Unprecedented Thinking for the Better!

For the last four years, I learned to cringe at the word unprecedented. That adjective was usually associated with a person, who shall remain nameless, enjoyed breaking norms. The meaning according to Google is, never done or known before. It was crushing to keep hearing that adjective describing decisions and actions I believed were irresponsible.

Recently, I have wondered if that word, unprecedented, could be turned around to describe emerging entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who are coming up with not necessarily new ideas, but ideas for companies and products. These are business ideas diverse people have been holding onto for years for various reasons, but now feel this is the right time where they might actually get support and resources to implement them. There could be an unprecedented level of diverse entrepreneurship in the coming years.

Why not just call this potential trend innovation? Because the implementation of these products and services may be more about how the implementation is done to achieve not only financial outcomes and results.

How Unprecedented Thinking and Action Can Generate Unprecedented Products and Services for the Better!

The entrepreneurs I am talking with are looking at the business opportunities they are developing on multiple levels. Of course, these entrepreneurs know they must look that the potential financial opportunities for their ideas. Every conversation to date includes a desire for broader social impact by sharing ownership, better conditions and benefits for employees, and a desire to impact social conditions more broadly. Developing ideas from broader mindsets should lead to unprecedented products, customer experiences and tone in how business is done.

These entrepreneurs are also more open to examining risks. The demands of the Covid-19 pandemic have pushed everyone to clarify their risk tolerance levels for public health safety, selection of purchasing behaviors, and social life. These entrepreneurs acknowledge that risks must be surfaced and addresses. In the past, entrepreneurs might dismiss the mention of the word risk. They associated risk with failure of a startup that might just mean looking for a job, but not a threat to their health or long-term future.

The most interesting new behaviour when I talk with emerging growth entrepreneurs is their interest in understanding the survival line of their product or business. I have used this phrase in my advising services with all clients. The survival line is the absolute minimum criteria for sustain a product/business line or company. When I used this term in past programs, participants would say the words made them feel uncomfortable. My come back is that every owner must know

  • The customer behaviour their business depends on
  • The demand and actual purchasing indicators that customer will tolerate
  • All the other key indicators of business health in their specific industry

If businesses did not know their survival line indicators in February of 2020, they must know them now to stay in business beyond December 31, 2020.

This concept of knowing your product and company survival line is so important to me. In my early career in financial services as a new manager, I was involved in a large bankruptcy and operations clean ups in a rapidly growing financial product sector. My management jobs were to tackle risks and errors daily. Doing this work taught me way more about business than I every learned in business school. Business school was about seeking foundational knowledge to avoid careless and erroneous business activities and learn more about how to build great products and companies.

I am pleased to see this greater desire to understand survival and risk in business and life. The openness to seek out and address problems and risks is essential to aiming for more than just recovery from these challenging times. The balance between opportunity, risks and knowing the indicators to work toward keeps you and your company above your survival line as conditions change.

With more business owners with broader mindset skilled in this comprehensive thinking, I look forward to seeing more unprecedented products and companies soon!

Multidimensional Solutions for Small Business Sector

Just because businesses are small does not mean they are simple and easy to fix.  Small business owners, especially the vast majority that are at micro-level, are individual dynamos.  They are workers, managers, executive decision maker and frequently local business leaders.  Their businesses create jobs, hire contractors, pay suppliers for goods and services all to satisfy demanding customers.  Each business has its own ecosystem which creates value for the company and the local economy where they operate. 

To limit the loss of value in goods and services that communities will lose if we let thousands of small businesses close will require more than just loans.  Systemic solutions are needed on three levels.

  1. Help small businesses do more than stay afloat without adding further debt.  In consumer service industries like catering, hospitality, travel fundamental changes are required for these businesses to survive beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.  We need more creative use of grants, zero interest loans or forgivable loans are needed to fund business restructuring or reinvent costs to business owners
  2. Invest in the developing local business ecosystems across business districts and regions.  It is not enough to just focus on Business improvement districts and the needs of property owners and business owners.  Business owners are a vital segment of supply chains, educational systems for hiring and a source of distinctive goods and services to the community.  Now is the time to bring all the silos in local economies together to rethink the support structure for small businesses.
  3. Small business owners are people with families, not corporate entities with legal structures and big cash reserves to protect them in economic downturns, let alone a public health crisis and deep recession.  Survival of decades of commitment to operating local restaurants, retail stores, etc. are demands constant attention and drains personal assets and resources too often.  I am pleased that the Aspen Institute and the Stanford Latino Action Network is encouraging research into the condition of business owner families.  The research is focusing on financial condition and benefits like health care and unemployment insurance.  The results are that the law protects employees and owner families frequently have few benefits of their labor than their employees do. 

    Transfer of management and ownership across generations is rarely considered in small business circles.  This transfer of family power, decision making authority and  management of financial resources is a complex social, psychological as well as business and legal process.  The transfer of wealth to future generations especially in immigrant and lower income communities is vital to the health of the business district.  When we lose businesses that have been job creators for decades in ethnic communities the blow is severe.  Services to businesses need to go beyond just business, financial, operating management and formal exit planning.  Family and multi-generational wealth transfer and community health are at stake.

Multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural mindsets are needed to develop innovative and outcomes-oriented solutions are required to sustain the U.S. small business sector  which generates close to half of Gross Domestic Product with extraordinarily little support beyond loans and financial and business advising.  Imagine what the contribution of small business could be to the economy with comprehensive and multi-dimensional development and creative funding!