we all (non-profit ESPs, private sector ESPs AND Entrepreneurs) need to be focused on is always moving the ball forward to validate the customer as soon as possible, make revenue as soon as possible. Really, really examine what it is that we are doing right now that moves the venture forward to customer capital. The build it and they will come mentality needs to go.
I know I sound down and pessimistic today. I’m not, really. I’m so excited each and every time I sit down with someone who is passionate and committed to their venture. Every day I meet someone that makes me want to pour my heart and soul into their venture. Every day I get jazzed up about helping. That will continue for sure.
I do feel that we aren’t talking about this help to Entrepreneurs in a way that is open and transparent though. I’m just putting this out there for discussion. What can we do about this?
Please, let’s have a dialogue.
Cheers — Miche
December 16, 2011
Apparently legislation is changing significantly for investment opportunities. In the 2nd quarter 2012 somewhere you can start investing your money in a significantly different way if you are under 1M net worth. It used to be those that wanted to invest and belonged to angle investment clubs had to be 1M net worth (sans your residence value) and that knocks out most of us.
There are a group of people talking about sourcing investment through a local stock exchange. Believe it or not, we are meeting in a bar and having fun with the discussion in the process.
After meeting last Wednesday this got me thinking and asking a few questions. This is not my area of expertise (what the legislation is current, what it’s changing to and all that). I do know a bit about crowd funding and have a few papers to share about investment. Crowd funding is a bit different but it should get you started on thinking about such things. I’ll share some links and thinking on the local stock exchange as the discussion progresses.
- IndieGoGo – www.IndieGoGo.com
- Kickstarter – www.Kickstarter.com
- Profounder – www.Profounder.com
- Rockethub - www.rockethub.com
- Ulule - www.ulule.com- Kiva – www.Kiva.org
Fun and exciting things are afoot in Lansing!!
Cheers — Miche
December 9, 2011
Get your mind out of the gutter. :)
I learned about this concept (actually it is a biological fact) years ago and it has had significant impact on choices I make in business and how I advise others. I’ve shared this distinction with no less than 4 people already this week and it seems to be the common theme.
The long form is reciprocal co-ontogenic structural coupling. The short of it is – if you hang out with a person or set of persons, you become more like them and they become more like you. Remember this is a biological fact.
- You adopt one another’s language. If they swear; you swear, or want to anyway. You talk smack about everyone; they will begin to talk smack. They are highly collaborative; you will become more collaborative.
- You adopt one another’s mannerisms. If they all tend to sit forward in meetings; you will sit forward in meetings. If they roll their eyes regularly, you will begin to do the same.
- You adopt one another’s practices. If they show up 10 minutes early for meetings, you will begin to show up for meetings early. If they all answer the phone in a clipped tone, you will begin to do so as well.
It is absolutely amazing what happens to your basic business choices when you start to realize what impact these adaptations can have on your career/life in general. Of course recognizing who you are hanging out with and making assessments of, whether you want to be more like them is a long-term story and also requires commitment and intention should you make a choice that requires change on your part. It’s very easy to take a new job and find out the people you are working with are positively amazing and then choose to stay. You just put your nose down and start working, right?
What happens if you realize your customers are all crass, ethically and morally base people? You want to couple with that? What happens to your business when you become crass, ethically and morally base? What happens to your family!!!? I personally would choose to get out!! That’s not easy. Huge shift and takes a great deal of commitment. It may require you start a whole new business. It may require you move your family into a teepee on the side of a mountain for a couple years. Really big changes. That’s not easy.
So what are you coupling with? Who are you that people are coupling with?
December 5, 2011
The timely question of “Is this work good for my business?” seems to be popping up this week. Several times this week, clients are calling or emailing to celebrate money coming in. This is good … maybe. So what’s really interesting is these clients aren’t even asking if it is good for their business, they are just doing it. Believe me, I totally understand the need and the balance between gigs that make sense and those that degrade your business identity.
A difficult space to be in is needing a cash infusion (customer capital) and a gig comes along that you can do and someone will pay you for it but it’s off mission. What I’d challenge you to do is examine what happens to your future ability to win new business and deliver high value to your targeted customers when you take gigs that are off mission.
It does a few things:
- You will be building relationships with people that aren’t influential to your declared business. Your network of customers and the strength of those relationships is what allows you to shorten the sales cycle and to win new business.
- It makes it difficult to answer the question, “What do you do for a living?” You’ll want to say, “Almost anything.” I don’t know about you but when I hear that I listen someone that is not focused. I’m unable to advocate for them when I do meet a potential customer.
Of course we are not in your shoes and you have to make the choice. What are the other options; put your nose to the grindstone, see what’s in your pipeline and work to turn one of those out that is appropriate.
My point is that you can make an informed decision. It’s not wrong to take off target business, it can keep you afloat for another day! Just ask the question, “Is this work good for my business?”
Cheers — Miche
November 11, 2011
One of the most valuable assets we have as professionals is our “network of help”. What the heck is a “network of help”? Well, imagine yourelf, standing in the middle of a large airplane hanger … all alone … right smack dab in the middle … your own Self with your huge ambition to change the world and make a good life.
- Picture those people closest to you who know you and can cheer you at the drop of a hat, those people who just thinking about them makes you feel loved and stronger. Can you see them all standing close by patting you on the back or throwing a smile or wink your way?
- Now, see more people coming in who fix your car, cut your hair, clean your suits, serve you dinner at your favorite restaurant. Can you hear them call out a greeting or see them wave to you?
- Now, pouring in the now open hanger door are those that respond when you need advice about your business. These people are people who come from all places. Law firms, accounting firms, or personal introductions. People like Tom Donaldson at the SBTDC, Jeff Smith at the City of East Lansing, me for goodness sake!! Picture us SHOUTING a hello in our cheerleader way.
- Really, really open your mind and see more of them now. What about your fellow Entrepreneurs from ICE or from Tech Wednesdays at Beggars Banquet? See them coming on in.
Is the hangar full?
- Now, add in everyone’s “network of help” that is already with you. The place is packed. These people will all help you accomplish great things.
This is your “network of help”. These are the people you know and can call on when you need. You could “lend” your network to others should you choose. You could bring your resources to bare for other people, should you choose. This is a great asset and not to be tapped into lightly, for people you don’t necessarily know.
Don’t worry if the hangar isn’t full. This is a journey and one to be savored. There are ways to build this network and to strengthen it. Get focused on the help you need and find it to make it better. You CAN get intensely CONNECTed. If you’d like some help thinking about it, you know where to find me. :)
Cheerio — Miche
October 31, 2011
It takes a lot to get a product based venture off the ground. Especially one that is being run by someone who started off a newbie to the technology the product is based on. I remember talking with this start up’s owner and being thrilled for them, but knowing the long haul they were in for, I silently prayed that they would have the energy to see it through to a good first win.
Half of the work I do with people I’m in cheerleader mode. I LOVE examining possibilities and helping them choose one that fits within the path and then make that schtuff happen! One step at a time. In the beginning most of what matters is that the step is in the right general direction.
Another part of my work is grabbing them by the shoulders, looking them in the eye and telling them things that aren’t the most exciting things to hear, such as, “you really need to examine if you are the right person to lead this venture” or “taking money from an investor this early could be the death of your venture”. What’s interesting is that I need to have the courage to say these things to them even if they never come back to see me. Sometimes they don’t.
But with this client, they did come back and remarkably enough, I was wrong. (shocker, sometimes I am) They were the right person to lead this venture to revenue positive. Now what we need to do is really put some gas on what they are doing. How do we take this first domino and make it hit the long line that has been laid out? Persistance!!
Anyway, good first win, many steps to multiples of revenue, many steps to hiring more people, many steps to 100mph.
Congratulations my friend.
October 21, 2011
I’ve been preparing for a presentation at Michigan Emerging for the last couple weeks. This over and above organizing strategic conversations about Entrepreneurship with a coalition of passionate, regional representatives from many walks of life, meeting with Entrepreneurs about their ventures, organizing events for people looking for investment in their businesses, interviewing 2nd stage business owners about the transition they made from stage 1 and understanding the grant landscape for incubators in our area. There’s bound to be more. I’ll add it to the list when someone calls and tells me about it. ☺
The Michigan Emerging presentation started out as an opportunity to help the emerging of Michigan from a funk. Even if it was in a small way, just a speech. The conference as it’s organizers speak of it is “for movers, shakers, entrepreneurs and those that love Michigan and want to help shape it’s future.” No doubt, that’s me. I move. I shake AND I love Michigan.
What I didn’t expect was the absolute joy it would be preparing for this. I can’t do the “top 10” thing so decided to do the First Eleven. I have had the honor of diving in, interviewing and shaping a story for the Michigan Emerging audience around these 11 people. They are amazing, delightful, genius, and humble movers and shakers. I’ll be up early in the day and will be talking about all kinds of initiatives going on around the state that those core to the Entrepreneurial ecosystem in Michigan need to know about. These great people are the First Eleven … I say this because I do hope I’ll have the opportunity to do this again and I could have chosen from any of hundreds.
Doug Luciani (Traverse City)
Dave Haviland (Ann Arbor)
Diane Durance (Lansing)
Kevin Suboski (Ann Arbor)
Jack Miner (Detroit)
Amanda Chocko (Zeeland)
Brent Case (Lansing)
Ken Kousky (Midland)
Jim Baker (Houton)
Rich Sheridan (Ann Arbor)
Caryn Shick (Midland)
I’m honored and humbled by this. I hope you can come to the event and experience the vibrancy that exists in the state around this issue. http://www.MichiganEmerging.com If you can’t, stay tuned for the QR code that will provide all the contacts and data from at least my presentation. I’ll blog about the experience afterward too!
I hope you are all having a fantastic day … I am!
Cheerio — Miche