Thursday, April 2, 2015
Advice from an Entrepreneur Want to BeFor my capstone project in school I was asked to write lecture with advice for entrepreneurs. I thought this was kind of a funny assignment since I am not a successful entrepreneur…yet. So I have decided to write about what I have learned, and hope that something might have relevance to “would be entrepreneurs” like myself. The first question I would want to ask myself is, what qualifies me to give advice? I am a forty something year old woman who has started four different businesses while being a stay at home mom. I have almost raised five children, (I still have an eight year old at home) and have over twenty five years of life/work experience. I am currently seeking my degree, and have just barely touched on subjects such as business, economics and entrepreneurs. With these traits, I would consider myself a dabbler, and far from an expert.
As I pondered the advice I would give, what came to mind is the trait of integrity. An entrepreneur’s word is his bond. Understanding the value of honesty is the key to being successful. Building deep trusting business relationships leads to success. Integrity and trust are what develop your reputation. Important questions to ponder as you embark on building a business are: How do others perceive me? Am I a person others can trust? Do I say what I mean, and mean what I say? The second part of being successful in business is surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Frank Levinson a well-known entrepreneur and venture capitalist said, “It is better to build people around you that are honest and loyal above all other attributes. Intelligence is nice, but honesty is better.” He also suggested to begin with trustworthy people at the start of any business decision and stay the course. Never make unethical decisions. For me, this is the most important advice. Just be honest…period.
In addition to integrity there are other traits that most successful entrepreneurs share. A quote from Earnest Hemingway sums up these traits nicely when he says, “Before you act, listen. Before you react, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you criticize, wait... Before you quit, try.”
What does it mean to listen before you act? In business this is where you do your homework. To develop a competitive advantage you need to evaluate your own assets, understand your aspirations, and listen to the market realities. You also need to understand the market you are in, your competition, and most importantly the consumer. Finding a need in a market, all come from listening. Understanding where you are individually before you act will help you valuate your own strengths and weaknesses along with your personal desires and standards. Many entrepreneurs react to a market surge or trend. This approach might work out in the short term, but trends end, and if you want a lasting business it would be wise to think before reacting to the hype of a get rich quick idea. In an essay by Charles Handy he talks about the “why” businesses are successful. “The purpose of a business…, is not to make a profit. It is to make a profit so that the business can do something more or better. That “some- thing” becomes the real justification for the business. Owners know this. Investors needn’t care.” Lofty goals such as “Changing the World” are what drive entrepreneurs and successful business owners.” I have a good friend who is a wonderful baker. She noticed the hype surrounding cupcakes and decided to start her own business. She ended up making a lot of cupcakes, and losing a lot of money. She jumped onto the trend at the tail end, and is now a landscaper by trade. Not only is important to think before you react, but it is important to understand yourself and your own passions. Are you starting a business to make money or are you starting a business because you love what you do?
The next statement Hemingway offers says, “Before you spend, earn.” Entrepreneurs for the most part have scarce resources. They build something out of nothing. In fact, it is usually because of these scarce resources that they get creative and utilize what little resources they have. Most entrepreneurs start their businesses out of a need to provide for themselves and their families. There are very few of them who have money to lose, and time to waste. In the book, “How to Start an Entrepreneurial Revolution” by Daniel J. Isenberg he explains how having scarce resources actually enables the entrepreneur. He refers to a concept called “Stress the Roots.” The concept teaches that hardships make people grow and stretch. The article uses the example of a grape farmer. The farmer withholds water from the plants so the roots have to grow deeper and longer to get the water they need to survive. It is a proven concept in agriculture. Making the connection between the roots and entrepreneurs is brilliant in my view. Self-reliance, in business can really be defined as self-preservation. When we have that do or die attitude, an investor can trust the entrepreneur.
I remember once when money was tight and we had a strict budget, I made a banking error. Because of that error, we would only be able to make half of our rent. Our roots were “stressed.” I had just given birth to our fourth child and our other children were home for the summer. Instead of contacting the landlord I decided I would find a way to make up the difference (self-reliance). I ended up finding an ad in the paper for temporary work. I loaded up all four of my children in the family van and delivered heavy phone books door to door. We spent hours in that van, and the kids were not too happy. But after two weeks, I had made up the difference in our rent; book delivery by book delivery. I believe I was paid .50 cents a book. It was hard, but because of that experience, I now know that I have what it takes to get things done, even in the most stressful situations. So entrepreneurs “earn” their place in an economy by hard work.
Hemingway’s fourth statement says, “Before you criticize, wait”. Compassion, patience and long suffering are all encompassed in this small statement. Understanding how the tide of negativity flows, Hemingway’s advice not just benefits entrepreneurs but everyone. It is usually after our initial reaction or overreaction, that we gain our senses back. When you are quick to criticize, you jeopardize all your hard work in building relationships. You might even sever the roots you so carefully planted. Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, “It is hard for any one of us to find heroes among our neighbors when our pleasures seem wrapped up in fault-finding. Probably the greatest discovery for mankind can be found in ordinary neighbors. We generally find that for which we are looking. We need to speak the good word, build our associates, and cease finding fault. We need to thank God for life, opportunities, and His love.” This quote also ties in the attribute of gratitude. I believe that showing gratitude is essential in business and network development. Acknowledging others contributions will help ensure you stay positive when building your business.
The last and final piece from Hemingway says, “Before you quit, try.” This is the purpose of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are considered a resource in any economy. The difference between an entrepreneur and an employee is quitting. Those that succeed in starting a business do so; not because they are smarter or better at something, but because they simple chose not to quit when things got difficult or tough. In the book titled, “Mastery” by George Leonard, he defines success through “mastery.” However “mastery” in the traditional sense focuses on a goal or an end result. This is why so many potential entrepreneurs quit. Our society’s values have changed over the years. With promises of learning a new skill quickly to the get rich quick schemes, we now value “easy” instead of hard work and effort. He counters this concept very well and teaches that there is a rhythm to mastery, which focuses on the process rather than the product. I absolutely love and agree with this concept. If we really learn to appreciate the process of building a business, as we focus on what we love, we will find success and more importantly happiness.
Monday, March 30, 2015
This week as I studied we learned the importance of gratitude. In a talk by President Thomas. S. Monson called, “An Attitude of Gratitude” I found several favorite quotes.
“Accentuate the positive eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-between.”
For me this means that we need to pick a side. I envision a ladder we are either climbing that ladder or moving down the ladder, we should never just stay put. Progress is essential if we want to be happy in life. By showing gratitude we accentuate the positive and move ourselves in a positive direction.
“If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.”
Understanding that ingratitude is a sin is a new idea for me. I think it would fall under the sins of omission. We have to be active in our eternal progression. Showing gratitude is an verb, we have to speak up and say it often, and we have to show it by our actions. Accepting callings, forgiving, saying thank you, and paying it forward are all great ways to show gratitude. Understanding that ingratitude is a sin great motivator moving forward.
This idea of action came up in a discussion board through another student. He shared another quote I really enjoyed. John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
This quote supports what President Monson taught.
President Monson outlined six things he is grateful for, and I think they apply to most of us.
1. Mothers (God could not be everywhere and so he gave us Mothers”
2. Fathers (sacrifice his own comfort for that of his children, never complaining, ever concerned for the well-being of his family.)
3. Teachers (shape the expectations and ambitions of pupils; the teacher also influences their attitudes toward their future and themselves… self-confidence will grow, their capabilities will develop, and their future will be assured. “
Acts 20:35 “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
4. Friends “True friends put up with our idiosyncrasies.”
Country “John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
6. Jesus Christ ~ answer questions where did we come from, why are we here, where does my spirit go when I die?” Taught us how to pray, how to live and how to die. Legacy of love through healing the sick, lifted the downtrodden, saved the sinner.” Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
This week we also watched a few videos.
The first was by Ted Zoller who teaches that the pathways young people take that lead to them becoming entrepreneurs happens when they take a C-suite position in a larger enterprise and then step into entrepreneurial ventures later in a career. This gives them the knowledge and training needed at a larger corporation’s expense. I have seen this with some of my friends. They were laid off, or decided to leave to start their own consulting companies. It has less risk, because the learning curve happens on someone else s dime.
The second video was by Stan Christensen a Stanford instructor and a partner at Arbor Advisors, he outlines a few of the erroneous career assumptions that land people in an ill-fitting career. He says, “Don't take a job simply to build your resume; follow your passions, rather than guessing what an employer will want. The fun should outweigh the drudgery - even in entry-level positions.” He also advises that we remain general in our abilities not specializing, thus making us more flexible in the work field. Specialization will become irrelevant, and take advantage of opportunities when they come up.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
In this weeks studies I enjoyed learning more about how each of us can contribute to the greater good and that it is a commandment from God.
The first message is a video by Elder Gay Called, “Entrepreneurship and Consecration”
Understanding why we are here and understanding our purpose are messages Elder Gay conveys. My favorite quotes says, “God left the world unfinished to develop our skill.” God wants man to enjoy and understand the blessings of creation. I had never really thought about this aspect of our mortal life. This brought great peace and understanding to my soul this week. There is such joy in creation, and we would miss a large part of life and joy if we were always provided for and had everything easy.
I also like how Elder gay teaches that Heavenly Father uses "Adversity as a pathway to accomplishment."
Elder Gay also taught that there are two purposes of business.
1. Provide for our needs
2. Rescue others from poverty
The scriptures also teach us this in 2Nephi 30-31 “Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.”31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
As I read “Constant Truths for Changing Lives” by President Thomas S. Monson I was impressed with the aids he provides to stand up to the dangers of being complacent.
First we need to have FHE. President Gordon B. Hinckley and his predecessors have stated, “The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place nor fulfill its essential functions.”
Second we need to avoid debt. “Yesterday’s luxuries are today’s necessities.” I find this to be so true. Our standard of living has increased that we now expect so much more. If we could learn to live with less and have less I believe we would be so much happier.
Third is to be a good listener.
Fourth is to teach by example, by taking time with our family members and by sharing responsibilities.
Fifth is search our heritage. Doing genealogy helps us understand where we came from, showing us strength in family. And, sixth is we should follow the Savior’s example. “Remember that ofttimes the wisdom of God appears as foolishness to men, but the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right.”
Favorite quotes and scriptures this week~
“Live only for tomorrow, and you will have a lot of empty yesterday’s today.”
2 Nephi 28:20-21 “At that day shall [the devil] … lull them away into carnal security that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls.”
I was also able to watch a few videos by successful entrepreneurs.
The first was called,
"Make it personal and make it work" by Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO)
She talks about why companies succeed…they have a vision that is mission based. Somehow they are going to make the world a better place. Leadership needs to include these visions and motivate others to action. It is hard to work when there is no purpose or mission behind the work. Value is added when we have a purpose. Some of the projects she has worked on that gave her purpose were web bases. She liked the idea of providing information to all instead of just the elite.
Connecting community and making information accessible are the two overarching threads that run through some of the most successful companies of the last century. Sheryl's own personal career path began in the non-profit sector and evolved into technology, and numerous companies with a purpose, drive, and vision. She worked for Google, Apple, Nike, and Starbucks.
A New Breed of Entrepreneur by Larry Brilliant (Google Org. Executive)
Larry reinforces the concept that global unity is the key to overcoming world problems. He uses the example of small pox and how it is now eradicated from our society because of global unity for a common purpose. His statistic of 99.4 of all genetic material is the same, made me really think about how the human race should focus on this fact instead of our differences.