Universities – How They Can Help Your Small Business

Professors at schools prefer to assign real life problems to their students. At most graduate business schools, they assign students singly or in teams to analyze a real company in their city. The other subject areas like engineering, graphic design, advertising, etc., are also looking for real life assignments for their students.

If you have a product that needs to be engineered, you can approach the professor teaching that subject to ask if students can be assigned to your project. They’re usually happy to comply. Most often there is no charge to you. Increasingly, more schools will charge a royalty if it’s a product you plan to commercialize. That is still a good deal as there should be no guarantees or up front royalty payment. (A Variable Expense)

We would go to the local design school to get a package for a new product developed. We might give a modest monetary prize to the student with the best design. More importantly, we would put their name on the package…great resume builder for the student. You might go to the local college or graduate business school and ask the Entrepreneurship professor if one of their student groups can come up with a business plan for your fledgling company. If you have a legal problem, approach the law school.

One year, we approached the engineering school at a major university to develop a savings bank with all kinds of bells and whistles. We wanted it to keep track of all the money in the bank at any moment, to play a song when money was deposited, to have a tabletop look, etc. For us this was a high tech project. For them it was a piece of cake. They were happy to take on the project as it was a real life situation.

In a recent survey I did with professors of Entrepreneurship, I discovered that a high percentage of them already have programs where teams of students are assigned to assist an existing company in solving its problems. The professors go into the community to find companies who want this help and who will cooperate with the students. They more than welcome companies coming to them to participate in this program. There are some smart young people involved who have a very open minded approach to solving problems and developing ideas. They are not constrained by the past. This is another cost free opportunity for assistance in developing your company.

Whatever your project, you should give serious thought to exploring the schools in your area for help. It can be an excellent cost-free solution. I believe your chances would be higher in schools that have a dominant position in the community. Helping the small guy while offering a good learning experience is a compelling proposition for a teacher.

A bonus for you is that you can find some great interns for your company during the summer months or school year. Some may turn out to be excellent hires.

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The Game of Monopoly: A World War 2 Hero

In all my years in the toy industry, I never knew about the following story and the role of Monopoly in helping Prisoners of War escape in World War 2. It is a fantastic tale and exemplifies Entrepreneurial thinking at its best. Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking, not a particular type of person.

In this case there was:

Need – Find a way to help captured airmen escape.

Knowledge – The key Knowledge factor was discovering that the International Red Cross Care Packages for POW’s could include games and pastimes.

The Opportunity – To supply the POW’s with special Monopoly sets as set forth in this story which I’ve verified is true from multiple sources.

 

Here is the creative Entrepreneurial narrative directed to a higher purpose than profits, just as it was sent to me:

Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape…

Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map.

Paper maps had some real drawbacks — they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush. Someone in MI-5 (similar to America ‘s OSS ) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It’s durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads, and unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise whatsoever.

At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort. By pure coincidence, Waddington was also the U.K. Licensee for the popular American board game, Monopoly. As it happened, ‘games and pastimes’ was a category of item qualified for insertion into ‘CARE packages’, dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.

Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddington’s, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany or Italy where Allied POW camps were located ). When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.

As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington’s also managed to add:

1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass

2. A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together

3. Useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian, and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first mission, how to identify a ‘rigged’ Monopoly set — by means of a tiny red dot,

one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square.

Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war.

The story wasn’t declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington’s, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony.

It’s always nice when you can play that ‘Get Out of Jail Free‘ card!

There Is No Entrepreneur Gene

The use of the words Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurism keep growing as more and more people strive to be entrepreneurs with their job creating ability. This was not always the case. Not so long ago, Entrepreneurs were described in such unflattering terms as shiftless, unfocused, shady, money-hungry, sharks, quick-buck artists, unreliable, shoot from-the-hip operators, and so on. There are many words and titles that have different meanings to different people. This can unwittingly hinder good communications and create misunderstandings.

So, let’s define Entrepreneurship so we can all be on the same page. To start with, here is the dictionary definition, which I believe most people will acknowledge falls short of the mark. The dictionary says:

  1. A person who organizes, manages, and assumes responsibility for a business or other enterprise.
  2. An employer of productive labor, contractor, one who undertakes some task.

This definition would lead one to assume that anyone “Starting a Business is an Entrepreneur.” I don’t believe that. It’s as far fetched as saying that anyone who owns a car dealership is qualified to be a NASCAR driver.

So what is it?

I like to draw on Harvard Business School’s Professor Howard Stevenson’s thinking on this subject. He says it is a way of thinking, rather than a personality type. He says that Entrepreneurship is a set of behaviors. He distinguished Entrepreneurs (who are opportunity driven) from managers (who are resource driven).

So here is my definition of Entrepreneurship, which is basically Professor Stevenson’s with a few additions of mine.

“Entrepreneurship is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control with confidence that you can succeed—with the flexibility to change course as necessary and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

So, to me, there clearly is no Entrepreneur gene. I hope this will encourage those people who feel they weren’t born to be Entrepreneurs.

Rebounding from Setbacks-A Wow! Video

My definition of Entrepreneurship is “The recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control, with confidence that you can succeed, with the flexibility to change course as necessary, and with the will to Rebound from Setbacks.” (This definition is primarily from Professor Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School with some additions of mine.)

I like this definition as it evolves around action words and can apply to life outside of business as well. Words such as Recognition. . .Pursuit. . .Confidence. . .Flexibility. . and Will. It also is telling you to accept your current position in business or in life and to move forward now without any recriminations of should haves, could haves, or delays while hoping for additional resources.
I would like to share a five-minute video with you that illustrates these action words in a strong and inspirational way.

It is a beautiful and graceful ballet dance between two people, one who has one leg and dances with a crutch and his partner who has one arm.

The acceptance of their situation, their will that drove their work ethic to learn to perform at this high level is amazing. This was a viral internet, welcome pass on, that I found inspiring.

Here is the link to this performance. Enjoy!

Ballet Video

THERE IS NO ENTREPRENEUR GENE

The use of the words Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurism keep growing as more and more people strive to be entrepreneurs with their job creating ability. This was not always the case. Not so long ago, Entrepreneurs were described in such unflattering terms as shiftless, unfocused, shady, money-hungry, sharks, quick-buck artists, unreliable, shoot from-the-hip operators, and so on. There are many words and titles that have different meanings to different people. This can unwittingly hinder good communications and create misunderstandings.

So, let’s define Entrepreneurship so we can all be on the same page. To start with, here is the dictionary definition, which I believe most people will acknowledge falls short of the mark. The dictionary says:

  • A person who organizes, manages, and assumes responsibility for a business or other enterprise.
  • An employer of productive labor, contractor, one who undertakes some task.

This definition would lead one to assume that anyone “Starting a Business is an Entrepreneur.” I don’t believe that. It’s as far-fetched as saying that anyone who owns a car dealership is qualified to be a NASCAR driver.

So what is it?

I like to draw on Harvard Business School’s Professor Howard Stevenson’s thinking on this subject. He says it is a way of thinking, rather than a personality type. He says that Entrepreneurship is a set of behaviors. He distinguished Entrepreneurs (who are opportunity driven) from managers (who are resource driven).

So here is my definition of Entrepreneurship, which is basically Professor Stevenson’s with a few additions of mine.

“Entrepreneurship is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control with confidence that you can succeed—with the flexibility to change course as necessary and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

To me, there clearly is no Entrepreneur gene. I hope this will encourage those people who feel they weren’t born to be Entrepreneurs.

Put Up or Shut Up!

PUT UP OR SHUT UP or Practice What You Preach. This mantra has many more implications and consequences than you think. You as the owner of your own business are the defacto leader of the company. However, real leadership must be earned. You can’t tell your employees to do one thing while you do the opposite. They will not follow or respect you. On the other hand, if your actions support your words, your people will respect and trust you and attempt to emulate your deeds. Your words will gain new credibility.

In thinking about this, I decided to follow my own advice in my new book, Bootstrapping 101, by bootstrapping its marketing. First, I decided to self-publish the book as I was less than satisfied with the effort of the well known publisher of my first book.

My first chapter is on Barter, “The exchange of goods and services for other goods and services.’ Usually no cash is involved. One morning while reading the local paper, I saw a feature article on a young lady, Briana Bragg and her company Business Bragger, which assists companies in  using  social media to achieve their business goals. Briana lost her first job before graduation, because her employer downsized. She decided to never let this happen to her again. She became an entrepreneur and started her own company. I contacted her to meet, and we struck up a barter deal. She was going to teach me how to use social media to sell more books, and I would mentor her through the growth of her start-up. We are both benefiting immensely.

I also have a chapter on the Free Help available to small businesses at Universities. Knowing that professors of Entrepreneurship like to assign teams of students to real life situations, I contacted Len Green, the savvy professor at Babson College. I suggested that one of his student teams might take on the assignment of creating a business plan on marketing my book. He was enthusiastic, and I will be going to Babson the end of October to hear the students’ plans and to talk to them about the path of entrepreneurial success.

I am using many of the book’s tips, and it is gratifying and fun to follow your own advice. It is also reinforcing my belief that it works.

Following one’s own advice is applicable to your personal life, particularly in parenting. How many times have you seen parents enforce particular behaviors on their children while acting contrary to their advice? They then wonder why their kids don’t listen to them. Children and adults will ape the behavior of parents or leaders they respect.

Practice What You Preach Is also very applicable to our elected officials. It will help their popularity rating which is currently dismal.

CHALLENGE # 1–Rearrange ALL the letters and using each one only once,in the word

DORMITORY,to form a new word or phrase that has a bearing on the original word…..
  (answer in the next blog)
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