Stepping Stones to Billions
If there’s one thing there is no shortage of in this world, it’s advice. Not necessarily good, or even informed, but it’s hard to turn a corner without a ‘how to ..’ or a ‘get rich in 3 days by …’, or possibly even just the words of a well meaning friend.
And business is no exception, there are any number of gurus and ‘self mades’ who will tell you how to become a successful entrepreneur.
The trouble is that most of it is totally contradictory. For every ‘jump in and just do it’, there’s an ‘it’s all in the preparation’; research, plan, research, plan, in an endless cycle that might just see the opportunity gone. And for every celebrity success who just jumped in, there’s thousands who jumped in and drowned.
So what should a budding entrepreneur do to get beyond start up and into solid growth?
In the States, Paul B Brown, Leonard A Schlesinger and Charles Kiefer have taken an interesting approach to this problem. In studying successful entrepreneurs they chose only those with at least two successful businesses under their belt; serial entrepreneurs who seem to have a talent for the process of start up, as well as a good product.
This also removes the ‘more luck than judgement’ sector, people who just gambled and won, or those who were just in the right place at the right time.
Their findings are a combination of qualitative self knowledge and a new application of the Deming model of PDCA or plan-do-check-act.
Brown et al. propose a formula for successful entrepreneurship that they present as:
Act – Learn – Build – Repeat
The interesting part is at the beginning where they counsel that the individual should:
1. Determine their desire – basically, what excites them, what’s going to give them the buzz to keep going. And we know from years of research that it’s seldom just money.
2. Take a small step – this is thinking about 1 and visualising where there might be a commercial angle and, well, sticking a toe in the water.
3. Stop and learn – looking at 2 and, by implication, make any necessary adjustments or changes.
4. Build off that learning and take another step.
The key, they say, is in the small steps, not going so far or so fast that you may have used all of your resources and energy on the wrong path and have to start again, depleted and demotivated.
Perhaps this is what we do subconsciously anyway; scanning the path for hazards and checking the signs for direction. Making it a conscious process might just build a better business.