Thursday, June 30, 2011

Interview with NUS Enterprise

> 1.      In your opinion, why are alumni from some universities much more
> prolific than alumni from most universities when it comes to starting
> companies?  E.g. what are some things that MIT and Tsinghua have rightly put
> in place to nurture and engage their students/alumni to bloom into
> successful entrepreneurs? Is it the entrepreneurial and innovative culture
> of these universities, or do other factors come into play?

The first is top quality, cutting-edge research. It is these breakthroughs that form the basis for new products and sometimes, whole new industries. While MIT and Tsinghua have both emphasized basic research, the faculty have also had to find outside, non-government sources of money which gives them some interaction with industry and knowledge of what problems need solved. High-tech entrepreneurship, at it's heart is about using technology to solve real-world problems. Students become exposed to these elements of technology breakthroughs and industry problems in the research lab and in the classroom. The second element, which is important, but hard to replicate is a university that is known for entrepreneurship and so attracts students who have entrepreneurial inclinations. At MIT, the percentage of entrepreneurial alumni who say that they chose to come to MIT because of its entrepreneurial reputation has increased from 12% in the 1960s to 42% in the 1990s. Finally, entrepreneurial universities provide role models to students in the form of successful entrepreneurs who generously come back to campus and give talks or mentor students, explaining to them that they were once sitting where the students are sitting before they created their successful companies. So the most important elements in my mind are cutting-edge research, a reputation for applying technology to solve problems, and entrepreneurial role models. 

> 2.      In the context of Q1, then what are some things that universities
> should perhaps be looking at doing (or not doing), if they want their alumni
> to be more entrepreneurial?

Consistent with these three elements, the university should Invest in recruiting entrepreneurial faculty who are doing high quality, cutting-edge R&D in their labs. Recruiting materials sent out to prospective students and admit weekends should include information about successful entrepreneurial alumni. Alumni programs and entrepreneurship classes should seek to engage with recent and older alums to come in and give talks on campus or mentor students and alumni interested in starting companies in their industry. Universities should not be encouraging that everyone needs to be an entrepreneur, but rather to expose students to entrepreneurship so that they can decide whether it's for them. Also, universities should seek to encourage intellectual risk-taking. At MIT, this takes the form of the celebrated culture of "hacking" (clever, benign, and amusing pranks - Universities should also not focus exclusively on faculty spin-offs. Far more startups are created by alumni entrepreneurs.

> 3.      Is there any matrix to measure the impact of alumni
> entrepreneurship?

In the MIT Founders survey we measure the economic impact in a number of ways including the number of companies currently active, the number of jobs created and the worldwide revenues generated. For MIT, we find that these numbers are 25,800 currently active companies, 3.3 million jobs and almost $2 trillion in annual world revenues. However, these are not the only ways to measure impact. Many entrepreneurs start a company to produce innovative new technology, to change the world in some tangible way, or to improve society through social innovation. All of these are valid and important impacts. There are many ups and downs in starting a company and so it's very important to be doing it for some reason beyond simply to make money. It's the passion that allows you to get through the hard times.

> 4.      In your research findings on trends and patterns in entrepreneurship
> among the alumni of elite research universities, how important is tertiary
> education to an entrepreneur? Is tertiary education the key differentiating
> factor that sets apart a good entrepreneur and a great entrepreneur?

Tertiary education is very important. Don't be fooled by survivor bias and the anecdotal examples of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. Research shows that on average for technical founders, Master's degree holders have the highest performance on average. Tertiary education provides skills, a social network, and a backup plan for if your venture fails. I wouldn't call it the key differentiating factor. But being a quick learner certainly helps. Many would agree that the key is probably something more intangible, some optimal combination of initiative, optimism, paranoia, persistence, and smarts. However, research shows that there is no one personality type for the entrepreneur - they come in all shapes, types and sizes.

> 5.      What’s your advice for a team of budding entrepreneurs who has a
> viable business idea but has two more years of university studies to
> complete?

First of all, realize that the idea is only a small, small part of it. Every entrepreneur believes they have a viable business idea. However, even the ones who do often lack the ability to execute on it. My advice would be to talk to as many potential customers (who aren't your friends) as possible and try to really, truly listen to what feedback they are telling you. Try not to hear what you want to hear but what they're actually saying. Try to figure out what the big problems are that someone is willing to pay for. Use your years of university studies to develop your business, hone your independence of thought and your critical thinking skills, to learn as much about your industry and to meet as many people as possible. A university is full of opportunities and open doors. Use it to your full advantage in creating your business. Only leave if you are picking up so much traction in the market that you can't possibly keep up with both schoolwork and your exploding number of customers.

> 6.      How has your tertiary education at Duke and MIT changed or shaped
> your outlook about entrepreneurship?

What I owe to Duke is the ability to break away from the traditional path, to take the initiative and strike out on my own. I learned that there is a way to both do good for society and do well to support your family. To realize that the only way to never work a day in your life is to free yourself to follow your passion and to solve whatever you see to be big, important problems in the world. Time on this Earth is limited. In the words of Steve Jobs, it's not worth it living someone else's life.

From MIT, I learned that entrepreneurship is about more than just being passionate and working crazy hours. That there is a way to be smart about it, or at least to increase your odds of success. In addition, I learned through many late nights of problem sets that even if a problem appears to be impenetrable, that if you chip away at it, little by little, you can make progress and solve even the most complex problems. In many ways, creating a business is nothing more than a series of problems that must be solved as quickly as possible. MIT was a training ground that big problems represent big opportunities when tackled step by step.

> 7.      What is the most interesting experience you had in teaching
> Technology Entrepreneurship in Stanford?

Each year the most fascinating part to me is seeing the creative ideas my students come up with and the incredible feeling it is to see the teams work like crazy at all hours throughout the quarter and then how happy I feel when they thank me for the experience afterwards. I got into teaching because I had a failed startup in my first experience and I wanted to help more of my students to experience the incredible joy of a successful startup, rather than the frustration of a failure. I felt like I could leverage my time more by helping my students to be successful, rather than doing my own startups one at a time. I almost can't believe they pay me to do this!

How Do You Work ON Your Small Business?

It's often said that one of the keys to business success is to work ON your business, not just IN it. This makes sense as a concept, but in your experience, what does it mean in terms of specific, tangible and achievable actions?

In my simplistic view or interpretation of it is working IN the business is doing the day to day operational functions to keep the business turning over.

Working ON the business working on the direction of the business, strategic initiatives, business planning, forecasting etc. Basically providing a goal and reason for working IN the business.

To me, working IN my business is about working with clients and working ON my business is about doing things to attract clients - e.g. marketing, product development and ensure long term business viability.

I understand that in order to grow, we need to work ON the business but for small biz particularly, working IN the business often means generating income and working ON the business means expenditure (time and or dollars).

Although every company is different some similar hurdles come up time and time again.

1) In your business what comes first, strategy or people? A bit of a chicken and egg situation but many business owners fall into the trap of pushing their own agenda / self indulgence rather than listening to their clients feedback and empowering their employees to find solutions to problems.

2) When was the last time you stepped away from your business for a few days and took an objective helicopter view? an interesting question when posed to business owners the provides the ability to understand the dangers and opportunities they face.

In small businesses (ie owner-managed) it is important that the owner(s) have clarity about what drives them as individuals as well as the goals they set in the business.

In specific, tangible terms this means regularly checking you are leading the company in a way which will work for you, long and short term. Everyone will have their own way of doing this - eg: working with a coach/mentor, time away from the office to plan (much underestimated and under utilized), training refresher courses, feedback from others.

The other thing that really helps is consistency of follow-up. Life has a habit of throwing new things at you so doing this regularly - and expecting things to change, - is really important.

3) It is surprising how many small companies do not set an end goal and work towards it. It great having a business plan but a business plan drives the behavior of working IN the business especially if times are tough. A driving goal will always drive the behaviour of finding time to work ON the business and achieve the goal.

4) And finally, Time is a big issue, the amount of times I hear "I don’t have time to work ON the business" is staggering. Even setting aside 1 day a month to brainstorm, develop strategy and implement tactical plans will go a long way to working ON the business rather than IN it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Critical Questions To Ask When Creating A Business Strategy

The best guidance on this topic can be found in an article entitled, "Are Your Prepared to Succeed in Business" from the Biz Info Library.

The article can be downloaded in its entirety free of charge at the second, vertical Box Net "References" cube in the left margin of this resource ....


Here is an excerpt .....

"How should you plan strategically? First of all, a distinction must be made. Business planning and strategic planning are not one and the same.

A good strategic plan will cover all areas of business, focusing on ....

Why a particular market, product, or service makes sense.

How a business might unfold and how its industry will react to it.

A good business plan will incorporate strategic thinking and planning emphasizing:

What the business will do.

How and when the business will deploy resources to generate revenues and profits."

I've seen a lot of businesses large and small with BAD or neglected strategies, but most people try and have some kind of overall plan.....

You need to have the standard approach:

- Vision
- Mission
- Goals
- Market and Competition Analysis
- Overall strategic approach
- Methods
- Implementation management plan (inc. sales and marketing)

Very standard, loads of templates around to download.

A Business Plan should be a "living document" in the sense of an interactive set of documents or even emails or intra-sites that let the plan evolve over time. It must NOT be a static document, written by a consultant and parked on a shelf and forgotten. The management plan needs to link directly to budgeting and into accounts in order that strategy and what follows is amended by interaction with real results.

Remember, "winging it" leads you straight down the tube ........

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's The Toughest Part Of Being An Entrepreneur?

The toughest part of being an entrepreneur?

Maintaining a consistent, positive mental attitude. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must train your mind to see each challenge or failure as a step along a greater path. It comes down to recognizing the seeds of your next success in the ashes of last failure. Now to be clear, failure means nothing unless you stop trying. When you stop trying that is defeat,

Napoleon Hill is in my opinion one of the best sources for anyone wishing to be an entrepreneur. His classic Think and Grow Rich can be read and studied for 20+ years. That is my experience - each time I read the book, or listen to it on audio, I learn a little more and it lifts the spirits to help keep on the path and keep a positive mental attitude.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More Secrets To Business Success

Here are more tips on "secrets" to business success .....

1. Make friends everywhere. Friends will support you when times are good and when they're bad. Also friends buy from friends. There are different levels of friendship, of course.

2. Only ever go into partnership with someone you trust with everything you have. Be certain about that.

3. Set clear goals and focus on them. Remind yourself and your team of them often.

4. Check that you're on track. Fix it if you're not.

5. Be clear about what your business is. Avoid getting involved with activities that are shiny but don't have anything to do with your business. That's what spare time is for.

6. Work harder than anyone else. Make sure your clients know that you're working hard for them.

7. Work at being better. Better than your competitors, better than you were yesterday. Quality shows & no-one recommends the second-best.

8. Care more than everyone else. If you really care, it helps all of the above.

9. Be inspired; be inspiring. Nobody wants to be involved with a pointless activity.

What is the secret to business success?

"Find a hungry crowd and give them what they want"

OR more precisely....

Find a hungry crowd (enabled with disposable income - B2C /or generous budgets - B2B) and give them what they need while selling them emotionally on the benefits as something they want.

The hardest skills to harness in that simple statement is the ability to do so at enough of a profit to make it sustainable, and without sacrificing your personal moral and ethical standing to chase the 'almighty dollar'.

To put it another way .....

Providing more value to enough people that they'll pay you to cover your costs with something left over.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I told them why they should buy but nobody bought-Why?

sad guy cpa

 What you think folks want and the reasons you offer to attract paying customers  are often incorrect and unfortunately fail in its objective because of those assumptions you have made.

Missing this mark is preventable as is getting it right very probable with a little up front homework. You can, with a few easy steps and ways of thinking get your messaging right so it does connect with and gain customers.

Try these steps and ways of thinking so you can,when reaching out, get paying Customers   
1. People do things for their reason's not yours

If you have not done the in depth homework to see how a target audience thinks, what it cares about and how to link what you want to what they want so joining in makes sense, you probably will be disappointed in your results.

2. Its hard to “hear” folks with a background in messaging and connecting for getting results trying to tell you that.

That's because your Belief in your direction is so strong in you that  you think that everyone will agree and want to join in. You get blinded by that belief and it prevents you from being objective about how best to get followers and participants.

Even hearing the communication "experts" saying things like "folks just do not care about that" referring to your pet project, being so caught up in the value of your idea, you resist their expert advice.

Its just too hard on you and your deep seeded beliefs, values to accept what they say.

 3. You can not just wish things into reality

If the audience has or sees no real buy in nor reason that, to them, resonates and says "that's me-that's exactly what I need to do and I am doing it" your message and recruiting efforts will fail. 

There's just to many "you need to do this" messages bombarding us so its critical that you do what is suggested in this step in the way you reach out to folks.

4. Looking at our core traits and what we are really good at, we should see what we are good at and not good at and accept it. Then farm out what we are not good at to someone who is.

If we are not marketing types and we want our idea to connect, get the marketing type to figure out how to do that.

5. Its not ego, its pragmatism that should govern how you and your strengths and weaknesses are played out in trying to make something happen.

Why go it alone when you don't have to? 

Why risk failure trying to do what you know you are not good at,  especially something as important as gaining willing participants?

This is especially true when you want to influence people, their thoughts, manage your messaging so you do gain traction for your idea or project amongst the many different types of audiences out there.

Knowing precisely how to do this with differing approaches that resonate with differing target audiences is how you get to "yes, that's exactly what I need and I want to do it" from the members of the target audiences you have identified as folks who could benefit from participating.

If you are not good at that, be brutally honest and let someone who is great at that help you by doing that part for you.

Failure is a learning experience but you can, especially if you want to create active participation in something, avoid failure if you can adopt the thinking of what's been suggested here in this post.

And remember very simple but useful way of thinking as you try to go and gain joiners and participants:

  • 1."People do things for their reason's not yours 
  • 2. Imagine the prospect or target audience has a sign on their forehead that says so what!" ( copywrite-Neil Licht, Axioms for success in selling, motivating and getting to yes)

Living those two axioms  when charting connecting, influencing and getting participants goes a long way to realizing success for gaining acceptance of your idea,event  It  goes a long way for you in getting folks to participate and willingly join in with your "vision" and, for their reasons, not yours, make it theirs as well.

For more insights from colleagues and others just like you who "sit in your seat" Please join into the discussion and group on this site called "acquiring Paying Customers"  telescope small

  • Acquiring Paying Customers: Discussion and suggestions from folks who sell for a living  and also 
  • Blog: "Here We Are" - Your Sales-Marketing OPERATOR'S MANUAL for our new on line-connected business world

    and lets share thoughts on how to do this in the face of our on line, web and social media "everything's a commodity" sourcing mentality.

    Regards,  Neil Licht. CEO Hereweare, Chief Advisor Acquiring Paying Customers group

  • Web Page

  • Thursday, June 16, 2011

    What Is The Secret To Business Success?

    Truthfully ... there is no "secret". But here's some tips to point you in the right direction. The rest is up to you.

    Focus, work hard, sell hard, market constantly, expand as fast as you can - success breeds success and it's easy to get stuck small and enjoyable rather than big and profitable.

    Work with people smarter than you. Pay them well; as a rule you get more work out of fewer well paid people cuz you get better people and more motivated. Lean to trust them too. Let them do their thing while you concentrate on growth.

    Most businesses fail eventually thru cash flow and insufficient capital - not profits. Be nice to your bank from day one. Make the manager a 'friend of the company'. Have other friends of the company and use their connections and knowhow mercilessly.

    Success leaves clues. Follow them, but don't forget to take your brain along.

    Gather people smarter then you.

    Have focus.

    Protect your integrity. It is the most valuable asset you have.

    Stay hungry.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    How To Fail In Business

    This is a bit tongue in cheek .... from Geoff Quartermaine Bastin.

    I haven't succeeded, so here's the reasons why I haven't:

    1. I'm a bad judge of character. The most successful venture I invested in (fish farm in Thailand) we selected a manager who fried his brains with ganja... what a lousy choice.

    2. I have daft ideas about what's interesting as opposed to what makes money... follow the $$$$$$$$$

    3. I read all the "self help books" and bios of people like Richard Branson - what works on paper actually doesn't in real life... I can write ALL the success methods you want... but life has a habit of not conforming

    4. I got "educated" at Oxford University - it's taken me 40 years to unlearn all that rubbish. Run fast away from academics!

    5. I trusted my business partners (See 1 above)... don' have partners.

    6. I'm too clever by half (see 4)..... be humble (or pretend to be)

    7. No access to capital and my wife keeps the savings - she's smart and I can't touch them:) LoL

    8. Most of my clients are in the public sector - 'nuff said

    9. I've enjoyed myself too much failing to succeed... But man HAVE I HAD FUN!!!!!

    10. I believed LinkedIn actually made a difference to business success.

    Sorry for this.... tongue in cheek.... actually I've done OK. But these gung ho BE POSITIVE formulas for success drive me up the wall!

    The real secret is be prepared (have basic skills, networks and experience), work hard, work for the right people (fire clients who are an emotional or financial drag or professional drag), work with the right people (who are smarter than you are), defend your reputation at all costs ....and have a little luck.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    How Do You Achieve Peak Productivity?

    Baseline Management is the answer to the question.

    Resources are applied in business to achieve a goal, a task, a quality service, a product that is in demand or similar objectives. To be productive one must have a baseline plan containing the prospective details of the work scope,resources necessary and time frame to achieve the objective(s). The baseline plan is then executed and performance begins.

    It is not a perfect world so challenges, unforeseen circumstances and other events ensue which require solutions. The baseline plan must be statused to reflect these events, solutions must be achieved and resources supplemented or realigned to meet the challenges.

    A key factor in baseline management is productivity analysis. The extent to which the baseline plan was sound or faulty must be observed and corrective action taken as necessary. The new version of a modified baseline must reflect work scope changes, more funding from a customer if necessary, control of scope creep and other management actions.

    Throughout this process, baseline management is the key visibility factor in maintaining productivity.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    4 Steps Toward Active Listening

    Do you experience conflict in your life? Ever wonder why it happens so often?
    Here is the reason....because we have been communicating, literally since we were born, we think we know how. Unfortunately, because communication is extremely complex, most of us are actually not very good at it. Therefore, most conflict begins with poor listening, so the first aspect of effective communication that deserves a careful examination is Active Listening.
    Is listening different from hearing?
    Actually it is. Hearing is done with our ears. Listening involves our ears, our eyes, our heart and our mind.
    Here is how it works:
    1. Hearing: pay attention to be sure you heard the message
    2. Interpretation: failing to correctly interpret the message can lead to a misunderstanding
    3. Evaluation: decide what to do with the message received
    4. Respond: provide visual or verbal response that lets speaker know you received the message sent
    So if you want less conflict in your life, try more active listening!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    How Do You Bring Value To Your Company/Products/To Yourself

    Value derives from value systems. Everyone has values. In determining price one must present an idea, a service, a product or other commodity to a known value system from the perspective that buying the item presented, or acceptance of shared ideal will furthering that specific set of values.

    Everything has a price - if only the time involved in listening to a presentation, reading an advertisement, engaging in a conversation or attending a meeting. Some of my friends volunteer their assistance to many in the small business realm. It is an investment in the future of this country they value .... and it takes an investment in time on the part of the companies they advise to absorb their guidance and decide whether or not to use it.

    Another way to favorably present the item, issue, belief or service is that not buying or accepting the belief will threaten that specific set of values.

    Whether selling, preaching, philosophizing, teaching, counseling or mentoring if you find ways to threaten or further your target audience value system they will act.

    There are a lot of answers on this question. I would like to just say simply:

    Value is [what a company gives to its customers and/or adds on top of existing products] minus [what the customer has to give up or pay to have it].

    It is based on actual or perceived value gained.

    There are multiple methods of generating value for your customers. From offering more supply output demands (ex. bulk-breaking or offering spatial convenience) to taking on more flows (ex. inventorying or information).

    What type of value, and how much of it, depends on the cost borne by the company, as well as the importance of the purchase and/or partnership.

    Value is a relative measure. Value comes from being able to supply what is demanded from someone. It is a proposition that satisfies a need. It is a function of demand, supply, perspective, intention & above all integrity & empathy.

    Value is a perception of worth. Perceptions change with context.

    Give more than you get and you will generally be perceived as valuable.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    If you could master one skill in order to succeed in your own Business... What would it be?


    If you could master one skill in order to succeed in your own Business... What would it be?

    key-to-success tplus rxt

     I think being very honest with yourself re skills, abilities, likes, dislikes and then contracting with folks who, because they are expert in their arena, can do it far better than you is the foremost skill you can have.

    Here's a few questions that, if you ask and honestly answer before you go full steam ahead, may make quite a difference towards being successful and probably a lot faster.

    A. What business am I in and what is my main focus in that business

    B, Given my answers to that, If I am in business for myself, do I want to dilute my time and attention trying to do the parts of running a business that I do not know, I might actually dislike, or I'm really not that good at it?

    C. If I partnered with, hired or contracted an expert in Marketing, or finance or the areas that I am not wild about or skilled in who loves doing it and is good at it, could I then focus on my passion in business, deliver better "products and services", Could I actually acquire lots more paying customers if I did that?

    There are a lot of variables in defining what skills you would actually have to "acquire" for yourself to be great in business.

    You may want to think about measuring acquiring them v "hiring" them and how "hiring" them (consultant, contractor expert, manufacturer's reps for sales etc) can effect getting you lots more time for YOU and your core being abilities to make what you do best gain more business.

    And then, there's the success rate of expert v You? Which would yield lots more sales and sales opportunities that are genuine prospects?

    Regards, Neil Licht

    BTW, Its OK to email me with your concerns re acquiring paying customers



    What Is Your "30 Second" Elevator Pitch?

    Personally .... I believe there's no single "elevator pitch" that works for all people. Each situation is different and therefore what you "say" should of course be different and be based on the circumstances at the time.

    Mike Klassen of Klassen Communications does an excellent job of explaining the point like this .....

    "These days, I tend to ask questions, then tailor what I say based on what I'm hearing.

    Since there are a few different ways I can help people, I found in the past that I might be spending too much time (even in a quick elevator pitch) talking about something that wasn't as relevant as it could have been had I spent more time asking questions up-front before going into the pitch.

    As a rookie networker at the time, I was rushing to try to squeeze that pitch in before the window of opportunity closed and was potentially wasting.

    People generally like to talk about themselves and their own situations, so it's pretty easy to get a good feel with where they're at even in a short bit of time, then address their needs more appropriately based on what they've said.

    When I'm doing that, the other person is more-often-than-not very happy to extend the conversation because you're able to talk more specifically about their needs. (Back to the idea of people enjoying talking about themselves.)

    So while I can sum up what I do in a sentence or two, or 30-seconds, what I'll say is different depending on the answers to the quick questions I'm throwing out."

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Email Marketing Best Practices

    I sat through an hour presentation with Hubspot where they shared loads about email marketing best practices.  I thought I would save you an hour.  Here are the key take aways.

    * Businesses are consumers: 88% of people use the same email for business and personal.

    * Based on almost 10 billion emails sent Click through rates are much much higher on Saturday and Sunday.

    * If you are going to email during the week sending early in the morning increases opens and click throughs.

    * Most unsubscribes happen on Tuesday.

    * Sending emails late in the evening around 11 pm increases your unsubscribes.

    * Over 80% of business to business prospects and clients are reading email on their smart phones. Check your emails on mobile browsers to ensure they are mobile optimized.

    * The more links in your email the more click throughs you will receive.

    * Include reference information in your emails.

    * Magic, reward, raffle are words that will cause unsubscribes.  Check your spam folder and look at the subject line to define other words that will get you filtered out.

    * You will not believe this but if you are only sending email once or twice per month you will actually increase your unsubscribes. If you are sending good info then send more often so they are familiar with your name.

    This is the kind of data small business owners should take to heart to improve their business. Hubspot has a new tool that is in beta and will launch soon that will evaluate your email messages and give you feedback on how to improve. Very similar to their website grader.