Browsing articles in "Entrepreneurship"
May 10, 2011

The Funny Thing About Ideas

Ideas are a funny thing. The best ones seem to come out of nowhere, often at the most unusual times. Like many entrepreneurs, I know many, many more great ideas have come to me at 3AM (when, at 2:59 I was sound asleep) than when I was sitting behind my desk. And when this happens, the irony is never lost on me that all that time I was spending intensely focusing on finding a solution was actually holding the solution back. I don’t know why this is, of course, but in hindsight, I always appreciate the comedy. This helps remind me to not take everything so gravely seriously and it helps me remember that this all is a game, a game that is only fun when you keep it enjoyable.

Most entrepreneurs have lots of ideas. As a breed, we seem the world in terms of what it lacks, and when these realizations come, our minds immediately spring into solution-design mode. We are good at this because this is what we do. We are sort of idealistic maintenance people of the world. We see problems and we set out to fix them.

In fact, the biggest skill most entrepreneurs can learn is to tell the good ideas from the not so good ones. Usually, the great, as well as the horrible, ideas are easy to spot. But, when we get into the gray area between good and meh, things can get a little murky. Our acuity, of course, sharpens with experience. That is, the more ideas we have run down the better we will be at pre-judging future ideas. We can more quickly see what the impact this new idea will have on our resources, and we can learn to do cost/benefit analysis practically on the fly. Continue reading »

Apr 28, 2011

Attention to Detail, Not Just for the Little Guys

When we think of big, established, multi-national corporations we often think of tired, slow, lumbering behemoths. In fact, it is my personal opinion that the corporations of the world actually create most of the entrepreneurial opportunity in this country. From their misguided approaches, to their lack of agility in being able to respond to market changes, most corporations are usually only good at one thing, generating a profit. And through this single-minded focus, things like excellence and innovation almost invariably get sucked out.

As entrepreneurs, often it is precisely these missteps which give us our opening. Plus, if our little companies were not able to stand in stark contrast to the daft, profit-sucking, soulless machines that most corporations are, no one would really ever care about what we are doing. That is, no one would get too excited about fighting the man if the man were already doing a good job. No, forget that. Down with the man, because the man sucks.

Most corporations are saddled with so many layers in their decision approval processes that they simply cannot help but to only approve the most unimaginative, least daring ideas. In my mind, corporations are more about defending resources against loss than about really doing something special. Oh sure, if they are able to do something special along the way that is fine, but really matters is being able to “make the quarter”. After all, no amount of innovation, creativity, or even customer goodwill can be a truly effective counterweight when you are losing your stockholder’s money. Continue reading »

Apr 25, 2011

Life is Too Short to Spend It in a Cubicle

Ah, the cubicle. At least to me, this is one of the main symbols of corporate “bad for you, good for us” mentality. Even though every major study shows that everything from productivity to workplace health takes a nose-dive with cubicles, still they are a mainstay of the corporate environment landscape.

If you are anything like me, cubicles have the unique ability to make you miserable. Sort of like a playpen for grown-ups, we are put in our little enclosures so that we cannot get into too much trouble. Everything is built to be confining, yet open. Confining so that square footage can be maximized, and open so that management can keep an eye on what you are doing in your little cubby all day.

We are put into these right-angle boxes, ostensibly, to keep us focused and integrated. However, I have always found that working in a cubicle actually accomplishes the opposite. Since the environment is open, I am always leery to have long conversations with co-workers, since this would surely be a distraction to everyone else. Additionally, with all of the other conversations and phone calls that are going on, it is not hard to have your office be a daily recreation of Office Space. “Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking, just a moment…” Continue reading »

Apr 2, 2011

Key to Business Success: Love the Work You Do

Most of the people I know who are unusually successful in their field have a unique trait in common. They love the work they are doing. To them, collecting a big paycheck (or nearly any paycheck at all, for that matter), is simply icing on the cake. Every day is like a mini-vacation, and work has ceased to have the four-letter definition most of us have for it. To these people, the work they do has such a strong personal draw to it that they would do it for free, if need be.

I work with a lot of small business owners and budding entrepreneurs, and this trend sticks with this group too. Often, one of my first questions to this type of client is why they want to start the business they have in mind. If the answer is “I want to be my own boss.”, or “I want to make a lot of money.” I will often advise them to go back to the drawing board to find a business concept with more gravitas for them. Often, people find that working for themselves means they will be working for the most demanding boss (themselves) they have ever experienced. And, when the money isn’t freely flowing in, as is often true for startups for significant amounts of time, what motivation to keep moving forward will they have then? Continue reading »

Mar 22, 2011

Key to Success: Find the Work You Love

Making the decision to do something different with your life, to make a wholesale change in career can be one of the biggest decisions someone makes (often more than once) on their lifetime. Often, the first question that springs to mind is “What do I really want to do?” Nearly as often, though, this question cannot be answered by a knee-jerk decision. Given that most of us “working stiffs” spend the majority of our lives at work (not to mention thinking about work), truly finding your calling can take a lot of time, introspective work, and patience. There are a few things you can do, though, which will greatly increase the odds of finding the “fit” you have been looking for.

All too often, career changes occur as an eruption of pent-up frustration, sort of an “I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore” sort of syndrome. However, making a major life change in order to get away from the work you do not want is simply a short-term band-aid for a bigger problem.

Many people simply get so frustrated with their current job that only a nuclear bomb sort of change feels satisfying. Again, though, making choices fed out of desperation will not yield long term satisfaction. Making a choice to do something simply because it is the polar opposite of what you do now is not a terribly clear framework to go on. This is one situation where “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not a terribly useful strategy for finding one’s calling. Continue reading »