Author Archives: C. DAY

The Start Is More Important Than the Success.

Since the advent of evidenced-based (aka lean startup) entrepreneurship, the brightest minds in entrepreneurship have told us to “just start”.  Phil Knight built an athletic giant using the words “just do it”, and Babson College, the holy grail for academic entrepreneurship, teaches “CreAction”.  CreAction is starting a new business as you adjust along the way.  James Clear, national blogger, expands the concept into life in general, a reaffirmation for the best way to start a new venture.  Let the user, the ultimate adopter tell you how to solve their problem, what they need to fill their demands, and ways to improve their daily life.

No entrepreneur built businesses more prolifically using the “Just Start” than Sir Richard Branson.  Inc. Magazine wrote his approach to Just Do It at

Here is Clear’s article worth a read:

In 1991, Lindsay Davenport played in her first professional tennis match. She was 15 years old.  Over the next 20 years, Davenport would go on to have one of the greatest tennis careers in recent history. She won three different Grand Slam titles. She won the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal. She was ranked the Number 1 female tennis player in the world eight different times. In total, Davenport earned over $22 million in prize money throughout her career.

I had the chance to meet Davenport at the 2012 US Open. Later that night, she fielded some questions from our group and I asked her this…

“Lindsay, sports can teach people a lot of lessons. What lessons did you learn during your time as a professional tennis player that you didn’t learn as an amateur?” Full disclosure: I had a personal motive with this question. I played baseball in college, but not professionally. So I wanted to know, “What did I miss?”

Davenport’s first response was to talk about how she had to grow up fast. She mentioned the power of the media and learning to live her life in front of a crowd. But then she shifted gears and talked about improving at her craft and the lessons of competition, hard work, and perseverance. Those things, she said, were learned long before she became a professional.

In other words, to learn about what it’s like to live as a professional athlete, you need to be a professional athlete. But to learn the lessons of playing sports, you just need to play your sport.

Excellence Isn’t Required for Growth

Our world is becoming more and more obsessed with comparison and validation. The style of thinking that is becoming dangerously common is “If you can’t be number one or number two, then you might as well not play at all.” (This belief was actually celebrated in my MBA program, which may or may not surprise you.)

But according to Davenport, you don’t need to be a professional to learn the most important lessons in sports. You just need to bust your butt as an athlete, regardless of the level you’re playing at. I’d say it’s that way in the rest of life as well. Mastering your craft isn’t nearly as important as pushing yourself.

To put it another way, you’ll learn more from the process of pursuing excellence than from the products of achieving it.

It’s More Important to Start, Than to Succeed

I think a lot of what people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity. —Aaron Swartz

What if the choice to be curious was all that was required to become smarter, stronger, and more skilled? What if the willingness to try something new, even if it felt uncomfortable, was all that it took to start the slow march towards greatness?

  • Are you curious enough to get in the gym and try it, even if you’ll look stupid?
  • Are you willing to be vulnerable and put your skin in the game to start your own business?
  • Are you eager enough to improve your work that you’ll battle through the frustration of producing something mediocre?

It all boils down to this: Whether you’ll end up being the best or the worst, are you willing to start? The more I look at things this way, the more I believe that the willingness to start is the littlest thing in life that makes the biggest difference.

Step onto the field. Stand up in the meeting. Raise your hand in class. Get under the bar. Walk up to the podium. Ask the first question.

Take a risk, get started, and contribute something. To your team, to your family, to your job, to your community. Whether or not you end up being number one in the world is irrelevant. Most of the time, the value you provide isn’t nearly as important as pushing yourself to provide it. This is especially true at first.

Having the courage to start is more important than succeeding because the people who consistently get started are the only ones who can end up finishing anything.

Get Started: Life Isn’t a Dress Rehearsal

I often write about what it means to live a healthy life. I can’t think of any skill more critical to the active pursuit of a healthy life than the willingness to start. Everything that signifies a happy, healthy and fulfilled existence — strong relationships, vibrant creativity, valuable work, a physical lifestyle, etc. — it all requires a willingness to get started over and over again.

Take note: being the best isn’t required to be happy or fulfilled, but being in the game is necessary. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Only one person lives in the spotlight, but everyone benefits from stepping on stage.

Which stage will you step onto? What game will you play? How will you get started?

More by James Clear at

Self-Employment and the Attributes of the Dream Job.

Gallup’s The Dream Job covers the key attributes employees look for in a job. These are:

  1. the ability to do what they do best
  2. greater work-life balance and better personal well-being
  3. greater stability and job security
  4. a significant increase in income
  5. the opportunity to work for a company with a great brand or reputation

This list nicely illustrates the trade-offs people make when they become self-employed.

The top reasons people cite for becoming self-employed are (data from theMBO Partners State of Independence study):

  1. The ability to control their own schedule
  2. Increased flexibility
  3. Like being my own boss
  4. Do what I love
  5. Work on projects and tasks I like
  6. Earn more money

These two lists almost completely overlap, with the obvious exception being “greater stability and job security”.

Given these lists, it’s not surprising that the self-employed consistently tell us in interviews they are trading job security in exchange for greater work autonomy, control and flexibility.

Most self-employed see this trade-off as being well worth it.

The image comes from the website Broke-Ass Stuart, which has the tagline “you are young, broke and beautiful”.


Current Corporate Innovation: How to Find the Next Big Thing

Newswise — I’ve had the pleasure of discussing and in some cases collaborating on the innovation programs at a number of corporations. Clearly, on the whole, changing an established corporation into an innovation powerhouse isn’t what any reasonable person would call easy. If it was, we’d see more of it.

That said, certain things are easy. If you’re like most managers, you want to get going on the hard things while scoring some quick and easy wins to build momentum and morale.

In this piece and its sequel, I’ll offer you some ideas on how to do this across three major aspects of running a corporate innovation program — Finding the Next Big Thing, Funding the Next Big Thing and Forming Innovation Teams. I’ll start with some observations on what I’ve found is typically hard vs. easy for the corporation and close with ideas on how to create wins.

First things first: new ideas.

Finding the Next Big Thing

How do you identify disruptive new ideas that will drive organic growth and renew the corporation?

The Hard Thing: The hard thing is that your solution is already awesome. The corporation that’s so big it’s hard to change has gotten big by doing something well. The catch is that while Blockbuster Video was great at stocking video cassettes, Netflix disrupted them by fundamentally rethinking how they could deliver value to the customer, rather than by outdoing Blockbuster at what they did well. BMW has wonderfully efficient gas engines, and they’re great at making them even better. Where do you think they should focus now?

Concerning their industry-leading laundry detergent, Tide, former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley tells the story of how they had to go out and watch consumers wash clothes to realize their next big innovation might come from packaging innovations like better containers and capsules, as opposed to making their already excellent formula even better.

Finding the next big thing likely won’t come from doing what you already do even better — but it isn’t as hard as you might think.

On that note, let’s move on to The Easy Thing.

The Easy Thing: The easy thing is that all you need to do is look at your existing customers a little differently. Finding the next big thing comes from diligent curiosity. In my experience, cultivating that curiosity is relatively easy, it just takes a little instruction and practice. We can substantially initiate that instruction over the next ~60 seconds.

The basic idea is to explore what fundamentally matters to the customer or user, independent of your particular solution you’re already offering. I’ll use the term “problem scenario” to describe this fundamental need, job or desire that exists independent of your particular offer.  In the P&G detergent example, some example “problem scenarios” might be:

Cleaning Clothing

Selecting the Right Soap and Cleaning Process

Dispensing and Measuring the Soap

Correctly Adding the Soap to the Washing Equipment

Periodically, it’s critical to look at your target problem scenarios objectively and fundamentally by not only asking your customers open-ended questions, but also observing them engaged in your target problem scenarios.

For example, when A.G. Lafley tells the story of P&G’s investigation about Tide, they had previously asked customers about Tide’s current packaging and the customers generally said it was good. It was only when the P&G teams went out to watch their customers do laundry that they realized many of them were keeping a flathead screwdriver on hand to open the package (not great!).

This is where alternatives come into play: Make sure you understand the most prevalent, most preferred alternatives to all your relevant problem scenarios. If your customer’s current alternative for dispensing your (or a competitor’s) soap is a flathead screwdriver, then you may be on to your next big thing, or at least a valuable thing. I do this kind of work all the time, and please believe me when I say there are lots of flathead screwdrivers out there.

Now we come to the exciting part: value propositions. With an understanding of the relevant problem scenarios and alternatives, you have a highly testable basis for evaluating innovative new value propositions. You just need to ask yourself “Is this particular idea of ours [the value proposition] better enough than [the current alternative] at delivering on [some important problem scenario] that the customer would [buy it, use it, pay a premium, etc.]?” Let’s call a potential answer to this question a “value hypothesis.” The next step is to test the value hypothesis.

Is changing a whole corporation over to thinking this way easy? No. However, getting a few curious, energetic managers doing it and scoring early wins is relatively easy and infinitely doable, and it will pave the way for strong work on organic growth and innovation.

That’s where I recommend you start when you’re Finding the Next Big Thing. For the next steps — Funding the Next Big Thing and Forming Innovation Teams — tune in the first week of January.

I hope you’ve found some things you can use here. I love hearing from other practitioners — please get in touch anytime at

by Alex Cowan  Cowan is an expert in digital innovation, agile and lean methodologies, and entrepreneurship. He teaches multiple courses in  the Univ. of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Technology and Operations Management.


Why Are Food Franchises So Popular?

I’d like you to grab a pen and paper and quickly write down the first three franchises that come to mind.  When you’re done, look below to see if any of these iconic franchise brands are on your list:

  • Subway®
  • McDonald’s®
  • Dunkin Donuts®
  • Pizza Hut®
  • Burger King®

If any of them are on your list, you just helped answer one of the reasons why food franchises are so popular. If none of them are on your list, I’m surprised. That’s because those franchises have incredible brand recognition, which is one of the reasons food franchises are so popular. Now, let’s see if the next reason makes sense.

People Need to Eat

It’s true—people do need to eat. That’s another reason why food franchise opportunities are so popular. People figure they can’t lose if they buy a food franchise.

But in this case, it’s where they eat along with how they eat that matters. Both of those things have a lot to do with the revenue you’ll be bringing in if you own a food franchise.

For example, sometimes consumers need a fast meal. Many food franchises can capitalize on that type of consumer. As a matter of fact, there’s an entire segment that targets busy consumers who need a quick meal: QSR, or Quick Service Restaurants. To see just how dominant food franchises are in this segment, check out the Top 50 Quick Service Restaurants.

However, not all consumers need to eat fast. These consumers tend to go with healthier choices when they aren’t eating at home. But there are plenty of food franchises that cater to people who are trying to eat better.

Now that you know that brand recognition and market need are two reasons why food franchises are popular, let’s see if a food franchise could be in your future.

Owning and Operating a Food Franchise

Food franchise ownership is not for the meek.  Reasons include:

  • Extremely long hours
  • High employee turnover
  • Expensive real estate
  • Fluctuating food costs
  • Extremely long hours*

*That’s not a misprint. I wrote it twice as a way of emphasizing the fact that you’ll be at your business a lot. And how do I know? Because I worked in food-service for 15 years.

There’s something to be said about working a 14-hour day, sleeping for 5-6 hours, and then coming back the next day to do it all over again. Six days a week.

But on a positive note, when it’s your business, you’re probably not going to mind the long hours as much.

Employee Turnover

As the owner of a food franchise, there’s going to come a time when you’ll ask yourself this question:

Why does it seem that whenever I get a good, hard-working employee, they end up leaving?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you. And believe me, it’s a question that’s been asked hundreds of thousands of times over the years.

The bottom line is this: The food-service business has extremely high turnover. If you choose to become a part of the industry, it’s something you’ll always have to deal with.

But, here’s the good news: If your franchise business is thriving, the high-turnover rate will be a little easier to swallow.

Your Location

The importance of having a great location for your food franchise can’t be overstated. It will have to be in a high-traffic area. And it will also have to be located in a spot that’s visible from the street.

You’ll also need to have ample parking for your customers, and enough space where they won’t feel closed in. As a result, the space you rent will cost a pretty penny in most cases.

Having said that, the law of supply and demand—combined with your specific geographical area—will end up determining the price you pay. Generally speaking, a retail space in a Boston-area shopping center is going to cost more than one in Midland, Texas.

Owning a food franchise means you’ll work really hard, you’ll go through a lot of employees, and your operating costs could be high.

But, if you’re prepared for some of things you’ll have to deal with in food service, the rewards can be high. This is especially true if you’re able to secure more than one location.

About the Author:

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and recently launched Franchise Business University.

Have Big Idea? Want to Change the World? Start a Business


If you want to change the world, you may want to start a business.

You can find a million other examples of entrepreneurs who started businesses with an opinion instead of a spreadsheet. From Steve Jobs at Apple and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia to my friend in Los Angeles who believed the world needed a different kind of dough nut.

I know what you’re thinking: Business is that boring professor armed with spreadsheets and calculators, lecturing you on exciting subjects like “Carefully Evaluating the Competitive Landscape” and “How to Exploit the Market to Produce the Highest Return on Investment.”

For some people, business is precisely that, and paying attention to such things is a smart thing to do if you want to open a new dry cleaner or some other worthy enterprise.

But business doesn’t have to be just that. The most interesting businesses, at least to me, are the ones whose founders had ideas they wanted, or even needed, to share. And instead of turning to art, science or politics to share them, they used a thing called a business to do it.

Let me tell you a little secret: I never did any market analysis to determine whether there was a possible niche for a Sketch Guy, or what kind of return on investment I could get from using Sharpies to sketch harebrained ideas on card stock. I just had a strong feeling: People needed a simpler way to talk about money. And that was the closest thing I ever had to a business plan.

My two eldest daughters are starting to think about what they’re going to be when they grow up. They’re concerned about the impact of climate change, and they have strong opinions about what should happen to stop, or at least slow, global warming.

As a father, I’m proud of their dream and want to encourage it. They could be environmental scientists, professors, policymakers, lobbyists, cinematographers or journalists. The list goes on and on.

But if they can get past Dr. Spreadsheet, they could also be entrepreneurs, and it may be an even more successful and fulfilling path.

Courtesy of Carl Richard, CFP, financial author in the N. Y. Times, “The Sketch Guy”.

Trump Shifts Labor Focus from Worker to Entrepreneurship.

Even by the standards of the Trump era, one of the more unusual departures from recent Washington practice came in June, in a case before the Supreme Court involving worker rights.  The Trump administration felt so strongly on the issue — that employers can force workers to forfeit their rights to bring class-action lawsuits — that it reversed the government’s position, something that has rarely happened in a pending case.

President Trump surrounded by small-business leaders in the Oval Office in January as he signed an executive order on reducing regulations. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“What’s pretty unprecedented is that they came to a different conclusion in the Supreme Court case,” said M. Patricia Smith, the solicitor at the Labor Department under President Barack Obama. (A Justice Department spokesman said that every administration sometimes departs from the position of its predecessors in new Supreme Court cases.)

It is one of a series of actions that have reversed course on rights and protections for workers. The administration had proposed a 40 percent cut for the government agency that conducts research into workplace hazards, undone Obama-era guidances on enforcement of employment laws and sought to eliminate a roughly $10.5 million program that helps some unions and nonprofit organizations — whose efforts many business and free-market groups consider nettlesome — to educate workers on how to avoid injury and illness.

Championing the American worker was a central theme of Mr. Trump’s election campaign. He made inroads into the traditionally Democratic union vote, and echoed the words of labor leaders on themes like trade, infrastructure and offshoring jobs.

That a Republican administration would nonetheless pursue a business-friendly labor policy is not unexpected. But beyond partisan politics, its record on worker issues reflects a consistent Trump worldview: that entrepreneurship is the highest economic calling and the entrepreneur is the economic actor most deserving of respect.

Mr. Trump has framed his own career as an example of entrepreneurship’s risks and rewards, and has made entrepreneurship a key talking point as president. In nominating officials to serve in his cabinet, he has frequently highlighted their entrepreneurial accomplishments. He has praised a bill promoting women in entrepreneurship and predicted that “millions of people will be lifted out of poverty” thanks to a World Bank entrepreneurship initiative his administration supported.

“I’m very inspired to be in the company of such motivated entrepreneurs — people that I really respect, because I know what it takes; I’ve been there,” Mr. Trump said at a White House smallbusiness event in August.

Donald J. Trump in 2004 as one of his apartment projects went up in White Plains. He has framed his career as an example of entrepreneurship’s risks and rewards. Credit Susan Stava for The New York Times


Net Neutrality Hurts Entrepreneurship.

Happy Friday. Net neutrality topped the headlines this week, with the Federal Communications Commission vote to roll back its 2015 net neutrality regulations on Thursday morning. Led by FCC Chairman and former Verizon executive Ajit Pai, the lift on regulations legally allows internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to block, slow access, or offer “paid prioritization” for certain content. Though big ISPs promise nothing will change, the repeal might make it even harder for startups to compete with tech incumbents without burning through their resources. In what may be the one silver lining, it’s encouraging to see executives from our industry stand together for equal access to the internet for all.                                                                                   — Allie Felix, for Work-Bench,

Work-Bench is an enterprise technology venture fund based in New York City. We invest in category-defining enterprise technology startups early in their go-to-market


Net Neutrality Is Over. What Happens Next?
Fortune • “The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to repeal its 2015 net neutrality rules that prohibited Internet service providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against online content and services. FCC chairman Ajit Pai…”

Why Net Neutrality Was Repealed and How It Affects You
The New York Times • “The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules, which required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content without charging consumers for higher-quality…”

Challenges of Hiring Employees and Gig Workers.

Small Business Owners Share Challenges of Hiring Employees and Gig Workers

Small businesses employ almost half of all workers in the United States and have been responsible for much of the post-2008 economic recovery through their hiring efforts.

Over the past year, hiring activity has been on an upward trend for small businesses, with plans to add workers hitting the highest level since 1999.

SCORE’s latest Megaphone of Main Street Small Business Jobs Report surveyed more than 1,700 small business owners to rate their hiring experiences of employees and contractors.

Difficulty filling positions

More than 50 percent of small businesses said it was very or somewhat difficult to fill open positions, with about 55 percent of micro businesses, or those with 0 to 4 employees, in agreement.

Twenty-seven percent of openings went unfilled in the past six months, which was consistent across different small business sizes and locations. Business owners cited problems finding skilled, qualified applicants as a primary reason for not filling positions.

Offering competitive wages and salaries is another common challenge, along with a lack of healthcare and other employee benefits. Hiring takes time, too — about 18 percent of all small businesses said it was too time-consuming to hire qualified workers – they’ll just do the job themselves.

Small businesses use job-posting sites, recommendations from other business owners, networking groups and online platforms drive hiring efforts, but by far, recommendations from other workers proved most fruitful in finding new employees.

Our infographic, “The Megaphone of Main Street: Small Business and Employment,” identifies more hiring challenges faced by small businesses.

The gig economy and small business

The area of largest hiring growth among those surveyed was in one-time project or gig workers at 37 percent.

Eighteen percent of businesses reported replacing employees of any type with contractors over the past six months.

Of those business owners, 50.8 percent reported choosing a contractor or temporary worker for the benefit of their specialized expertise. Forty-one percent reported only having seasonal or temporary needs; 35.1 percent said they preferred hiring a contractor over needing ongoing cash reserves for payroll. The costs and complexities of offering employee benefits like healthcare and retirement plans also drove the decision to hire a contractor.

Forty-seven percent of solopreneurs reported hiring other people for part-time help running their businesses. Their firms had an average of 3.2 workers, including the owner.

Contractors are most likely to be called in to complete technical, accounting, bookkeeping and marketing tasks. Other important roles for contractors include manufacturing, sales, business planning and logistics.

When respondents noted their reasons for hiring an employee over a contractor, consistency of work and commitment to the company were primary. Having the same person in a position rather than a rotating contractor was another major factor, as was the ability to direct work tasks and schedule work hours.

Some business owners commented that their concerns about correctly following IRS regulations— and dealing with related paperwork — guided their decisions whether to hire a contractor or an employee.