Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good words about being entrepreneurial!

The latest from Mark Loschiavo, center director at Drexel U's excellent Entrepreneurship Center (their academic director, Donna de Carolis is excellent too.)

I thought this was a nice way to phrase some things that we all already know, but occasionally lose sight of. I will slip in a couple comments of how this applies to Idaho at the end, but enjoy Mark's eminently stealable words!

"The Executive Director's Corner

When speaking to members of a CEO think tank recently I was asked to comment on the top three critical success factors for entrepreneurs. This depends on many variables - stage of company, industry experience, and company type, just to name a few. After some thought I selected three critical success factors that I think transcend many, if not all, variables. More importantly, I wanted to select three factors that are unique to entrepreneurs.

The first is to become intimately familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which includes all of the stakeholders in the entrepreneurial community. Whether talking about service professionals, private money sources, customers, suppliers, advisors, mentors or economic development agencies, it is important for the entrepreneur to understand the roles - more importantly the sweet spots - for each of these players, who they are, and how to exploit the rich resources they have to offer.

Secondly, the entrepreneur needs to interact early and often with the players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Because the entrepreneur does not have access to the vast resources of a large company an entrepreneur has to leverage the vast resources of this ecosystem. This includes everything from capital access to subject matter expertise.

Finally, the entrepreneur has to be singularly focused. A friend of mine founded a company focused on service and support for PCs. Having spent time in that industry myself, I am acutely aware of just how competitive an industry it is, and the slim margins it typically yields. When asked how he was able to build such a successful company, competing with the likes of IBM, Compaq and others, his response was revealing. He said, "while this was only one of many products, offerings and solutions that IBM thought about on a daily basis, it was the only thing I focused on, all day, every day”. (again, credit to Mark Loschiavo, Drexel University -thanks, Mark!)

NK: What does this mean for Idaho? One thing that's clear to me (and many others) is that we really don't have the map of the ecosystem that we need. There are people working on this mapping, but we really need that comprehensive, detailed directory. There are so many resources out there and even I get surprised now & then. Local communities need a detailed map of what's out there. Figuring out to build- and maintain – a detailed “directory” for the state would be well worth it.

However, this also extends to the human assets within the community members themselves! ("Wow, I didn't know you were...") We can help communities map these assets' and it's neither difficult nor expensive, but it does require commitment.

Another dimension: Directories/maps need “high touch” - human guidance. However, one real key is that entrepreneurs (current and future) need to find ways to interact, whether at Kickstand meetings, sitting outside Dawson-Taylor (or Cazba) or taking the initiative to communicate. Why not use tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and (gulp) Twitter to make it easier to communicate?

On Mark's third point, “focus” is NOT “obsession”. Passion is good, but it needs to be harmonious passion not obsessive passion. A recent Pavarotti quote struck me: “I am not disciplined. I am devoted.” Devotion is what Mark is telling us to cultivate.

I am devoted to helping Idaho, even though it seems foolish at times LOL). What keeps me going is that I know just how devoted many of you are to your own efforts and to a better Idaho. I applaud you; your devotion honors us all! /nk Oct 08

As ever, email me at if you want to know more.

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