Tag Archives: strategy

5 Key Skills for Successful Serial Entrepreneurs

I just finished leading a 3-day workshop in Toulouse, France for 15 entrepreneurs from the incubators and technology centres of the European Space Agency. Today I have been asking myself questions about what the key skills are that these entrepreneurs will need to develop in order to succeed.

Success can be measured in many ways, but my goal has been to teach them to become serial entrepreneurs – persons who are capable of creating not just one startup business, but capable of starting many healthy businesses throughout their careers.

Becoming a good serial entrepreneur involves learning the ability to do the following:

  1. Serial Entrepreneurs see opportunity. Opportunities arise where there are problems or where there are inefficiencies. While corporate employees tend to focus on resources, good entrepreneurs tend to focus on opportunities. When an employee encounters a problem within an organization, they most often try to figure out how to navigate around it. An entrepreneur, however, sees this as an opportunity to solve the problem and thereby to create a sellable product or service. Every problem is good news and an opportunity to a serial entrepreneur.
  2. Serial Entrepreneurs create and communicate a clear vision. A clear vision is key. Without it an entrepreneur ends up being vague and uncertain about how to go forward to create a solution or to organize the team that is necessary for success. A simple and magical thing happens when an entrepreneur creates a clear vision, commits to making it happen and then communicates it to the world.
  3. Serial Entrepreneurs are able to attract great people to work with them. Many entrepreneurs never get past this point. They work hard, but they mostly work alone. Their ventures seldom grow large and are limited by the fact that they are neither team players nor good leaders. Hire people who are smarter than you. Hire people that almost scare you because they are so capable. Only then will you raise the level of your company to new levels and ensure long-term success. Earn their trust, give them full responsibility and then get out of their way so they can make your company into a success.
  4. Serial Entrepreneurs are able to raise capital or to obtain whatever resources are necessary. Almost all good business ideas will need capital at some point. Without capital, growth takes longer. With capital, a company can often move quicker and take advantage of windows of opportunity that appear. Capital is like fertilizer for plants. Organic growth is always an option, but sometimes there are faster and better ways to stimulate rapid growth.
  5. Serial Entrepreneurs remain flexible, adapting to changes without abandoning their vision. As we all know so well, shit happens. One of the only constants in life is change. Being a successful serial entrepreneur involves developing the ability to stay flexible in the face of the winds of change, without losing sight of their vision.

Thanks to Roop Chandwani (www.aggiopartners.com) and Nico Goulet (www.adaravp.com) for inspiration for this article.

A Three Minute Course in LEADERSHIP

Whether you are creating a business or creating an amazing life, you can benefit from thinking like an entrepreneur and by taking leadership.

Unfortunately, some of the most fundamental assumptions that we make about leadership may be wrong or over-glorified.  A leader is just a lonely nutcase without followers. The first followers, not the leader, are the ones who take the greatest risk yet get the least praise and recognition. The first followers are the ones that teach other followers how to follow. How often do discussions about leading fail to discuss how to follow?

One of my brilliant entrepreneur-coaching clients sent me a link to the following 3-minute video by Derek Sivers about How to Start a Movement. Watch this video and ask yourself:  What are the areas of my career or life where I am truly taking leadership? How can I nurture my followers and treat them like equals?

Want to learn more about entrepreneurial thinking and leadership? Then sign-up for one of my workshops or courses. Even better, join me for the Oslo Leadership Event (May 27-29, 2011 in Oslo).  There I will hold a talk entitled: Dare to Dream – the Entrepreneurial Mindset. If you attend and are one of my blog readers, please come and introduce yourself to me!

Leadership lessons from the Dancing Guy

Thanks to Erlend Bakke. Check out his amazing360 photography tools at: http://www.3sixty.no/

DARING TO DREAM – The Entrepreneur Mindset

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” — Michelangelo Buonarroti

I will never forget the night that it really hit me. I didn’t sleep once during the 6 hours that I tossed and turned in bed. I could barely keep my eyes closed. My brain was racing at breakneck speed with plans and ideas and visions of a future that was so bright and vibrant that I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. I had just figured out that I really could succeed as an entrepreneur.

Earlier that day I had a dialogue with fellow BlueSky Software founder Jørgen Lien. He insisted that we had a shot… a real shot at busting open a segment of a large and growing software market, and in doing so a shot at creating a wildly-successful software company. This was my first technology startup. Although I had seen the possibility, I never really believed in it.  Before then. During that night it finally hit me.

20 years later and my dream is still alive, vibrant, bright and part of my everyday reality. BlueSky succeeded in busting open that market and went on later (without me) to be acquired by Macromedia/Adobe. Two other tech startups I did went well and are still flying high. I have worked closely with hundreds of talented entrepreneurs since then and yet I still have that moment in my mind.

For me, the biggest excitement was never about the riches and the wealth. It was not about fame and notoriety. Most of all, it was the realization that I could create.

The process of creation that an entrepreneur can experience is amazing. One minute you sit there with two empty hands and a head full of ideas. In the next moment your thoughts have been converted to real things and you have your hands full of value and new opportunity. It is like modern day alchemy – the ability to turn common objects into gold.

Three weeks from now I will be one of the keynote speakers at the Oslo Leadership Event (Fornebu Arena, May 27-29, 2011). I will use the opportunity to share some stories from my experiences as an entrepreneur. There have been a lot of crazy moments, but most of all I will use this opportunity to encourage everyone to think like an entrepreneur.

The Entrepreneur Mindset
Whether you want to create a business, or lead a sports team, or teach a classroom of students, sail alone around the world, become a master yoga instructor or just simply get the most out of today… it all starts by DARING TO DREAM. Dream big. Dream wild. Dream like you did when you were a kid. You would be amazed at what is really possible.

If you want to learn more about visualization tools or how to accelerate your business, then contact me or join one of my seminars. If you are going to attend the Oslo Leadership Event, then please come up and introduce yourself to me and share your dreams with me as well!

 

VCs are from Mars, Entrepreneurs are from Venus

John Gray’s book Men are from Mars has the subtitle ”The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex”.  To some entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists might as well be the opposite sex. Many entrepreneurs don’t really understand them very well. In a good blog post by ex-VC and VentureBeat writer Tom Tzach, he offers 4 good tips to entrepreneurs. Here are my comments to his tips:

1. It’s a numbers game. Expect casualties.
Tzach reminds us that VCs get a huge number of requests for their time and money. If you are an entrepreneur seeking capital (especially if this is your first time), then you will have to play the numbers. You might need to pitch to 50 in order to find 3 who are truly interested. You might need 9 who are truly interested before you find one who will give you the funds.  Just like sales, it is a pure numbers game and the odds are not great, especially in today’s market where many investors are (un-admitably) scared.

I was at a venture meeting in Lisbon a few weeks ago and talked to one of the really classy European VCs (Diana Saraceni from 360 Capital Partners in Milan). She said that even though they have only 4 partners at her firm, they received 1202 business plans last year. They held 354 meetings with entrepreneurs and closed 6 new deals. If you are one of the 1202 then be prepared for a rejection. It is not personal. It only means that there are other (better?) deals out there ahead of you in the queue.

Tzach writes that in the US less than 2% of entrepreneurs pitching get funding, and that the average time for the process takes from 9 to 12 months. Don’t be discouraged, just plan to work hard.

2. Develop a VC pitching strategy
You will certainly need a strategy or else you will just end up shooting at any animal in the jungle that moves. Tzach recommends that you develop key parameters (like history, relevance of their portfolio, location, etc.) and then divide the prospective VCs into ranked groups. Start with those that are least likely to invest so that you get some practice before you tackle the big boys. Plus, if you screw it up in the first meetings, it won’t kill you. I think you will experience that pitching is a huge (and fun) learning experience.

3. You need to play your cards right
I have always been a lousy card player because I tend to play out my cards without a longer-term game plan (OK, I have other redeeming skills). Tzach reminds entrepreneurs that the VC community is small and that VCs like to talk together a lot. Expect this, but be selective in how you handle and manage your communication. Negotiating with 2 different VCs at the same time is not an ideal situation. Try to work out your deal with one and then shop the same deal to others if you need to fill the offering. Remember that while term sheets are confidential, they will be around long after you are gone. Treat them with extreme professionalism and care. I have a consultant (who I pay with options or shares) who always helps me with term sheets. He has saved me huge amounts of money and some rather embarrassing mistakes.

4. Don’t seek funding under pressure
The best time to visit a banker is when you are not in need of a loan. The best time to start your fundraising work is long before you actually need the capital. Fundraising will take a long time. It is like selecting a wife – you should use a lot of time to get to know each other before you tie the knot. VCs are smart and they will sense it if you are under pressure, plus when you show them your cash-flow budgets and financial statements, they will quickly figure out your predicament. Plan ahead.

Just as 50% of all marriages end on the rocks, only about 10% of all VC investments actually pay respectable returns. Realize that this is the reality and plan your strategy accordingly. Good VCs can be fantastic partners who can help you (not only with capital, but also with lots of assistance) to grow your business much faster than on your own… But you have to play by their rules in order to get them on your team.

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time?
Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com. Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

 

Inspiration – What is your calling?

I believe that we all have something special to offer this world. No matter who you are… No matter what skills you possess or don’t possess, you have something special to contribute. Scientists have not yet succeeded with cloning a person. Each one of us really is unique. Totally unique. No two are alike, and therefore we each have something unique to offer this world.

What is it that really motivates you? What is it in your life that gives you energy and inspiration? What gets you up early in the morning or keeps you awake sleepless all night? Finding true inspiration is crucial for an entrepreneur. If you are not inspired by your work, then it will be a constant struggle. If you are truly inspired, then it will be a breeze.

So how does your business and your work inspire you? If it does not, then what would it take to change this? There is a huge amount of energy available to you if you can tap into inspiration. Money and fame will only motivate you so far. Finding a bigger agenda and aligning your life values with your startup business are keys to accelerated and sustained success.

Do you agree with this? Then hire yourself a coach to challenge you for 3 months. See what kind of huge changes you are capable of.  I have seen some pretty amazing and inspiring things the last years of coaching entrepreneur­­s. How about you?

INSPIRATION
When you are inspired by some great
purpose, some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bonds;
Your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every
direction, and you find yourself in a new,
great and wonderful world.

Dormant forces, faculties and talents
become alive, and you discover yourself
to be a greater person by far than you
ever dreamed yourself to be. 
– Patanjali (1st century BC)

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Fall in Love with your Market, not with your Technology

Why do so many early-stage technology companies struggle? One reason is that they fall in love with their technology. Many entrepreneurs are great engineers or scientists. They create all sorts of inventions and smart new technologies. They write algorithms, file patents and then they march out to search for markets, calling ”Is there anyone out there who could use my new technology?”

Pushing technology is like pushing on a rope.

When I graduated from University I had two buddies. The first one loved IT technology. He always had the latest PC/phone/PDA/gadgets. He chose a career in the IT industry and was constantly searching for that next razor-edge, earth-shaking, game-changing technology wave.  The second buddy chose to sell coffee machines. We smirked at this. He said that in most large office buildings (at that time – early 1990s) they drank really bad coffee. He was right and he decided to change this. He focused on the problems of a specific market. He licensed and sold whatever technology was best. He made a fortune selling these coffee machines. We others are still searching for new technology, much like Don Quixote out looking for dragons to fight.

I do corporate turnarounds for early-stage companies that are struggling. I have lots of tricks, but the one that works most often is to get them to let go of the technology obsession and to tune their ears and eyes on the needs of a unique market.

It is really simple and easy.

Don’t fall in love with your technology. Fall in love with your market. Your market will last for many years. Technologies just come and go.

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Kill the Cow

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwerfeldein/1934917078/What will Norway live from when the North Sea oil wells run dry? I believe that some answers lie in empowering young entrepreneurs. The following cow story made me think about the fact that sometimes we get very creative when we are forced to do so. What are your cows?

Kill the Cow (by Conor Neill, www.conorneill.com)

A family lives in the outskirts of a remote village on a small plot of land.  The family owns one cow.  Each day they live from the milk of the cow.  If there is little milk, they eat little.  If there is lots of milk, they eat well.  The lives of the mother, the father, the children depend upon the cow.

One autumn day, a lone traveler stops in the village.  He is hungry.  The family share their milk.  The traveler is grateful. The traveler wishes to return the favour and help the family.  He doesn’t know how to help the family.  He hears that there is a wise man in the village.  He walks over to the home of the wise man.
“I was hungry and the family fed me.  I would like to help them.  How can I help this family?”
The wise man said “Kill the cow.”
“Kill it?  How can that help them?  They depend for their lives on that cow.”
The wise man repeated “Kill the cow.”
The traveler was nervous about following such strange advice,  but the reputation of the wise man was such that he went ahead and killed the cow.
A year later the traveler happened to pass again through the village.  He noticed new shops and a thriving market.  He saw a new hotel that provided beds and food to the travelers who came for the market.
The traveler entered the hotel.  Behind the bar he found the eldest son of the family of the cow.  The man was standing tall, smiling and happy.  The traveler greeted him and asked “What happened?”.
“We lost our cow.  There was no milk.  We had to go out and do something to eat.  We set up a small market, it grew.  We set up this hotel, it is growing.  Without the milk from our cow, we had to try new things.”
Silently to himself, the traveler reflected on the power of the wise man’s words.  “Kill the cow.”

“Any nation that thinks more of its ease and comfort than its freedom will soon lose its freedom; and the ironical thing about it is that it will lose its ease and comfort too.” W. Somerset Maugham

What is your cow?

Conor Neill (author of The Rhetorical Journey – www.conorneill.com)


Today’s blog post was written by my friend Conor Neill, who is a professor of communication at IESE University in Barcelona.

Conor and I frequently collaborate on webinars for entrepreneurs. Watch the EVENTS page on this site for future events. I strongly encourage you to visit his blog site and to subscribe to his posts. – RICK

Entrepreneur Self Sabotage

We all have 2 different minds. One is logical, the other is emotional and they don’t always agree with each other. Sometimes they will do whatever they can to sabotage each other.

Consider the following entrepreneur story:
Gauri Nanda was a graduate student at MIT who got an $80K loan from her parents to start a business. Her first product is called CLOCKY. It is an alarm clock on wheels. You set the alarm to ring at 06:00 in the morning. When the time comes, the clock wheels itself off your bedside table and races around your bedroom making loud and annoying robot-like noises. You have to chase it down in order to shut it up. It is a great gimmick, Nanda has sold over 100 thousand clocks already and was featured on the cover of Inc. Magazine.

But why would 100,000 people want to chase a loud and annoying alarm clock around their bedrooms each morning?

Back to the two minds… One mind (the logical one) wants to get up at 06:00. The other mind (the emotional one) wants to stay in bed and sleep a few more lazy hours.

So Why do we fight with ourselves so often?

I coached an entrepreneur last week regarding his long-term goals. He was very clear on what he wanted to achieve long-term with his startup company but when we discussed what factors were keeping him from achieving success, the list was endless. The conclusion we reached was that he is not really sure if he is willing to do the work – to pay the high price that is needed to make his company a success. He keeps hoping he will find a short cut or an easy path to success, but in the meantime his company is moving very slowly. After lots of questioning, he sited several examples of situations where he had setup a specific goal and then sabotaged the result by either failing to follow-up or by prioritizing other tasks. His one mind wants success. His other mind wants an easy lifestyle.

Reaching this conclusion did not solve his problem, but it did shed a lot of light on it. He went away from the coaching session much more conscious of self-sabotage and with a new resolve to remove the excuses and to re-focus on accelerated success.

This is all about Values. People who are clear on their values don’t have the big internal conflicts. People who are not clear often end up sabotaging themselves. Working with a coach on clarifying your own values can be a fun and really interesting experience.

Are you ever of two minds? Do you ever sabotage yourself? If the answer is yes, then maybe you should contact me about a coaching trial and then put the Clocky on your Christmas wish list.

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Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Great Networking Trick

Last week I accidentally discovered a great new networking trick. I was attending a lecture on Entrepreneurship in Norway. I walked into the auditorium where there were 100-150 chairs setup. I was early, so I went to the front of the room and sat in the chair that was nearest the podium in the first row where there happened to be an electric plug for my Mac. As each of the speakers, the experts and the VIPs arrived – those that were scheduled to speak – one after the other they came and introduced themselves to me. Since I was sitting close to the podium and since I had on a suit they all just assumed that I was someone very important or one of the other expert speakers. I shook their hands, we exchanged cards and I proceeded to ask them lots of questions concerning what they were going to speak about. I had a great time. They had a great time (because they got to talk about themselves) and I came home with a handful of the best business cards I had collected in a long time. Some of them are still probably asking themselves “who was that guy really?”

Keith Ferrazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone, says that Networking is one of the most important keys to success in a startup business. It will help you find jobs, recruit talent, win new customers and discover investors who’ll support your ideas. My experience is that being a great networker may not be absolutely essential, but it certainly makes things a lot easier and more fun.

According to Ferrazzi, successful networking is all about building close, sincere relationships based on mutual generosity. He says that entrepreneurs cannot achieve their career goals on their own. They have to network their way to success.

Many years ago I was co-founder of a software company and one of the other founders was a genius. A real genius. I mean the serious, lifetime member of MENSA, IQ-of-186 type genius. He was so brilliant that he was often challenged in other more normal social settings. This was good for me to understand. I am nowhere near what would be called genius, but OK, I have other talents. We worked well together as a team because we complimented each other. In today’s business world, you will need other people to help you to succeed and to provide the diversity necessary to solve complicated problems and challenges. Few successful entrepreneurs succeed by flying solo.

Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on networking in 1936. How to Win Friends and Influence People demystified the process of making friends out of strangers and inspired legions of business coaches to carry on Carnegie’s message. His methods were so simple, yet so fundamentally useful. Here is what he recommended:

1. Smile – Simple huh? While this is easy enough, when I attended a networking event last week and I looked around the room to see how many people were actually smiling. I was shocked to see so many sour faces…lots of people frowning and staring down at their own shoes.

2. Ask Questions – Most people spend all their networking time talking about themselves. They drone on forever. Networking is about asking questions and being truly curious about the other person. If you take the time to ask, you will be surprised how fascinating, interesting and fun even the most boring person can be.

3. Listen – It is not enough to just ask questions. You have to stop to listen. I mean really listen. Listen to what they are saying. Listen to what they are not saying. Listen with your ears, your eyes and your gut feeling. Give generously of your time and attention. Nothing is more highly valued in our society today.

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Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Marathon Man for Startups

Have you seen the old movie called Marathon Man? Dustin Hoffmann plays the part of an amateur marathon runner who gets mixed up with a group of nasty ex-Nazis who torture him with a dental drill. His training as a marathon runner helps him to endure the pain until he is finally able to win in the end. It is a great movie and a good lesson for entrepreneurs.

Sorry to write this, but you have to be able to endure a lot of discomfort and pain if you expect to succeed with a startup business. There are no real short cuts. There are no easy paths to success. There is an old line that says “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. The truth is that there is a lot of hard work and it usually takes time. Lots of it.  Creating a successful startup is a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint.

Read John Nesheim’s blog post entitled: Longest Tennis Game in History : Lesson for Startups.
He writes about the recent Wimbledon tennis match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut that lasted 3 days and ended in a tie-breaker with the score 70-68 (which is 183 games).  He writes the following:

BOTTOM LINE: Prepare for a very long run as you prepare to do your startup. Reality says you’ll be running a lot longer than you believe you will run. And you’ll run into unforeseen surprises as you round each corner. Those tennis players fought to the last stroke. You’ll be expected to do the same. When that is in your gut, your soul, then you’ll have what it takes.

Prepare indeed. Prepare yourself and adopt a strategy that will get you to the finish line with your startup business. Get help from experienced entrepreneurs who have already run the course.

I run a program for European Entrepreneurs called Fast-Track Funding. It is a program to accelerate the business development process and to increase the chances of getting seed funding quickly. It is not a short cut, but it will speed your progress. You can put your business on the fast-track to success. If you are interested in learning more, then contact me directly.