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