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Turn Your Great Idea into a Thriving Business!
“A guide that sets first-time entrepreneurs’ feet...
Turn Your Great Idea into a Thriving Business!
“A guide that sets first-time entrepreneurs’ feet in the right direction.”
Geoffrey Moore, author, Crossing the Chasm
“There are many books on entrepreneurship, but this is one of the few that will convert individuals to entrepreneurs.”
Desh Deshpande, founder, Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, MIT; chairman, A123 Systems; cochair, National Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
About the Book:
Are you among the many Americans who dream of starting a business but think you don’t know how? Help has arrived . . .
For generations, Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business have influenced and driven global entrepreneurship. Dartmouth firsts include the world petroleum industry, technological breakthroughs like artificial intelligence and BASIC computer language, as well as popular products, such as the Nerf football and the game Crainium.
Today a key resource for the Dartmouth Community is the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN), which helps anyone from undergraduates to faculty to alumni get their ideas off the ground and into the marketplace.
In From Idea to Success, entrepreneur, professor, and DEN founder Gregg Fairbrothers takes you step by proven step through the DEN approach, showing you how to apply the same principles to make your vision a reality. If you have an idea—any idea—from major technology innovations, to consumer products or services, to social enterprises, From Idea to Success shows you how to bring it to fruition.
This A to Z guide based on the startup experiences of literally hundreds of entrepreneurs makes the process simple as possible by breaking it down into three distinct parts:
Step 1: Focusing and Refining Your Idea
Define your goals, pinpoint your market, protect your idea, manage the risks in your undertaking
Step 2: Business Planning Best Practices Create a business plan, build your team, learn about the competition, raise finances, get the important legal issues right the first time
Step 3: Managing Your Company Build your negotiating, selling, and decision-making skills; manage your finances; correct your course; manage the transition to a healthy, growing business
Building a vibrant company based on your own creativity and hard work is one of the most fulfilling human enterprises there is. With this book and your own experience you can think and act like a successful entrepreneur from the very start.
Who Is the Entrepreneur?
Our so-called limitations, I believe,
Apply to faculties we don't apply.
We don't discover what we can't achieve
Until we make an effort not to try.
In 2005 an AC Nielson survey found that 58 percent of Americans self-report they dream of starting a business and being their own boss. Other writers report that the proportion is as high as two-thirds to three-quarters. The number of Americans who are operating what might be called entrepreneurial businesses is estimated at 10 to 15 percent, and the number who actually start new businesses in a specific year is well under half a percent. If so many people want to start and run their own businesses, why do so few actually do it? Is it because they think they know what it takes to be entrepreneurial and don't think they have it? In a 2009 survey, 82 percent of randomly selected respondents said they had at least once considered starting their own businesses but didn't do it; more said they believed there were critical things they didn't know than said they were worried about taking the risk. Why this gap? What do they think they are missing? What do they think entrepreneurial means? What assumptions are they making?
Before people can decide anything, they must at least believe that they understand what they are deciding; they have to start with definitions of the words they are using to describe what they are considering. Even if they don't deliberately set out to define their terms carefully, they are working with implicit definitions. In fact, that is normally the case: People base decisions on words and concepts they have not taken the time to examine and understand. No wonder so much sloppy thinking and deciding (or not deciding) goes on.
If we want to know why people think they can't be entrepreneurial, let's start by defining some terms. To start, what is entrepreneurial? The confusion starts right away. Most people don't talk about entrepreneurial; they talk about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Indeed, on the first day of class, when we ask our MBA students to define entrepreneurial, many respond that it is "starting a new company." That might be part of it, but no. Feeling clever, some will say entrepreneurial is a person who starts a new company. But if it is just someone who starts a new company, what about the repeatedly successful inventors who license innovations to others and never start their own companies? They are not entrepreneurial? How about someone like Thomas Watson of IBM or Ray Kroc of McDonald's who builds a great success on the smaller foundation of an existing company? How about a person who starts a nonprofit or something big and new from inside an existing company?
Some students catch on to the idea and broaden the definition to describe entrepreneurial as a person driven to achieve, someone with a high tolerance for risk. Yes, this covers the objections, but it turns out that most studies of entrepreneurs don't support the notion that they are unusually driven to achieve. Many years of research have turned up few substantial personality characteristics that predict who will be a successful entrepreneur. As to being overly tolerant of risk, most entrepreneurs have a finely developed sense of risk and, when studied, don't turn out to have more tolerance for risk than managers in large organizations. They don't embrace risk; they focus on quantifying and systematically eliminating risks. Good entrepreneurs—the successful ones—identify what could go wrong and then take whatever steps they can to reduce the odds that this will happen, or they find another idea. Regardless, this is defining entrepreneurial as a person—a noun—or as an action—a verb. Look again at the part of speech: Entrepreneurial is an adjective.
Why is this important? Why does it matter if we are talking about a certain part of speech? The way we use words affects not only how others understand us but, perhaps more important, how we understand ourselves. Words frame our thinking, shape how we see opportunities, and expand or limit the way we see possibilities in the environment and in ourselves. Verbs and nouns, along with phrases such as "starting a new company" and "risk-tolerant person" are all or nothing. They reinforce the idea that you are or you aren't, you do or you don't. You're a have or a have-not. But working with the concept as an adjective frees you from binary either-or thinking because adjectives can work in degrees.
When you think about entrepreneurial as an adjective, you can come up with a list of synonyms. Here are some adjectives our classes often list when we ask them to describe a person who is entrepreneurial:
Innovative and creative
Self-motivated; takes initiative
Flexible and adaptable
Active and dynamic
Implementation- and efficiency-focused
Productive in an unstructured environment
Driven to create value
People- and team-focused
Like any collection of adjectives, this set of characteristics can manifest in all kinds of combinations and degrees. Everyone has at least some of these characteristics. Instead of all or nothing, you can start to think about which entrepreneurial traits you possess and to what degree.
You see here a mindset, a way of thinking and acting, an orientation rather than a person or a specific action. Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School characterizes this mindset as a "relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources controlled." The entrepreneurial focus is on opportunity and results. It asks:
Where is the opportunity?
How do I capitalize on it?
How quickly can I act?
What resources do I need?
How do I access those resources?
How can I do more with less?
Where do I want to be at the end?
An entrepreneurial person wants to pursue opportunities and results without worrying too much about process. Whatever process will turn the opportunity into reality is the right process. Adjectives make it possible to execute, but they don't make it inevitable. When studied against measures of successful outcomes, only three characteristics seem to correlate much with success: proactivity, achievement orientation, and commitment to others. Of course, studies that regress success measures have all kinds of methodological limitations, so don't take this to mean that all those characteristics aren't valuable in the entrepreneurial world. The studies are looking at entrepreneurial. You want to look along it.
In the end, ideas and innovation are nice, but it is execution that creates value. Stevenson declares, "There are innovative thinkers who never get anything done; it is necessary to move beyond the identification of opportunity to its pursuit." In the entrepreneurial world, only results can create value and generate rewards.
It can seem daunting to go in one leap from a nearly clueless state of having an idea and not knowing where to start to running a successful business with all the skills and experience that entails. But remember what we said about all or nothing and adjectives. You don't need to go from one to the other overnight. It's a process. Imagine you are at the base of a tall cliff and all the mindset and know-how of the successful entreprene
Excerpted from FROM IDEA TO SUCCESS by GREGG E. FAIRBROTHERS. Copyright © 2011 by Gregg E. Fairbrothers and Tessa M. Winter. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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