Being a startup in 2010

5 01 2010

We’ve welcomed 2010 at home and now at work.  As thoughts of New Year champagne and merrymaking fade into recent memory, projects and deadlines loom large.  Targets, goals, benchmarking…hello job!

According to this WSJ article, Americans are less satisfied with their work than ever.  No kidding.  Between doing more with less for at least a decade, and this style-cramping no-end-in-sight economy, I dare you to find 10 friends who go to work for ‘the man’ with a song in their heart.

All of which gave me additional pause when I read that startups will keep struggling in 2010.  For many of us working in professional chain gangs, we dream of changing our work path, breaking free & finally being our own boss.  The article delivered a somber forecast, but here are some silver-lining thoughts if you want to or have already launched your own gig.  See if these might change your perspective:

  1. Angel investors and venture capitalists are doing more, but smaller deals.  VCs are targeting later-stage companies to minimize their risk.  And the SBA may see a modest stimulus-induced uptick.    So…funding is still out there.  What REALLY counts, more than ever in this climate, is a rock-solid business strategy that can be creatively and successfully implemented on a budget.  In other words, prove you know how to accomplish more with less dinero on as many fronts as possible.  If nothing, you will stand out for your ingenuity and resourcefulness.
  2. Companies are asking friends & family to work for free i.e. exchanging services or trading favors.  If you’re already neck deep in entrepreneur literature, this will not be news to you.  Consider 2010 the year to call in those favors – this is no time to be shy if you truly believe in your idea.  And if you’ve established high credibility with former bosses or colleagues, ask them if they’ll put their money or time where their faith is.
  3. Given the funding situation, a budding restauranteur featured in the article is rethinking his setup.  Instead of going it alone or starting from scratch, he may take on partners or invest in a failed restaurant.  So get creative.  Study that business plan again.  Is there something you can tweak without compromising your vision?  Is there a market entry point you haven’t considered?  Start talking to people abut your startup.  You’ll be surprised by what they reveal or point you to.  In this networked world where information courses at a million miles a minute and ideas just like yours could be a dime a dozen, sharing your idea won’t necessarily diminish your competitive edge.  However, a lack of  follow through and flawless execution will.

The business climate may not be ideal for your startup right now.  But that didn’t stop companies from trying and succeeding in previous downturns.  Give that budding vision a chance to breathe, evolve and eventually become the full-blooded entity you know it can be.

A New Year’s toast to your dream.  Cheers!





Centered Leadership

21 10 2009

Leadership theories are fascinating.  Here’s the latest from McKinsey researchers.  It’s a refreshing take on contemporary leadership, distilled into 5 key elements:

1) Meaning – coming from your authentic core to lead with creativity and purpose

2) Framing – view situations clearly to avoid downward spirals

3) Connecting – gathering a like-minded tribe

4) Engaging – taking risks, displaying ownership and being adaptive

5) Managing energy – learning to manage energy reserves and tap into flow

What appears to set this framework apart from its predecessors is its significant person- and change-centric approach.  Effective leadership begins with a deep self-understanding, and then radiating that out to the team and the community at large.  This leads to a more joyful, fulfilling and successful life.