What makes you a good Entrepreneur ?
After a full year of down-turn mode due to the recession, companies are starting to see the light again. There are some emerging trends of business recovery, enterprise strategists and entrepreneurs are re-engaging new projects in hope of transforming opportunities into cash.
Being an Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur almost comes back to the same thing. Come up with a bright idea and convince the audience to get sponsporship. Leading the project development to a productized state. Market the product, build a faithful community of consumers. Manage the product lifecycle, spin-off the business plan and enrich the catalog. Be competitive and be able to have a quick-spin reaction to face competitors.
But what makes a good entrepreneur ? What makes some of them successful and sustainable ? While others have to face failure ?
We are not going to discuss the intrinseque qualities the entrepreneur should behold in order to drive successfully his business. We will rather try to lay down, from a management perspective, what are the good deeds that will lead to a prosperous company.
At the beginning, there was the idea. Then the idea was nurtured, matured, shaped and eventually a product or service came out of it. A market research would then help define the relevance of this idea and how it would be adopted by consumers, which leads to building a solid business model that will eventually convince investors, around a table, to rise funds.
Although this process seems straight-forward, it is rarely the case. First of all, entrepreneurship is scarcely a one-man thing. The entrepreneur needs to define what skills are required in order to create his inner circle of trustees. The people that will help him through the process, provide him with the appropriate advices and critics, and mentor him. Collaboration is the key word, here. An entrepreneur should not be afraid of involving his friends, family and professionals in order to collect feedback about his product and roadmap thourough the development cycle. This should help him refine the concept until reaching the best-of-the-breed state of release.
An entrepreneur needs to be adaptable. He might come up with a great idea at first but then realize that by the time it comes to the market that it would be outdated or irrelevant. You can take the example of Seesmic, a web 2.0 startup in San Francisco, which started with micro-video blogging and sharing. Recently, its founder, Loic Lemeur, seeing that the market came to a saturation state in addition to changing habits, he decided to give a U-turn to the company and Seesmic relocated around Seesmic Desktop, a tool that allows you to update anf follow Twitter and Facebook status messages. Another example is The Next Big Sound, who realized mid-way that they could come up with better ideas, which they presented to their advisors. This daring move, reinforced the trust from the investors and these guys came out with a genuine concept for signing new musical artists.
For this purpose, the entrepreneur needs to constantly screen his audience, screen the market, aggregate the information and go through a constant decision process. This does not mean he has to turn-ways every dire tides but that eventually it would be about time to come up with the next big idea to reinforce his position on the market. Although processes will help industrialize most of the tasks to handle lean costs, he will still need to be agile enough in order to react to the market.
B2C interaction goes mainly through communication. It is very important for an entrepreneur to endorse his company and his products. Trust in a product and trust in a company go through trust in the person that runs that company. Recently, a study by McKinsey(1) showed a recession in trust in big corporations, due to the lack of transparency and the focus on stakeholder’s interests versus a customer focus organization. The Apple case is good example of how its CEO, Steve Jobs, endorsed every product that was released, demonstrating how this was a break-through product that everyone needed to own. Another example would be the Digg case, where Kevin Rose started a live cast called Diggnation in order to comment the popular stories on Digg. The combination of the platform and the show made a good audience capture in an environment where Digg-like services started to pop-up every week.
The good counter-example of this would really be Facebook. Despite its popularity as a social network, Facebook failed to have a good community management and strong endorsement by its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. This lead to serious crisis management when it came to the privacy terms of service or the recent issues with click fraud. However smart were the moves they have adopted at a later stage, the scars will stick to their skin.
At last, an entrepreneur needs to create an ecosystem around his company. A company should be able to leverage its partnership circle in order to provide by severals means the best customer experience. Reliable partners are key to the success of a young blossom. A partner could either be a managing partner or a business partner (third party service providers).
Managing partnerships is essential in the company’s life. A partner could either be a bliss to the enterprise or a stagnant and dysfunctional strain that needs to be managed on a day to day basis. Due diligence will often help you go through this but before creating a new relationship, you will have to assert the benefits of this relationship. Which value do you get from this new business link ? What are his previous performances and do they serve you right ?
A good knowledge of your partners will not only help you prevent deadlocks but will also allow you leverage at best the capabilities they could bring to you. They will help you assemble this whole set of competencies, services and networks in order to come-up with a valuable service for your customers.
Launching a new project does not only require a bright idea and strong commitment from the entrepreneur, but it is also the right combination of a smart and wise management, risks and taking on the exciting challenges with the appropriate people.