I feel particularly inspirational this week as I reflect on the multitude of occasions I’m asked to meet and counsel with existing, aspiring and budding entrepreneurs.
As I relish these thoughts and the joy it brings me to have these exchanges, I found myself exploring the entrepreneurial journey process and whether entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurs bring together the resources necessary to make a venture happen, regardless of the resources that may be currently controlled by the aspiring entrepreneur at that moment in time.
In today’s world, people are the critical resource for most ventures. So, entrepreneurs ask, “ How do I most effectively bring together the team I need to pursue my venture?”
And then, “Once I have my team in place, how do I lead them toward the successful outcomes?”
So how do you provide an environment where creativity and innovation flourish (the two capstones of the entrepreneurial definition) while at the same time effectively monitor the bottom-line and be reasonably sure that the creative endeavours can contribute to it?
These aren’t easy questions. The art of entrepreneurship, I am feeling deeply in my soul over the past few years almost as a true epiphany of sorts, is the art of modern leadership.
There are three primary reasons people have historically followed leaders:
• the leader’s official position of authority demanded it
• the followers respect the leader’s knowledge and personality—this is charismatic leadership, or
• it’s in the best interest of the followers to follow along as they may expect some personal gain for themselves.
Usually, it seems, all motivations come into play in some fashion. Conditions within any entrepreneurial entity do allow effective entrepreneurial leadership to thrive and encourage unity of purpose.
Let’s move over into the concept of “art.” The good news for would-be entrepreneurs is that creativity and innovation sit at the heart of many ventures—and these two ingredients are imperative toward successful outcomes.
But how do you and I take good ideas, turn them into new products and services and bring them to market confidently? How do you go from being a small business to being an entrepreneurial powerhouse?
Start with strategy. At the risk of sounding textbookish, the starting point is your strategy and objectives.
If you don’t at the outset define a clear picture of your venture’s intended future and key objectives, you’ll find it nearly impossible to lead your new venture to joyful ends.
Your strategy can be looked at in five steps:
• create a picture of the future—your vision and ambition
• be clear about where you are starting from—i.e. your current business capabilities and the competitive environment you wish to enter with your new venture idea
• use this backdrop to list your objectives
• filter these objectives from an operational and financial perspective, and critically, check they take you to your vision and personal ambition meter, and
• prioritize them and turn the information into a practical worksheet for your implementation.
On a personal level, please be clear with yourself about why you wish to become entrepreneurial and develop your venture. Apart from the obvious of financial rewards, most successful entrepreneurial leaders have deep-rooted reasons for taking the journey, and they do tend to stay in tune with them
Even the most laid-back entrepreneurs in our beloved Okanagan rely on their vision of the future to stay motivated and cope with tough times that inevitably show up.
I want to sidestep for a moment and talk about striving to build sustainable advantage with your new venture. Such advantage is essential to value creation because cash flows become predictable and reliable over long periods of time.
Building sustainable advantage requires proficiency in the disciplines of entrepreneurship, leadership and management. Entrepreneurship is for sure, I believe, both an art and a science.
Art is an occupation that requires both knowledge and skills; science is a method for systematizing knowledge.
Entrepreneurship is a competency for starting, developing and assuming risk for an enterprise. Leadership is a competency for aspiring, inspiring and motivating others.
Management is then, a competency for directing and controlling events and activities. You can see that all three of these competencies are crucial for the complete entrepreneur image.
Now back to the practicalities. If you’ve used your objectives to define your work game plan, you’ve probably ended up with more questions than answers at this stage. But, there are four areas where your work plan may be clustered— marketing and sales; operations and finance; human resources; and legal issues.
Inclusion of legal issues may be a surprise but they’re often a considerable consideration in many business/industrial sectors and ought to be respected as such. Your entrepreneurial success will also depend on an understanding of changes in the regulatory environment may impact on your venture. Hence, add this factor to your exploration so you will not be blind-sided before you journey on.
So let me offer you this final thought. There are many definitions of being entrepreneurial, but I like to think of it as undertaking an enterprise while accepting the risks and responsibility for the outcome that may unfold.
I sincerely hope that this article’s insights will help you to minimize risks and contribute in some small way to the outcome of your entrepreneurial journey.
Joel Young is an entrepreneurial leadership coach, consultant and educator and founder of Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.