Last Lecture

"I spent hundreds of dollars on a course for entrepreneurs..."

The greatest value that you will get out if this course is understanding exactly what being an entrepreneur entails.  You may have gotten that entrepreneurial fire from watching Shark Tank, or reading about someone who has achieved great success and wealth from starting their own company; however chances are that you really have no idea just what it has taken for them to get there.  You may think that all it takes is starting a company, or coming up with a product.  Truth is there is so much more to being an entrepreneur.  Being an entrepreneur is not something you do; it is who you are.

One of the great lessons that is taught is that in order to be successful, you have to work with a purpose in mind.  You need a plan – an endgame.  In order to do this you have to sit down and figure out exactly what it is you would like to accomplish and how you are going to accomplish it.  Success will not just happen.  You have to make it happen.

Do not fear, however.  Find someone to take the journey with you.  Find a mentor, someone who has “been there, done that.”  There is no shame in admitting that there are people who are smarter, more experienced, more successful, and more knowledgeable than you.  There is a wealth of information available these days in books, online, and in school courses, but nothing will have as important an impact as a personal mentor.  The landscape is constantly changing as new innovations and ideas are implemented.  Someone who is in, or has been in, the industry can help you adapt and see a little further down the road to make sure you are ahead of anything that may come your way.

Before embarking on your own hero’s journey, take a moment to reflect on what you want your life to be like.  If you want to work 9-5, spend weekends with your family going on day trips to the coast, and make it to every rehearsal, sports practice, or performance, then perhaps being an entrepreneur doesn’t line up with your vision.  There is nothing wrong with being completely and brutally honest with yourself.  In fact, you may just avoid numerous years of heartache, confusion, and failure.  Is there an entrepreneur inside all of us?  Sure, but are we willing to make the necessary sacrifices to bring that side of us to the surface?  It just may be that you are feeling the entrepreneurial fire deep inside of you, that desire to make an impact on the world.  Or, in the end, it might just be acid reflux.  It is up to you to decide.

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Can it Be Done?

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From the readings and the videos this week I took away that it is important to be honest with ourselves.  You have to look inside and answer the really hard questions if you are to ever be truly happy with yourself or with your job.  When you look deep inside do you really want to be an entrepreneur?  Is your idea a good one?  Will it work?  Can you make it work?  Does this product warrant a company?

Watching Shark Tank on ABC has helped me think a lot about what it would take to start my own company and whether or not I could do it.  However, it is one thing to sit on the couch and tell yourself you could accomplish something if you really wanted to, rather than to get in the mix and actually do it and get it done.  I wish that they would give more information about the company than they do.  I read that they film well over an hour to produce a 7-8 minute segment on T.V.  While watching the show it is easy to pick out the people that didn’t ask themselves the hard questions before forging ahead.  They didn’t take the time to seek out mentors and get their business set up in a good way right out the gate.  After the readings this week I have told myself that I will strive to ask myself those hard questions and be honest with myself so I can accomplish something truly great.

The Warren Buffet Effect - Thank you For Not Asking How Much I Gave to Charity.

Elder Gaye gave a really great talk on where our attitude on wealth should be.  I had never really thought about the fact that most corporations are striving for profit maximization to increase shareholder wealth.  I have realized that too many companies are focused on what is best for the shareholders rather than what is best for the company, but I didn’t think that profit maximization was necessarily a bad thing.  However, I can see how this is detrimental to the long-term success of a business.  The focus shifts from developing new products to meeting stock analysts expectations to keep the stock price going up.  And really, where is the vision in that?

There have been quite a few people that have a substantial net worth that have pledged the majority of their wealth to charity after they die.  Bill and Melinda Gates give most of their time to social causes and have also pledged to give away most of their money.  Just recently Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have announced that they too will donate most of their money (http://fortune.com/2015/12/04/mark-zuckerberg-will-give-away-more-than-you-think/).

Elder Gaye explained that men are blessed with talents in business in order to use those resources to help out others in need.  Poverty is something that many in the world face, and business can be a great force in the world to help over come this problem that none should face.  Really we should be able to get to a point at which all of our needs are met, our families are well-provided for, and then be able to give money and time to others that are in need.  I admit it can be easy to look at others in need and tell ourselves that they brought this on themselves.  However, we would be wrong to have this attitude.  God wants us to help others regardless of why we think they are destitute.  It is not our place to judge them, but to give them what we can.

I hope that I can keep this focus as I strive to be successful; that I can remember that I rely just as much on God for my daily needs as anyone else.

Questions from this week based on “What’s a Business For?” by Charles Handy.

  • Based on what you read in the first two pages (pages 3 and 4), why are virtue and integrity so vital to an economy?

Virtue and integrity are vital due to the trust factor.  People are willing to invest in companies because they trust that management is being honest when they put out their financial statements.  They trust that management is trying to make the company the best that it can be.  If everyone was just in it for themselves, then one would have to worry if the number are right, or if someone is going to steal money from the company for themselves and leave the company to flounder and fail.

  • According to Charles Handy, what is the “real justification” for the existence of businesses?

The real justification for the existence of business is to make a profit so that the business can do something more or better.

What are two solutions proposed by Handy that you agree with? Why?

I agree that the culture at corporations need to be changed so that the employees are more invested in the success of the company.  If the employees have ownership in the company they will have a greater desire for its success.  I’m not as sure about spreading around the decisions as Handy suggests.  I believe it can be easier to focus on something when one person has a strong vision that others can get on board with.

He also proposes that company leaders need to take an oath much the same as doctors do when they graduate.  This could instill in them a greater sense of responsibility to the greater good of the world.  Perhaps this would help them shift the focus outward to doing good for all people and not just for themselves, their own company, or just their shareholders.

Tipping the Scales

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Deciding how much time to dedicate to specific tasks or moments in our lives seems to be a lesson that we are constantly learning.  When we are young we have to split time between play, homework, and chores.  More often then not our parents had to step in to “help” us get our priorities right.  Then, as we grew older, work and the pursuit of money became a part of the equation.  Not long after, a spouse and children also joined the mix.   Although I am not living the life of an entrepreneur at the moment, I can see how being an entrepreneur adds yet another layer on this already difficult problem.  When you work for yourself, you do not have someone telling you that it is time to go home – that your work day is over.  The typical 9 to 5 just doesn’t apply.  It becomes up to you to determine just how much time you need to give your business in an attempt to guarantee success.  Others, and their livelihood, depend on you to make decisions that will provide financial and job security.  And yet, you still have the aforementioned duties to your give of your time to your home, spouse, children, and interests away from work.  I really appreciated the article titled,”Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  An important thought that was shared is that our happiness doesn’t really change a great deal when we achieve additional financial success.  Once we have obtained a level wherein our families are generally well provided for, additional amounts of money really won’t add to our overall happiness.  I believe this is because there is room for happiness when we aren’t consumed by worry over where the money will come from to pay for this…or where the money will come from to pay for that.  Will a bigger house provide more happiness?  Will a really exotic car make me feel better about myself?  Maybe temporarily.   However, none of these things really add to our life’s experiences.  What becomes most important is who we interact with.  Friends, family, even co-workers.  Are we making a difference in their lives?  Are they making a difference in ours?  The most beneficial portion of the coursework this week was that it presented an opportunity to think on this very topic.  I also appreciated Randy Komisar’s candidness when he explained that with more money comes more obligations.  He learned that money, power, and opportunity were not the end all be all for happiness.  He also said counseled that you have to ask yourself the hard questions and find out what is most important to you, and that the answer will change from time to time depending on the situation you find yourself in.  I can tell that this question of balance will be one that I will need to ask myself often to see if my life is and is going where I want it to be.

What is your attitude toward money?

I have sometimes felt that as a Latter-Day Saint, I would never really have a lot of money or success.  I don’t know why this is.  Perhaps I felt it would be wrong for me to want a lot of money, or to spend a lot of money on nice or extravagant things.  However, the older I get the more I wish that I had learned about money when I was fresh off of my mission.  As Stephen W. Gibson points out, money can be a tool that can be used to do a lot of good things for other people.  The scriptures teach us that we should seek wealth to enable us to serve others and to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.
How can your view of money affect the way you live?

If we are only seeking money to buy more “things” we will never have enough.  We will not be satisfied until we learn to be grateful for what we have already.  This is something I am still working on myself.  I have a hard time controlling my spending because I often want the latest and greatest thing.  Hopefully I can figure out how to be good with what I have and only buy new things when it really is a need rather than just a want.

What rules are recommended for prospering?

The rules recommended for prospering are:

  1.  Seek the Lord and have hope in him.
  2. Keep the commandments, that includes the temporal ones, tithing and fast offerings.
  3. Think about money and plan how you can become self-reliant.
  4. Take advantage of chances for learning so you will not be ignorant of these matters.  Education, as President Hinckley has taught us, is the Key to Opportunity.
  5. Learn the laws upon which the blessings of wealth are predicated.
  6. Do not send away the naked, the hungry, the thirsty or the sick or those who are held captive.

Are Change and Growth the Same Thing?

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The best reading this week by far was “The Heart of Entrepreneurship” by Howard H. Stevenson and David E. Gumpert.  This paper was very interesting to me because it talked about the differences between a promoter and a trustee.  I have almost always found myself in the role of a “trustee” which is someone that is “threatened by change and the unknown and whose inclination is to rely on the status quo.”  I like things to be status quo; every day just as predictable as the last.  As Stevenson and Gumpert point out however, this is about the worst thing an entrepreneur can do.  Entrepreneurs need to be promoters – that is they are “confident in their ability to seize opportunity.”  I imagine it all really boils down to comfort levels.  I am comfortable knowing what each and every day is going to look like.  I don’t have to worry what my next paycheck is going to look like, or if I am going to have to find a new job, etc.  Unfortunately in 30 years this will mean that I will look back and realize that I never took any chances.  I never really succeeded at much because I was completely averse to risk.  And, I imagine, I will be filled with a certain amount of regret and remorse.  Like Taylor Richards said in his video segment “Think Big” life is a whole lot more fun when you are being more than mediocre.  I think I will feel like I have really missed out on something great if I allow this to happen to me.  So here’s to bucking the status quo, looking for opportunities to be a cause for change and growth so that I can look back on my life and find peace.

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It seems to me that the entrepreneur that succeeds is the one that goes out and makes things happen.  He or she does not sit around and wait for things to come his or her way.  I really enjoyed reading “A Message to Garcia.”  I especially appreciated this quote:  “The ability to execute is more valuable than education or talent, because it is far rarer.”  I have seen this at my current job.  I work for my father-in-law.  It is just me and him managing a cattle ranch.  The ability to execute is one of his greatest strengths.  He gets the job done.  While others would plan and plan, or plan then wait then plan some more, he will start working and plan as he goes.  If there is one thing  I could learn from him, it is how to get after a problem and keep working at it until it is solved.  I hope that I can be a person that can be counted on much in the same way as Rowan was to find Garcia.

One thing from the readings this week that I can’t quite get my head around is from the summary of “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  The 2nd concept he presents is that you must first find the right people before you find the right objective.  If you haven’t yet figured out what it is you want your company to achieve, how do you entice people to work for you?  I get that it is really important to find people that are the right fit for you company, but don’t you need at least an initial direction for the company to go in?  At the very least I would imagine that you would need a problem that you are trying to solve.  However, this isn’t the first writing that I have read in this class that indicates that having a problem to solve first is backwards.  It seems that the concept that keeps being pushed is that you first have the solution then you go and find the problem that it solves.  I am still working on this one.

Not the Best Idea Ever…

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Most peoples’ first idea is the low hanging fruit…Their best idea is usually their third.  David Carrington explained these points in the video that we were assigned to watch this week.  He also said that entrepreneurs tend to come up with the solution first, then find the problem as this cartoon also suggests.  Basically, what this means to me is that you can’t expect success right away.  Expect to invest a lot of time and effort in starting something.  Expect struggles and challenges along the way.  Most importantly, do not give up.  Keep trying.  I’m sure this is why companies first develop prototypes.  Prototypes give them the opportunity to improve on their original ideas and designs until they are happy with the final product and are able to take it to market.  Large companies still experience also experience the fact that your best idea might not come until your third idea.  This recently happened with Microsoft’s Surface line.  It wasn’t until their Surface Pro 3 came out that they got it right.  Until that model, critics really questioned what Microsoft was doing, and thought that they really had made a mistake getting into making hardware.  They were accused of having “Apple envy.”  Just recently their new Surface Book was released and critics are saying that Microsoft has put out a device that rivals Apple’s Macbook Pro.  It took Microsoft a while, but they kept trying, and they are starting to get it right.