June 20, 2011
“We want to ensure we are doing everything we can to provide services and support for the business innovators and entrepreneurial risk-takers who are the future job creators of our region,” says Leap President and CEO. So enters Leap’s fearless leader into the story, Denyse Ferguson. She’s very passionate about Lansing and looking to make a difference. Because she cares so much, she hunted me down and convinced me to come to Leap and champion the entrepreneurship and innovation cause.
More than ever, designing services to support entrepreneurs needs to be treated like an entrepreneurial endeavor. We need to constantly be checking in with our target market and validating that what we have is valuable. Leap’s new programmatic support, Entrepreneurs’ Edge, is designed to be flexible and highly connected into the community. It is also designed to engage all stages of entrepreneurs from those in Discovery (know some parts of the business process but discovering new components), Launched (business is up and running but struggling with balance) and Growth (net income positive and in need of vetted expert for strategic and urgent projects).
Entrepreneurs’ Edge is comprised of five components, including four programs Pure Q&A, E2 Peer Group, E2 Expert Help, and The Pitch Machine. The fifth component is me – a Champion for entrepreneurs that will assist in identifying resources of help that are appropriate, navigate through them and act as an advocate.
- Pure Q&A offers monthly sessions hosted by area experts and their organizations. These sessions bring a particular topic to the table to be fully examined by the curiosity and needs of those in attendance. (Appropriate for Discovery and Launched)
- E2 Peer Group is an opportunity to meet with others in the same stage of business and resolve issues, strengthen entrepreneurial leadership skills, examine critical areas of business with vetted experts, and build relationships with mentors and coaches. (appropriate for Launched)
- E2 Expert Help directly connects entrepreneurs with trusted, vetted resources that can execute on strategic and urgent projects. (Appropriate for Launched and Growth)
- The Pitch Machine is a process to prepare entrepreneurs to make investor pitches and connect them with opportunities to make those pitches. (Appropriate for Launched and Growth)
Two of the essential characteristics of a successful entrepreneurial venture are being agile and intense connected (sound familiar?). Although these may sound like blah, blah, blah words or they may even be completely obvious to you, they are rarely focused on as a regular practice. We are focusing.
What are entrepreneurs doing to continue to meet people that can help them stay agile and build a healthy revenue base? The most diligent business owners get out perhaps once or twice per week. It feels right to be behind a desk or counter and hammering home delivery. That once or twice per week has to be high impact. Entrepreneurs’ Edge provides high impact: meet people who can help, learn about new tools and understand the market better.
There is most definitely a time to have your head down and butt up working the fulfillment side of your business. There is also a delicate balance between working on your business and working in your business. My audacious goal is to make Greater Lansing a hotbed for entrepreneurial activity. With Entrepreneurs’ Edge, all support organizations, support professionals (experts), investors and entrepreneurs can plug into one another easily and often … I think we can make that audacious goal happen.
Look for more about the events and venues that make up Entrepreneurs’ Edge at www.LeapInc.biz, or you could always pick up a phone and just call me at 517.702.3387.
April 3, 2011
One of the greatest assets Michigan entrepreneurs have is a can-do, independent attitude. However, if you are starting a business, taking this tendency too far can be deadly. Over 95% of businesses fail in the first 5 years. With the inherent complexity of starting and running a business, many of those business owners could have succeeded with expert help.
Fortunately, there are hundreds of people in the Lansing area who are qualified and available to guide entrepreneurs through the minefield of starting or growing a business. Designing a business and a strategy to create that business successfully requires knowledge and experience. Entrepreneur Support Professionals (ESP) are people who have the skills and commitment to be of strategic help to entrepreneurs in the formulation of their businesses. The Association of Entrepreneur Support Professionals was formed to ensure that these ESP’s continuously improve the value they are to entrepreneurs. The Association also contributes by helping entrepreneurs to become better consumers of help.
So what should you consider when looking for help? It is useful to recognize that there are many different types of help out there. ESP’s have different offers. They tend to break down into the following categories:
- An Advisor sees the big picture of the business and your role and can work with you as you design your business and bring other resources to bear on the problems that you both agree need attention. They can also advise on how to “be” an entrepreneur. They generally have been one themselves.
- A Coach is someone that tends to focus more on the work processes of being a Founder/CEO. They observe your behavior and share their assessments of your practices and suggest more powerful ways of acting to achieve your objective. They are also useful in helping you keep track of your commitments.
- A Teacher shares distinctions or practices that give you a greater capacity to observe, design and act.
- A Consultant develops a work product – deliverable – that has some amount of design. If you need something done, you want someone else to do it and you are not exactly clear on how best to get it done, you need a Consultant.
- A Contractor provides their trained body to do work that has been designed. If you know exactly what you need and don’t want to do the work, or are not trained to do the work, then you need a Contractor.
Next, you need to know where to find the help you need. The best way to find help is the old-fashioned method of developing relationships with many people in the entrepreneurial community and asking around when you need help. Get out and network. Go to events sponsored by entrepreneurial support organizations. Meet people there, and then further develop the relationship with a follow-up meeting to discuss issues that are important to both of you.
Lastly, you will want to consider whether you should use the free services offered by governments and non-profits or the paid services of for-profit individuals or companies. There are a tremendous amount of free services available around the region. If you are a startup, then money is tight. Start with the free services. Find out what is available and try many different people. If you find that you need more attention, concentration, a particular specialty or consulting or contracting, then you will want to find someone in the public sector.
It can be challenging navigating the many sources of help available. If you are not sure where to go, send an email to Ask_An_ESP@espassociation.com or talk to staff at Leap, Inc. – they can help you get the assistance you need in your quest for success.
Kevin Suboski is President of the Association of Entrepreneur Support Professionals
March 20, 2011
It’s been a great week to contemplate entrepreneurship and innovation! I had the opportunity to spend the early part of the week in Washington, D.C. at the International Economic Development Conference, where much of the discussion centered on entrepreneurship and innovation. And, upon my return, I had the absolute pleasure of attending our second annual “Next Bright Idea Competition”, where you all would have been blown away by the tremendous two minute pitches given by our local high school and college students that are out to change the world.
On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the bill which laid the foundations of the modern American patent system; for the first time in history the intrinsic right of an inventor to profit from his invention was recognized by law. That same year, one Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont, was granted the first U.S. patent for an improvement in the making of potash (a substance derived from the ash of burned plant life and used to make soap and other items). From “potash” to “cloud hosting” as a tool to access your data anywhere you can access the web, entrepreneurship and innovation has driven our past and drives our future.
The thoughts and ideas you’ll see in this newsletter, from our own Greater
Lansing entrepreneurs are both thought-provoking and inspiring. You’ll read about A.J. Boggs’s CEO Clarke Anderson, and when the “entrepreneurial seed” was planted for him. And you’ll hear the opinions of Extreme Entrepreneurship Founder Michael Simmons on where you should start your business, and when a business becomes a business. I can’t say that I agree with them all – I think the ideas of just doing it, and developing a solid living, breathing business plan are not mutually exclusive (sorry Michael.). It’s not so much a “jump, and the net will appear” exercise as much as ensuring you have a product that fits a market need so that you don’t need a net.
As an Okemos grad, I have to admit that I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the story of Two Men and a Truck. It’s another great story for our young people – who would think that two high schoolers could turn their summer job unto a multi-national franchise operation (of course with the help of a wonderful mother in this case.) And I am so pleased and amazed to learn that they maintain a 95% customer satisfaction rate! I have moved a few times, and honestly didn’t think that kind of a satisfaction rate was possible in the moving business.
So, read on, in the spirit of charting new courses and blazing new trails that benefit you and all of those around you.
President and CEO,
(This posting originally published as the March 2011 Greater Lansing Forward, President’s Letter)
December 30, 2010
This article from the Lansing Bureau of the Free Press… We’ve got to think, act positive …. is an interview of our new Gov as of Saturday. Dawson states in the very beginning, “… it’s fair to say that most Michiganders care less about the words used to define the mission than they do about results.”
I love this!!!
My family has been a part Michigan at least since the mid 1850s (when the population of the state was only around 400,000). Some of us poor, some of us not. Some of us farmers, some of us line workers and some of us master tinkerers. When my father graduated from high school he joined the Air Force, and a few years into his 21 year stint, he visited back home and bought a 40 acre plot of land he knew he would bring his family home to when he retired at the ripe old age of 39. I was 16 when we moved back to Michigan and built the house (they still live in) as a family. Blah, blah, blah. My point is that we are deeply Michigan folk. We love Michigan the way most of us here do … deeply committed to staying and madly in love with the land. Since we know we are staying we will make the most of it.
My interpretation of what the Gov is saying is that although we’ve had the snot beat out of us … we need to get up, put a smile on our faces and truly feel the determination in our hearts to make Michigan. I read this and felt like I felt as a young girl listening to a sermon. Inspired, at peace and ready to go make shit happen.
If you want to be part of making shit happen, do it. If you want some help thinking about it, I’d be happy to be in that discussion with you.
December 18, 2010
I’ve been in the game of running a business for years. I also got into being a Entrepreneur Support Professional (ESP as I call us) before it was trendy. Now-a-days everyone is an Entrepreneur or Entrepreneurial or is an ESP. (I read the other day that one of the top 10 words used in resumes is Entrepreneurial. It’s just cool.)
I’d like to offer up an interpretation of Entrepreneur and flavor it a bit like Jeff Foxworthy might if he were from Lansing instead of the deep south. :)
You know you are an Entrepreneur if:
- you can spell it properly every time
- you wake up at all hours writing up plans on how to market your business
- you wake up at all hours itching to talk with someone and can’t because it’s 2am so you write a book of an email to them instead, take a nap and then check your email at 6am hoping for a reply
- you’ve thrown up on the front lawn because you aren’t sure if you will make payroll (and half of your employees you consider friends)
- you’ve moaned to your friends about not having enough business (working hard but no payoff)
- you’ve moaned to your friends about having too much business (working hard but can’t keep up)
- you drive your car that has 210,000 miles on it (a few dents and scratches on it) to a business meeting and hope it doesn’t convey “I’m not successful” but you know it’s the right thing to NOT spend the money on a new car
These are just a few ways to know if you are an Entrepreneur. Like Foxworthy, I can pull a few out of my hat every time I do this routine. I don’t distinguish between Entrepreneur and business owner as I work with people. If you say you are an Entrepreneur, then you are. It seems to have all become one for many of us ESPs and us Entrepreneurs (I still consider myself one of those too).
And a message to all those who get their panties in a bunch over someone declaring themselves an Entrepreneur when “they clearly are not”, I say get over it and let’s move on to the business of supporting growth in whatever venture it is, Entrepreneurial or not.
Cheers — Miche Suboski
December 16, 2010
It’s too short! It goes by too fast! You can’t fit it all in! This is a common chorus I hear when I ask what people think of the Boost events.
Being real, if you can’t be compelling about your business in two minutes, you’re in trouble anyway. The point of a pitch this short is to tell your audience enough to want to know more (get a coffee date or a dinner date) and to NOT convey anything that would want them to totally discount you or your idea.
This requires for you to know the answers to at least these questions:
- What are the concerns of the person you are speaking to?
- What are the benefits (not features) of your product or service to them?
- How do you take a shower and dress?
- Is your body language conveying confidence and trust?
Jon Priebe (Citadel Defense Technologies), Merilee Griffin (Memo Touch), Robert Kamal (Kohorts) and Kimberly Aya (Fun Cakes Rental) apparently knew all this stuff. They ended up at dinner with the panel getting all kinds of great thoughts. They’ll also get to go to a BlueWater Angels pitch night and give a longer pitch to the investment club. Congrats people!
Stay warm! – Miche
December 13, 2010
Mood as defined by the dictionary is a “state of mind” or we can also think of it as “an orientation to the world”. Is it a place of abundance, possibility, collaboration, basic goodness? Answers will most likely shape our mood.
After attending Launched last Thursday in East Lansing and then sprinting from one meeting to the next around the lower part of Michigan through Saturday afternoon, I can honestly say that Lansing seems to be preferable. We’re humble but proud (not too self congratulatory but confident enough to say “Stuff is happening here!”). We’ve got a lot of stuff going on!!! (For those of you who know me, stuff is a polite replacement for the more harsh yet more exciting word I’d rather use.)
At Launched it began with T.J. Duckett speaking and being his authentic, extremely likable self. He made it clear he was up to stuff in Lansing. Then Bobby Bringi from MBI brought his gentle, intelligent and successful self to light and made it clear, once again that stuff is happening here too. Followed closely on his heels was Brittney Hoszkiw from Lansing’s Old Town and, my goodness, she made me want to march right over there and check out the stuff happening there! And Chris Holman was quite humorous and delivered a powerful message … not only is stuff happening now in the Greater Lansing region but it’s going to continue to happen! Business owners are now more confident than in a long while that their ventures will grow and be able to flex with the markets they are part of (is that a dangling participle?).
My point is, the mood is great here. It jazzes me up (and I suspect everyone) knowing stuff is happening. There is one thing that is clear, when we are in a bad mood, making good stuff happen is hard, sometimes impossible. If you find yourself in a bad (or ineffective) mood: go for a walk, talk to someone who’s in a good mood and ask them why, just listen, don’t spread your bad mood. Let’s share that good mood with everyone for 2011.
A call to action …. pick someone in your network of help. Now send them a note, email or call them. Tell them how appreciative you are of the stuff they are up to. Stir the good mood and multiply it. That’s how more stuff will happen.
Go make it happen!
Cheers — Miche
PS … don’t be angry I left out the part about the Innovator of the year awards … I left early, my feet were killing me and I had another 14 hour day coming the next day!! (just being real )
December 10, 2010
Most important to any initiative is to gage the interest of the customer BEFORE you use valuable resources: your time, your money and your esoteric credits with those around you.
Is there interest in a blog from Leap’s most recent addition (me!)? That remains to be seen. I have to say I’m a little nervous about it, but that’s part of being an Entrepreneur, eh?
Okay, why am I launching ugly (not my idea of excellent blog placement, not the mood I want to convey, not the ideal tool for me to use)? Well in my limited knowledge of blogs I know what is most important is having followers … no wait, that’s Tweeting … it’s having active readers (lots of comments). Starting a blog pretty would require I make a request of Pam Jodway (our Marketing guru at Leap), Sara Graham (our Social Media guru at Leap) and at least one paid contractor to set it up the way I want, make it look the way I want and teach me how to use it.
Figuring out if people are going to read this blog will take some time (I’m guessing a month or two). So I’m launching ugly (not perfect) and will do so until I figure out if there is an audience. As soon as I see it makes sense to use my valuable resources (my time!!, limited budget and esoteric credits with work mates) I will ask for help in making it pretty and functional.
My promises in this log:
- I will irritate some people because my writing will not always be pretty, maybe not even the majority of the time. I’d rather try to get a message across rather than make sure my grammar is proper or spelling is perfect. I will continue to use “…” often as well as putting ( ) around little inside (perhaps snide, chipper or totally unrelated) comments.
- I will diligently hold the concern of the Entrepreneur (this blog won’t be about trying to sell to you some service or another OR blowing smoke anywhere in particular).
- I accept praise and criticism well (my family members might not agree) so just be respectful in your language and I’ll work to see the value in your comments.
So, this blog is being launched ugly because that’s what I’d like to see you do with your venture (to an extent). Test the market by just dipping your toe in (oh I forgot I will also promise to mix and misuse metaphors as well). As soon as you have an idea, start talking to people about it and see what they think (watch their bodies in how they are triggered by it … people often say nice and charming things but can’t really hide in their body language how they truly feel). Is it interesting enough to move on to the next phase and invest more of your resources? Then stick your whole foot in. :)
Okay, enough said.
I’ll write again soon.
Cheers — Miche
November 24, 2010
Can you hear it? There’s a buzz in Greater Lansing that entrepreneurship is thriving. Whether you’ve heard about it in the local media, via your social media network of choice, a national publication, or from your neighbouring business owner, Lansing is gaining ground and getting recognized for fostering an entrepreneurial mindset and creating a knowledge-based economy that inspires entrepreneurialism.
There is so much happening, and the month of November is no exception. In fact, we designated it “Engaging Entrepreneurs and Inspiring Innovation” month because of the numerous events and programs being hosted by regional resource providers. Hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs, area high school and college students, and even established business owners looking to expand or transform their companies have already participated in the broad range of programs that have taken place in the area. Start-up Weekend drew a crowd of young innovators interested advancing their entrepreneurial ideas to the next stage of development. The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour inspired hundreds of students from area high schools and colleges. The Next Bright Idea competition is once again open for submissions. And several “fundamentals” workshops like how to start a business, writing your business plan and achieving fiscal fitness are being hosted by the Small Business Development & Technology Center. This menu of programs is designed to inspire, assist and support our current and future entrepreneurs in generating innovative ideas and developing business ventures.
With entrepreneurship at the top of the list of positive things happening in the area, this month’s Greater Lansing Forward features just a few of our local entrepreneurs that have found success here in Greater Lansing. It is also a reflection of the things that are currently happening around us that are creating an entrepreneurial spirit in the minds of our youth and helping to foster this mindset within everyone who has something to bring to the table. And, we feature two tremendous national foundations who provide a national perspective on entrepreneurship – the Kauffman Foundation and the Edward Lowe Foundation.
There is great news to be heard in Greater Lansing. We invite you to spend a few minutes with this month’s edition of Greater Lansing Forward to read all about it.
President & CEO
November 16, 2010
The Edward Lowe Foundation began to narrowly focus on second-stage entrepreneurs in the early 2000s due to the important role second-stagers play in economic prosperity — and misperceptions about entrepreneurship.
“People frequently use the term ‘entrepreneur’ to refer to small businesses,” says Mark Lange, the foundation’s executive director. “But entrepreneurship encompasses a broad spectrum, and there’s a big difference between small-business entrepreneurs and growth-oriented entrepreneurs.” For example, some individuals, often referred to as “lifestyle entrepreneurs,” may be self-employed because they like being their own boss, but creating jobs isn’t a priority for them. Then there are small businesses that provide jobs in a community, however, the local trading area they serve often restricts their growth.
In contrast, growth entrepreneurs are significant job creators because of their appetite — and aptitude — for expansion. And because they often have national or global markets, they bring outside dollars into the community.
The foundation defines second-stage growth entrepreneurs as having 10 to 99 employees and annual revenue ranging between $1 million and $50 million. These are soft boundaries and will fluctuate depending on industry,” Lange stresses. “The important distinction is that these companies are focused on growth, and they are powerhouses when it comes to job creation.”
Indeed, between 1993 and 2008, second-stage companies only represented 10.9 percent of U.S. resident establishments but represented 35.7 percent of jobs and 24.8 percent of positive job growth, according to YourEconomy.org, the foundation’s online research tool. (See chart)
Many people associate second stage with gazelles (companies that grow 20 percent or more each year), but that’s only part of the story. Second stage also includes companies with potential for high growth and those with steady growth that may be less dramatic than gazelles but is still impressive. “Granted, growth entrepreneurs pass through a variety of stages, but second stage is a critical juncture,” Lange says. “In his book ‘No Man’s Land,’ author Doug Tatum calls this the adolescence phase in companies’ lifecycles where they are ‘too big to be small but too small to be big.’ ”
Although funding and resources exist for small businesses and startups, second-stage entrepreneurs have different needs to continue growing. For example, second-stagers wrestle with:
- Refining core strategy
- Adapting to industry changes.
- Expanding markets.
- Building a management team.
- Embracing new leadership roles.
“It’s important to treat these growth entrepreneurs differently than small businesses,” Lange says. “Communities need to identify their second-stage companies and make sure services and resources are in place to help them continue to grow.”
A perspective piece provided by the Edward Lowe Foundation