The Naked Business: What We Get Right

15 FEB 2010

by Nancy Fulton Mazur, School for Startups Editor

I’ve been asked to pen a blog for the Naked Business. Although we said this blog is where we would explore the struggles, trials and tribulations associated with launching a high profile startup, I must confess that all I can usually see is the things we do right.  As a serial entrepreneur, who like most entrepreneurs has done stints in multiple startups, several aspects of School for Startups make me really happy.

For example:

Things change fast, and mostly we’re cool with that. Having worked with multiple startups I’ve seen many broken because the founders won’t deviate from their initial plans and intentions.  Their business models, their infrastructure and their job assignments have all been poured in concrete and the business will do what’s in the business plan or it will do nothing at all.  Anyone who has attended one of Doug’s Start Here! seminars will be happy to hear he follows his own advice.  It really is all about the customer. Our business processes are determined by what the customer wants, how much he can afford to pay, where we can find him and what we can give him.  Month by month we identify new customers, new types of customers, new products and new services we can provide. Nothing is set in stone.

Sometimes things fall by the wayside and we let them fall. Here at School for Startups, people work on the highest priority assignment at any given time, and some tasks  never actually make it to the top of the queue.  Our reach always exceeds our grasp. That freedom to come up with tasks we should probably undertake, and to drop them when it turns out we don’t need to do them after all, is a characteristic of the best startups I’ve worked with in the past.

We’re entrepreneurial inside and out. Because we’ve all been so busy since the company first started, and some of us have been online only for the last few months, most School for Startups customers have met only a few of us face to face.  Actually some of us they’ve “met” only in email.  This means that most of our customers don’t know that Doug tends to hire entrepreneurs and those with clear entrepreneurial ambition.  He’s been doing that for at least 20 years, because he first hired me to work in his first big enterprise (ITAL Business Computer Systems in Hollywood, California) and almost every soul I worked with there went on to found multiple companies. I think Doug hires entrepreneurs, and chooses to train and support entrepreneurs, because he actively likes entrepreneurs.  Even his investment choices indicate he prefers to help build businesses from the ground up.  I think one reason we are relaxed about letting customers behind the curtain into our business processes is because we know our customers face the same challenges we do. We’ll find our solutions together.

We’re technologically adept.  Working with School for Startups requires the ability to pick up new applications very quickly because we add and subtract tools from our repertoire every week.  Whether its dropbox.com, eventbrite.com, surveymonkey.com, mailchimp.com, Google docs or Word Press, every member of the team has added and subtracted software from the collection of tools we use every week at least once. We have also been known to agree that a given application, and I won’t name names here today, is way too much trouble and we’ll never use it again.  I think our cumulative pool of skills, and the daily evolution of those skills, makes us very efficient and keeps us in touch with resources we can share with the entrepreneurs we support.

Everyone’s business is the bottom line. Doug is pretty clear that the point of an enterprise is to make money by finding and serving customers.  If you’re doing something else, maybe you should check in with someone to make sure you’re doing the right thing. In many businesses, especially as they grow, the right to worry about the bottom line gets relegated to the management folks.  I’ve always thought that was a mistake.  Almost everyone likes to know that what they’re doing has a positive financial impact on the business they’ve joined.

There’s no doubt School for Startups has its challenges. For example, we all hate sending out newsletters at the moment.  It takes forever to get them formatted correctly and out to the right lists. Also, we’re offering a lot of events these days.  Getting ourselves, our kit, our students, our guests, our sponsors and Doug all in the same place at the same time is a load of logistical work.  We also have difficulty finding a good time to meet with all the members of our team because our team has members around the globe, including Doug who is often on the move.  But all of these issues seem trivial to me, because School for Startups has managed to get so many of the most important parts of a good business in place. If the broad brush strokes of a business aren’t right, the details never will be.

No blog written by one member of a business will represent what all members of the business think.  I look forward to reading what my coworkers have to say about our endeavor.  One thing is certain, they are a great crew . . .

 

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