IDEA Box #7, October 2020, Entrepreneurship

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Welcome to our October 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Entrepreneurship’. This month we learned The Hard Thing About Hard Things, found out why The E-Myth distorts our view of business ownership and discovered a little known business called Amazon that sells books etc.

This month’s article takes learnings from serial entrepreneur Suzy Batiz, our podcast features Elon Musk while Alibaba founder Jack Ma shares advice for entrepreneurs as part of a video interview.

And later this month the third instalment of The Real Deal will take place. On 15th October at 11am Matt Cooper will interview Pat McCann, CEO of Dalata Hotel Group and one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs. This live broadcast is a free event brought to you by Fitzgerald Power, Renatus and Bank of Ireland. We’d love you to attend. Get Your Free Ticket Here


The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz

Every entrepreneur begins her company with a clear vision for success. You will create an amazing environment and hire the smartest people to join you. Together you will build a beautiful product that delights your customers and makes the world just a little bit better. It’s going to be absolutely amazing. Then, after working night and day to make your vision a reality you wake up to find that things did not go as planned. The things about hard things is that they are …. well ….. hard. Here are four takeaways:

  1. Create a great place to work: If your company is a great place to work your team can focus on their tasks safe in the knowledge that if they do a good job good things will happen to them and the company. If your company is a bad place to work your people will leave when things go wrong. Inevitably things will go wrong.
  2. Focus on what’s important: Take care of people, products and profits in that order. Horowitz believes; “Taking care of people is the most difficult of the three by far but if you don’t do it the other two won’t matter.”
  3. Realise that nobody cares: Spend zero time worrying about what you should have done and 100% of your time figuring out what you WILL do. Nobody cares about the excuses so just get on with it and run your company.
  4. Don’t quit: According to Horowitz; “Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be markedly consistent in their answers. They all say, ‘I didn’t quit’.”

Horowitz states; “The first rule of entrepreneurship is there are no rules” which makes it sound a little like Fight Club. That aside, this book is full of entrepreneurial lessons that can be applied to any business. It’s available in all formats.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Brad Stone started off delivering books through the mail. But Jeff Bezos wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become The Everything Store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. Here are four lessons for entrepreneurs:

  1. Believe in yourself: Bezos’s personality was central to driving Amazon forward, but it also meant avoidable mistakes were made; “During those misadventures, Bezos seemed unperturbed. If anything the setbacks made him push the company even harder into new territory. The word bold was used repeatedly. ‘We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages,’ they wrote. ‘Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.’”
  2. Set your values: Bezos was a hard and driven leader who insisted his team had similar values to his own; “They agreed on five core values and wrote them down on a whiteboard in a conference room: customer obsession, frugality, bias for action, ownership, and high bar for talent. Later Amazon would add a sixth value, innovation.”
  3. Reinforce these values through talent acquisition: Bezos believed that the company could only prosper by attracting a certain kind of person, one who likes to pioneer and invent; “former employees frequently complain that Amazon has the bureaucracy of a big company with the infrastructure and pace of a start-up. The people who do well at Amazon are often those who thrive in an adversarial atmosphere with almost constant friction.”
  4. Don’t procrastinate: Bezos showed a capacity to change course when the company was in crisis, and encouraged decisive action amongst his team; “Bezos instituted the ‘Just Do It’ award – an acknowledgment of an employee who did something notable on his own initiative, typically outside his primary job responsibilities. Even if the action turned out to be an egregious mistake, an employee could still earn the prize as long as he or she had taken risks and shown resourcefulness in the process.”

A fascinating study of one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. It’s available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, Michael Gerber

E-Myth \ ‘e-,’mith\ n 1: the entrepreneurial myth: the myth that most people who start small businesses are entrepreneurs 2: the fatal assumption that an individual who understands the technical work of a business can successfully run a business that does that technical work. Here’s four learnings for business owners:

  1. Systemise your business: The system runs the business, the people run the system. If a business is to be truly scalable; discipline, standardisation and order must be the watch words. Gerber believes in applying the lessons of franchised systems to all businesses.
  2. Work on your business: It is important to work ON as well as IN your business. According to the author you must work on the strategic direction and vision of your business as well as servicing your customers. He identifies three distinct business personalities; The Entrepreneur, The Technician and The Manager, all of which are required to make a business successful.
  3. Focus on what’s important: How your business interacts with your customers is more important than what you sell.
  4. Understand what you are selling: The commodity is what your customer walks out with in her hand. The product is what she feels about your business. Nobody cares about commodities. People buy feelings.

Michael Gerber’s classic is a clarion call for business owners. It’s available in all formats.


Suzy Batiz’s Empire of Odor, Carina Chocano, The New Yorker, 28th October 2019

Batiz built a multi-million dollar business on the back of a strong work ethic, capacity to take risks, and a counter intuitive idea. As she developed her business she built her own brand by inculcating her values into her company. Here are two takeaways:

  1. Keep trying: Batiz had many incarnations before she achieved success; “Here’s a non-exhaustive list of her gambits: She’s sold exercise equipment; started a clothing line; opened a clothing store, a beauty salon, and a tanning salon; and sold cheap lingerie at a markup to strippers, until a club owner with three missing fingers demanded a percentage of her profits.”
  2. Believe in your idea: Batiz built her company after years of struggle. She had an ‘alive idea’ which, she said, means that it had an “energetic resonance” that aligned with her own. The company made a million dollars in its first year validating her personal belief.

You can check out the article here.

This A

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders: Elon Musk’s Vision For The Future

Elon Musk, one of the world’s most iconic entrepreneurs, discusses his journey from his first internet start-up to his vision to colonise Mars. Here are two takeaways:

  1. Your vision must excite people: Whether its team members or customers, trying to convince people to do things isn’t easy. Ask yourself what message you are trying to convey and how you can encourage engagement.
  2. Profits should not be the priority: If your purpose is correct profits will follow. Musk discusses the benefits of a purpose-driven company offering the term “usefulness optimisation’’ – is what we’re doing as useful as it could be? Our aim should be to make people’s lives better, even slightly.

This podcast is well worth checking out. Listen to it here.

For Your

Seven Pieces of Advice for a Successful Career (And Life): Jack Ma, South China Morning Post

Alibaba founder Jack Ma offers some advice to entrepreneurs in this short video. Here are two takeaways:

  1. Be yourself AND be first: Everybody is unique and has something different to offer. Being the best is not important, it is being first that counts.
  2. Opportunities lie in challenges: There will always be challenges and opportunities. If you can solve the challenge you will be successful. The bigger the challenge the bigger the opportunity.

You can view the 4 minute video here.

And Finally…
For Something

The Notebook

Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso had more in common than a shared talent for artistic endeavour. Both understood the value of a good notebook. What better devices than a trusty pad and pencil when inspiration strikes?

Well plenty it turns out. If paper just doesn’t cut it anymore here’s a list of some of the best note taking apps to help you trap your entrepreneurial ideas for further dissection. Click here

Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Persuasion.

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