Posted November 5, 2012
How do we, the Technori community, define entrepreneurship? What do we believe it consists of? I'm always looking for a simpler way to explain what entrepreneurship requires. Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson offers the following straightforward definition of entrepreneurship:
"Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."
But this statement doesn't really tell you what you need to learn or what you'll be doing while you're at it. So after two years in the game, and as I launch my own startup, here's how I'm going to look at the three dimensions of business building. After you've taken a peak, I welcome your insights and further reflections.
First off, let's define the three dimensions. A lot of people will talk about "Product," "Market," and "Management," but these terms aren't really operable. For example, Product is too broad, it sweeps across every task and every teammate's work. I can hire marketeers, but I can't just go out and purchase a market; I have to earn it. And management is more than just working with your team - you also need to work with vendors, other organizations, your customers, and your press coverage. Add to these terms other popular business categories like: Quality Assurance, Engineering, Sales, Social Media, Accounting, Legal, etc. and you start to see how the business building landscape (as well as business titles) can get really cluttered, really quickly.
So I'm going to limit my definition of entrepreneurial practices to just three words. These three words will define my dimensions of entrepreneurship - or in other words, the three hats that I, as a business builder, must learn to wear comfortably. The words I'm going to use are "Design," "Development," and "Dealmaking."
What is your product or service? Why should it exist? Who are your users and what do they want/need?
These are the questions you ask when you're wearing the designer's hat. If you are fortunate enough to have a trained designer with experience in UX, UI, HCI, or any of the other popular acronyms, then you're off to a good start. For me, design is about one thing and one thing only: getting the details right. It was my business partner Adam Schwem who clued me into this one.
If Apple doesn't get the details right on the iPod, then they never make the iPhone, iPad, or any other device. If Google doesn't get the details right on Internet search, then they never rise above Yahoo, Alta Vista, or any other 1990s competitor. Getting the details right is about constant refinement, constantly improving your product or service, and never being satisfied or impressed with yourself. This is the world of a designer. Welcome.
How do we make this work? What are the pieces of this puzzle that need to be solved in order to deliver our product or service? Who do we need to be part of this solution?
These are the questions a developer must ask. It's all about resource management, unraveling puzzles, and optimizing solutions. What are the development challenges you're facing? Mine include how to merge learning, mobile technology, and personal growth in an effective and efficient way. Many business people seem to want a technical co-founder. But what you really need is a founder who revels in the technical challenges of developing a real solution to your customer's problems. This has to be more than someone who can build your solution; it has to be someone who wants to prove that he or she can, even where other's couldn't.
I'm going to take the liberty of grouping marketing, sales, human resources, operations, management and anything else that's employee or customer facing in your business under the broad category of "dealmaking." I do this because I believe there is a human component to every business, and it's not just found in the product design.
In order to have a successful business you need to be a fantastic dealmaker. Every agreement you make with the people involved in your business is a deal. You offer your customers a deal every time they purchase your product or service. You offer every employee in your company a deal before they even agree to work for you. Legal agreements, financial agreements, marketing messages, sales contracts - everything comes down to a deal of one kind or another. The strength of my business will depend on my ability to negotiate deals where everyone wins and honor them with every fiber of my being.
What kind of deals are you making? Are you treating others with the same respect you want to be treated with?
Entrepreneurship is a three dimensional adventure. There's design, development, and dealmaking. Are you ready to put on your business builder's glasses and see in 3D? If so, then I entreat you to take a good hard look at entrepreneurship, and tell me: what do you see?