Some of the world's greatest companies were founded and turned into Fortune 500 firms by their original creators. American Express, 3M, Boeing, Citicorp, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott International and Merck, to name a few, were built by entrepreneurs who turned them into great companies.
Retirees from these companies probably remember the good old days when marketing strategies could turn on a dime. You didn't need four signatures, your first born and approval committees of hundreds to move a strategy forward. That kind of agile, responsive marketing still exists today in small businesses.
In the US, small business represents more than 80% of all business, employs more than half the workforce and creates 66% of net new jobs.
Knowing the Business Inside and Out
Who better to know how their businesses run then entrepreneurs?
- They conceive a product or service (research and development).
- They test it (market research).
- They develop plans to raise awareness and educate people about the product or service (marketing, advertising, PR).
- They get someone to take the leap and purchase the product or service (sales).
- They deliver the product or service (logistics, packaging, customer service).
- They gauge satisfaction (more research).
- They develop pricing plans and billing and collection systems (Accounts receivable).
They see and know their entire operation and how one piece affects all others. How many of us can see that deeply into our organizations? If we could, would we be able to make sense of what we see?
Entrepreneurs see the world in a different way. Different perspectives foster innovation. All around a given community, there are hundreds of success stories of mom-and-pop operations that have grown successful enterprises in all types of product and service areas. It does not have to be an enterprise in your sector. Better that it is not. Seek out and engage these entrepreneurs.
- Ask successful entrepreneurs to address your staff, your executive team and your board. Entrepreneurs are agile; they adapt to changing market conditions quickly and learn how to prosper in all types of situations.
- Consider appointing entrepreneurs to the board.
- Include an entrepreneur in your mastermind group.
- Bring them in when you have a challenging situation to see how they would address it.
- Look for people who have a track record of success. It is infinitely more interesting to see how someone with little domain knowledge in your area but with the "street smarts" would address a situation.