Keep It Simple, Silly. It's entirely straightforward advice, and yet it's the one business practice most quickly forgotten by entrepreneurs. These four business thinkers remind us to shoot the arrow along an uncluttered path.
John Thompson talks about the key driver at Symantec - product focus.To meet this goal, the enterprise was forced to make difficult decisions, including purging products that were not core to their network-centric vision. The result was that hiring and partner relationships, among other things, became much more streamlined.
A core fundamental proposition for building any new business must be a relentless desire to wow the customer, says PlayFirst CEO Mari Baker. Think of every customer as a salesperson, and bring them solutions that are faster and easier ways to solve their problems. Maintain focus amidst a sea of customer feedback, and don't try to implement every possible functionality, else you'll spread your resources too thin.
William Sahlman, professor at Harvard Business School, states that people, customers, and sales are the critical ingredients of venture success. Specifically, Sahlman states that, 1) having the right people, 2) focusing on customers rather than technology, and 3) concentrating on sales instead of marketing, are critical elements of corporate health and longevity.
A solid business model can't survive long-term if it just draws traffic. Serial entrepreneur Mitch Kapor points out that a concrete business plan must truly offer a solution to a well-worn market conundrum. While a flash-in-the-pan Facebook app may draw millions of users in minutes, without staying power it's not viable long term.
What's New Now
Our fall lecture line-up resumes in early October. In the interim, here are some of our best video clips from last quarter
Solving problems is an important aspect of entrepreneurship, but it's not the entire solution. Aspiring students also need to learn how to make their own good luck, says STVP Executive Director Tina Seelig. Hard work is imperative, but it doesn't always mean a fortunate outcome. It takes optimism, an open mind, shrewd networking skills, and the ability to find the veiled "million dollars in the room." Seelig cites a personal anecdote where, through perseverance and curiosity, she turned an encounter with a stranger over frozen lemonade in a grocery store into a long-lasting relationship and a helicopter ride to a private ski resort overseas.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, considers the importance of balance and the tension between symbiotic and opposing forces in the enterprise. In this clip, he takes a philosophical perspective on company culture, including the interplay of far-reaching patience and meeting short-term goals, and teetering between a passion for technology and a passion for the customer.
After becoming a PhD student in biophysics and facing numerous institutional hurdles barring his desire to study the neural cortex, Jeff Hawkins, Founder of Numenta, decided to think long-term. He put a career plan in place that has lasted over twenty years. Rather than pursuing his passions through academia, he decided instead to focus on making institutional change, adding credibility to his name, earning substantial financial revenues to fund his own pet projects, and helping the neuroscience community mature from the inside. Two decades later, arguably, he's accomplished all of these tasks, and he's still expanding their boundaries.