The opportunity to judge a University Competition for teams of young Entrepreneurs and then Rosebeth Moss Kanter’s entrepreneur focused HBR blog, have caused me to reflect again on the needs that external consultants could reasonably provide on a point of need basis.
I was greatly energised by the effort and ideas that teams of Surrey University students had generated and then presented in their Enterprise Challenge competition to win a trip to Brazil. All 4 finalists had social media related propositions. All had learn’t valuable research skills as they attempted to find market gaps that they could fill, team working and presentation skills as the produced videos to describe their ideas. The teams were all multi-national and focused on offerings that would be widely relevant across the planet. It was great to see how much this opportunity had encouraged the individuals to work collectively to develop a spectrum of experiences that I am sure will serve them well as either entrepreneurs or intrepreneurs. Many congratulations to the winners – “Mech Visual” – who made this You Tube Video. Thanks to Santander, the winners will be having the opportunity to develop their initiative further during a visit to Brazil. As the teams reflect on this experience they may think about the power of incentives ……… would they have worked as hard in their teams was not a Brazil trip at stake? Incentives at work!!
If “Mech Visual” continue to develop their idea and commercialise it they would might like to keep in mind the following points raised in Rosebeth Moss Kanter’s HBR Blog and the subsequent discussion of “Questions Every Entrepreneur Must Ask about Growth”:
- The People. The current team of ‘founders” will need to grow the skills and capabilities and have the courage to both bring in new skills and find ways for some of the team to “retire with dignity” before they become a drain on resources and a drag on effectiveness. I would encourage the team to engage external assistance in doing this in a timely way.
- Finances. Whilst right now securing funding is the team’s concern, as time goes they will needed to remain attuned to various expectations of their investors. If for example they expect to be rewarded through a company sale in the short to medium term, more of a focus on making early progress on both the quality of earnings and the Corporate Governance journey would be prudent so that the sale price is not discounted by, for example, weak governance.
- Partners and Allies. Balancing loyalty to the organisations and various allies that enable the early development of the enterprise relationships with the changing requirements as their enterprise grows will be another rapid learning curve. I encourage the founders to have thoughtful and open discussions of potential conflicts.
- Organisational Culture. As the founders rush around making things happen, it would be helpful if they are explicit amongst themselves about what their enterprise stands for. In the short term I would hope this helps them work better for longer together and then provide a platform for inducting newcomers to the enterprise in due course. As Rosebeth Moss Kanter reminds us, “Numerous studies, including my own, show that an emphasis on organizational culture is associated with continuing excellence. Values, stories, artifacts, and rituals provide a source of identity that makes the organization feel the same, in pursuit of the same mission even while everything else changes. Culture provides internal glue. As an organization grows, what was once informal must be documented, codified, memorialized, and passed on to new people. Savvy entrepreneurs ensure that their organizations are built to last by stressing culture.”
- Outcomes and Impact. I encourage the Team to clarify their ambition for their venture. What are the outcomes they desire, what impact do they want to secure? What does success look like?
- Rationale and motivation. In the subsequent blog discussion Lynne C. Levesque suggested that Rationale & Motivation and Infrastructure should be added to the above list. As part of clarifying their ambition they should be clear on their growth objectives. Whilst in the case of MechTech the network effects they are going to need to secure argues for a focus on rapid growth, there are plenty of cases where sustainable performance is built achieved through slower growth (think of many of the very enduring middle sized companies in Germany)
- Infrastructure. Achieving the right capacity/infrastructure balance is an increasing challenge for all enterprises in our agile world. Without the financial reserves of an established enterprise focusing on processes, systems, people, technology, and space etc. is going to be even more critical. My advice is to consciously make decisions about the actions needed “in the business” as well as “on the business” to use the Jim Collins “Good to Great” language. Moreover seek cost effective help from people who have navigated enterprise infrastructure challenges before – for example.
Reflecting on the above my strong sense is to encourage entrepreneurs to consider the Future Shape of the Winner TM Excellence Model that builds on the “systems plus passion” balance that is a foundation of the work Tom Peters has done over the 30 years since In Search of Excellence was published. It helps enterprises address the intense demands of our ever more agile and resource constrained world by provideing a template for future organisational excellence – centred on Talent i.e. the people in your enterprise delivering the best work they can – and considers excellence in 3 axis:
|How well are the enterprise’s people performing in relation to achieving the enterprise’s ambition?||What do your customers experience when in dialogue with your enterprise?||How can leaders enable their talent to deliver the highest quality work output that they can?|
I commend this to Mech-Visual, to other emerging entrepreneurs and indeed all enterprises with ambition!