The ‘boring’ details behind entrepreneurial success
Often times, people will have you believe that accomplished entrepreneurs had their success purely by dint of the invincibility of their irresistible ideas. The media creates a narrative that posits a sole human as the harbinger of change while completely obscuring the so-called boring details.
While big ideas are engines for change, often times it’s in fact the boring details that are the single biggest determinants of entrepreneurial success.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, I would not have previous wins under my belt or be seeing success currently as the CEO of Sqeeqee.com, the first-of-its-kind social networthing site, without understanding that the devil is in the details.
I have identified 5 “boring” aspects of entrepreneurism that if focused on will lead to success.
1. Business support network
A new entrepreneurial venture requires a great deal of assistance in terms of headhunting, business coaching, venture capital etc. that can only be met through a nurturing ecosystem of service providers. As an entrepreneur, you need to identify and build this support network of allied businesses, consultants, coaches etc. and put them to good use.
This would involve expanding the business ecosystem wherein your business idea can get traction through the process of leverage. For example, a business venture that builds relationships with the academia can profitably tap into their resources that professional consultancy services are not equipped to provide. Similarly, building relationships with peers and other start-ups can lead to beneficial and inexpensive business coaching sessions.
2. The people
The very best of business ideas can seem to go nowhere in the absence of a committed and competent set of people. Not only should a new business venture have an able and motivated team of people with diverse skills and competencies, it also needs to allocate roles and responsibilities carefully and precisely. An ambiguous division of responsibilities within the team can spell business disaster especially in the case of lapses in communication. A venture should be run and managed only by people who have genuinely bought into and share the entrepreneurial vision.
A start-up venture critically depends on outside sources of funding to run its day-to-day operations. Procuring venture capital funding or business angels who put up with seed capital or expansion capital can be helpful and exciting. However, these investors have their own exit strategy, which typically follows after a strong period of growth of the company. Astute entrepreneurs should be mindful, however, that an excessive focus on growth in terms of sales might come in the way of the company delivering a product or service that is defined by the articulated or unarticulated needs of the buyer.
4. Conventional service providers
A business venture, by its very nature, faces a number of hurdles that do not necessarily have business solutions. These are the type of problems (legal, taxation etc.) that should not preoccupy and thereby eat into the limited time of the entrepreneur and her team. Assembling a competent team of allies in the form of patent lawyers, tax advisers, and market researchers allows the entrepreneur to focus on the business side of the venture.
5. The product or service
A business needs to, in the ultimate analysis, fulfill unmet demands of the market or create a demand for its product/service that was not articulated so far. This is, however, not the same as creating a great product or coming up with a great idea. A great idea can lead to the creation of a great standalone product that nevertheless does not provide a great customer value. The focus, therefore, must always be on delivering a clear value proposition to the customer that leaves them satisfied.
One way to test whether a great idea or product/service has the potential to satisfy customers' needs is through an assessment of your resources. As an entrepreneur, you should have a handle on how much resource (in terms of money, people and time) you can expend on developing the product and how it would impact profitability. Before your great idea can transform into a successful one, it has to do more than just deliver customer value and be feasible. It must also demonstrate or create a significant market size so that your business has future growth potential.
Jenny Q. Ta is the founder and CEO of Sqeeqee, the first-of-its-kind social networthing site. Launched in 2014, the site gives individuals, businesses, celebrities, politicians, and non-profit organizations the ability to monetize their profiles in unprecedented ways.
Ms. Ta is a seasoned entrepreneur with two successful ventures to her credit. She was the Founder and CEO of Titan Securities, a full service investment firm that was acquired in 2005. Prior to founding Titan Securities she was the driving force behind Vantage Investments, a full-service broker-dealer start-up she founded in 1999 at the age of 27 and grew to a quarter of a billion dollars in assets.
Overall, she has more than 20 years of experience as a senior executive in sales, marketing and finance.
Jenny is an author whose book, Wall Street Cinderella, will launch in 2014 detailing her escape from Vietnam during the war and her path to success from welfare to Wall Street. As a self-made millionaire by the time she was 27, the book will serve as a roadmap for women looking at a business career.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.