Telling the truth about SME life today

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Now, readers, I know you are busy individuals, but if you get a minute, it’s worth reading the whole article.

For the rest of you, I’ve picked some gems from the Alyssa Royse blog in Seattle PI. She calls it, “An Entrepreneur and an MBA walk into a wall.”

Royse points out: “[The] difference between a "business person" and an "entrepreneur" …[is] like the difference between those adrenaline junkies who ski off cliffs vs. rational people who ski ON mountains rather than OFF of them.”

[Note: Would you agree Which one are you?]

It’s not surprising that the US has a more forgiving attitude toward failure. Yankee Royse goes on to discuss perceptions of success; she wants us to shift our focus from the endgame, to the “journey”.

This does relate to the entrepreneur/MBA issue, but if you want to see how she expands on it, you’ll have to read the post. I’ll only end up copying and pasting the whole thing, otherwise.

But she does have a quote from a very interesting blog by Paul Graham:

“If you work your way down the Forbes 400 making an x next to the name of each person with an MBA, you’ll learn something important about business school. You don’t even hit an MBA till number 22, Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. There are only four MBAs in the top 50. What you notice in the Forbes 400 are a lot of people with technical backgrounds. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos, Gordon Moore. The rulers of the technology business tend to come from technology, not business. So if you want to invest two years in something that will help you succeed in business, the evidence suggests you’d do better to learn how to hack than get an MBA.”

Though Royse does suggest that the two breeds of businessperson may find some use for each other after all.

“Ask a first time entrepreneur with no experience – but a brilliant idea – to create 5-year projections with several P & L scenarios based on market variations. HA! That stuff still makes me sweat, but I can do it now, because my successful businessmen, MBA advisors, developed them with me and taught me how to do it, understand it and talk about it.”

The there’s four tips on “learning from eachother”. Obvious, perhaps, but useful.

1. Once you have a solid enough plan to not sound like an idiot talking about it, start looking for your board of advisors. I’ve blogged about this before, but this is when you find the really smart people and start asking for their help. (The smartest thing you can do is to surround yourself by really smart people who know more than you do about the things you don’t know.)

2. If you bring in the MBA guy too early, you will possibly be setting both of you – and your company – up for failure. When there is a company to run – one with employees and revenue – then you will want all of the systems training and experience that you can find. Prior to that, you will both be fish out of water.

3. You cannot bring in anyone – much less a "big gun" – until you know exactly what it is that you need them to do for the success of the company. That means goals that can be executed and quantified so that you all know you are on course. No matter how much you like someone, if you don’t know what they need to do, how they need to do it and on what timeline, you are setting yourself up for a slow and murky journey to nowhere.

4. No matter what, you have to be sure that you are all sharing the same vision. Nothing assures that slow and murky journey to nowhere quite like having everyone on a different path.

Royse sums up with a clichéd but apt observation. Though, perhaps RB just likes the phrase "balls-to-the-wall". It’s got gumption.

“All of us with the MBAs and years of experience need to know that without the balls-to-the-wall dreamers nothing would ever change. All of us balls-to-the-wall dreamers need to know that very often, it’s the process and dependability of the more traditional business folks that can actually execute on the plan.”


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