March 31, 2012


hand it over ... nice and slowIf you want to win the lottery, you've got to buy a ticket. These three entrepreneurs didn’t put the odds in their favour. One is established, another is starting and the third is planning. Let’s look at the impressions and lessons they provided without even knowing.

The Established Entrepreneur

The 50-something entrepreneur was speaking on a panel. She had 25+ years of experience in different ventures. Afterwards, a fellow speaker asked for her business card. She had none left. Why? She didn't bring many.

She didn't even ask for the other speaker's business card. He may have been  a potential client or centre of influence. We never know who knows who. Or who needs what when.

Impressions: this entrepreneur didn't look prepared or interested in getting new business. That's hardly a model to follow.

Lessons: carry extra business cards. If you don't have any left, get business cards from people asking for yours and send them an email afterwards. (I didn’t say these lessons are tough.)

The Newbie Entrepreneur

These days, entrepreneurship looks glitzy and perhaps more stable than working for a megacorp. This 20-something newbie MBA was exploring an international market niche with promise ... and established competitors. What made her different and trustworthy? This wasn't clear.

Age can be a handicap. Young may signal inexperienced. Old may signal outdated. Or the other way around. For instance, you might prefer a young social media whiz but an older advisor.

If you're on the wrong side of a stereotype, you need to find a way to show why you're the one to choose. Otherwise, you might educate but not get business.

This newbie had no business cards ... yet. She's not on LinkedIn. She has no visible digital tapestry. If Google can't find her, how can potential clients? Why would they bother?

Impressions: Properly printed business cards are cheap and still essential. If you're starting out, all you need on them is your name, phone number, email address and where to find you online (e.g., your personal website or LinkedIn profile). No business card = not serious.

Lessons: get your own business cards. Get enough that you feel compelled to hand them out because you have such a stock. I order 1,000 at a time.

The Future Entrepreneur

This 30-something MBA is working at a major bank and wants to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur. However, he had no business ideas. Not a single one.

We exchanged business cards. I offered to connect on LinkedIn but he's afraid to put a profile there. He thinks company policy forbids that. Is that possible? A LinkedIn profile is your personal resume. Would you want to work for a place that controlling?

Impressions: If you can't spot an opportunity, are you really an entrepreneur? If you chose to work in a megacorp rather than a smaller, more innovative company, perhaps you're too risk averse to succeed on your own.

Lessons: Keep your eyes open for a competitive advantage. Ideas are cheap. What can you do that makes you the best in the world? For success, you need to pick a niche that's small enough for you to dominate. If you're removed from the world of entrepreneurship, find a way to get closer to entrepreneurs. Learn from what they do. You may need to change your job and take on risk. Entrepreneurship requires sacrifices.

Room For You?

These entrepreneurs gave us lessons that they themselves haven’t mastered. Be alert and you’ll find lessons abound. As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”


Podcast 162

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PS What are your thoughts on entrepreneurship?

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