Guest Blogger, Dr. J. Wiggenhorn, Associate Professor Nathan M. Bisk College of Business
Mr. Richard Scott, president of the Carolina Business Mentors, gave a presentation as part of the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business Visiting Entrepreneur Program on Wednesday, March 21st. He spoke to a packed room and had many interesting ideas for the audience. His talk had two tracks: one for a person’s career and one directed at individuals who hope to someday be an entrepreneur. He used examples from his career, his companies and individuals he knows to illustrate his points.
He opened the talk asking who had read two books. The first is “Who Moved My Cheese”, a bestseller since 1998, and the second book was “The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself and Transform Your Career”. [That book has only been out for two months and already has ninety very favorable reviews on Amazon] His point was that we need to treat our careers as if they are a business. We should have a “business plan” outlining where we hope to be in one year, 5 years and 10 years. He stressed the need for a plan in order to make sure that you keep on track.
Another point that he stressed was that you need to keep educating yourself and staying current in your field. Your job choices should reflect this. He used the example that he had three job offers after he graduated from FIT in 1972 with a degree in Computer Science and he chose the smallest firm, with the lowest pay, because he felt he would have the most opportunity to grow there. In this economy most students are not going to get three job offers, but you can choose to grow in whatever position you are in. Mr. Scott stressed being “situationally aware” and looking for new opportunities wherever you are working.
Another point that Mr. Scott made was about choosing a mentor and the need to network. Both of these have become almost “buzz” words which we all ascribe to, but he made a couple of really insightful observations. “You don’t have a good network until you have done something for another person”. Networking isn’t just about what another person can do for you; the help needs to be mutual. His second point was to be careful about choosing a mentor. He indicated that he felt using LinkedIn was not a good method to find a mentor, but also that good mentors are invaluable.
For the entrepreneurial lessons, he started by highlighting how eight of his friends/acquaintances became entrepreneurs. Some were high tech and some were low tech, one being a foam enclosure for medical equipment on an ambulance. None of the individuals had necessarily set out to be an entrepreneur, but when they saw a need, they developed a product/service to meet that need. Mr. Scott also stressed that the entrepreneur needs to understand what type of company he/she wants. When you accept venture capital money you will give up 60% of your company. The entrepreneur needs to decide if he/she wants 100% of nothing, 90% of something small, 50% of something medium or 2% of something large. Some individuals may have a great idea but never even get a prototype made. Others may get minor financing and retain almost complete control of a very small company. If you have a partner, you generally will have 50% ownership, but if you go the Venture Capital (VC) route, you will lose 60% of your shares every time you get new financing. If you get VC money three times you are down to 4% ownership. If you have a partner, you are down to the 2% level!
In addition to discussing the funding issue, Mr. Scott discussed knowing what size company you want to run. He said that he would never want to run a company with more than 50 employees; he has a friend who deliberately keeps his company at about 5 employees. Mr. Scott used his entrepreneurial path to illustrate a couple of additional points. He actually started two companies at the same time. One was a consulting business and one was product orientated. He feels that having five people in a consulting business can be a sustainable business. He also stressed not to sell a product, but to license it. For his product company he went the partner route and suggested getting a “seasoned successful retired entrepreneur” to help you and go into business with them. He closed by stressing that whether you become an entrepreneur or not you need to be “invested” in your career.