As an entrepreneur, does it bother you that due to the absence of a huge support staff, you are forced to have mastery in too many topics – business design, product design, sales, HR, operations, finance, logistics and more? If so, worry no more. In this post, I’ll provide information on the essential knowledge and skills for an entrepreneur – the one cure for most issues.
In effect, this is the one shot MBA for entrepreneurs. Let’s start.
To start with, you are wrong to assume that it is not possible for one man to master so many domains. The skills of different domains are not different. Most are the same. There are just some skills, the need which reappear again and again in different areas of business. Let me clarify by use of an analogy. A carpenter would be wrong in assuming that making a wardrobe calls for different skills from those required in making a chair or making wooden cabin. For each of these finished products, all he needs is the same few skills – cutting wood, smoothing it, jointing it, gouging it, chiseling it etc. The product – wardrobe, chair, cabin – call for just repetitions of the same few skills, maybe in different contexts each time. If he masters the basic skills, he should have no difficulty in picking up any brochure or design map and creating a finished product.
As an entrepreneur, the trick lies in getting to the basic skills which are required in most areas of the business and in all phases of your product development. But first, let us be clear on what I mean by an ‘entrepreneur’ here.
For my purposes here, I mean a person who is starting or handling a business, mostly by himself. Unlike many corporate bosses, he is fully ‘hands-on’, though with some support. In his business, he takes almost all decisions, big and small, mainly because it is his baby (and his money). Start-ups almost always, fall in this category.
What is the working environment of such entrepreneurs?
Some are in the very first stage of choosing a field or industry in which they think they can make money. Others have zeroed on to the industry and product, but are yet to structure and configure the business details i.e. what version of product, who to sell to, who to ally with, how to source, how to deliver etc. Once they generate their first ideas and start, problems small and big assail them. Then they produce the first product. Soon, market feedback tells him that product requires re-design in terms of improvement of features or reduction in cost. He produces a reiteration of the product, which causes a contradiction i.e. a cheaper product sells well initially but soon falls off the market. The contradiction is – quality versus price. The game goes on.
So, what if an entrepreneur masters just some basic skills which cater for 90% of the situations he’ll meet in his work? That’s exactly what the program ‘Entrepreneurs’ Tool Box’ offers. It consists of top 10 DIY techniques, taught through a step-by-step, hands-on methodology. Together, the collection caters for tools for almost all situations an entrepreneur would face from the moment he first dreams of being one to actually been a successful one.
In all tools below I will refer to the word ‘your product’. For a service provider, this should be read as ‘your service’.
In addition to entrepreneurs, these work for managers in an organization too, while trying to improve their organization itself. After all, Organizational Development is also a product and a service, albeit for an internal client.
- Tool 1 – Finding the Sweet spot – If you ever get an idea that it is time to look for a field/market which is ripe for making money in, whatever it be, use this tool. This will help you look at all possible areas which today offer such opportunities. From here, you could select the one that appeals to you most. Within that broad area, the tool will further help you to get to the right product.
- Tool 2- Converting an idea into a balanced business – Having found a profitable idea, now is the time to convert it to a balanced business – what exactly should you sell, to whom, at what platforms to sell, what revenue model, who all should you ally with, what processes to use etc.
- Tool 3 – Outlining your competitor – To be able to keep an eye on your competitor, you should know who he is. He may not be in your business or even in your industry. Anyone who meets the ‘Purpose and Value’ your product provides, is your customer. This tool will help you to home in fast to your competitors.
- Tool 4 – Developing the Peripheral Vision – Having set the ball in motion and outlining the competitors, now is the time to place sentries around your business. We know that threats (and opportunities) emerge gradually at the periphery of any business. Since our focus is understandably at the centre – our product and processes – the nascent threats (and opportunities) elude us while still out at the periphery. By the time they do drift in our focus, the threats have become too strong and the opportunities too weak. The solution lies in developing peripheral vision, like that of good basketball players, which allows them to keep the focus on where the game is presently being played but also on the action happening at the periphery. This tool allows you that remarkable capability.
- Tool 5- Beating complexity to reach the core problem– While solving problems, one occasionally runs into the problem of circles within circles. Issue A is caused by issue B, B is caused by C and D, while D is caused by A and E. This recursive nature of problem, the mix-up between cause and effect, makes it difficult to find out the core issue to be addressed for optimal benefit. In such a situation, this tool is very helpful.
- Tool 6 – Producing Version 2 of the product – After feedback from the market, it is time to produce the version 2 of your product. This tool will help you generate the right ideas for this activity. It can also be used for continuous, incremental improvement of your product.
- Tool 7 – Listening to the ‘Voice of the product’ – We have been too used to listen to the voice of the customer. While that is useful, we mostly miss out on listening to the voice of the product. If we know how to, we can hear the product clearly speaking out several areas for its own improvement.
- Tool 8 – Multiplying the benefits; limiting the damage – This allows you to exponentially multiply the benefits from whatever satisfaction your product is providing to the customer or the inherent strengths of the organization. This further allows you to reduce, limit and sometime remove the damage which is inherent in your product or organization.
- Tool 9 – Expanding to new areas – Now is the time to move to newer areas of potential benefit. This is best done by basing the expansion on your existing product. This tool uses a well known technique to look at your core capabilities from a new perspective, suggesting totally new markets and products.
- Tool 10 – Taking decisions – This is used in two variants – taking decisions under certainty (one-decision maker only environment) and also taking decisions under uncertainty (several decision-makers environment.)
These tools are especially useful for entrepreneurs. They are also of great use to line managers in any business while dealing with product/process issues.
Another toolbox are available for those dealing with innovation and yet another for those dealing with leadership issues.