Monday, January 23, 2006

The War of Art

Here's a very nice, short, readily accessible book about moving yourself forward. It's openly talking to aspiring artists, but those who would like to explore entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises would do well to read this.

First published in 2002, it's called The War of Art. Subtitled: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

Esquire called it "A vital gem...a kick in the ass"

The author, Steven Pressfield is a very good writer. Quick, direct and tough with his subject.

Mr. Pressfield writes from an artist's perspective, but he's also a former marine with a love for the harder path. He drove cabs and tended bar in New York, taught school in New Orleans, drove tractor-trailers in North Carolina and California, worked on oil rigs in Louisiana, picked fruit in Washington State.

A number of essays discuss the subject of what it means to be a professional in your attitude toward your enterprise.

A nice quote from that section, I thought: "The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole. He reminds himself that it's better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot."

And another, which speaks to my suggestions that you need to build good bones into any enterprise; "A professional recognizes her limitations. She gets an agent, she gets a lawyer, she gets an accountant. She knows she can only be a professional at one thing. She brings in other pros and treats them with respect."

Sustainable enterprise as art? You bet.

Steven Pressfiled's web site

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Grassfire flames
of emerging enterprises

A nice survey just spotted you.

While you may not be living in Wisconsin, I'm convinced these numbers apply most everywhere. There is a huge movement toward personal involvement in new and emerging enterprises.

If you're not thinking about participating, you should be.

A study released last week by the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network said the following:

"MADISON, Wis.— Roughly half the people in Wisconsin are thinking about starting a business or have started a business, according to a new study of the state’s entrepreneurial climate. The study, “A Medium for Growth: The State of Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin,” reported the strikingly high figures after surveying 1,144 randomly selected households across the state last year."

“In our study, the level of interest in entrepreneurship at the grass roots level in Wisconsin was encouraging,” said Erica Kauten, managing director of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network and state director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC)."

"The University of Wisconsin-Extension in conjunction with the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network (WEN) and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce launched the research, led by project manager Susan Yolton, to measure the entrepreneurial mood in the state."

I'm sure you'd find similar numbers of people thinking about their own business wherever you looked. Why wouldn't people explore the idea of creating or joining an emerging enterprise?

Of course, the risk is money. Money is critical, and ultimately its what makes these enterprises sustainable.

But for most of us there is also a great risk in assuming that someone else is going to make a job for you.

Participating in this wonderfully chaotic and wildly accessible free enterprise system is something you ignore at your peril.

Among the most interesting findings from the new entrepreneurship study were:

• "Roughly half of the people in Wisconsin are or have been involved in the Entrepreneurial Process -- they are thinking about starting a business or have started a business."

• "Among people involved in the Entrepreneurial Process, there is a low level of awareness and usage of assistance programs across a wide variety of topics."

The definition of entrepreneurship included starting an enterprise while holding full-time employment.

The second finding, about the lack of awareness of assistance programs is important. There are many support agencies with great people and tools available to you. Search them out. Ask around. Research them on the web. Knock on their doors and use them.

However, you need to pick your support programs in the right order.

While many programs are set up to do financing, don't start there. I believe you need to first flush out your markets and get cash flow moving on its own. It doesn't have to be huge, but you have to prove your market first. Without that, all the start up funding you could ever locate won't matter.

I suggest you look first to assistance programs that offer advice and mentoring. There are wonderful public and private organizations everywhere promoting and supporting the world of emerging enterprises. This level of support is typically free or readily available.

Do your homework. Get your feet wet. First look to the support organizations that can help your planning skills. They're there. Don't go for money. Go for the smarts. Plan small. Prove out your market. Make lots of small mistakes. Get cash flow moving. With that in place the next financing steps will be available. Without those in place, it won't be.

From there, I wish you nothing but a fair wind at your back.

The rest of us are with you, friend, fanning the grassfire flames of your emerging enterprise.

Check out the entrepreneurship study at the Wisconsin Entrepreneur's Network site

Wisconsin's excellent Small Business Development Center

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Best said in cartoons

Sometimes things in life are best summarized by a great cartoon.

The Jan 16 New Yorker has a good one done by Barbara Smaller.

A human resource/finacial planner guy is at his desk. Behind him, on the wall, is a poster labeled 'Your Future' with an image of an hourglass, rapidly draining out. Across from him sits an older guy sitting nervously.

The planner is asking, "Have you given much thought to what kind of job you want after you retire?"

Hmmmm. Not too far from the mark, my boomer pals.

For a number of good reasons we should all be looking to put some financial and personal control in place as we get older. You can always be a greeter at Wal-Mart, but running your own enterprise makes getting out of bed every morning a LOT more interesting.

Barbara Smaller cartoons at The New Yorker

Saturday, January 07, 2006

You're a trend.
Harvard Business School
talking about you

OK. Let's start with the fact that I think the word minipreneur is goofy.

It will be used in this post because that's what and Harvard Biz School call it, but give me a break. When you're involved in your own enterprise there is nothing mini about it, no matter the size. It's a big deal to you on a million fronts. Minipreneur sounds dismissive to me.

However, is a very nice site. It focuses on consumer trends and markets. They picked the word, and I'm sticking to it.

The Harvard quote I'll follow with, asks how to make money from this trend.

First, some pieces from the Sept. '05 article at by Neil Shoebridge.

"The minipreneur tag was developed by the research firm to describe what it calls 'a vast army of consumers turning entrepreneur, including small and micro businesses, freelancers, side businesses, weekend entrepreneurs, web-driven entrepreneurs, part-timers, free agents, cottage businesses, seniorpreneurs, co-creators, mumpreneurs, solopreneurs, eBay traders, advertising-sponsored bloggers and so on'."

"According to, the rise of the minipreneur is being fuelled by five factors:

• Multinationals of one: Thanks to the internet, resources that were once available only to multinationals are now available to many people, including individuals. The internet has removed barriers to entry in many markets and industries and given minipreneurs a way to access "top talent" quickly and virtually. [Added by Rick - and access to 'top markets' worldwide]

• Being in control of one's destiny: Rising wealth (largely from higher property prices), an increased willingness to take risks and the popular belief that people should have three or four careers during their working lives is encouraging some people to set up their own businesses.

• Enterprising is chic: After falling into disgrace during the 1990s, the term entrepreneur has been dusted off and given new respectability. "There's an explosion of hip, admired ventures - online and offline - around the world," the researchers at say. "It is being accelerated by the tech revolution and the truly exceptional entrepreneurs with vision and skills that started it. [They are] a far cry from the old boys' networks of the past."

• Experience rules and so does less risk: Business is more accessible and better understood than it was, say, 30 years ago. Producers and consumers alike are interested in business. Consumers know, to varying degrees, how business works so they are more willing to enter the business world themselves. For refugees from the world of big business, the risks they will take as minipreneurs are "no way comparable to the gut-wrenching stress that comes with managing listed corporations."

• A need for the unusual: Bored with mass-market products and services, consumers are increasingly looking for things that are unusual, quirky, customised, personalised, on the fringe and so on. Large companies often struggle with making such products and services profitably, but minipreneurs are well placed to cash in on that trend."

Cool. I agree. You can do it. There's no magic. Opportunities are lying around all over the place. Sweeping them up into a good enterprise model is your job.

I read a Harvard piece discussing the article, and they asked how someone could make money on all this. Here's what they say:

"The opportunities for entrepreneurs are not just in creating an e-business, but rather in providing products and services to those who do — in other words, selling shovels to gold miners."

According to Trendwatching, “Ask yourself how you can help them to make money by facilitating their admin, their production, their advertising, their insurance, their travel, their networking, their selling, their tech needs, their learning, their payments, their suggestions, their hosting, and their new business ideas. Don't ask them to consume; help them to create, to produce.”

Yep. This is where you come in, friend.

You can make a contribution. You can participate in this wonderful world of emerging enterprises.

I recommend setting your sights on helping these other enterprises. There are many opportunities and directions for building nice, sustainable biz models in this arena. There are a zillion niches opening that specialize in solutions for enterprises. From the smallest to largest, all enterprises are continuously looking for help. Usually, the bigger they get, the more aggressively they're looking for smart solutions.

Set yourself up to serve a highly focused market you really love. Get great at your specialty. Great, as in the smartest shovels for the smartest gold miners.

Harvard and are right. You can start your organization as a multinational from day one. You can build a life for yourself with more control over your day job and your destiny. People and organizations the world over are looking for newer, better, unusually smart solutions. Good biz models have never been more available. Perhaps most importantly, trend watchers understand that smart, sustainable enterprising is not only respectable, even chic, but the core of what's coming.

No other generation in human history has had this much opportunity.

We are living in a great age of convergence. Never before has there been this remarkable combination of tools, opportunity and need, waiting for your solutions.

Get on with it, friend. article home page. Cool free newsletter

Harvard Business School article

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Eleanor Roosevelt
and your enterprise life

We're the kind of family with stuff taped up all over most available surfaces.

Since our daughters were very young there's been two Eleanor Roosevelt quotes posted on their door, along with zillions of other projects over the years: notes, warnings to parent to stay out, etc.

To see Tom Peters pick one of the quotes out for special notice going into 2006 reminds me of the importance of those words we've walked past for a couple of decades or so.

From Tom Peters blog 12/28/05 Raw Meat for "Resolutions": "But when I sat down, quietly, to think about my stance toward 2006, a quote of Eleanor Roosevelt's drifted before my mind's eye: 'Do one thing every day that scares you'."

Tom will make excellent use of this idea, of course. I'd like to point to it also as a wonderful rallying cry for the world of start ups and emerging enterprises.

As an example, many of the coolest peddlers I know work on straight commission. It can be hard, scary work, and it's also a pretty good metaphor for all of enterprise life at the level we're talking about here. As one of the best just summarized it for me, "I wake up every Monday morning unemployed, and then get to work."

That's what you're telling yourself and the world when you birth your start up or grow your emerging enterprise. That you're intentionally making every Monday a potentially scary challenge and that every day is a call to action.

Does this sound like it may be a bit much? Like you're not feeling up to it?.

A good time for the other Eleanor Roosevelt quote posted upstairs by long yellowed tape; "Most of the good work in the world is done by people who weren't feeling all that well the day they did it."

To enter the world of enterprise or to take scary steps to grow your emerging enterprise, there are no perfect times. There are no greener pastures. There are no certainties.

And yet, no matter how well you feel or how scary each step seems, there are opportunities to improve the world, to fix problems, everywhere you look.

Take the steps this year to launch your startup or grow your emerging enterprise in smart, personally scary new ways.

In the end you, and all the rest of us, will be better off.

Go get 'em.

Time magazine profile of Eleanor Roosevelt as one of their 100 most influential people of the last century

Tom Peters site. Most of us don't work for big Corps or organizations that bring Tom in to speak. However, he puts much of his best stuff on line directly, and comments regularily for free on line. Just go there. This new theme of scaring yourself will be very much worth reading.

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, also taped up on a stairway wall at home. Great links to source docs here.

New Year's Eve.
Looking back,
looking forward.

A time to assess and a time to plan.

My prayers and best wishes for those folks hammered by natural disasters this past year. My same thoughts for all those who lost loved ones recently, and to those who continue to endure hardships.

I'm most grateful for my family. I'm grateful for all the continuing laughter as everyone dances through their individual journeys.

My own personal stuff is not what these posts are about, but rather, these posts are supposed to be about your journey into your own enterprise life. Be it a startup, an emerging enterprise or an existing organization in search of some passion.

I will take a personal moment at the end of this year to thank The National Society of Professional Engineers. They awarded our small band of rebels their Small Business New Product of the Year Award for the entire US for 2005.

To anyone who has been through the process, they will know there is typically very little recognition involved.

You pull an idea up out of the muck and mire. You bleed over the thing long before it ever hits three dimensions. When there's patents involved, you fight through all that.

If you're in an ongoing enterprise and you're doing new product development work simultaneously, it's a bit like taking a slow walk across the close end of a busy golf driving range.

And then you've got to make the thing work. Hopefully, better than any other solution before it. Then do it again, and again, and again.

Some past recipients of the Professional Engineers New Product awards include the Boeing 777 and the Mercedes M Class.

The number of people in our small band that was awarded this honor in 2005 wouldn't make up a full crew in a Boeing 777. Our entire R&D budget for this new product award couldn't have bought a used Mercedes.

And yet, the world turns toward sustainable enterprise by little and by little.

The Professional Engineers of the United States saw fit to reward design simplicity and effectiveness this year. They picked a product we designed to work unfailingly in industrial environments most people don't even want to walk past. Importantly, I think, they honored the work of a few very dedicated, highly focused individuals working to make the campground a little better.

What we did was not what Boeing or Mercedes does. None of us will do that as start ups or emerging enterprises, for a while anyway. However, with just a few people, and a lot of hard work, we helped recycle millions of gallons of oil that used to be lost as wastewater and cut soot in the air big time, at least around our customer's plants.

Individuals and small groups can come together and make a difference. I almost wrote, "can still come together", but that's directly opposite of what I mean. It's now much easier than ever before in human history for individuals and small groups to find one another and to make a difference.

If you're looking to make a difference in your own life, you should start taking steps in the coming year to set up your own enterprise, or to smarten up your emerging enterprise. Do it by yourself, or do it with partners. While this partnering process used to be limited to family and friends, you've now got one hell of a lot of new next door neighbors on the internet.

Small, smart enterprise groups have never been easier to start or more needed by the rest of us. You can do it.

2005 brought in some nice recognition. I look forward to taking a great story into 2006.

C'mon along.

God bless and Happy New Year friends.