Tag Archives: BNET

I Disagree: Irrational Optimism Is Not Entrepreneur’s Most Important Asset

I don’t know Jeff Haden but I like his work and respect him. Still, when he posts on BNET that The Entrepreneur’s Most Important Asset is “irrational optimism,” I say no. Absolutely not.Clown

Jeff wrote that “irrational optimism” is more important than “plenty of capital, a comprehensive business plan, a solid market analysis, or great employees.” I completely disagree. Maybe he’s exaggerating for effect, but still … here’s his explanation:

Entrepreneurs must embrace belief and ignore self-doubts: Feelings that we aren’t smart enough, dedicated enough, adaptable enough… or simply that, in spite of our best intentions and best efforts, we cannot and will not succeed.

Ignore stupid self doubts, sure … but irrational optimism in the face of market problems, quality problems, sales and marketing problems, competition, changing technology … that’s going to get you nowhere fast.

It’s much better to recognize weaknesses as well as strengths, threats as well as opportunities, and manage your business away from threats, and towards opportunities. Deal with your business’ weaknesses, and take advantage of its strengths.

Fear, when it’s irrational and stupid, is harmful. But fear, well harnessed, linked to awareness and alertness and flexibility, is good for a real-world business owner. In my opinion.

(Image: Jackie Kever/Flickr CC)

Friday Footprints: 5 Good Posts For July 8

First, my thanks to Catharina Belgraver for helping me come up with Friday Footprints, in response to my post here last Friday.

  1. Steve Tobak has a good one on the real secret to personal productivity on BNET. He lists what other people say on this subject, then gets down to his own formula.
  2. I remember a cartoon I saw in 1999. The woman says she’s really looking forward to the new millennium. The man answers “You should; you’re a woman.” Fast forward to Jessica Bennett and Jessie Ellison with Women Will Rule the World on Newsweek.com. This is a very well researched and well written think piece, well worth reading. And it makes a lot of sense.
  3. Evelyn Rusli posted Rejecting Wall Street, Graduates Turn Entrepreneurs Instead on NYTimes’ Dealbook. This is about MBAs becoming entrepreneurs, which is a theme I believe in. I say it’s about time. And maybe I started a trend back in 1983, when I did it.
  4. Ami Groth tracked statistics on the age of startup founders in People Over 35 Have Recently Launched 80% of the Startups on Business Insider. Woman RunningBeing an old guy, I can’t resist quoting this one, at least this paragraph:

    According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, people over the age of 35 made up 80 percent of the total entrepreneurship activity in 2009. That same year, the Kauffman Foundation conducted a survey of 549 startups operating in “high-growth” industries — including aerospace, defense, health care, and computer and electronics — and found that people over 55 are nearly twice as likely to launch startups in these industries.

  5. Alex Rampell posted an excellent analysis of the guts of new marketing in The Power of Pull on TechCrunch.

Also, some calendar items:

  1. I’m going to be live with with Dr. Amy Vanderbilt at 11 AM PDT today on Trend POV at trendpov.com/content.
  2. I’m live with Corrine McElroy Next Wednesday July 13 at 1 pm PDT at www.edgeofchange.com/interview.
  3. I’ve discovered Plancast.com, which lets me post my interview and speaking dates online at plancast.com/timberry. I hope you can join me. I’ll be putting a widget on my sidebar … plancast.com, are you listening? Widgets, maybe?. If you go to that site you can follow me to be able to see my schedule; actually, I think you can see it on that URL whether you follow me or not.
  4. Finally, if you’re an SBDC person and you’re going to the annual conference in San Diego, please join me for a training and certification of my free-for-teachers online curriculum. That’s Sept. 6, the Tuesday before the opening, as part of the “pre-conference.” Please click here for more information on that.

(Image: MrUllmi via Flickr cc)

Is ‘Do What You Love’ Just a Myth? Does it Matter?

The ‘do what you love’ lore in entrepreneurship is one of the most-often-misunderstood and most-often repeated mottos. There’s truth in the core idea. The business you build should reflect your strengths and weaknesses, and yes, what you like to do. But life isn’t that simple. heart golden egg

Obviously, when you set out to build a business, just doing what you love isn’t enough. It has to be something people want or need. It has to be something people will pay for. I love skiing and hiking and playing the guitar, but I couldn’t make money on any one of them. People will never pay me to ski or hike or play guitar.

On the other hand, you don’t just pick from a menu of hot new business ideas. You look at a mirror and consider who you are, what you like to do, and what you’re good at, not to mention what resources you have. All of that matters a great deal.

I always liked the advice of a professor at Notre Dame who suggested you should choose your major in college as if you were going to die the day after graduation. The idea is that what you like to study is the best way to choose which path you’re going to take later on. It reflects your nature, and, we hope, what you’re good at.

Last week Penelope Trunk posted worst career advice: do what you love on BNET. I hate that title because it oversimplifies the truth. But she ends up making sense, at least it does if you don’t take her title literally. It’s not really bad advice in the sense it’s normally meant.

First, she redefines ‘doing what you love’ in career terms as doing whatever you love most, something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid. That is not the real point. It’s taking the idea to an extreme:

So you will say, “But look. Now you are getting paid to do what you love. You are so lucky.” But it’s not true. I mean, there are things I enjoy more, and I discover new things I love all the time.

I like where she ends up, though:

Here’s some practical advice: Do not what you love; do what you are.

Which takes us back to the real truth. If you’re going to start your own business, it’s going to be work, there are going to be hard times, and you’re going to have to do a lot of grunt work. It helps if you’re in an activity or business area you like. And you’re doing something related to your strengths and weaknesses.

Most of the time, you like the things you’re better at. And, no matter what you do, it won’t always be fun.

3 Posts on Stuff We Know But Frequently Forget

Does this happen to you? You read something, love it, realize you sort of knew it, but this author puts it in a new context, new light, or new list, so that it’s very useful to you just to see it again? I found three of those this week in three blog posts:

  1. Donna Fenn posted The Top 10 Best Ways to Fail as an Entrepreneur on BNET. Manage partnerships poorly … hire too fast — grow too fast … delegate sales. She has some useful surprises and good reminders.
  2. For a good practical review of what makes your website work, read 6 Must-Haves for Your Small Business Website, by Lisa Barone, on Small Business Trends. She mentions intuitive navigation, sticky content, a blog … that’s another good collection of reminders.
  3. Seth Godin is amazing. He so often says so much in so few words. His post Pleasing is maybe 100 words long. If you’re in business, read it. You know what he’s saying there, but you keep forgetting.

I saw an interview with Seth Godin where he says he puts labels on things we already know. I think he’s underestimating himself with that description, but still, give me those labels. Well done. 

(Image: Evlakhov Valeriy/Shutterstock)

Tip: Mistakes Are More Fun Than Tips

Here’s a continuing trend: tips and what-not-to-do lists get better readership as lists of mistakes.  It’s not a new trend, it’s not a surprising one, but one worth remembering.

What reminds me this morning is a collection of posts by Geoffrey James on BNET:

Notice on these posts we get a double dose: Not just mistakes, but superlative mistakes, and in an “of all time” context. It’s an interesting approach. The lists include some I’d never heard of (I’d never heard of Six Sigma, listed as the #1 stupidest management fad of all time), some very general (“leadership” is listed as #2 dumbest management concept of all time), and several well reasoned takes on long-term thinking, well worth reading.  Geoffrey does a good job at standing back and poking holes on some overused phrases.

On the same theme, you might notice in my illustration here that the most popular item at BNET today is “Business Blunders of the Year.” There are some mixed reviews on that particular piece, by the way, perhaps because a slide-show format, nice for lists of five or 10 points, doesn’t hold up to lists of 75 (yes, that’s 75 business blunders).

Being contrarian really works.

Is Getting an MBA Wasting Time and Money?

What if the “is getting an MBA worth it” question isn’t really a matter of money? What if it depends on who you are, where you are, what resources you have, and what you want?

Penelope Trunk posted Why an MBA Is a Waste of Time and Money recently on BNET. She lists seven reasons, all of which are about how much money you won’t make if you stop your career to get an MBA. A couple are sad and true (an MBA doesn’t make you an entrepreneur, and doesn’t increase your earning power unless it’s from a top-10 school), a couple of them obvious, and a couple of them whimsical and interesting (it makes you look desperate and puts off the inevitable).

Penelope Trunk is a good writer and successful entrepreneur. She has a knack for bringing up real issues and she thrives on controversy. As proof of that you can try her own list of rants, or, perhaps even more telling, the titles of this list of her BNET posts. (Anybody who can post something on BNET titled Forget the Job Hunt. Have a Baby Instead obviously understands blogging, irony, and the value of taking a contrarian position.)

Her post makes me ask: how do you determine what’s a waste of time and money? Does education pay for itself in earning power? Is that what it’s about?

How many of the best things in life are a waste of time and money? It’s just amazing when you stop to think about it. Except – whoops – no, don’t, because stopping and thinking would be a waste of time. Instead, get to work. Earn money.

And what about the chart here, my attempt to draw the relationship between education and experience as you look at entrepreneurship? Isn’t there a relationship between education and experience, some substitution, but with the ideal a mix of both? And tradeoffs between the two? And a continuum, shades of gray, rather than black or white?

My answer: don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it if it’s a horrible sacrifice. Don’t do it if you hate school. Don’t do it if you can’t afford it. Do it because you want to learn. Don’t do it if you hate school. And a few other points summarized in Read This Before You Get an MBA Degree.

{Illustration credit: my drawing on a chalkboard by Studio Aramita on Shutterstock.com)

Exclusivity – Love it or Leave It!

Exclusivity. Don’t you love it? You tell everyone you know, and then — damn — it’s not so exclusive any more.

I got invited today to be a member of the BNET Global Knowledge business Professional Advisory Panel, which sounded really good in the email subject line. I like BNET. Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve mentioned that site on this blog yet, but I should have. It’s related to the Harvard Business School and is generally a great resource with interesting articles.

Which is all cool, and to be invited to join the advisory council … except … oops! The email was addressed to “Dear BNET reader.” Pop, there goes the old ego. Never mind.

It’s a lot like getting an invitation to join who’s who addressed to “Dear Occupant.”

Earlier this year I was invited to join the Forbes.com business blogger network (you can see the icon on the sidebar) and that made me really happy until I clicked on the link (try it if you’re curious) to discover that Forbes.com is advertising for bloggers to be included. Goodbye exclusivity.

Seth Godin had a good post on that same subject, unfortunately also ego deflating, but spot on. Catchers and throwers, from a couple of months ago.

I had an interesting interaction along these lines this week. A woman named Jennifer Rosini at Forbes sent a note that read:

Hi ,

You are invited to join the new community of the high quality business and financial bloggers from Forbes.com. Our community – the Business and Financial Blog Network, will launch shortly.

I wrote her back, pointing out that she hadn’t even bothered to pretend it was a personal note… just a mail merge missing my name.

Come on, people, flatter me. That works much better.

“I sent the club a wire stating: Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” —Groucho Marx