In evidenza

Entrepreneurship is enlightenment

enlightenment

On Christmas Eve light blossoms everywhere, even in the most unexpected places.  The same should be not just all around us, but in our spirits.

Entrepreneurship too has definitely something to do with light.

Entrepreneurship can a way of taking steps to find enlightenment: reconsidering the past without judgement for instance is a step in this direction, through moulding it into a repeatable experience that you can share with everyone.

But a step to enlightenment includes for sure looking for a positive environment: every good entrepreneur craves being in the kind of positive environment that creates firstly the incubator for their own growth and then for their firm.

And last but not least, looking at entrepreneurship as a road to enlightenment means being able to do other two important things.

The first is the ability to appreciate and enjoy details; while performing such an hard task as being an entrepreneur, every little light on your path is something worthy of your consideration: always accept it as a sign of confirmation that will help to keep you on your path.

The second is to cope with difficulties: where everybody sees failure, enlightenment pushes you to see endless possibilities, where everyone sees defeat, try to see understanding.  Light will lead you to come across as seeing the “silver lining” in anything. Pollyanna’s “glad game”, in the end wasn’t silly or mindless at all: teaches all of us to become aware. Aware of the potential of our optimism. If you stay tuned with light, (sometimes) magic happens.

Best wishes to all of you!

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In evidenza

Doing business through listening

orecchio

We only see what we know” said once Goethe.

In entrepreneurial terms we do often the same. But, even more important we do often “listen only to what we like”. And, if we do, the chance of remaining what we are or, even worse, to fail, is very high.

Listening is entrepreneur’s very first friend, because is a powerful way of processing ideas, intuitions, emotions. Seeing sometimes can be immediate but also misleading, whereas listening can’t. It involves time and patience.

In conducting business, you’ll be busy with almost constant change management and with lots of people pretending their expectations to be taken into consideration by your business model. Both of these processes don’t involve at first speaking/pitching, but (apparently) the contrary: developing a deep listening attitude.

There are so many obstacles between a normal and an outstanding listening skill.

Many entrepreneurs and managers see their potential stakeholder like a mere on-demand moral support and reconfirmation service: as not so careful listeners they “download” from their words and messages only what they like and assume that counts as a reconfirmations of the ideas they already have.

More difficult, challenging and useful is being ready to analyse and listen even to those facts and consideration that at a first sight clearly contradict their own theories, being also prepared to change perspective for a while in observing reality.

So if as a human being and an entrepreneur you may learn to switch perspective and use for a while somebody else’s eye, your  listening skills and techiniques  instead are probably what more deeply personal and unique there is in your own identity. Nobody can listen the way you do nor you can ever do it in somebody else’s way. Therefore is so important and can make the difference for your startup project

Skilled listening, is a way of generating and testing new business ideas: it means in facts being able to pay attention to phenomena, eliminating background noise, and get the essential feedbacks from stakeholders, summarizing the content of their word. Mirroring, but in a creative way. (Then probably the better firms are the ones that are able not to mirror but to match, compensate and sometimes even counteract stakeholder messages, but that request time and starts anyway from a good listening phase)

In the end, that’s what a business plan represents: an entrepreneur is someone that find an original way of listening and then of creatively paraphrasing customers’ messages and statements in a way that both sound inspiring and reassuring.

What is essential is invisible to the eye”…but most of the times it can be well perceived by the ears!

 

In evidenza

The next little thing

 

mattoni

Probably everybody knows that story about a guy who meets three builders on their lunch break. “What are you doing today?” he asks the first. “I’m putting brick after sodding brick on top of another,” complains the first. “What are you doing today?” he asks the second. “I’m building a wall,” replies the second. But the third builder instead replies: “I’m building a cathedral!”

Clearly, the encouragement between the lines is that you really need to get out of the so-called “Doorway Effect” and that a process as well as an action needs to be thought of at multiple levels if it has to be successful.

So that means that the first two builders were wrong?  We can answer by saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”: if you don’t start putting (efficiently) a brick on top of another there will be no cathedral at all.

As strange as it may sound, in the real world the same person can’t exist in two times and places, but firm can

                     .the next little thing

If you look at the big picture, suddenly the cathedral will appear in your eyes. Then probably you’ll be inclined to concentrate with the following things:

benchmarking: how the other cathedrals were built?  How do they look like?  Which is the most beautiful?

innovation: what’s next? Real innovation means projecting a new cathedral or instead thinking about a breakthrough building something completely different of even more ambitious?

If instead you are one of the first two builders, welcome in a completely different world. Welcome in the world of incremental innovation. In such a case innovation is about:

benchmarking: mostly an internal matter. Who’s the most efficient builder? Who, between the subjects performing task similar/equal to mine, is adopting an approach that can be transformed into a best practice?

improving the process: how can I put a brick on top of another quicker (and better) than ever before?  Can I think of adopting some slightly different material?  Can I reduce errors/waste?

innovation:  mostly incremental.  The most widespread kind of innovation. It means an innovation that concerns an existing product, service, process, organization or method whose performance has been significantly enhanced or upgraded.

Here is the point. In your organization you need to frame both things: both the brick and the cathedral. Looking for disruption will be an healthy and wonderful bet on a different future, but in the end every great innovation will become routine and incremental innovation is the only thing that will allow your firm to stay ahead in business. And this  matters for every firm and business environment, not just for low-wage countries or ow- and medium-technology industries or mature firms.

Yes, because incremental innovation is important, being largely the dominant form of innovation.

In facts, blue ocean is some kind of unicorn. Rounded on the side of caution 90% of innovations is like that: a small continuous process where innovation is always in the next brick, or wall. In facts, buliding a new cathedral can be challenging, being disruptive can be fashionable and sound positively ambitious too, but at the other side its a very complex process, rather than a discrete event, and generally implies a sophisticated and risky process

And so what?

There are anyway some typical warnings to be taken into account:

Is your firm sensitive to incremental innovation? This is strictly related to giving the chance to your team to exchange their experience, concentrate on product/service specification, register/formalize those small improvements

Does your firm reward incremental innovation?  This not just about providing training and know how but also being ready to timely transform a series of positive experiences and practices into best practices, and into a continual advance in change management process,

-does your firm look for innovation hidden in (apparently) daily /routine processes and practices?

matrioska

How is R&D managed inside your company? What about  its objectives and priorities?

That will be a useful exercise: from time to time, asking your team about the way they see their job. Are they taking the brick/wall or cathedral side?

 

In evidenza

Who,exactly, are your stakeholders?

STAKEHOLDER

We insisted on this subject so many times. Startupping for us is the art of involving someone with the development of an idea able to create value.

But exactly with who are you supposed to communicate?

With stakeholders, obviously, one may say. A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in your business.

But sometimes this area of business planning is neglected and even the word “stakeholder” is so generic and hazy.

A more common and widespread way to consider the problem is: a stakeholder is anyone we could meet along our entrepreneurial journey and that shows, proves or somehow pretends to have something to say about us and the way me manage our business. Or maybe, someone we would like (in our dreams) to have as stakeholder.

We believe that in reality stakeholder engagement is a value creating/mandatory activity to be performed on a regular basis since the very first moment in your startup development.  At least for two very good reasons:

corporate identity: you can engage with third parties only if you know who you are. Any entity willing to communicate with another one should beforehand define its identity. There is no communication if there is not a well defined “me” area and and therefore an external environment to relate with (“the others” area) So is in business too.

risk management: excluding some specific and internal risk factors, strictly connected with technical aspects related to the supplied service/product, all the rest is somehow originated by the nature of the relationship with stakeholders. Probably, the same concept of risk is deeply linked with stakeholders. If risk is defined by the likelihood of an event and the caused damage, is clear that the concept of damage is bonded (and it changes accordingly) with stakeholder’s perspective. Damage for customers (not getting what they paid for)  damage caused to investors (not getting their reward),damage caused to community (f.i   the environmental impacts). So is important to involve them in their risk management approach: the sooner, the better.

But who these stakeholders might be?

  • Investors – owners, bank, VC or investor
  • Business consultants – someone providing specific and valued knowledge
  • HR – management/owners and staff; the interest of human resources in the business’ performance is therefore obvious; addictionally, management may have extra concerns concerning risk and liability (depending on startup’s liability status, the owners might have risk to their personal wealth)
  • Customers – increasingly looking forward to know everything not just about your product/service but instead about the firm itself, and moreover about you as a founder. This means that nowadays there are increasingly more ways a customer may assume to be affected/influenced by your company’s behaviour. Take into the due account this aspect!
  • Suppliers – and moreover outsourcers, controlling specific and value-adding processes of your value chain
  • Government, authorities and certification bodies– concerned about business health, business compliance and reputation, impacts on society, local community , public health and on environment and of course in having firms able to pay taxes.
  • Media

And, once you started with this stakeholder management process, what about your goals?

They should be at least some of the following:

increase their risk tolerance towards having a relationship/investing/collaborating with your firm

increase their trust, not just in your product/service nor in the firm, but in you as a manager and/or as a founder

increase their commitment, for instance with your vision, your business model or just your value proposal

making them always willing to tell you the truth about you and your company: this topic is of course strictly related with the concept of trust and with your ability of making them feeling comfortable when communicating with your firm’s representatives.

In evidenza

Startups: ADOPT-ADAPT-IMPROVE

adopt adapt improve

The Round Table Motto is ‘ADOPT-ADAPT-IMPROVE’. This motto was taken from a speech delivered by the Duke of Windsor in 1927 in which he stated: “The young business and professional men of this country must get together around a table, adopt methods that have proved so sound in the past, adapt them to changing needs of the times and, whenever possible, improve them.

What these words do actually mean nowadays for startups and firms in general?  

Adopt means to take on as one’s own, like an idea, a process, an attitude, or a behaviour

Adapt means basically to modify something, to adjust it to a somehow new situation.

Improve is strictly related with the well-known ISO Standards concept of learning by doing, checking continuously the possibility for taking a quality assurance system (processes of whatever kind), a step further.

Small and medium sized firms are naturally adaptive, but sometimes they miss some opportunities in the other two areas. Or better, they miss the big picture, the reason why “’ADOPT-ADAPT-IMPROVE’ motto should be written of every firm’s office wall.

Adopting in facts is the first act: every firm is at its very beginning busy analysing the external environment, try to adopt some or all the following aspects:

  • Best practices
  • Standards
  • Technical requirements
  • Business models
  • Rituals

But what next? This is the point. The most complicated thing to do is then

Adapting all this stuff to firm’s present situation. A best practice could be inspiring, but is born for another firm, a standard need to be contextualised if you don’t want to cause damages to your own firm, a business model need a personalisation to work properly, etc. and this is hard work.  Sometimes entrepreneurs refuse to think this way because the fall in love with some previous and off-the-peg approach: damages are there to be noticed for many years to come.

Improving is then the last (continuous) step: is where the previously adapted models/practices/standards/rituals produce a real added value for the firm. Sometimes an adapted and optimized business model is exactly what makes the firm unique and successful.

In evidenza

Does your firm have rituals? (but not just for rituals’ sake)

rituals

 

If nowadays newborn companies have to invest not simply in being the best but in being unique, their identity is everything.

But developing a true identity is extremely difficult.

Company culture has a lot of different ingredients, it is somehow like a structure made of various materials. Clearly:

  • Values/beliefs
  • Stories/myths

are part of the game. Values are extremely important, both for outlining and guiding company’s strategy.

But, what about rituals? Are they part of the strategic scenario?

If values are often defined as “what the company stands for” rituals are instead commonly addressed as “what and how does a company celebrate”.

Is this everything?  If you look at the definition of “ritual”, every dictionary reports at least the concepts of:

  • A ceremony
  • A prescribed order for performing a ritual ceremony
  • A series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone.

That’s way it’s not just a matter of celebrating something. Team lunches, events, shared activities and different ways of sharing success and company’s achievements are certainly very important, but this is not everything about rituals.

Rituals are also ceremonies, clusters of prescriptions and, even more important, a series of actions not just described, but, somehow, actively played, which means explained by simulating a situation or an action. And that’s a powerful way of explain something, as we know that quite a few persons after a while recall what they hear, more can remember what they hear and read, but everybody remembers for a long time what he/she can directly practise. Therefore, when we are talking about rituals we are mainly talking about a particular kind of processes.

In this way rituals may play a very important role in crafting and implementing company’s strategy. They can prove to be even more effective than processes in inspiring company’s people because they include in their structure not just a series of actions but a series of prescribed actions. Therefore they directly involve the principles of leadership. Only leaders in facts can craft and spread rituals, giving sense and importance to them: exactly like it should happen when implementing a strategy.

Rituals are important because they always tell a story by giving an example, a positive behaviour that can be immediately followed by other people within the company.

So rituals can help company to grow both in identity and self-awareness in many areas:

-managing customers

-communicating with stakeholders

– involving new resources within the company

-getting people familiar with company’s values and workflow

-getting managers to know top managers/founders priorities and vision

We can therefore assume that, concerning company culture, rituals occupy a central role, connecting company’s values and beliefs with stories/myths by giving to everyone in the firm the possibility of learning about company’s identity and values not just hearing of it but instead by diving into this stuff, impersonating the founders.

In evidenza

10.000!!! Thanks to our supporters, readers and contributors

10mila

 

Thanks for this important achievement!!!!

In less than 6 months we reached many entrepreneurs, stutents and professionals across the world. This is definitely more than we expected in such a short time.

The Naked Pitcher book is now a reality, and many other projects are on their way to be realized.

Take a look at our online tools and to the articles published about entrepreneurship across the world

We were and we are open to every contribution and idea about approaching strategy and supporting entrepreneurship for startups across the world and especially in MENA region.

All the best and thanks again!!

 

In evidenza

What color is your startup?

colori

What color is your startup?

Using colors for your brand, presentations, packaging, web site and corporate fonts never happens by accident.

Every firm has a personality, and founder’s personality reflects on startup style. The same for colors used by entrepreneurs. What is your startup most dominant personality trait? Colors can reveal that.

At the other side, avoid using the wrong colors seems very important because it might turn customers away, and it may damage your corporate image in many other ways because is strictly connected with how people perceive you and your organization.

A few interesting facts:

  • Colors are commonly and widely used to assess personality, ability to work in groups, product and brand impact, customer reaction etc;
  • Blue shows up in 33% of the top 100 brands, while red comes second by showing up in 29% of the brands, followed by black or greyscale and then yellow or gold;
  • 95% of the top 100 brands only use one or two colors;
  • Growing corporate investments on a comprehensive corporate branding project that includes corporate fonts (and therefore colors) on order to enhance corporate identity.

tabella colori startup

In evidenza

Value left ih the shade

cono d'ombra

Sometimes ideas and projects into a startup are so good that we forget about the rest.

What is left in the shade?

  1. Skills and organizational roles: watch out for over specialization into your firm. At least once in a while try to measure/assess the distance between who you were (as a founder) and who you are (as a manager in charge of something into a startup): anything you aren’t completely satisfied about? Is the upskilling process working well enough?
  2. 2. Ideas: not just because one idea was successful you have to kill the others. Always good to have what is actually very often missing: an archive of previously developed ideas (even the unsuccessful ones)
  3. Corporate image: being a brilliant startupper and a kind of ingenious craftsman may be good at the very beginning but then you need a project for building up and consolidating of your brand image as well as for gathering feedback and refine your brand identity.
  4. Investments: the progression of your idea on the market will sooner or later reach a plateau. What’s next for keeping firm alive? Investments in training, company culture, internal communication and management feedback tools (no feedback is even worse of negative feedback), research & development are needed and space should be left for it
  5. Roots: roots are part of your company. No matter how short it can be, but your company story is very important as well as is fully understanding the…roots of your success! How determinant the context was (and is) in your success? Most of the times, fighting for success, this aspect is underestimated and that may lead to wrong evaluation of the next development steps of your startup. Never let that pursuit of success get in the way of your company identity.
In evidenza

Product or service startup dilemma? a real waste of time!

produt vs services

What is best? Starting up a product or a service -based startup? It looks like an interesting question but in reality it’s a waste of time.

When you startup a company there is a business idea, an intuition that slowly and hopefully turns into something more consistent: a business model. And a business model is then represented by the best answer an entrepreneur can find to the eternal question “based on which key competitive advantages and market scenarios my company will get paid?”.  As you can see, no mention of product or service.

In facts there is no dualism, instead there is very often integration. Very few products and services are used in a vacuum, and a firm is most of the times to be considered mature when is able to think in terms of product-services integrated platforms.

Firms are, by definition, a living organism: therefore they are continuously looking for a balance with the external environment and internally between their various parts. How original this equilibrium can be, it depends on the adopted business model. Another thing firms do sometimes is adopting a mimetic behaviour, which aims to imitate some specific entrepreneurial act of established and/or successful target-organizations. This endless search for balance and imitative behaviour sometimes request a change or an integration on firm’s core domain: transition and diversification.  So is most of the times really pointless to say that a service-based model is better than a product-based one or viceversa.  That choice will be instead a natural consequence of a well done and deep analysis of your business model and its various potential alternatives.

However, keep in mind that if you stick to your vision, in the end as an entrepreneur you are selling a way to fix someone’s problems and therefore make the world a better place to be: as long as this in going to happen, your customers can’t care less if according to you they  are purchasing a product of a service. All that they want is a pleasant solution to experience in order to break free from uncertainty and satisfy some of their needs.

Here some of the question you can better ask yourself, instead of puzzling on product vs service dilemma:

  1. What is exactly requested by your business model at an early stage?
  2. Will you start selling a product or a service? Which one will be ready for market in the quickest time? Can they be effectively integrated?
  3. Which approach, product or services –like, guaranties to the firm a wider and more various number of potential customers? How can they best be locked –in? (f.i.Microsoft, Apple business model)
  4. Is the product or service approach the most efficient one in order to raise entry barriers against your potential competitors?
  5. What about the profit margins? What’s best for your firm?
  6. Is product or service what makes you unique? In other words, what of the two things really represents the most valuable side of your business model in terms of related competitive advantages
  7. What are exactly the setup costs in both cases?
  8. Which approach offers the best chances of scaling up?
  9. Can you think of a minimum viable product or instead a m.v. service?
  10. What exactly happens all around your customer before, during and after the adoption of your product or service? Is product or service standing at the centre of this cluster of processes and events?
  11. What kind of product and services (f.i. pre and post sales assistance, training and consulting services, etc) can be complemetary and/or integrated with yours?
  12. Is product or service the characteristic of your firm which is harder to imitate?