Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Perseverance and Flexibility

Last night during our Business 101 class, I was remarking on the qualities of an entrepreneur.

Two qualities common to entrepreneurs are they show perseverance and flexibility. One participant asked how can you be both?

As an entrepreneur you persevere in working to make the business a success. You persevere in the face of difficulties; you persevere when prospects say no.

You are flexible in reacting to what happens once you get started in the business; you learn from your mistakes and you adapt to changing circumstances.

Often, I observe prospective entrepreneurs swapping these two - they are too flexible in reacting to difficulties ("well maybe I won't start my own business" or "here is another idea I have for a business"), and over persevere in their initial business idea ("these customers are so stupid to not see how wonderful my idea/product/service is").

Further, the qualities of perseverance and flexibility are reflections of your behavior, not actions. It is not about saying "I am going to be flexible on this", rather how you behave in the face of an issue. You would not want to print up big printed letters "Persevere" and "Flexible" and hang on the wall in your office, as IBM used to hang "Think". If the terms are useful at all, they can't be so vague as "persevere unless you need to change, and be flexible, except when important not to be".


Our next Business 101 will be February 15th, so if you are still interested in starting your own business, persevere and come to our next meeting!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Be Unconventional

Howdy! I hope all of you had a nice holiday season and are back at making your business more successful in 2010.

When you are a small business competing in a market with well established competitors, or if you are in some way 'the little guy' - you have to be ready to try something different than just competing in the same areas, products and services.

Consider professional baseball. There are a couple large market teams who have much more $ to be spent on payrolls than many of the small market teams. If a small market team tries to match the management strategy of the wealthier teams (hiring expensive stars, bidding on A+ players), it will fall behind: they cannot keep up with the advantages of the wealthier teams.The baseball writer Joe Poznanski had a great column where he recommends that smaller market teams (he lives in Kansas City) have to consider being unconventional - doing something different than the other teams in terms of hiring players or strategy in the game - if they want to have a chance to break away from mediocrity.

Returning to business, if you do not have the same resources as your competition, why go and compete on exactly those points the competitor is strongest? Why not discover where they are weakest (reaction time, extending hours, policies) and consider something unconventional.

For example, if you run a guitar store, why not be closed until 3pm everyday, but then be open from 3-11pm (or midnight), since presumably musicians and business people who have the $ to spend on a guitar are more likely to be available in the evening? And a musician on his way to a gig might realize he needs a microphone or cable on the way.
As Seth Godin says, "The scalable, profitable strategy is to change the game, not to become the most average."