The Entrepreneurial Mind
Entrepreneurs need to be ready to pitch any time, anywhere.
Jake Jorgovan, an alumnus from Belmont’s Entrepreneurship program, is always ready to give his pitch.
“At the most random situations, I will find myself giving a pitch,” says Jorgovan. “Out at drinks with friends, or just out socializing and suddenly I run into someone who is a contact directly in the space that I am working in. It can catch you off guard sometimes, but you should have your elevator pitch prepared and not be afraid to deliver it anytime of day.”
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Jorgovan has become an expert at pitching through a lot of practice. While in school at Belmont, he participated in every business plan pitch competition he could. He had lots of success, winning Belmont’s campus business plan competition and the business plan event at Collegiate DECA during his college years. He also was honored as the recipient of the 2011 Nashville Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the third place winner of the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur Award. ( Continue… )
One of the greatest joys of my job is advising and mentoring the student and alumni entrepreneurs who come out of our program at Belmont.
Students take full advantage of my office hours for mentoring. Some come in with the seed of an idea, while others are actively growing their ventures even before they graduate.
Entrepreneurship alumni get a “life time warranty,” which means we never take ownership of alumni businesses and never take them as consulting clients. Instead, we meet at local coffee shops where we continue to mentor them as we had when they were students.
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A limitation of what I can offer to those I mentor is that I do not have experience in most of the types of businesses they start. In fact, since I have been out of the full-time entrepreneurship world for sixteen years, I really don’t have current experience in any industry! ( Continue… )
Once again we hear from Washington the same solution they seem to have for any and every economic issue — more debt.
This time the problem that they debt solution is being applied to is small business exports. In a report just released by the Office of Advocacy of the SBA we are told that if only we could make more debt available to small businesses they would be able to export more products outside the US. The study says that smaller small businesses are in particular need for more governmental help with credit.
Most surveys of small business owners tell us that the weak economy and sluggish sales are their biggest problems, and not the availability of debt. Very few small business owners say that they are having problems getting the credit they need in recent surveys by the NFIB.
Tight credit is not their problem.
A recession (or however you want to characterize the current economy) that has lasted five years with continued double digit real unemployment and ongoing economic uncertainty has created tight wallets among consumers. ( Continue… )
The number one goal for new entrepreneurs is to grow their businesses to the point where they can finally get paid and begin to make a living from their new venture. Tyler Barstow and Belmont alumnus Matt Fiedler, co-founders of Vinyl Me, Please, are trying to adapt their business model to reach that important goal.
Vinyl Me, Please is seeking to tap into the renewed interest in vinyl records. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the demand for vinyl records has grown for the past five years. There were 4.6 million newly pressed vinyl records sold in 2012, which is a 17.7 percent increase from the previous year.
Music enthusiasts love vinyl records for the warmth and depth of their sound.
The niche that Vinyl Me, Please fills is to bring new and interesting music to a new generation of vinyl record enthusiasts. Each month the subscribers to Vinyl Me, Please are sent a brand new, hand-wrapped vinyl album from a relatively undiscovered artist. ( Continue… )
As my partners and I were pursuing an aggressive growth strategy in our business my late father frequently reminded me, “The leading cause of business failure is success!”
We also got similar warnings from our banker, who said he always worried the most about his clients who were growing the fastest.
While we did not heed the warnings of these two mentors and grew much faster than we should have, we did survive. And along the way I learned a very important lesson about the challenge of managing growth.
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The road to growth can be both narrow and treacherous. There is not a lot of room for error, and when you make a mistake it can lead to serious or even fatal consequences for the business. ( Continue… )
During start-up, entrepreneurs are desperate to make a sale. Revenues are needed to generate cash flow and affirm that the new company’s business model actually meets a need in the market.
Entrepreneurs will take just about any customer willing to do business with their new company, including those who really don’t fit with their business model. After all, a sale is a sale, and cash is cash!
When the opportunity to land the first big customer comes along, the entrepreneur sees the chance to finally get more predictability and stability in cash flow. Again, even if this customer does not exactly fit what the entrepreneur is trying to do with the business, landing a big account will help reduce the entrepreneur’s worries about the future of the business and help him or her sleep a little better at night.
A result, entrepreneurs can amass quite a hodgepodge of customers with a wide variety of needs and expectations. Some were promised a cheap price. Some were offered a good value. And some were promised a high level of service. ( Continue… )
Unlike small business owners in other parts of the world, U.S. entrepreneurs do not tend to think globally about potential markets for their businesses.
The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) reports that while 31 percent of exports from the European Union are generated by small and medium enterprises, only 13 percent of U.S. exports come from small and medium businesses. And another government report reveals that only 1% of U.S. small businesses engage in exporting.
International trade is a key driver of small business success according to a recently released study by IHS and DHL Express. Of the small and medium enterprises surveyed, 26% of the companies that were trading internationally significantly outperformed their market, in contrast to only 13% of those with operations only in their home country.
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While many U.S. entrepreneurs seem content to pursue business only within our borders, we cannot ignore that over 95 percent of the world population lives outside of our country. And small business owners who are part of the 95 percent of the world outside the U.S. are aggressively using the digital economy to help them expand their small businesses into the U.S. market. ( Continue… )
Have you ever heard of an entrepreneur named George Mecherle? How about George Jenkins, William Durant, James Casey, or Paul Orfalea?
While you may not know their names, we are all familiar with the businesses they founded.
George Mercherle founded State Farm Insurance in 1922 in Bloomington, Illinois. Mercherle, who was a retired farmer, thought it was unfair that farmers had to pay the same auto insurance rates as drivers in the big city of Chicago.
“I’ve got a great idea for a business. I know it will work because nobody is doing it! I need to move quickly before someone else does it first.”
As someone who works with entrepreneurs for a living and hears a lot of business ideas, this type of business pitch puts up a big red flag for me.
Just because nobody has started a particular type of business is by no means an indication that the market needs that type of business.
When starting a new business it is always best to start with a clear and compelling need in the market, not with a great idea for some new product or service for which there may or may not be customers ready to purchase.
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In many ways, starting a business that already has competitors in the market can actually be an advantage. That is why businesses tend to cluster together. ( Continue… )
When advising people about what they need to do as they get ready to launch a business, there are two distinct approaches recommended by experts.
The first, which has been the traditional approach, tells aspiring entrepreneurs that writing a business plan is the first critical step.
In business schools the business plan was the core of our entrepreneurship curriculum for decades. Writing a business plan that’s thickness is measured in inches is still a rite of passage in many top entrepreneurship programs.
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However, there is a growing chorus of experts questioning why business plans get so much attention. After all, most entrepreneurs will tell you that once the business gets going it can quickly look fundamentally different than described in their original business plan. ( Continue… )