Today my friend and serial entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz came out with his new book The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. The book provides insight for cash strapped visionaries with little or no entrepreneurial experience. Mike is an expert entrepreneur as he’s founded, operated, and sold two multi-million dollar companies. Mike also authors a great entrepreneurial blog he updates daily. Join me in congratulating Mike in his first book release.
Desh Deshpande, serial entrepreneur and Chairman of the Board at A123 Systems, just left the EmTech stage. Desh had great entrepreneurial insights, but the one that sticks out refers to the current economy. Desh believes over the past ten years the top students from best US universities were graduating and going to financial firms; with the current condition and unknown future of the US financial systems, Desh believes the top graduates will stop taking high paying Wall St. positions and will become the next generation of entrepreneurs powered by technological innovation.
Desh was also asked, “What comes first, the company or the rights to the Intellectual Property?” The ‘ol “Chicken or the egg” question. It depends. If the intellectual property (IP) is for the long-term and projected to have a long lifecycle, then licensing the IP comes first (without the IP there is no company). If the IP is in a rapidly innovative arena, then the company comes first, because the IP may be antiquated by the time it gets licensed. In an innovative arena the company must hire innovation savvy employees and not rely on intellectual property; if the company relies on the IP then it may survive for the short term, but will struggle with growth.
As entrepreneurs, at times we’re accountants, at times we’re marketers, at times we’re human resources; overseeing all aspects of our companies makes us feel safe. We wear many hats along our journeys, but with growth responsibilities must be delegated. We hire competent employees, and hand our hats off, but one hat seems to stick to our heads; the sales hat. To be a viable entrepreneur one must be passionate about his/her company. Passion is demonstrated by sharing ones company to inspire others. An Inspiring message is in essence a sales pitch. If you are a passionate inspirational entrepreneur then you are a salesman, even if you don’t realize it. For this reason, all entrepreneurs must study sales and build their own salesman’s toolbox. The salesman’s toolbox is a compilation of best practices learned through experience, study, and guidance. One tool every entrepreneur must have in his/her toolbox is the “why” tool. The most powerful tool in a salesman’s toolbox is the word “Why?”
Why is “Why” the most powerful tool? “Why” is a salesman’s most powerful tool because it’s the shovel that digs the truth. Asking prospects “why” squashes objections and uncovers the truth behind pushback, for an example I’ll take the role of a computer salesman trying to sell a computer to an 80 year-old hardware store owner named Ray. I walk in, greet Ray, and notice Ray is taking inventory… with a pen and paper! I think to myself, “great opportunity!” I ask Ray if he’s ever used a computer, he answers “no.” I ask “why?” Ray says, “I’m too old.” I wasn’t born yesterday, if my 90 year-old retired grandfather is able to use a computer, then an active 80 year-old hardware store owner sure can. I ask, “Why are you too old?” Ray answers, “I’ve never used a computer, why start now?” I reply, “Why not start now?” I’m filtering threw Ray’s smokescreens; I’m making him think. Ray says, “Because they’re just too complicated.” I respond, “Why do you think computers are too complicated?” Ray adds, “I actually tried to use a computer about 20 years ago. It was too complicated.” I just uncovered incredible information! Knowing Ray found computers 20 years ago complicated is no surprise, because 20 years ago computers were complicated! I dug the truth out of Ray by using the power of “why.” I uncovered the true reason why he objected to using computers, and I can tailor my sales message to show him the simplicity of using a modern computer. Now the easy part starts, all I need to do is demonstrate my passion and inspire him to purchase one of my computers.
People hide the truth. We don’t like saying no. It’s human nature. It’s OK. The solution is to open your salesman’s toolbox and utilize your “why” tool. Understand the power of “why,” use it, and inspire people with your passion to complete the sale.
The summer is officially over; I’m back to Business School and back to the daily grind. After a weekend in the Cape (where I received one of the worst sunburns ever), I’ve begun one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever been a part of in my life. This school year I am working on a project with a group of five engineering students to develop an educational mobile application for higher education students. The con of the project is that I have to pay for the college credits earned while working on it, but the pro is it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. I hope by working on this project I will solve a question that I’ve struggled with in the past: How does someone with no experience in engineering create a technical product?
The simple answer is: He Doesn’t! No one person can possess all the information in the world; at times people need to call upon others to help. Repeatedly we see examples of leaders rounding themselves out by hiring complementary pieces. Two vibrant examples occurred in the past month when Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, and John McCain chose Sarah Palin as their respective Vice Presidential Candidates. Obama and McCain’s decisions were based upon choosing a partner who encompassed the characteristics and knowledge they lacked. As entrepreneurs we need to acknowledge that we can only be experts in so many things; we have time constraints and other areas that need our attention. I hope the 5 engineering students I am partnering with teach me as much as I can understand about the engineering and code writing needed to create mobile applications, but I know that I will never be an expert engineer or code writer. The 5 engineering students complement my marketing, accounting, sales, organizational, and leadership skills. I would find the task of creating a mobile application on my own almost impossible, just as the 5 engineering students would find bringing an emerging technology to market. The team dynamic of a complementary knowledge base is one main reason why I am excited about this project. I know I cannot create a sophisticated technical product by myself, so in a way I am asking others for help in this opportunity of a lifetime.