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How to Build a Successful Business

A successful business creates solutions to difficult challenges. An  entrepreneur with business acumen and related experience intellectually and practically tackles obstacles and creates an open environment where innovations, employee talents and in-demand products address problems. Companies that are able to translate a creative idea into a realistic business plan to achieve profitability goals follow basic integral steps in order to build a successful business venture.

Start your successful business today

Start your successful business today

Concept

An idea does not alone make a successful business, an entrepreneur does. The origination of a concept can only turn into reality through the vision and leadership of a strong leader.

Reserving Capital

It would make sense for this step to be called “raising capital” but reserving capital is also extremely important in the long run to achieve the goals of a business construct.  An entrepreneur who has the acuity to reserve capital for possible unanticipated events will be in a better position than one who has simply raised capital only to lose it to unexpected circumstances.

Curation of Talent

Success cannot happen in a vacuum. In order for CEOs to achieve business goals, they should seek the inspired collaboration of talented professionals. The people you hire to help build the foundation of your concept is as important as the structural brick and mortar. Without the right talent, a business will  face challenges that should have been anticipated, thereby decreasing the full potential of the company.

Continuation

Many companies fall into complacency and stagnation. A successful business can often forget its creative inception when there becomes a steady revenue stream. However, revenue does not necessarily equal success. A successful business is built on the continuation of new innovative ideas and a constant stream of momentum, not simply the reliance on the continuation of current revenues and profitability.

Many companies have used these basic principles to achieve great long-term success.

Apple

This small business started in a California garage, became an empire, and continues to break new technological barriers. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak originated the business on the popularity and mystique of microchip technology and need for a more robust data systems. Inspired by new microcomputers, though unable to afford the computer CPUs that were available at the time, Wozniak created his own microprocessor to fabricate a computer system.

Wozniak brought  his completed project to the Homebrew Computer Club to exhibit his machine to the delight of his old friend Steve Jobs who was in attendance and became extremely interested in commercializing Wozniak’s design.

Utilizing creative methods, from borrowing money and space from friends and family to selling various prized items, Steve Jobs secured technological parts while Steve Wozniak and mutual friend Ronald Wayne  assembled the new Apple I. The early computer system featured existing components and new ideas, such as the incorporation of a television as the display system. The computer’s text was displayed at 60 characters per second, which was faster than other systems of that era. Initially, 200 Apple I’s were constructed.

Today, Apple’s annual revenue exceeds $185 billion dollars.

Netflix

In 1997, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph co-founded Netflix to offer online and DVD movie rentals, with a no late fee policy. This policy attracted an increasing number of customers who had been previously paying video giants like Blockbuster exorbitant late fees. By 2002, Netflix became a publicly traded company on Nasdaq (NFLX) with 600,000 member in the U.S. By 2005, membership rose to 4.2 million. In late 2008, Netflix partnered with Starz Entertainment (one of the largest cable and satellite television conglomerates under Starz Inc) to offer over 2,500 new films and television shows to “Watch Instantly” as part of the Starz Play service. Two years later, Netflix signed a five-year deal worth nearly $1 billion to stream films from Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The business arrangement drastically increased Netflix’s spending capital for streaming films annually, adding approximately $200 million per year.

Today, Netflix has become less online streaming service, and more television channel. Producing award winning original productions, Netflix has gone global and now has over 50 million members worldwide.

Ben & Jerry’s

This dream team started through an ice cream-making correspondence course that co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield completed through Penn State University’s Creamery in 1977.

Cohen, who lacks a sense of smell or taste, relied solely on texture to provide variety in his diet, which led to the company’s trademark chunks being mixed in with their ice cream. In 1978, with a $12,000 investment, the two business partners opened an ice cream parlor in a renovated gas station in downtown Burlington, Vermont.

By 1988, the two men won the title of U.S. Small Business Persons Of The Year, awarded by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Also that year, the first brownies were ordered from Greyston Bakery, which led to the development of the popular Chocolate Fudge Brownie flavor. In 1992, Ben & Jerry’s joined in a cooperative campaign with the national non-profit Children’s Defense Fund; the campaign goal was to bring children’s basic needs to the top of the national agenda.

In 1989, Ben & Jerry’s publicly opposed the use of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) in all their products – which many competitors had yet to do at the time. This made their brand synonymous with environmental and health awareness, which attracted more customers.

In April 2000, Cohen and Greenfield sold their company to multinational food giant Unilever which vows to continue growing the company. The company that went from correspondence course to environmentally conscious enterprise, currently generates an annual revenue of over $180 million.

 Research contribution: A. Anderson; Originally published on john-mcgrath.net

The Entrepreneur in the Digital Age

Digital advances are meant to increase productivity and efficiency.

But do they? Yes and no.

Indeed, the ‘office’ has expanded outside the brick and mortar environment so prevalent just a decade ago. Tech savvy entrepreneurs are mobile, no longer confined to any one workspace. Business travelers can receive most (if not all) publications online, including major news sources, accessible through laptops, smartphones and tablets. CEOs and Presidents can stay current — all the time, constantly, and quickly.

Digital has become so essential that $1.36 trillion will be added to the top ten economies by 2020.

GDP digital uplift by year 2020

GDP digital uplift by year 2020

However, there comes inadvertent drawbacks from too much technology, which may encumber certain aspects of work, and life.  A study by PLoS One revealed that too much web interaction can increase unhappiness, and that face-to-face time with people improves mood, trust and communication. Unfortunately, that news may present major complications. An entrepreneur can never be “offline”, there is no such option.  ‘Connection’ is omnipresent, but can wireless connection actually connect a business head to his or her employees?

In order to do so, successful entrepreneurs have to play a pivotal role in keeping passion and inspiration in the workplace where it belongs. By creating changes in daily operations, leaders will increase authentic (non-Cloud-based) manager/employee connectivity.

Decoupling Productivity & Employment Chart

Decoupling Productivity & Employment Chart

According to a New York Times article on Decoupling Productivity and Employment, “[…] we can improve their [employees’] prospects greatly by investing in infrastructure, reforming education at all levels and encouraging entrepreneurs to invent the new products, services and industries that will create jobs.”

So how does an entrepreneur or intrapreneur accomplish this?

Talent Cultivation. Leadership should offer educational initiatives within the company to inspire employees and keep them engaged in the mission statement of the organization. When a leader invests in the well-being of his or her workers inside and outside working hours, this investment can act as a vehicle for the maintenance of transparent communication.

CEO in the Middle. Transparency should be another name for trust, but oftentimes, it is not. A CEO who looks at employees from a management level can exert transparency but trust is critically important. Intrapreneurs who are the most successful at obtaining trust are ones who are in the trenches alongside their workers. Those who roll up their sleeves and work through the middle have the most success than those who work from atop.

The framework of the work culture has changed drastically in just two decades, mostly for good, but the checks and balances of the increased efficiency must be monitored and tempered regularly by senior level executives. Shifts which encourage more face-to-face interaction can change the work dynamic in positive directions.

Research contribution: A. Anderson; Originally published on john-mcgrath.net

Dr. John J. McGrath’s Teaching Philosophy

John J. McGrath Teaching Philosophy

As a College President, I actively promoted faculty intellectual engagement and scholarship in their academic disciplines. Academic freedom is at the core of college and university life. I believe that faculty should continuously engage in advancing their critical thought processes, especially for the discovery of new knowledge. My greatest existential awareness as an undergraduate philosophy major was that the truth regarding the transmission of knowledge for good teachers lies first in their capability to intellectually reason and challenge the minds of students.

The art of teaching clearly lies in the ability to effectively communicate. When I hire new faculty members, or consider applications for promotion in academic rank for existing faculty members, my highest priority is not an assessment of academic qualifications and professional experience – it is, clearly, do I believe that this individual is a great teacher in the classroom. Having an extremely intelligent professor that cannot clearly and effectively communicate, and challenge minds, is not providing a college education. Of course, I fundamentally believe that excellent academic qualifications and, if possible, real life professional experience are central to the professoriate, but those competencies must be leveraged through the ability to effectively transmit knowledge.

As an undergraduate and graduate professor, I would always have two primary goals for all my courses: 1) Make sure that students had a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter – both from a theoretical perspective and a practical assessment standard, and 2) Make sure that I am intellectually challenging students to think independently and thereby enhancing their reasoning capacities with respect to the creation and logical construction of new intellectual ideas.

I often quoted Aristotle in my classroom: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. I love challenging students with controversial ideas. Active participatory exchanges between students is fundamental to my pedagogical philosophy. And, I always tell students not to be afraid to ask any question — and intellectually challenge me. It is exciting, dynamic and fun. My other favorite quote that I relate to students comes from Albert Einstein: “A person that never made a mistake never tried anything new. Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”.

My academic specialties include Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Evidence, and Jurisprudence. I also have taught courses on Irish History and have spoken and debated issues with respect to the Northern Ireland peace process throughout the United States. In almost every course, I create a syllabus and class outline that includes objective sections along with a creative essay for the midterm and final examinations. Additionally, most of my courses require a research term paper which is separately evaluated on the following four standards: 1) Originality, 2) Creativity, 3) Accuracy, and 4) Research and Documentation. Student class participation is also a key metric for my evaluation of intellectual and practical understanding of the course.

I also believe very passionately that professors have an obligation to do everything reasonably within their power to make sure their students understand the material required in the course. That means working with students outside the formal classroom, providing help through the library and/or learning center, engaging with academic support staff such as retention counselors and academic advisors, and most of all, if possible, being a caring friend to students.

One of my most rewarding experiences is when a former student comes up to me in an unexpected place and says, “I remember you. You helped me to think independently and search for the truth”.   I will take those moments into the hereafter.

John J. McGrath, Ph.D.

 

Originally posted on mcgratheducation.com

The Harvard Business School Campus Expands Beyond the Yard

Tech opens forum for online learning

Tech creates forum for online learning

Disruptive technology is a machination, stratagem or invention that displaces an established industry methodology and redefines its internal infrastructure, often to the point of deconstruction. Currently, the industry model that has become the target of disruptive technology is that of on-campus education.

University Extension at Harvard has most likely expanded beyond what President A. Lawrence Lowell thought it would be when he established the program 100 years ago. The extension program now offers world-renowned education to 50 states and 195 countries due to the growing popularity of MOOCs — massive open online courses. Harvard University, along with many ivy league institutions, has been considering offering Harvard courses and degrees online lest they fall behind the disruptive technology utilized by distance learning.

MOOCs on the rise

MOOCs on the rise

The controversy with online learning as actual course syllabus has been two fold. When Harvard Business School dean, Nitin Nohria, commenced the campus planning and case study method adoption, he came across opposition — by staff and students.

The pros and cons of the ‘to online or not to online’ argument has been personified by two of Harvard’s most renowned faculty members. For Michael Porter, “A company must stay the course, even in times of upheaval, while constantly improving and extending its distinctive positioning.”

Speaking on behalf of the pro argument is Clayton Christensen (author of the 1997 book,The Innovator’s Dilemma), who suggests that the only way market leaders like Harvard Business School survive “disruptive innovation” is by disrupting their existing businesses themselves.

Other reputable schools, like Stanford and Wharton School (UPenn), have gone Christensen’s way of thinking by adopting MOOCs into their curricula, without the pillar and post debate as seen by HBS. One of the biggest draws of MOOCs for students is the considerably lowered tuition costs — HBS runs approximately $100K for an MBA.

Though a student should not expect to garner a traditional Harvard M.B.A. online, as of this summer, HBS launched the HBX Program, which has its own admissions office and has aims to create a new entity of degree. The “pre-MBA”, according to Harvard Business School professor Jay W. Lorsch, would offer a new type of credential. “Instead of having two big product lines, we may be on the verge of inventing a third.”

Harvard University's Widener Library

Harvard Widener Library

Some educators predict a dire future for colleges that allow this online ‘watered down’ curriculum. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, pointing to the aircraft industry stated, “In order to get into China, Boeing transferred its technology to parts manufacturers there. Pretty soon there’s going to be Chinese firms building airplanes. Boeing created their own competition.” Pfeffer thinks business schools are on a similar path, “[we] are doing it again; we are creating our own demise.”

That sentiment may be falling on deaf ears, as HBX has tentatively begun admitting several undergraduate students into a program called Credential of Readiness (CORe). Thus far, the program includes three online courses: accounting, analytics and economics for managers. The course is nine weeks and tuition is $1,500. Only students with a high level of class participation will be invited to take a three-hour final exam at a designated testing center.

Despite Harvard Business School debate or which side of the argument any given person resides, educational disruption isn’t coming, it has arrived.

Research credit: A. Anderson

Originally posted on mcgratheducation.com