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7 Societal Changes That Invite New Venture Innovation

If every entrepreneur could predict the future, starting the right new business would be easy. Since my experience and interests have been primarily with technology, I’ve been watching those trends for a long time, and I see rapid change, but predicting impact is a challenge. Recently I’ve changed my focus a bit to people demographics, and I find the implications a bit more concrete. In fact, I was impressed with the classic book, “Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead,” by Kenneth Gronbach, which is full of specific facts on demographic changes over the past few years, and what they mean for some of the major business segments out there today. Gronbach is well-known for his generational research and keen forecasting of societal trends. First, a quick summary of the ...

How To Be A Business Leader As Well As Thought Leader

By definition, most entrepreneurs are thought leaders. They have the ability to recognize a market need, the skills to design and implement a solution, and the drive to start a business from that solution. It all comes from within themselves. A business leader does the same thing and more, through the people around them. Most entrepreneurs are not both. In reality, a successful startup can be built by a thought leader, but growing a successful business requires a business leader. That’s why venture capital investors often replace startup CEOs as a condition of their scale-up investment. That’s why so many startups plateau after gaining some initial traction, and are run over or acquired by their competition. Much has been written on this subject, including the classic integration and updat...

Finding The Right Angel Investor For Your New Venture

If your startup is looking for an angel investor, it makes sense to present your plan to flocks of angels, and assume that at least one will swoop down and scoop you up. Or does it? Actually numbers and locations are just the beginning. The challenge is to find the right angel for you, and for your situation. Here are some basic principles: Angels invest in people, more often than they invest in ideas. That means they need to know you, or someone they trust who does know you (warm introduction). For credibility, they need to know you BEFORE you are asking for money. Angel investors are people too. Investors expect you to understand their motivation, respect their time, and show your integrity in all actions. They probably won’t respond well to high pressure sales tactics, information overl...

4 Strategies To Ramp Up The Total Customer Experience

Much has been written recently about the requirement to focus today on the total customer experience, as a competitive edge or even for survival. Traditionally, you just worried about the quality of the sales transaction (price, speed, service), but the “customer experience” now includes ease of pre-sale shopping, post-sale support, with a connected relationship throughout. The challenge I hear from savvy business owners and entrepreneurs operating on a shoestring is that providing a superior customer experience costs money. They are rightfully looking for some new business models and improvements in operational efficiency to provide them with a win-win connected strategy, where the customer becomes their advocate, while growth and profits soar. I had some ideas on how to do this, but I wa...

8 Ways To Use Personal Values To Highlight Leadership

True business success and leadership starts with real personal values, extends to building a team, and finally to inspiring customers and your community. That’s a huge leap from an entrepreneurial idea, to a product, to making money. Is it any wonder that the majority of startups fail? My job as a new business advisor is to help entrepreneurs get over this chasm early. My approach has always been to suggest specific actions that have immediate impact, as well as highlight positive leadership attributes, leading to longer-term success and a commitment to values. I found some great guidance in this context in the classic book, “Lead True,” by Jeff Thompson, MD. Thompson is a well-recognized successful values-based leader and speaker. I fully support and appreciate his case studies and conclu...

4 Keys To A Super-Charged Team And Workplace Culture

Startup work environments are always chaos, but they can still be great environments to work in, or they can be terrible. Whether yours is terrible or great, that same tone flows out to your customers, and regulates your productivity inside. You as the founder are the starting point and definer, so you need to get it right. What does it take to create a positive workplace culture? I did some research on this, and compared it with my own experience. I’ve concluded and the experts agree that it’s all about understanding people, and overtly optimizing the factors that drive them at work. Ed Muzio, in his classic book “Make Work Great: Super Charge Your Team, Reinvent the Culture, and Gain Influence One Person at a Time,” summarized four key influences which I have also seen as follows: We are...

How To Tune Business Strategy For Long-Term Success

The biggest challenge these days doesn’t seem to be in starting a new business, but sustaining it against the onslaught of market changes and new competitors that emerge every day. Yet, as an angel investor, I still see too many new business owners who are convinced that their biggest challenge is to get money to start, and once launched with some initial success, they can relax. In my other role of business advisor, I see examples often of startups that may have taken success for granted too early. A recent high-profile one, Theranos, the blood-testing company, had no trouble getting customers, but promised more than their technology could deliver, Another, Shyp, an early on-demand delivery platform, blamed their demise on premature scaling. The keys to sustainable success require you to ...

5 Questions To Help Solve The Tough Business Problems

In my role as a business advisor, one of the attributes I often see in a good leader is the ability and willingness to ask good questions, before moving forward or issuing edicts, potentially in the wrong direction. We all have mental barriers – those unquestioned assumptions, unexplored options, or unchallenged rules of thumb that keep us stuck at a lower level of effectiveness. Thus, an essential skill for anyone who wants to push the limits of their team and their business is the ability to ask questions that expose and remove those mental obstacles. The challenge is to frame questions that can provoke people into thinking about the problems in a new way, and to ask these questions in a style that doesn’t elicit defensiveness, resistance, or fear. I saw this challenge outlined well in a...

How Modern Companies Have Redefined Customer Support

Too many business owners still think of “customer support” as an after-sale process to rectify customer problems with completed transactions. The world has changed. With the advent of instant communication and social media, customer service starts at the first hint of interest by you, and never ends for repeat customers. One bad customer experience will kill not only one customer, but many future ones, who hear the message via social media and friends. For example, the days are gone when simply replacing a purchase or giving your money back was considered premium service. Now, if your web site is not clear and clean, or you don’t have a chat robot for a product question online, you may be abandoned as providing poor customer service, just as certainly as having to wait in a long product ex...

How Modern Companies Have Redefined Customer Support

Too many business owners still think of “customer support” as an after-sale process to rectify customer problems with completed transactions. The world has changed. With the advent of instant communication and social media, customer service starts at the first hint of interest by you, and never ends for repeat customers. One bad customer experience will kill not only one customer, but many future ones, who hear the message via social media and friends. For example, the days are gone when simply replacing a purchase or giving your money back was considered premium service. Now, if your web site is not clear and clean, or you don’t have a chat robot for a product question online, you may be abandoned as providing poor customer service, just as certainly as having to wait in a long product ex...

Security And Privacy Are Both A Risk and Opportunity

With the ITRC 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report revealing a 126 percent increase in stolen sensitive personal information, there is a growing population out there worried about all the people intent on hurting them. My recommendation to entrepreneurs is to recognize these concerns as an opportunity to make people’s life better, rather than worry and dodge the risk. I continue to believe that most of the data gathering in the real world, and on the Internet, is done by businesses to help you find what you want, protect you, and improve your experience, rather than invade your privacy or scam you. We all just need your help in managing personal data correctly, and making sure you are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. That challenge is a major business opportunity, as w...

10 Tips To New Venture Leaders To Never Stop Learning

You probably think that the fact that you have started your own business validates your leadership ability. It may confirm that you were a leader yesterday, but do you have what it takes to be a leader tomorrow? In this era of rapid change, you can’t afford to stop learning, or you will find that your competitors, your customers, and your team, may soon be following someone else. In fact, you may have noticed in a recent study, that the business CEO turnover rate last year was the highest in 10 years, and may go even higher this year. Real business leadership requires continuous improvement, just like your products and processes. Fortunately, contrary to popular opinion, the evidence is that leadership is not a birthright, and can be learned and improved. Most people agree that leadership ...

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