Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 23, 2009
At Growthink, our mission is "to serve the world's entrepreneurs." When I share this with folks, they often come back to me with "Who are these entrepreneurs that are your mission to serve?" Touché.
So who is and who isn't an entrepreneur?
I like Professor Arthur O'Sullivan's definition, from "Economics: Principles in Action" the best - "An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of an new enterprise, venture or idea, and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. He or she is an ambitious leader who combines land, labor, and capital to often create and market new goods or services."
In the U.S. alone, this represents the more than 6 million new businesses started every year, and the many, many millions more contemplated. The figure worldwide is a BIG multiple of this.
Thank heavens for all of them - according to a famous M.I.T study new business starts account for more than 2/3 of all net new job creation. Especially as by far the biggest economic issue facing America (and the world, for that matter) is job creation, these entrepreneurs truly hold the key to our nation's and the world's long-term prosperity more than any other group.
Individuals LEADING Small Companies. Per that M.I.T study, the other 1/3 of net new job creation comes from the so-called "gazelles," - rapidly growing, emerging companies. The most common statistical definition of these are the 641,000 U.S. firms with between 20 to 1,000 employees. They, along with startups, account for more than 62% of all private sector employment.
Anyone that has spent even a day at a gazelle can literally breathe the entrepreneurship in the air. The best of them are led by deeply ambitious men and women walking the talk of American business. The President, in his inaugural speech, described them best:
"Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated, but more often, men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."
Let us hope he and our Washington leaders think often of these inspirationally hard-working folks when crafting governmental policy in the months and years to come.
All of us know small business men and women - that while certainly possessing of many wonderful attributes - for whom it would be a big stretch to describe them as "ambitious leaders."
To best illustrate, I suggest you attend a meeting of your local chamber of commerce and hear how much of the debate is focused on problems and grievances versus vision and possibility. Sad, but true.
The "Non-obvious" Entrepreneurs
I find the startup and small business entrepreneurs worthy of great praise and respect. In some ways, I am even MORE impressed with those that demonstrate strong, ambitious, principled entrepreneurial leadership in the contexts of bureaucracy, politics, and vexing social challenges.
Here are a few:
Bono, arguably the world's best known philanthropic celebrity, is an entrepreneur on two fronts. First, via his commitment to world-class creative output as the leader of the mega-rock band U2. And he is an entrepreneur, via his unique effectiveness as an activist and spokesperson and doer of big projects for causes close to his heart - human rights, third world debt relief, and AIDS and African development issues. If you think it is tough to get a city business permit, try getting governments of affluent nations to work together to solve global social challenges that barely garner a back-page sentence or two in the "it bleeds, it leads media" that voters back home call news.
Because entrepreneurship as its essence is about creation, and the success of one entrepreneur ANYWHERE results in a better life for everyone EVERYWHERE.
I look forward to your attendance and feedback.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Saturday, November 21, 2009
This past Tuesday, Warren Buffett and Goldman Sachs announced that they were donating $500 million to assist 10,000 small businesses in the U.S.
To begin, this is pretty cool. Any money invested in small businesses is sure to lead to more jobs and an improved economy. And even better when this money is not coming from taxpayer dollars.
However, what I found most interesting was where Buffet decided to invest the $500 million. I say "Buffett" and not Goldman Sachs, since Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest shareholder in Goldman Sachs, giving me the impression that he was calling the shots on this one.
According to Bloomberg.com, the moneys will be allocated as follows: "$200 million to local community colleges, universities and other institutions to provide small-business owners with practical business education.... $300 million through a combination of lending and philanthropic support to community development financial institutions."
$200 million to "practical business education" - that's what rang out the loudest to me. As one of the greatest investors ever, Buffett knows first hand that entrepreneurs that succeed are the ones who have the right business education and training.
Successful entrepreneurs realize that they themselves are one of their organization's greatest assets. As such, they constantly invest in themselves by taking courses, reading books, and upgrading all of their key skills.
Regarding the other $300 million, it is being provided to community development financial institutions (CDFIs). CDFIs generally provide financing and related services to individuals and small businesses in struggling or underserved communities. If you have or would like to start a business in one of these communities, go to CFDI Coalition website to find a list of certified CFDIs.
Finally, speaking of practical business training, I'm unveiling a brand-new version of Growthink University this week.
Learn more, here:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I got home for work the other day and sat down with my family for dinner.
"How was your day?" I asked my kids. My kids proceeded to tell me about how their days went. Everything seemed like it was going well.
So, I asked my son, "Did you get to practice lacrosse today?" As a bit of background, my son plays on a highly competitive lacrosse team, and if he doesn't practice enough, he risks losing his position.
"No dad. I didn't have time," he replied.
Now this, unfortunately, is NOT an acceptable answer. In fact, according to Napoleon Hill, author of the famed book, "Think And Grow Rich," what my son gave me was an alibi (or excuse) for not succeeding.
In his final chapter, Hill listed 57 alibis for not succeeding. The list started with the following:
Since I had just finished listening to the book (I constantly listen to books on tape while driving), the alibi "IF I only had time" was fresh in my head.
So, the correct thing to say to my son would have been, "You didn't have time. That's not an excuse. If you really want to succeed at lacrosse, you would have made time."
But, I didn't say that for one simple reason. And that reason is that my son is just nine years old. He doesn't need that type of aggressive coaching, yet.
But you, each of you reading this today, to you, I will stand by giving you a hard time for making any of these alibis. And as importantly, I hold myself accountable for every time I say I don't have time or "if" this or "if" that.
These "ifs" are unacceptable. If each of us are going to achieve our true potential as entrepreneurs, we need to remove these alibis. We need to envision success, and create business and action plans to achieve it. And we must not stop there. Because our original business and action plans most like will NOT succeed.
Rather, we need to keep assessing our progress and modifying our plans until we achieve success. And never ever, along the way, can we get caught up in alibis. Since these alibis will kill our positive energy. They will take us down the wrong paths. And they will prevent us from achieving our goals.
For my son, I'll give him five more years until I get tougher on him and teach him to stop making alibis. For you and me, let's put our alibis behind us. And focus our energies on achieving massive success. And then, making sure the people we know and love also do the same.
Written by Jay Turo on Sunday, November 15, 2009
Two pieces of startling news to consider when thinking about how money is really made in our brand-driven 21st century economy:
Director Cameron, of Titanic, is blowing away ALL movie cost records here. To give a feel of the size of the bet that Cameron, Fox, and private equity partners Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Media, are taking on the film, Avatar may have to become one of the top-twenty grossing movies of ALL time just to break-even!
2. Ms. Kim Kardashian, kindly described by Wikipedia as "an American celebutante, socialite, model, actress, businesswoman, and television personality" is the 8th most followed person on Twitter. She trails only Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears, Ellen Degeneres, Oprah Winfrey, and oh yes, the President of the United States.
This is relevant only because, whatever you think about the quality/lines of work and political leanings of others on the list, at least they have actually DONE SOMETHING to become famous.
Ms. Kardashian, for all of her obvious charms, is that particular modern phenomenon of seemingly being famous because she is, well, famous.
The logicians of the time - most prominently John Stuart Mill- associated the term "Black Swan" to the concept that a "previously perceived impossibility may actually come to pass."
Bringing it to November 2009, man who would have thought that a) a movie featuring a love story between 2 ten-foot tall blue aliens and b) a 29-year old actress with no major film or television credits or awards would have far more brand and marketing dollars and reach behind them than every single technology startup in the United States combined?
The answer: Nobody. And more importantly, the phenomenons of Avatar and Ms. Khardashian CANNOT - I repeat CANNOT - be retroactively analyzed for guidance as to what the next new thing will be. As Kim might say - "just don't go there."
So the true Black Swan acolyte does not look for guidance from past, outlier events, he or she does seek lessons. Here are three:
It is what getting rich in America SHOULD be about. But the statistics tell a far different story.
Think about the size of Avatar's reach - a $300 million production budget? $200 million for marketing? There probably aren't 10 technology startups in the whole world with these kinds of numbers behind them.
And the nice thing about a movie versus a startup is that you can usually find out in real-time if you have something. Don't you think the VC's with their full portfolios of "waking dead" startups would like to find out as Fox will with Avatar, in like 2 weeks, if they have something?
2) "Vanilla" investment in business models, in corporations, LLCs and the like, are almost passing into the realm of quaintness. I come back to my good friend Rafe Furst and his brilliant idea of the personal investment contract.
Investing in any one of Ms. Kardashian's various companies (perfume, clothing, DVD projects) is highly risky and on the surface, not all that attractive. But being able to invest in the Kim Khardasian personality brand itself - with her top 1,000 website and 2.8 million Twitter followers (put this in perspective - Jim Kramer's Mad Money gets about 300,000 viewers/day) - is a sure-fire moneymaker.
That is philosophy - here is money-making: The big, big outlier events - the 1,000 to 1 shots and beyond - are always, always, always, UNDER-PRICED in the marketplace.
Bet on them.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, November 10, 2009
One of the absolute keys to a successful business plan is to create the right business plan milestones. Doing so is essential to securing investors and making real progress towards achieving your goals.
There are lots of things that all of us do, and do as well as we have to, without thinking.
If you still need to complete your business plan, let me send you my CD with seven more essential business plan secrets. I explain why I'm doing this and how you can get it now, on this page right here:
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 9, 2009
Passing with surprisingly little fanfare, today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
One of my most enduring memories of my college days (I was an International Relations Major at Stanford, Class of 1990) was a class that I took from an extremely engaging and charismatic young professor on Soviet Foreign Policy.
One statement that my professor made stayed with me - that probably none of us in our lifetimes would see the Berlin Wall fall.
a) The inevitable brain and talent drain that an opening of the wall would bring about
b) The more that people in the old Soviet republics and in Eastern Europe were allowed to see with their own eyes the freedom and prosperity that liberal capitalism creates, the more likely they would be to rebel against their masters.
Thus, the Soviet leadership, out of pure and obvious self-interest, would never allow it to happen.
Well, the rest is history. Six months after this perhaps off-hand classroom statement, the Berlin Wall came down. And 15 years later, my young and charismatic professor - Condoleezza Rice - was named the 66th United States Secretary of State.
I am not exaggerating when I say that of all of my college experiences and memories (at least the ones I can remember..:), that that day and that class and Professor Rice's statement stayed with me. Why?
1. It inculcated in me at a very early age that the future is very, very uncertain, and that there is often little correlation between the depth of one's understanding of a topic and the ability to PREDICT about it.
Professor Rice KNEW the Soviet Union - even then she was considered one of the nation's most knowledgeable and versed thinkers and commentators on topic. And yet she, like so many others, was wildly wrong here.
2. While I could not put it into words until last year when my good friend and perhaps best thinker on "systems of prediction" I know - Rafe Furst - introduced me to Nicholas Taleb's masterpiece "The Black Swan," I and many others intuitively felt that something VERY, VERY, VERY outside of the realm of prediction took place the day the wall fell.
3. And more deeply, BECAUSE it fell outside the realm of prediction, it MATTERED. The "smell test" on these kinds of moments are simple - they are the ones we remember where we were when we first heard about them.
For my generation - The Space Shuttle Disaster (and Reagan's incredible speech that night), The 1987 Stock Market Crash, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Clinton's impeachment, September 11th, the capture of Saddam, and the fall of Lehman (for those of more business/financially-minded) fall into this category.
My friend Rafe and Taleb tie this core life insight to business and investing.
How? By only wagering on the unpredictable. Raynor in the Strategy Paradox makes the same point. BIG success and BIG money are only made on the BIG outliers - everything else is just transom.
In a strange way, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a seminal event in my youth that pointed me to my life's work. It affirmed by belief in liberal capitalism and in the "way of the West" as the right and proper end of history.
And in business, it led me to entrepreneurship and to private equity.
Why? Because it is in the aspirations of the entrepreneur and of their backers that the power of the unpredictable is made most real in business.
Those that grasp it - the Bezos, the Brins, the Pages, the Josh James of Omniture, the Aaron Patzers of Mint.com, the Kevin Planks of Under Armour, MAKE history.
And hopefully take the rest of us along for the ride.
I look forward to your attendance and feedback.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, November 9, 2009
I recently recorded a CD with my 7 best business plan secrets.
After listening to my CD, you'll be far ahead of your competition because you'll have critical knowledge and skills, such as:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, November 9, 2009
Watch my video review of the book below:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, November 3, 2009
This past Sunday, CIT Group Inc., the 101-year-old commercial lender, filed for bankruptcy.
This filing is NOT good for American businesses, as CIT Group funds, via providing loans and working capital, about 1 million businesses.
CIT's bankruptcy will not only prove difficult for the small and medium-sized businesses that rely on CIT's working capital loans. But, it hurts the thousands of startups who planned to approach CIT for startup business financing; with the bankruptcy, it is highly unlikely that CIT will be able to make the same number of new loans as before.
It is for reasons such as this, that I frequently preach that businesses leverage multiple forms of capital. In fact, you've probably heard me talk of companies like Google, who leveraged credit cards, angel capital, venture capital and bank loans in its early days.
One form of startup business financing is never enough. It's the classic "putting all of your eggs in one basket." In addition to the risk involved in this strategy, it is also typically less expensive to diversify your financing. For example, bank loans used for the purchasing of equipment is almost definitely less expensive than using equity financing for the same expenditure.
Personally, my favorite forms of capital are creative/alternative financing (since it is easy to raise if you know what to look for), angel financing (also easy to raise if you know how to do it) and bank financing (easy to raise if your business is a good fit for it).
I'm also a big fan of venture capital and grant financing, but these forms of capital take a little longer to raise and are more challenging (but the rewards are significant if you are successful).
To become an expert in raising each of these forms of capital, learn more with the links below:
Growthink's Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources presents 28 proven creative and alternative sources of capital to fund your new or growing business.
Growthink's Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Capital from Angel Investors will guide you through the process of raising money from individual "angel" investors.
Growthink's Step by Step Guide to Raising Capital From Banks and SBA Lenders will teach you how to quickly and easily get the right SBA and/or bank loan to fund your business.
Growthink's Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Venture Capital presents our proven system for raising venture capital for your business on favorable terms.
Growthink's Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Capital from Grants will guide you through the process of winning grants to fund your business.
Written by Jay Turo on Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Google. Omniture. Mint.com. All massive private company investing success stories and all shared some critical characteristics:
1. They all took a while to blossom. In the case of Omniture, it was 13 long years from company founding to exit last week via sale to Adobe for $1.8 billion.
2. Those that made the most money by far were those that got in early. Sure, it would have been great to have owned Google at its 2004 IPO price of $85/share, but some of the FIRST investors in Google in 1998 bought their shares - on a split-adjusted basis - at eight CENTS/share.
3. All had/have great leaders. Josh James, founder and CEO of Omniture, has led his company through a failed acquisition, through having to lay off 3/4 of the company's employees a week before Christmas, an IPO, and attracting the best software talent far from Silicon Valley (in Omniture's case, suburban Utah).
4. Lady luck smiled on them. In the case of Mint.com, Intuit's inability to move their key personal financial software apps to the "cloud" (in spite of having 100 x more software developers working on it than Mint) was the key stroke of luck that led to Intuit buying them in September for $170 million.
The key question with luck, always, is how we can make it work for us. And the stories of Google's, Omniture's, and Mint.com's success point the way.
I look forward to your attendance and feedback.
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