My Etch a Sketch broke this morning. I got so excited when I saw that a Mitt Romney aide was using it to frame his political views, now I am despondent and wondering where to turn. Thankfully the good folks and the readers of “Good, Evil and the Things I do” are here to assist me. When my Etch a Sketch was working, I was able to come up with numerous business ideas everyday. As a passionate entrepreneur I know these ideas would work and I invested heavily in every idea I drew. As each idea failed to pay off my cash reserves dwindled and now I must take up a carreer as a strategic marketing consultant. My new employer will benefit from my unique skill set especially the lessons I learned from Etch a Sketch. Here is what I learned:
History and Context are critical to making truthful assumptions toward sound business decisions. Since I was starting fresh every time with my Etch a Sketch I didn’t realize the importance of the aforementioned elements. Lets look at why this is important and build out a business model.
A. History–what motivates you? What is your world view and passion? What experiences can you draw on to become an expert in your field
B. Context–Evaluate the current state of affairs and find the opportunity for your innovation.
C. Inputs–What materials, labor, equipment and other resources do I need to start my venture.
D. Activities–How do I uniquely add value. I have an idea, take my materials and through a “proprietary” process create value for customers and stakeholders.
E. Outputs–What is the finished product I deliver? When I was using my Etch a Sketch, I kept erasing my ideas and never produced anything meaningful.
F. Outcomes–How do I want the world to change? This is a core value of Social Entrepreneurship. If I create a unique program to educate children, what values do I want to instill? Through my
intervention, how will I impact and change people’s lives?
G. Impact–Does my outcome have a measurable metric that shows how I qualitatively and quantitatively made a difference.
Finally the biggest danger with erasing my Etch a Sketch and always changing my views is that it ignored the assumptions I need to make to ensure that my Output, Outcomes and Impact are viable. By using a prototype and testing my idea to reach a proof of concept, I can show that my assumption is true and therefore my innovation will be successful and make a difference. However what do you do in a case where you “build it and they don’t come”? First of all don’t build it. Before you allocate your resources to a project that may or may not be viable, ask people if they will come to the ballpark. If your survey and information gathering indicates they will come, go buy some land and build it.
I would be re-miss without giving a link to the Etch a Sketch clip:
Go out my dear friends and build a sound infrastructure for your venture, but please make sure your assumptions are sound, you seek the truth and material evidence supports your cause.
Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends
Amateurs Built the Ark, Professionals Built the Titanic. Why the Ability to Adapt and Learn Trumps Credentials.
The title reflecting how the Ark and Titanic were built is a famous quote with an anonymous origin. In an economy where if you want a job you have to create it and the market will dictate the value of your product or service, it is time that we build the “Ark”. An entrepreneur’s ability to prototype, assess and accept failure will go a long way in determining who will rise and who will fall.
A prototype is one of the most effective ways to gauge the viability of your venture. By creating an original, functional, small scale model of your product or service, you are able to let potential customers see it, test it, taste it, use it and smell it. This process will point out potential problems in the product’s design, giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to fix the problem before a large-scale launch. The feedback you receive from your prototype often leads to design improvements, and new features you may have never realized on your own.
Here are some prototype assessment questions suggested by “Corporate Venturing: Creating New Businesses Within the Firm” by Block and MacMillan, 1985.
1. Completion of product testing: Is there are real market opportunity? Will customers buy the product? How should the product or service be marketed or distributed? Are your early assumptions about the opportunity still correct? What level of sales can be achieved?
2. Completion and financing of the prototype and venture: How long does it take to produce the prototype? What is the cost? What is the time frame in which the prototype can be produced?
3. Production start-up: Are operations working as expected and if not how can you improve them?
To complete your assessment don’t forget about continuing to scan the marketplace for competition and potential collaborators.
Finally lets put failure in perspective. Personally I have experienced at least 15 different business failures. Yet I still get up in the morning ready to try again. The failure of a venture does not have to reflect on you as a person. Successful entrepreneurs use failure as stepping stones to success. As detailed in the November 1995 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, NBA great Michael Jordan frames his athletic failures to breed success. Jordan states ” I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in career. I lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed”. I think we can all agree that after 6 NBA Championships and a hall of fame career, most people would classify Michael Jordan’s basketball efforts as a success.
In echoing a great quote from Eleanor Roosevelt who said:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do”
So dear friends I implore you to protoype, get your feet wet, dump cold water on your head and take an honest look in the mirror. This will lead us to best practices and the promised land.
Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.
As I talked about in an earlier post on the Moral Hazards of Bankruptcy, here are two relevant links to articles about how the ownership of the Chicago based pizza chain of Giordano’s has been accused of looting the company of cash and assets before its impending bankruptcy.