Federated Entrepreneurship 2

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, Events, skmurphy, Startups

Recapping on my earlier “Federated Entrepreneurship” post from January 5.

A federation is a union of partially self-governing units with a constitution that does not allow unilateral changes by a central governing body. I think it’s also a good model for what’s required to create an economically dynamic region. One parallel would be to a barn raising or Finnish talkoot, where a community comes together to solve an urgent problem that is beyond the means of a member or family in the community. As one of my old clients once remarked “it takes a village to raise a startup” and I think it takes a federation of entrepreneurs to improve the economy in a region.

Justin Bacon described this as a goal for his Minnesota Lean Startup Group in a comment on the LinkedIn Group

What we all hope to learn, the encouragement and advice that we give and/or receive, the lessons learned that we share and the relationships that we build, are as much about building this kind of community here locally as it is about helping us foster our own bootstrapped tech-startups.


Two other well known entrepreneurs have shifted their focus to entrepreneurial education.

Sramana Mitra outlined an ambitious New Year’s Resolution for 2010

Through the Entrepreneur Journeys project, I have come to conclude that the most vulnerable phase in an entrepreneur’s life is the pre $1 million revenue stage. This is where numerous ventures fail. Once the $1 million revenue milestone is crossed, entrepreneurs find it easier to find additional customers, manage working capital, and access funding, whether it is credit or equity.

In my roundtables, the vast majority of entrepreneurs I work with are in this rather vulnerable pre $1 million revenue stage.

Thus, I have come to the conclusion that if I could help a million entrepreneurs globally reach $1 million in revenue (and beyond), that would be the foundation of a robust, distributed, and sustainable economic value creation that would add up to a trillion dollars in global GDP. It would also result in creating at least 10 million jobs around the world.

Through my efforts — blog, books, columns, roundtables — I am trying to develop a scalable entrepreneurship education system that entrepreneurs from every corner of the world can access. I am sure, in 2010, this work will gain further momentum.

But I do need your help in getting the word out that this resource base is available for entrepreneurs who wish to access it. Each of you — if you believe in this vision — can directly or indirectly influence, perhaps, another hundred entrepreneurs, and help them clear the all-important $1 million revenue hurdle. By using bootstrapping, crisp positioning, and laser-sharp focus, entrepreneurs can, each in their individual domains, build small businesses with solid foundations.

Eric Ries also outlined a desire to move Towards a New Entrepreneurship in his first post of 2010:

When I started writing about the lean startup, my aspiration was to do more than just share a handful of tips and tricks that work for consumer internet startups. I believe the only way to improve our chances as entrepreneurs is to develop a working theory of entrepreneurship.

Like other industries – from publishing to automobiles – entrepreneurship is in the process of being disrupted by globalization. On the whole, this is a good thing for America and for our civilization. The cost of creating new companies is falling rapidly, and access to markets, distribution, and information is within the reach of anyone with an internet connection. The result is a profound democratization of the digital means of production.

In a subsequent post today Eric did a roundup of Lean Startup Resources; there is also this list of Meetups.

Related posts:

  • “Continuing Education in Entrepreneurship” from October 2006 suggests networking offers “knowledge that isn’t written down” (and not to be found in Mr. Google’s basement):
    “I had this epiphany that I had spent the last dozen years or so, since I started attending Software Entrepreneur Forum (now SDForum) and Churchill Club meetings, in this ad hoc program in continuing entrepreneurial education. Books are valuable, and not enough entrepreneurs do enough reading, but there is also a category of knowledge that hasn’t been written down yet. And you can gain wisdom from listening to someone who has played the game–even if it’s just their mistakes–that you would otherwise have to gain from your mistakes experience.”
  • Breakfast with Tom Anyos of Technology Ventures Corporation” Between 2002 and 2008 TVC offered a set of six monthly classes twice a year in Silicon Valley:
    • Entering the Entrepreneurial World
    • Market Research & the Marketing Plan
    • Financial Management
    • Preparing & Presenting the Business Plan
    • Operations Startup, Monitoring & Human Resources
    • The Term Sheet & Lessons Learned

Federated Entrepreneurship

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, skmurphy, Startups

Federated entrepreneurship was a phrase that William Krause used to explain 3Com’s model for management and innovation when he was CEO. Federation comes from a Latin word foedus for covenant or treaty and describes a union of partially self-governing units with a constitution that does not allow unilateral changes by a central governing body. It was a good model for the entrepreneurial business units at 3Com to pursue opportunities both independently and in concerted action.

Nanette Collins On Volunteering: Lessons Learned from the Trenches

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, skmurphy

I have known Nanette Collins for the better part of two decades and was delighted when she took me up on my offer of a guest blog on volunteering and managing volunteers. She is the principal at Nanette V. Collins Marketing and PR with offices in Boston and San Francisco and one the web at www.nvc.com

Working as a volunteer is the hardest job you’ll ever have, or so advised my officemate after she finished a phone call with the principal of her daughters’ parochial school. My friend and colleague had once again been bullied into a pro bono writing project that clients of our Public Relations firm would otherwise pay for … and dearly.

This long-ago memory came flooding back to me after Sean Murphy of SKMurphy asked me to write a guest post about volunteering. You see, I’ve just finished serving for many years as the volunteer Publicity Chair for the Design Automation Conference, an interesting, stressful, complex, demanding, but ultimately rewarding job.

As Sean points out, volunteerism is on the rise as new kinds of communities are built online or at face-to-face events. In my experience, good management skills are just as important to a volunteer corps as they are in a business setting, and perhaps even more so. As a result, the quality of the volunteer experience and the quality of the work performed depend on the management skills that volunteers are subjected to.

Throughout my career, the best managers have been the ones who have helped define my responsibilities, gave me the authority and allowed me to get the job done without much interference. They could be counted on to pave the way or remove obstacles when necessary, helping to make me a better, more productive employee. And, did I mention a happier employee? This management practice should be the way in which volunteers are managed as well.

Volunteers come in all varieties and motivations. Some want to burnish their own image, others want to give back or need to fill out their resume or curriculum vitae. And then there are some who are moving their employer’s agenda forward. Other volunteers thrive on the kudos. No matter, all need constant care and nurturing to make them productive participants. Open lines of communications help to keep everyone on track and enthusiastic. Volunteers should understand and be committed to the mutually stated goal, and the strategy and tactics to achieve it. Each volunteer should be recognized and thanked on a regular basis, along with continual and positive reinforcement.

It seems that volunteers often have more invested in the outcome than normal knowledge workers and, as a result, want to be far more involved in decision making. My advice to leaders of volunteer corps is to let them be as involved or uninvolved as they want to be. Inspiration and creatively can come from the unlikeliest of sources.

Of course, the quality of work produced by volunteers varies widely, from exceeding expectations to being barely passable. It can be inconsistent as workloads shift and situations change throughout the year. Micromanaging, discouraged in almost any business setting, doesn’t prompt loyalty or improve sub par or inconsistent work. Neither does second guessing because it wastes time and demotivates otherwise productive workers. My advice is to take the level of volunteerism you can get and quietly fill in the rest yourself, without micromanaging, criticizing or drawing attention.

A volunteer should not commit to a project or an assignment where they lack the training or expertise, or the time it takes to get it completed. Taking it on with the understanding that you’re learning a new skill or for professional development is fine and often encouraged — within reason, of course.

I sometimes think that the school principal had nothing on some of the volunteers I came across in my many years of service to DAC. It’s no different than working at a company — you can expect both excellent and not-so-great managers and colleagues. In my many years of service to DAC, I worked with both types with varying degrees of success. But then, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I walk away proud of the accomplishments of the Publicity Committee that recently included Peggy Aycinena, Annette Bley, Paul Cohen, Colleen Moran, Gabe Moretti, Emily Taylor and the team from MP Associates. All distinguish themselves with outstanding work, professionalism and a strong sense of community.

If you’re given a chance to volunteer for DAC, an online or face-to-face community or anything else, do it! You’ll be glad that you did. You may find, as I did, that the chance to give back is a thrill. The satisfaction that comes from a job well done and the opportunity to meet and work with some of the sharpest minds in our industry far exceed any perceived negatives.

Marketing Consultants Forum at CNSV

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, skmurphy

I took part in the Marketing Consultant’s forum at CNSV tonight as a panelist, joining Ahmet Alpdemir, Brian Berg, and Peter Salmon. The slides are on the CNSV site at http://californiaconsultants.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/CNSV-0901-Berg-Murphy-Alpdemir-Salmon.zip

My focus was on “Cultivating Communities to Get More Customers.” I addressed joining a community with the objective of becoming a member in good standing. Broadly there are two kinds of communities for a consultant: prospects and peers (who are both potential partners and competitors). In either case you want to learn and follow  unwritten rules and local customs, finding ways to contribute to the core purpose of the community.

In a peer community you want to think about joining and fostering a “stag hunt.” Here is a non-technical definition from the Game Theory Dictionary

The French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, presented the following situation. Two hunters can either jointly hunt a stag (an adult deer and rather large meal) or individually hunt a rabbit (tasty, but substantially less filling). Hunting stags is quite challenging and requires mutual cooperation. If either hunts a stag alone, the chance of success is minimal. Hunting stags is most beneficial for society but requires a lot of trust among its members.

What this means as a practical matter is that you are looking for other consultants who will be reliable and have complementary expertise. This will allow you to take on larger projects. You may also carry other consultant’s business cards so that you can refer work to them that’s appropriate if it’s not a match with your skills and expertise.

In a community that’s primarily prospects, you have to create more value than you harvest or you will be viewed as a parasite instead of a contributor. The challenge is to err on the side of caution in marketing your services. A side benefit, if you listen carefully, is to learn about emerging topics and issues before they become common knowledge.

It was a very well attended meeting. Brian Berg noted the organization has doubled in size in the last year and the downturn/recession has seen a lot of first time consultants join. There were a number of questions from folks who were considering consulting (or possibly anticipating an involuntary career change to consultant) as well as those who were new to consulting in the last year or so.

The challenge with learning how to market yourself as a consultant is that it’s typically a mid-career change that your earlier work as an engineer doesn’t prepare you well for. The technical challenges of consulting are for the most part straightforward compared to the new challenges in marketing oneself in a way that is authentic and effective. I think all of us on the panel were sensitive to those issues.

I would also encourage newer technical consultants to attend the CNSV marketing meetings that occur before the main meeting. Very experienced consultants like Carl Angotti and Walt Maclay donate their time to share a number of effective techniques for marketing a technical practice. They include a how to section where attendees can critique each other’s work (e.g. Craigslist profiles) and walk you through the process of posting on-line in appropriate forums.

Update Jan-24: I see that Mike Coop has also blogged about the meeting in “Recap: IEEE CNSV Meeting.

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