Turning Entrepreneurship Inside Out

For the last four years, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as an Entrepreneur in Residence at RADIUS, a social innovation lab and venture accelerator at Simon Fraser University. Like all entrepreneurs, RADIUS program participants face myriad challenges, but there’s one problem in particular that always piques my interest.

In the first accelerator cohort, there was a young woman who was keen to blend her passion for art with her curiosity about entrepreneurship. She did a great job testing her ideas, defining her customer, and describing her social impact. But she was endlessly nervous…. It was like everything depended on her next move. She left herself no emotional capacity to slip up.

Is perfection the enemy of practicality?

In the second cohort, an entrepreneur was building a waste management venture around a brilliant product idea. He also did a great job engaging potential customers, learning about how their business systems worked, and designing his product to fit. But for him, every tiny part of the product had to be designed just so; in his pursuit of perfection, he left little space for practicality.

And recently, it was a young immigrant whose ground-breaking product could do so much better alongside an app, or a social networking platform, or some other extension. Through round and round of review and iteration, his ideas seemed always destined to be more complicated. He left no space for simple efficiency.

Capacity. Practicality. Simplicity. The common thread?…

Enterprise development is inseparable from entrepreneur development.

Last week, I wrote a piece about my practice of mindfulness-based meditation. The parallel I want to draw is that entrepreneurship can also be viewed as a practice. Consider: Doctors ‘practise’ medicine. Accountants ‘practise’ finance. Consultants ‘practise’ strategy. What do entrepreneurs ‘practise?’

Building a new venture is inherently complex, as myriad opportunities seem to conspire to stall our progress. Retaining the capacity for personal resilience is imperative. How else will we have the energy to make crisp, clear decisions, narrowing our focus on our best window of opportunity?

Build only what’s essential. Discipline is essential to entrepreneurship.

Designing a product is profoundly difficult, as customers all have distinct goals and priorities. None of us can meet every single need; instead, we must start by defining what’s essential, and building just that. But it’s so tempting to keep chasing perfect!

And often our deep understanding of the customer and the market tempts us to extend our reach to solve a bigger problem. Why solve for x, when solving for x, y, and z would be such a great contribution?! If we can only build one venture at a time, how do we ‘keep it simple?’

Yes, the practice of entrepreneurship is built on a foundation of focus, self-restraint, and critical thought. Focus on the singular place you can make your biggest impact. Hold yourself back from too much polish, erring on the side of getting a product to market. And prioritize the single most important problem to solve.

What’s the ‘practice’ of entrepreneurship?

This all takes effort. Discipline. Practice. Most of the entrepreneurs I work with are learning this while simultaneously building their ventures. They knew they were doing the latter. The former often comes as a bit of a surprise!

Here’s the best kept secret I’ve learned during my time as an Entrepreneur in Residence: When you turn business inside out, and start by looking critically at yourself, you’ll far more quickly build a healthy business.

Are you ready to embrace the ‘practice’ of entrepreneurship? I’ll share more about this alongside my friend Urszula Lipsztajn during our entrepreneurs’ retreat this September. Will you join us for Business Inside Out?

 

Mike Rowlands is President & CEO at Junxion. He will lead Business Inside Out at Hollyhock September 16 – 19, alongside leadership coach Urszula Lipsztajn. Designed for leaders of social purpose and technology ventures, Business Inside Out will be an intensive retreat to accelerate personal leadership and business growth. Attendees will envision their next 10 years, and leave with the tools, skills and support to ensure their success. Registration is open.

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