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November 1st: Torsten Jacobi, CEO of Creative Weblogging, joins host Anita Campbell. Sponsored by Six Disciplines. Show details.
Monday, July 12, 2004
It's Not a Small "Big Business"
Jeff Cornwall of The Entrepreneurial Mind commented last week on Corporate executives starting their own businesses. His point was that Corporate types needed to understand that they were not starting smaller versions of the large corporations they used to work for. In a startup they must adjust their behavior and expectations drastically.

Today's Wall Street Journal has a special section on small business (requires subscription). A similar point to Jeff's was echoed several times over. In one article, Gail Blanke, a former Avon executive turned independent consultant, gave similar thoughts about leaving the convenient, predictable Corporate world to start a small business:

"A couple of hundred years ago, that's all anyone ever was, an entrepreneur, in one way or another, because there were no big corporations. I think we all have the stuff inside us to do it, but we get used to things being done in a certain way, like I did at Avon. I got used to having a lot of people working for me whom I could count on and trust. I got used to lots of departments I could access, like research and finance.

If you're considering becoming an entrepreneur, you have to ask yourself what your vision is, and make it so hot and so compelling that it can propel you forward no matter what. Once you have that powerful vision, you have to then ask, 'What am I willing to let go of?' If the vision is so wonderful in your mind, you can let go of that other stuff.

If you can't do that, then don't become an entrepreneur right now.... You have to let go of your old title, getting a paycheck every two weeks, your stock options. You have to let go of that in order to reach out and grasp a new one, and all the possibilities of how you're going to express yourself and what you're going to create."

This is an important point not only for would-be entrepreneurs, but also for anyone selling to small businesses. If you are selling to a small business owner, keep in mind that he or she may not be drawing a regular paycheck, probably wears many hats, and spends a fair amount of time doing routine tasks that would be delegated deep down in a large corporation. Just don't underestimate the skill level. You could be dealing with an ex-Executive Vice President of a Fortune 500 company who is a skilled negotiator -- and who just happens to do the billing, take out the trash, order supplies, and make the coffee.
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