Tag Archives: entreprenuer

Motivation is key to building amazing Enterprises. Entrepreneurs need to be motivated.

Do you know your Exit Strategy?

You will need to ensure you are motivated to exit the business and that means understand the path for your exit strategy. In every sense you must learn from the exit from your business and the experience should motivate you to build a new enterprise which is more amazing and motivated that this. The five common Exit Strategies are:

Initial Public Offering

The stock market offers you the opportunity to increase the capital available to the business, the money invested and also the rewards available to you. The motivation for being independent will have to reduce as shareholders and accountability move into play.

Acquisition

When you have created a truly unique, thriving and attractive business, it will be becoming an appealing proposition for other businesses. When they offer you the large sum of money for your business, what motivates you to say ‘Yes’? What will you do everyday when you no longer have your business to run? The opportunities are then truly amazing and you can become a member of ‘Serial Entrepreneurs’ club.

Liquidation

Walking along any footpath can be uneasy and the same is true about business. The vast majority of entrepreneurs have a company liquidation in there bag, an experience they will never forget, an event which created some the best lessons they have ever learnt. No expects you to walk straight away, so why do you expect to be able to manage a business from day one without making mistakes. This should be expected, however it is in the learning about business, enterprise and yourself which you can create a truly amazing and vibrant business next time around.

Sell to another Entrepreneur

One of my favour saying is that “People buy from people who are like them”. This is the case from buying your newspaper to buying a company. Entrepreneurs look for opportunities and therefore within your network you will know people who want to buy and run your company better and pay you for the chance.

Shareholder

This option which many entrepreneurs follow is to become a shareholder which then provides revenue for the rest of their lives (e.g. Bill Gates). In some cases the shareholder provides revenue for many generations to come, such as the Guinness family. This exit requires you to create a good team around you who are motivated to continue to move the business forward.

So before you start out on your venture, think about your exit strategy and  what you will need the business to look like for you to achieve your goal.

 

Essential Software Tools for a Startup Business

Over the last year I have either started mentoring or joined the advisory board of several technology startups. These are technology led businesses with a team of both techies and non-technics. For every startup its important to set the tools early on as it influences the culture of the business and also the pace of the business growth. Selecting the wrong tool delays development as everyone has to learn it or even stops the business as no one wants to use this tool.

There is no one tools I recommend and it depends on the team members and then the project attributes, such as the size of team, selected coding platform, use of third party plugins and also the length of the creative cycles. So below you will find at least two options for each core tool. The tools selected below all start off with a freemium model which is ideal for startups.

Another factor in selecting the tools below was they should work on multiple devices (mobile, tablet and PC) and also with multiple people (sharing, editing and also distribution).

Startup Documents

Criteria: Need to share, edit and collaborate on documents. Multiple people should be able to view documents at any time.

Evernote

I have been a fan of Evernote since it was first launched. I use it in several ways:

  • Research – I use the Web Clip extension to save web pages which then allow me to develop a collection of articles very quickly and then index them against tags and within notebooks. For early stage startups understanding what competitors are doing and how certain technology works is important. This can then be shared with everyone on the team, ensuring a similar knowledge base.
  • I have multiple notebooks that I use for all sorts of things including my task management, goal setting, lists of all kinds, photos and random notes.

Google Apps/Docs

Its taken me some time to get happy with Google Docs and still don’t put documents I want to be secure on it, but as an editor which multiple people can use to generate a shared vision its the best tool out there.

  • Collaborative Documents – The document editor is better than MS Word and has a better spell checker, it also loads faster.
  • Save As function, especially to PDF and Website is worth using as it allows you to email and share document very quickly.
  • Google Forms is the best way to create surveys. Since I found this I have stopped using Survey Monkey which has got too expensive.

Startup Internal Comms & Project Management

Criteria: A place where everyone can state what they are doing and when, any issues are discussed and logged.

Skype

This is a must have tool for collaborative teams.

  • Team Chat – To have a open chat box which everyone can contribute, add files and also URL links is extremely powerful. This always on and open team collaborative culture is extremely important to generating momentum for the business.
  • Team Calls – Every team has to go through the storming/norming phases and chatting on Skype for hours on getting the vision/mission/strategy right is the only way. Most of my team members use Skype of their mobile/tablet for this, so they can walk around the house, trying different rooms during each stage of the meeting.

Trello

This provides a digital kanban board for project management, allows the team to contribute and on one page see the entire set of tasks.

  • Great way to show projects, tasks and business mapping on one page which everyone can buy into.
  • The graphical interface provide a simple way to get the team to contribute and set/agree their tasks

Startup Cloud Storage

Criteria: Always on and backed up to the cloud. Low cost.

Dropbox

Keeps my working files available to me wherever I am, synched across multiple devices.

  • For one startup all their large images are shared through dropbox with all documents shared through Google Docs.
  • I also backup google docs and websites  to Dropbox
  • For another startup they use this for their business plans and external funding applications

Backupify

This is a cloud-to-cloud backup provider which enables you to draw down these resources and also edit and repurpose.

  • So backing up what’s on Flickr, Twitter, Delicious, Zoho, Google Apps/Docs, WordPress, Basecamp, Gmail, Facebook, Google Calendar…

Startup Code Management

Criteria: Version control for multiple developers

Github

This is the default repository for any startup source code plus task lists for developers.

  • It offers as standard distributed revision control and source code management functionality you need.
  • The Wiki and bug tracking features are important once development has started. A wiki can help track the outcomes of those conversations you have about “Should we do it this way or that”. As you know you one of these will be wrong and you will need to reserve this decision.

Windows Azure

This feature rich version allows expansion and future proofing.
You can get this free on the “www.microsoft.com/bizspark/” programme

  • As with a lot of Mircosoft products they are very well designed, (sometimes too over engineered), so choose the options carefully to start with and then open up additional features later on when needed. This way you can grow into the product and not be over “controlled” by the tool.

Startup Social Media

Criteria: Simple tools to tell the world of your progress during development. Management of multiple channels during launch.

Hootsuite

This is my default social media management tool, as it has Instagram, Youtube and others.

  • Management of multiple streams
  • The fact you can see all tweets from a particular Search and interact with these is very powerful

Buffer App

A simple and elegant way of scheduling tweets and posts.

  • Easy to get started and set a scheduled tweet or facebook feed
  • The sharing and timing when these posts go out is very powerful

There is lots of research on how startups work and the process. The vast majority of it states that time, finance and commitment is limited within the team. Therefore a simple limited set of tools is more powerful than having a expanded and more complete solution. The startup process to MVP and Alpha testing is a non perfect process and therefore over engineering the need for support tools just over complicates the project and therefore inserts delays.

7 Books every start-up entrepreneur should read

There is a great number of books out there which is aimed at Entrepreneurs and the skills and techniques they need. However if you are starting a business you don’t have time to read too many, so I have limited it to seven, which you should be able to read in one week. Enjoy!

Entrepreneur Revolution: How to Develop Your Entrepreneurial Mindset and Start a Business That Works by Daniel Priestley

I very much agree with the theme of this book “The age of the entrepreneur, the agile small business owner, the flexible innovator. The days of the industrial age are over.” and every student I meet, its about developing this mindset. This book should mainly provide some motivation and inspiration for your plunge into the next books.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Building a business is no longer about “the business plan” which is cast in stone, its about doing and then creating small changes or pivots to the plan as you move forward. He goes over the a number techniques an entrepreneur can use in order to create a business.

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder

Great for the visual entrepreneur or those not interesting in writing a 50 page business plan. The book teaches us the right way to create a visual business plan and act on it. With pictures, graphs and timelines, this book is a must-have for every visionary young entrepreneur.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This classic book will turn your relationships around and improve your interactions with everyone in your life. Business is all about relationships, employees, investors, partners and customers all need you to be the best at dealing with their interactions.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Godin is one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds in the world and you should be taking a look at www.sethgodin.com. In Purple Cow, he advocates building something so amazing that people can’t ignore you and then allowing them to be your brand ambassadors. There are a lot of great case studies in this book.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

While working on his doctorate in the 1970’s, Stephen R. Covey reviewed 200 years of literature on success. He noticed that since the 1920’s, success writings have focused on solutions to specific problems. In some cases such tactical advice may have been effective, but only for immediate issues and not for the long-term, underlying ones. This is why a lot of entrepreneur books have case studies or information which is of little help to you in your situation.

Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls “true north” principles of a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.

The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

Every entrepreneur knows that the key to a successful business is good sales technique. Not only do you have to sell your product, but you also have to sell yourself and your idea.

This book gives you valuable information and strategies about how to make more selling by focusing on one thing – the person. Young entrepreneurs tend to forget the basics of selling and jump right over to getting results, but in order to get results, you need to know the basics. Brian Tracy goes over those major points thoroughly.

Top 10 Enterprise Movies of All TIme

During the Christmas holiday I got asked to name my top ten films and as always its hard to bring it down to just ten, but then I thought about what have these movies teaches me about business or enterprise.

So here goes…

Stardust (2007)

“having a dream, passion and a little determination is all you need”

Our hero needs to track down a fallen star, living in a small village in Kent, he heads over the local boundary wall only to find its a magically world. Its a great movie and Robert De Niro plays a cross dressing captain is just a surreal part.

Its the story of EVERY entrepreneur I have ever meet, they have a dream, some passion and didn’t really know what the end game would be, but they were determined to see it through. We celebrate those that succeed but we should encourage everyone to have a go, as these people create wealth, innovation and more importantly experience.

Godfather (1972+)

“Pivoting an established business is extremely hard, so do it early on”

Michael tries to change the business activities of his family business and even with all his wealth and influence he fails.

I have seen this so many times in my career. Motorola was the greatest mobile phone manufacturer in the world, developing first generation phones (1G) and then Nokia started developing 2G phones and Motorola never really got into the digital game. Then Samsung took the 3G market with bigger screens and apps and Apple is the current power house with 4G phones. This is not even a pivot its an upgrade to me and you, but these businesses can not do it, so learn early on in your business and get it right. It may be your only chance.

Star Wars (1977+)

“The small business has more opportunities than the larger “death star” businesses, however its in the execution”

Lean methodology is key to setting off but for today’s business small is best. Think of Arm or Superdry which are amazing companies who outsource or create business models which mean they don’t employ thousands of people installed in the “death star”. Get yourself an Millennium Falcon and just keep the hyper drive working.

Apocalypse now (1979)

“Know your enemy better than yourself”

I just love this movie, its about a journey that we all take, a physical and mental one. Each journey changes us and that change is inconceivable at the start.

The best line in the movie being “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” which alway reminds me on the business mantra “Eat a toad every morning”. This is a Mark Twain saying and aims to get you doing the worst job first every day, then the day can only get better.

This analysis of your enemy and then eventual destruction of them is a very common business theme, however the real message is that by learning their strengths and especially their weaknesses we can become better entrepreneurs. Its sometimes hard to learn other people’s weaknesses but certainly we should identify our own and seek the support they need.

Avanti (1972)

“In every business there is value”

Jack Lemmon did some great films, such as “Some like it hot” but this one is my favourite, bit of a romcom set in Italy. The comedy is just excellent and the settings are just breath taking. The story line is that Jack Lemmon must go to the Italian island of Ischia to claim the body of his millionaire father, only to find his father took more than the local spa each day.

It really shows how cultures clash and that different business methods may seem odd or just outdated, yet just taking the time to understand the culture and the business methods allows you to then extract the true value. We are very keen to adopt new technology and business methods without understanding the processes and methods which have worked for thousands of years.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

“Sometimes you need someone else to help you”

Everyone should spend time with hitmen who have a penchant for philosophical discussions, especially around the foody topic of Hamburgers. However when they get into trouble its Mr Wolf they turn to.

Every entrepreneur should have Mr Wolf, “I solve problems” who they can call on. This may be a mentor, a consultant or advisor who can come in and just sort out the issue. Everyone has a skills gap in one area, a thing that bugs them or they just can’t get their head around. You have to have one of these “Mr Wolf” people who can come in and solve it. Your’ll never look back.

Hairspray (2007)

“You don’t have to ever grow your business”

Everyone loves a musical, a man playing a dame and a dance off. Its the secret ingredient for a great movie. Mr Wilbur Turnblad has been running his joke shop for a lifetime and yet he is still enjoying every day of it. Making it bigger will take the real fun out of it and also create a set of issues which he doesn’t want to present to his family. So small is beautiful in this case for him.

The incredibles (2004)

“Family businesses are stronger”

Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl never worked together as superheroes until they have to protect the family. Each family has a different super power which enhances the whole team to beat off Syndrome. This is true for every team, everyone have something to offer, sometimes mundane is the most important skill to have. (e.g a good cup of tea when sailing in a force 10 gale is just awesome)

The best quote from the movie is “Everyone can be super. And when everyone’s super, no one will be.” which shows we need everyone to be different otherwise we have nothing special.

Avatar (2009)

“Go in prepared”

You can have the best trained soldiers, biggest guns and latest technology and you still may lose the fight. Sometimes its more about the hearts and minds which win the battle, so you need to prepare these to fulfil your goal. Just don’t forget it.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

SELL SELL SELL

This movie shows you can create a business which is solely focused on sales and there are still a large number of these around, the modern day call centre is an example. However the loyalty you get from looking after you staff is a major mantra for this movie.

The number one thing you have to do in a business is sell, no matter what business it is, a Charity, Religion, Social Enterprise or PLC. You have to get people to part with their cash on a regular basis to ensure you are solvent.

Also it shows that the name of your business is everything “Stratton Oakmont”. These people travelled across on the Mayflower and thus can be trusted.

Hopefully you have enjoyed hearing my top 10 enterprise movies.

Business plan competitions , the benefits for all

The Business Plan Competition is one of the major tools for those institutions starting out with entrepreneurship as it provide a promotional platform for creating student awareness, real role models and institutional engagement. A large number of universities and colleges create an enterprise delivery strategy around this linchpin.  From this they can hang workshops such ideas creation, business skills and also more personalized services such as mentoring and accelerators.  

 

If it is done correctly it can generate a significant interest in the student population, local business and senior management, growing at an annual rate to ensure competitors from all facility or schools within the institution. A true win win!

 

So why should your institution run a business plan competition? 

Enterprise Ethos

There are very few projects within the university which develops the enterprise ethos of the institution. The business plan competition can be made to work with all academic departments, staff and students to ensure that the benefits of enterprise are understood in the context of the institution. This management tool requires careful development but will product results which will be lasting in changing the ethos.

 

The development of students out of the class room is important in ensuring they understand that a continual approach to learning in the work place should be adopted at every stage of their life. The process of learning, developing new skills and applying them to real world problems in a creative way is one every degree student has to learn. 

Celebration of enterprise

The awards event should be a celebration of enterprise whereby everyone associated with university enterprise, staff, researchers, students, businesses, By engaging the Vice Chancellor to deliver prizes and keynote speech you can ensure some level of support from others within the university. 

Skills Development 

Students will develop new skills through a competitive behavior and engaging in a number of pre-submission sessions. This ensures that a wider number of students gain experience whilst also increasing the competitions’  finalist ability. This is especially important when dealing with the expectations of sponsors and also ensuring that a sufficient story can be provided to the press. These role models are especially important when developing a sustainable competition. When we look at shell live wire, the press and PR exposure provided to the finalist has always been exceptional, ensuring the further development of the finalists businesses.

Student Role Models

Student peer development is an important learning pedagogy which ensures wide spread appeal when embedding enterprise  into the student mindset. A diversity of business types and annual growth of this growth is an important factor for a student when seeking reassurance for their entrepreneurial thinking and endeavors. 

 

It is important these role models are seen on event marketing collateral, made available during events and speak about their real life experiences. These experiences, should include The good, the bad and the ugly and should be demonstrated to the students that what ever life experiences come forward, its the learning from these that enables the entrepreneur to grow and succeed.

Business & Alumni Collaboration

It also brings in sponsors from businesses and more importantly alumni. These groups thrive on engaging students, their ideas and being part of the university culture. Once they get involved, they start to recruit students into their businesses, develop knowledge transfer partnership and take an active interest in the students and staff of the institution.

 

The competition will also create and should involve the institutions alumni of key role models for our student entrepreneurs. These groups of people make great judges, mentors, business coaches, sponsors and advisory board members which are so important in ensuring staff and students understand the needs of business and entrepreneurs.

Internal Collaboration

Opportunities for collaboration on a single project with a large number of internal stakeholders such as the student union, the incubator, university departments and external businesses is very rare at universities. One case study is from the Liverpool university which bases the competition out of the student union ensures the highest student engagement and also attendance at the finals. This engagement then ensures wider student perception of the competition and also from the widest demographics of students, from social sciences to biology. 

Staff Development

The process of running the competition provides a good opportunity for staff development, providing opportunities to run a project from start to completion within one academic year which brings in the skills of marketing, student engagement, mentoring and skills development. The metrics can be easily obtained and understood by all parties and thus ensures a great opportunity for staff.

Student & Enterprise Society Engagement

Using enterprise society for promotion and student engagement is one of the best ways to ensure student involvement and ownership, This ensures you develop a student led approach to the marketing and earlier stages engagement of the competitors which allows them to forms founder groups. There are numerous statistics which show that a team is more likely to win a business plan competition.

 

The vast majority, even the most success one will admit they would like to Increased business engagement, with students, with research, with course development, with CPD. The business plan competition is the first step in getting businesses on campus and meeting students, from here we can sell in all the other aspects of the university. So getting them to sponsor, attend or engage with a competitor is one the most critical parts of the universities business engagement strategy.

 

The key KPIs for a business plan competition should be:

 

  • The total number of student and graduate entries
  • The total number of students engaged on social media
  • The number of schools which enter
  • The total prize money available 
  • The business categories
  • The total hours of skills development
  • The total number of students having skills development
  • The number of businesses sponsoring
  • The total number of businesses attending the presentations
  • Increased student perception in enterprise