Motivation, the Key to Entrepreneurial Success!

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”-Andy Warhol.

If I, as your editor, was to judge my success in entrepreneurship, I would say it was a burning desire not to fail.  However, one acquires a motivation to pour sweat and effort into a startup business, it is the  necessary ingredient to succeed.  How else can a person preserve through valleys, solve problems, be creative and develop resilience without a strong desire to do so (aka motivation).  Introductory entrepreneurship builds confidence by making students present ideas, design a project, and learn leadership.  But, once out in the big world of commerce, it’s tough to navigate through set-backs.  We teach fail fast, fail often to promote learning.  We also can teach a nascent entrepreneur evidenced-based, lean startup which, when used properly, will yield a needed product or service.  But, how do we  teach the vague, ambiguous desire to be resilience and stay up-beat?

In an effort to provide this kind of training, I turned to positive psychology and found both Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s State of Flow.  The former  develops a hopeful feeling, thinking things will go well which, in turn, leads to achievement and better results.  The latter explains how a person performing some activity fully immersed generates a feeling of joy from a complete absorption in the activity.  A common denominator seems to be a meaningful purpose that call upon the person’s creativity and freedom to innovate.  Once an entrepreneur enters “the zone” or flow, the hyperfocus of the project changes any negative thoughts using the ability to change thoughts and circumstances.

This week I was exposed to another psychological approach called Mindset Over Motivation by Dr. Nathaniel Mills from Sacramento CA, a clinical professor at UC Davis School of Medicine and Faculty-in-Residence at the Carlen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He builds motivation to stay-on-track by using the IUAP prioritization exercise analyzing three questions: (1) What needs to be done and am I ready to do it?, (2) Is it worth the risk? and (3) Am I smart/talented enough to do it?  By using a graph to chart the importance, urgency, and anxiety scores for project activities, the person can assign numeric priorities. Each category -importance (I), urgency (U) and anxiety (A) rates individual activities by 1 to 5 to fix a total priority score for each task or project to determine the most important activity to do next.  Mills approach keeps  one absorbed, peaked for optimism, and working on the most important activity at the present time.

By courtesy of the Carlsen Center at Cal State Sacramento we offer the full 30-40 minutes presentation for a broader understanding of Mindset Over Motivation…

How to Refine Your Growth Strategy


When you’re facing growing pains, the right tweaks can boost growth and create new opportunities.

What happens when you are doing well but face new challenges because of success?  Businesses call it growing pains.  You can excel at strategy and execution but feel pressure on your process.  You might discover gaps in your overall strategic plan.  Solo entrepreneurs, startups, and creators have the advantage of being nimble.  You get to edit your strategy and plan on the fly.  Making those changes and adjusting the course can improve your outlook.  There are several angles you can explore to refine you growth strategy.  The right tweaks can boost growth and create new opportunities:

  1. Keep refining your pitch.
  2. Narrow down your niche.
  3. Draw the line.
  4. Relationships matter more than anything.
  5. Enhancing your relationships.
  6. Hunting vs. farming.
  7. Having a retention strategy.
  8. Having regular touchpoint.
  9. Diversifying and branching out.
  10. Try free, freemium, and loss leaders.
  11. Give free work as a selling strategy.
  12. Trying the freemium model.
  13. Using loss leaders to drive sales.
  14. Adding giveaways as a token of appreciation.

Courtesy Medium article by Max Dufour published 2/1/2022 in Entrepreneur’s Handbook.

Full article at

Basics of Entrepreneurship Finance.

Think of this as Financial Literacy which is not going to earn you a degree in finance but it will give you the fundamentals so you know how to run and keep track of your business.  From an operational standpoint, the most simple level for finance is cash incash out, and net cash flow.  As an entrepreneur, you always need to understand the cash first. Cash is the ultimate measurement you must be concerned with. We will talk about many specific financial statements for a business in this chapter (the three most popular are income statement, balance sheet, statement of cash flows) but I always say the most important statement for an entrepreneur is the bank statement.

Cash burn rate is a rate of change so it is important to define the period of time, as it is for any rate. So if we can estimate that our cash burn rate per month is $50K (i.e., $50K/month) and I know I have $500K of cash in bank (unencumbered of net liabilities), then I can estimate I have enough cash to last me approximately 10 months. That is very important information to know – and you should know it for sure.

Cost of Goods Sold (BOM plus direct labor): This is actually pretty straight forward. It is all of the items listed on the BOM (Bill of Material) which can be priced out easily by calling a few vendors. The BOM is a list of all the items required to produce your product. Sometimes people interpret “items” as being parts and do not include the incremental or “direct” labor required to build one more of the product. The direct labor costs should be estimated and absolutely be included too. Your Cost of Goods Sold (often shorten to “COGS”) will likely go down as volume goes up so when you give a COGS estimate, you should tie it back to a volume estimate. In the reporting of past finances, the COGS is known and determined so no estimate is needed. Obviously COGS is affected by the pricing of the components and the companies ability to negotiate good deals for itself with vendors.

The three common statements are the Income Statement (also called the Profit and Loss Statement), the Balance Sheet and the Statement of Cash Flows.  The Income Statement shows you how “profitable” was over a specified time, such as a month, quarter, or year. It gives you an indication of what the cash might be but it is different first of all because of non-cash expenses.  An Income Statement is a view of the venture’s finances over a period of time while the Balance Sheet is a snapshot of the financial position at one given time. It tells you within the strict rules of accounting, what assets you have and what liabilities you owe to others. Inherent is how much the company is worth, which is called “Shareholder Equity”. Shareholder Equity = Value of Assets – Value of Liabilities.

The Statement of Cash Flows tells you how much cash entered and left your business over a particular time period.  This statement has three parts:

  1. Cash Flows from Operations: This is what you make and spend in the normal course of doing business, which comes from your Income Statement.
  2. Cash Flow from Investing Activities: This is money you invest in capital assets as we discussed in the Income Statement section, by purchasing new equipment or investing in major projects that can be amortized for your business.
  3. Cash Flow from Financing Activities: As this title says, this is money that comes in or goes out of your company not related to the operations of the business but because of investors putting money in, getting money from loans, debtors getting money out or owners paying dividends. It also might be from one-time activities that don’t fit into the first two buckets but add or subtract money from the company.

Summary  –  Cash is what matters and that is not clear from standard accounting statements and you should generally know the difference.  That difference is cash flow for assets that are depreciable and working capital – the difference of when you have to pay and when you receive payments not when the expenses and revenue is recorded from an accounting standpoint.

Revenue and expenses come in two varieties: one-time and recurring. All things being equal, recurring is much preferred for revenue whereas one time is preferred for expenses.  As a startup, always know your cash balance in the bank and your monthly burn rate so you know how many months of runway you have. Don’t let that runway get too short otherwise bad things can start to happen that will cause it to decrease even faster.

Courtesy of Bill Aulet (pictured above), Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup, one popular new venture planning method. 

Embarc Collective’s Annual Startup Summit

The leading accelerator in downtown Tampa is a 32,000 square foot collaboration facility who holds an annual event featuring some of the best minds in startup entrepreneurship.  Under the direction of Lakshmi Shenoy, Embarc Collective held its 2022 summit January 25-27th.

Among the participants for this 9th annual gathering were Jeff Vinik, primary stakeholder behind Embarc and owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, startup founders Jen Consalvo, Courtney & Tye Caldwell, Amy Beckley, and topical experts sharing knowledge on smart cities, fundraising, startup lessons, and even happiness.  It would not have happened without enlightened sponsors like UBS, University of South Florida, Enterprise Florida, Hillsborough County, the University of Tampa, Synapse, Bro Development, Tampa Bay Wave-Tech-Ventures (each separate), Florida’s High Tech Corridor, and many more.

Jim Vinik was truly convivial, sharing his early days in stock brokerage, his first job as a securities analyst, recruitment by Fidelity, and the fact he reads 8-9 hours a day.  It must be true that leaders are readers!  We Work co-founder Jesse Middleton explains how the startup team designed workspace and solutions like turnkey combinations to meet the changing demand of digital entrepreneurs.  Rich Maloy shared insights on the best way to exit from his new book Exit Right, Travis Holoway and Rodney Williams checked-in with lessons since winning startup-of-the-year in 2021, and Jenny Fielding gave her story of starting her own The Fund following years leading Techstars in NYC.  Finally, unicorn Blake Hall described how grew by providing a simple, safe way to identify one’s authenticity online.

Here is the event courtesy of Embarc Collective...

Wonderful 2022 USASBE Conference

Raleigh NC January 6th – 9th, Hosted by ECU and NCS (Eastern Carolina University and North Carolina State University).  So fitting that this year’s USASBE (U. S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship) should be held in the research triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill North Carolina, a hub for technology and biotech companies.  It is the new home of our sister organization NACCE (National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship) on the campus of Wake Tech and the Brian Hamilton Foundation whose mission is to train incarcerated peoples into entrepreneurship.

It was another spectacular gathering of the best in the field sparkled by self-made keynoters as down-to-earth as your barber or beautician.  These gatherings have taken a terrific turn since Julie Shields became permanent Executive Director two years ago, the quality of breakout sessions, attraction of top tier entrepreneurs, and a noticeable broadening from research only.  Last year your editor went through an epiphany from one breakout by Eric Koester on Content Entrepreneurship, and this year he met his Godfather, the ECU grad who endowed one of the best entrepreneurship school in the country, Fielding Miller.

He was my personal centerpiece having combined a brilliant financial tech startup with a belief in the life changing capability of entrepreneurship.  Fielding went to work for a bank right out of ECU when investment rental houses became vacant, his wife’s employer hadn’t paid health premium, and she became pregnant.  Needing more income, Fielding changed to stock brokerage where he became the company’s most successful salesman.  That field led to a creative pay model of annual fees vs. trade commissions.  In 1996 he started Captrust targeting companies and institutions to help the with newfangled retirement plans called 401(k)s.

Today Captrust based in Raleigh is one of the largest U. S. wealth-management firms with 470 employees in 37 locations managing $278 billion in client assets.  He got a summer job on a loading dock moving furniture, and decided college was a better option.  At ECU he met his future wife, Kim.  His firm could help negotiate better deals with money managers than employers.  It helped that retirement was shifting from traditional pension plans to 401(k)s which put more investment decision-making on individuals.  Such accounts now total more than $4.5 trillion in assets.

As he explained in his down-to-earth manner entrepreneurship is the major force to solve society’s problems.  Not only do entrepreneurs create most jobs, they are major problem solvers.  His recent examples during COVID-19 were cousins who re-engineered nasal swabs (the only two were overseas), conversion of a bottling plant to hand sanitizers, and Maco medical who seized the opportunity of a need for lab testing to grow ten fold in revenue.  Fielding then shared his vision of how another university could develope an entrepreneurship school like Miller at ECU -The Miller School is the one endowed school of entrepreneurship in No. Carolina and ranks 47, marking its second year in a row on the Princeton Review of the top 50.

Exposure to Fielding was special.  He is undoubtedly a true, blue entrepreneur who sees solutions, believes in self-employment, and embodies the mindset.  As former serial entrepreneur, your editor felt kinship with him in that we both wanted to give back, give others the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship.
Two other special takeaways from the USASBE conference -the close link to emotional skills to success and how to increase experiential activities in the classroom.  It is common belief these days that learning by doing is the best way for students to acquire the startup process.  More than one breakout session gave examples as suggestions all designed to get students engaged. The panel above gave a wonderful presentation of emotional skills for success.  Among them are quick use of 5 minute videos to show an exercise, and then stop the video to do the exercise in class.  Acting out a story for which there are guides but great freedom to interpretation -name a game, each student does a version, a sequential story begun for the student to complete, and Toyota’s five why’s -what the customer is saying about the product.

The emotional role in entrepreneurship is a personal experience for myself.  At my height of insurance agency success, I got a serious medical condition more than likely caused by stress, a pituitary tumor.  Although benign, it was a serious surgery to my lower brain, caused a life adjustment (sold my business), and gave realization to the importance of work-life balance.  A study published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal found that emotional intelligence was a stronger predictor of entrepreneurial success than general mental ability.  It brings a better understanding of the needs, feelings, and situation of others, to better manage their own emotions and understand others.  Such entrepreneurs are more aware of their strengths and weaknesses.  Not only do they know when to say no, but they are also not afraid of change.

No doubt had I had some exposure or training in emotional skills, I would have delegated more, been less work and more life balanced, and enabled to continue growing my largest book of business free from a major endocrine condition.

A USASBE annual conference is extremely beneficial, and I would never miss an annual conference nor the learning that comes from it.

for the second year in a row.

Starting a New Business?


Starting a new business?  If you are, you’re certainly not alone.  In fact, these past two years have been banner years for people launching a new company.  Perhaps they were quitting jobs as part of the “Great Resignation” (see article below in the blog).  Or, maybe since folks working form home had more time, or maybe it was just more people realizing that they wanted to pursue their dream of being their own boss.  Whatever the reason, 2020 and 2021 saw a surge in the number of new businesses starting.

Most new businesses are one-person businesses, at least at first.  Your new business is likely to be just you, too.  So my readers, small business owners who’ve “been there, done that” share some of their best suggestions for starting and running a one-person business:

  1.  Keep bank accounts and credit card transactions for business separate from personal ones.
  2. Figure out -and write out- what value you bring to a client.  You must have a market.
  3. Instead agonizing over perfection, get in the ring and go!  You just need the barest minimum website that says what kind of problems you solve and for whom -and why you’re qualified.
  4. Have clients and relationships in place before starting your business.  Going out there and talking to prospective customers helps you understand what you can really make money doing.
  5. Start small and get experience to grow.  You need to learn to walk before you can run.
  6. Create a process for developing proposals.  Design templates for proposals, processes and spreadsheets you expect to use often.
  7. Be authentic.  Stay focused and do your research.  Create a mantra or motto for your business.  Be open to changing your target audience.  You much be willing to pivot if the market demands it.
  8. Reach out to your local small business development center (SBDC).  They’re free and have lots of helpful things.

Courtesy of Rhonda Abrams in USA Today

Latino Employers Employ Millions But Struggle for Loans

Chris Rourk struggled initially to get financing for his company, VOLTA Ion, which makes jacks that use clean energy and are wireless.

Mentorship, lender tracking among possible fixes.




After years of working for other firms, Chris Rourk decided to start a business of his own producing wireless jacks.   But when the Latino entrepreneur approached banks for loans, he was turned away.  “It was almost impossible to get any sort of funding…no matter what my credit status was”, Rourk says.

He used personal credit cards to launch his Miami-based company VOLTA ion, in 2018, and Rourk found that many of his Latino customers had similar experiences when applying for loans.  While there may have also been other factors, he believes lenders often set a higher bar for him because of his ethnicity.

Latino entrepreneurs launch more businesses than any other group in the U. S., but they close their doors at a faster rate than their peers as they struggle to get traditional loans, deal with lower sales, and navigate other obstacles according to “The Economic State of Latinos in America: The American Dream Deferred”, a recent report by McKinsey & Company.  The 322,000 businesses in the U. S. owned by Latino entrepreneurs provide jobs to 2.9 million workers, and 85% of those business owners say it was opportunity, not need, that led them to become their own boss.

But Latino-owned businesses with at least one employee average $1.3 million in sales each year, roughly half the $2,5 million earned by their white counterparts.  And the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to disproportionately higher rates of unemployment and death for Latinos, Black and Indigenous Americans, also negatively affected 86% of Latino-owned businesses.  (more…)

5 Entrepreneurial Lessons from MLK Jr.

#1. Entrepreneurship is Bigger Than Business.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never owned a business, but he was one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur, King witnessed a society around him that did not look like the world he dreamed about. His vision was bold and counterintuitive to many around him.

Yet, he built a following that rivaled any politician and became a catalyst for major legislative and social change. We know that entrepreneurship is larger than mere profit or payroll. To be an entrepreneur is to have the courage to start—to say to one’s community: “This is not the way it should be, or could be. We can do better.”

To be an entrepreneur is to have the courage to start—to say to one’s community: “This is not the way it should be, or could be. We can do better.”  

#2. Start with Why.

In Simon Sinek’s famous talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” he asks why so many movements, businesses, and campaigns fail—and only a handful succeed.  The reason, Sinek explains, is that too few leaders communicate their “why” before their “what.”

“[Martin Luther King] didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America; he went around and told them what he believed…how many people showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It was what they believed about America that got them to travel on a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August to hear him speak.”

Sit-ins, boycotts, and civil disobedience are not easy; many Civil Rights activists were assailed or arrested, defying our traditional models of rational, self-interested human behavior. King gained such a following by connecting with his followers’ why before he told them his what and how. That was his entrepreneurial genius.

#3. Walk the Talk

We’re all too familiar with leaders—whether in business, politics, or everyday life—who don’t practice what they preach.

But the greatest and most effective leaders, like Martin Luther King, are willing to march in front of the crowd—especially if the costs are high. For King, that meant spending time in a Birmingham jail cell and enduring threats on the lives of his family.

Entrepreneurs must ask: do we require sacrifices of our employees, followers, or customers that we would not make ourselves?  True trailblazers are those who keep sight of the destination while braving the obstacles along the way, and embrace the accompanying risk.

#4. “Right” Does Not Always Mean “Popular.”

It may come as a surprise, but Martin Luther King was quite unpopular in his time. In fact, he had a 75 percent disapproval rating at the time of his assassination in 1968.

Many of the fronts on which King was an activist, however, were important ones. Workers’ rights, African-American rights, and brutalities abroad are all issues the American public has now acknowledged King to be correct about.

Entrepreneurs have to be leaders, and leaders must make decisions without knowing what the future holds or what their legacy will be. They must rely on their moral beliefs and instincts to make important decisions, not the shifting winds of opinion and popularity.

#5. Be Upfront.

The Civil Rights Movement was an uphill battle, and Martin Luther King never shied away from the fact—not even to the people following him. “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals,” King reminded his audience in his “The Future of Integration” speech.

Most entrepreneurs are not facing stakes as high as the reversal of racial segregation in America. In fact, “tireless exertion” is probably not a great item to include in your employees’ job descriptions!  However, it’s still important to be honest as a leader with the people under your care.

No one wants to feel duped by the people in charge, or feel like they didn’t really know what they signed up for.

Martin Luther King’s legacy as a great American entrepreneur should not be forgotten. Not only was King concerned with civil liberties for the poor and oppressed, but he was also a brilliant leader who prevailed against incredible odds.  All take notes from this giant of American leadership.