By Galynn Nordstrom
Doing some recent reading on entrepreneurship, I came across an article in Forbes magazine, in which the author, Dr. Steven Berglas, gives some tips to budding businesspeople, beginning with:
1. Marry a June Bride (or Be One). He explains that the concept of, or preference for, a “June bride” isn’t that most marriages are held in the summer because of pleasant weather; rather, it’s because “back
in the day,” the moment children graduated from high school they were kicked out of the house. To make that prospect less threatening, Berglas continues, many graduates decided to get married right away (in June)
to lessen the anxiety of going off on one’s own.
When starting a business, he concludes, that translates to some good advice: look for partners when starting or expanding a business. Personally, I got married nine years after graduation (in March), which gives me considerably more to think about. But in terms of business planning and growth, I thought about this advice when re-reading “Ready, set, grow” and pairing it with “Sustaining a family business,” a discussion of Richard Seaman’s book A Vibrant Vision: The Entrepreneurship of Multigenerational Family Business.
Forming an official partnership is one effective way to cushion economic lows and bolster the highs (no upholstery puns intended). But in operational terms, what I hear and write about, more and more, is that business owners and managers are turning to their customers—and their competitors—for advice and guidance on growth. For example, this month’s Perspective subject, Bob Grambsch, says that customer requests were the beginning of Canvas Replacements. It isn’t always that straightforward, naturally, but it’s a lot easier to research customer preferences when they’re splashed all over the internet. Develop a product and find an audience, or find an audience and develop a product? It’s still an innovation if you develop it after first finding out what people want.
Dr. Berglas also advised readers to “be a thief”: borrow ideas, repackage, revise, re-apply. There’s a level of uneasiness about these tactics, admittedly; but if you decide to create a new version of a “Pet Rock” as an anchoring device for tents, isn’t that an innovation? You can watch what your competitors are doing, and you can learn a lot from similar businesses in similar markets, or in dissimilar markets. And often, you can discuss it with them directly.
There’s a third source of business partnership that’s fast coming to the fore: learning from your employees. Not just listening to them, but turning them into creative teams around different areas of operation, whether manufacturing, marketing, installation, customer service or new product development. With the critical need to find, train and retain skilled employees, making it clear that they’re a resource, and not an expenditure, could be another valuable recruiting tactic.