Archive for the ‘Business Policy’ Category

Assuring Your New Venture’s Success

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Most corporate new business development teams, most inventors, and most start-up entrepreneurs – whether they’re building the newest medical device, 3-D imaging software, or a neighborhood cupcake and cookie business – are stretched just too thin.  Under-resourced, under staffed and under-funded, the typical new venture is forced to prioritize and sacrifice.

Perfecting your product design and development and attending to the financing are vital – but just getting them right isn’t nearly enough to assure the success of your new venture.

Here are 8 often neglected areas that every new venture should be addressing – from your individual small business start-up to corporate new business teams – to assure that the customers will be there, $$$ in hand, when you open for business:

1. Early, Early, EARLY in the life of your new venture, map out the landscape of potential customers, and figure out who will be the most attractive segments of customers for your new business to target.  Who is most frustrated with the status quo?   Who has the $$$ – and the enthusiasm – to buy a new product or service like yours?  Where are you likely to find them?  And even more important, where are they mostly likely to go – on the street or on the internet – to discover a product like yours?

2. Understand what your potential customers love – and what frustrates them – about products or services like yours.  Then, build your offering to provide a solution to the things they hate about the status quo and to emphasize the things they like.  Don’t waste your time and resources on things customers don’t care about (no matter how exciting or ‘sexy’ they seem to you).

3. Test your concept, early and often, and adapt you offering to what you learn.  Ideas that seem obvious on paper or in your discussions around the company coffee pot are often far less than obvious to outsiders – to your potential customers, investors, suppliers, or distribution partners.  Entrepreneurs sometimes fear that competitors will ‘steal’ their ideas or derail their new venture.  Perhaps that happens, but for most start-ups, the much bigger danger is sinking all your hard work and $$$ into a venture that customers just don’t care about.

4.  Your new business will not be operating in a vacuum.  You’ll be relying upon a host of people and tools outside your organization to help connect your creation to the rest of the world – suppliers, existing computer systems or software platforms to link in to, distribution channel partners, formal and informal publicity and promotional voices …. Understand which external tools and partners will be critical to your success – especially the linkages between you and your potential customers – and begin building those relationships long before you launch.

5.  Nothing jump-starts a new venture better than an early success, so focus, Focus, FOCUS! That dazzling set of opportunities that you envision is seductive, but the temptation to pursue them all is an invitation to doing none of them well enough.  Pick a particular offering, a customer segment, and channel to market that is an especially good fit with what you do well.  Then, invest all your effort in making it work.  The credibility, confidence, publicity, and knowledge – not to mention cash flow – that comes from your first success will make it that much easier to pick off the next and the next and the next opportunity.

6.  Remove the hurdles that make it inconvenient for your customers to do business with you. Look at your business through the eyes of a customer:  Is it easy to find and get into your store – on the street or on the internet?  Does your website and your storefront signage clearly and succinctly explain your business?  How can potential buyers learn more about you, your product, your business?  Once potential customers have come through your physical or electronic door, is it easy for them to make their selection and purchase?  Do you offer a convenient assortment of payment options and customer-conscious quality assurance, return and refund policies?

7.  Get to know, understand and appreciate your customers.  Organize your business so that it’s a positive, rewarding and hassle-free experience every time a potential customer touches your business – beginning with their first phone call, email, or their first step inside your digital or brick-and-mortar store.  Reach out to your customers – and especially to those who decided not to buy from you – to learn what you’re doing right and what you could do better.

Share your success.  You deserve to be amply rewarded for your creativity, hard work, and persistence that transformed your idea into a business success.  Don’t, however, forget the ones whose help was vital to getting you there.  It’s the right thing to do – and it’s darned good business.  The more closely that your partners’ success is linked to yours, the harder your employees, your suppliers and your distribution partners will work to preserve and expand your success.

Remember – Your business exists in a complicated marketplace, where customers have lots of distractions and plenty of alternatives for spending their attention and their $$$.  What you think about your business is ultimately a lot less important than what your customers, distribution partners and suppliers think, and their experiences with you.

Advice to New Employees

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Some good advice for new grads in their first job – and a good reminder for the rest of us – in a recent post over on Yahoo Finance. Yahoo’s 6 career damaging mistakes:

1. Thinking that because you have your degree, you shouldn’t have to do grunt work.
2. Not being thorough.
3. Thinking that what you post on social networking sites doesn’t matter.
4. Procrastinating.
5. Not putting effort into forming relationships with older colleagues.
6. Not saying “thank you.”

Here are a couple of more —
– Not being a team player. In much of your college work, you were on your own, competing, even, against your classmates. In business, however, you’re almost always part of a team, collaborating to accomplish a task. The more you can learn to get things done with and through other people, the more likely your long term success.

– Not learning the Big Picture. Again, in college, you’re typically given a well defined problem with an outcome that falls within a well defined set of possibilities. Although your early job assignments will probably be small manageable pieces of a larger business problem, the important business problems are hardly ever clearly defined or understood, and rarely do they have an obvious path to a solution. Context, history, and relationships often matter as much as the technology and analytics. Those who can put it all together are rare and valuable to your employer.

And – especially for young women – be mindful of the image you project. Study after study show the advantage – for both men and women – of being attractive, but a reputation as the office ‘hottie’ is not an ingredient for long term career success. Study and model you behaviors and appearance after people at the level of your boss’s boss. They have already achieved some measure of success, and they provide you with a clear indication of what your employer values and rewards.

Hot Button!!!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

My most recent posts – about innovation in the US – really hit some people’s hot button. A near universal anger focused on what should be a small and minimally controversial element in the Rx for making the US economy more innovative: Improving the quality and availability of education in the US.

I was surprised by the near universal disdain for our schools because of ‘lazy and incompetent teachers’ and the near universal anger at ‘throwing more money at the problem.’

There certainly are lazy and incompetent teachers in the system, and we need better ways to deal with them (just as we need better ways to police medical malpractice than the currrent system of professional non-oversight and lack of legal review of incompetent and negligent doctors). But to suggest (as some readers did) that the solution is to do away with teachers’ unions or to abandon public education is political rhetoric disconnected from rationality.

Of course, education alone will not solve the problem of innovation in the US; far less will it single-handedly create millions of new middle class jobs. But a quality education, available to all Amaericans, if a vital piece of the foundation.

US Wins / Loses Innovation Test

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

A pair of recent columns highlights the hope and the despair of innovation as the driver of the US economy, prosperity, and job creation. THE HUFFINGTON POST points out the dismal and deteriorating record of US innovation over the past few years and suggests some broad avenues to get us heading back in the right direction. Tom Friedman, meanwhile, recounts the inspiring (but perhaps not easily duplicated) story of the globe-spanning start-up of a new medical device company by a small team of physician-entrepreneurs.

First, the good news. Friedman tells the story of EndoStim, a small start-up that couples invention by US physicians and US venture capital with Israelis designers, Uruguayan manufacturing, clinical trials by hospitals and surgeons in Chile and India. According to Friedman’s account, the majority of the highest paying jobs that EndoStim’s success will create will stay in the US – close to the source of the ideas and the funding. The ability of entrepreneurs (by their thousands) to quickly, cheaply and repeatedly orchestrate the best resources from around the world, Friedman contends, will be the key to our wealth and growth in the modern world.

The Huffington Post takes a decidedly bleaker look at innovation in the US. It cited a study by Information Technology and Innovation Foundation that ranked the US “dead last” among the 40 surveyed countries in our progress of innovation. Patents issued to US inventors fell 2.3% in 2009, while patents issued to non-US applicants increased 6%. Reasons, according to HuffPo, include:

– The pitiful state of US education, our society’s pitifully low level of math and science competency, and our unwillingness to invest in our children’s future.
– Our unwillingness – public and private – to invest in research and development, the source of new technologies and products
– Financing and tax structures which starve the entrepreneurial enterprise, and immigration policies which discourage foreign inventors from starting up their new ventures here.

HuffPo offers some solutions – New, faster and much more accessible broadband service to reach the vast majority of US homes and businesses; research, investment and tax policies with nurture and reward green energy development in the US; and Federal policies which encourage foreigners to plant their inventions and their start-ups in America.

While Friedman’s feel-good story of success and HuffPo’s somber assessment both offer some interesting and useful ideas, neither article offers an adequate answer for a US middle class starved for challenging, high paying jobs. Here are some additional remedies …

1. Fix the US educational system, by investing more in primary and secondary schools and making college much more affordable and accessible to the majority of American kids.
2. Massive new investment in scientific research and development – thorough direct government spending and policies which encourage and reward private R&D and investment
3. Create and aggressivley support business incubators to provide access to the range of diverse, global resources which powered EndoStim’s success.

I’m sure you can suggest additional ideas …