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Entrepreneurship: Instrument for Positive Social Change

By Mark H. Clevey, MPA, Entre/Intrapreneurship Consultant and co-author of the Michigan Entrepreneurship Scord Card

In 2011 the Michigan Municipal League published a new book titled, “The Economics of Place: The Value of Building Communities Around People” that identified entrepreneurship as one of five key drivers of community and economic development. Entrepreneur extraordinaire Josh Linkner notes that entrepreneurs drive this development because they, by definition, “change the world.” More importantly, research increasingly shows that entrepreneurs change the world other than by simply by making a better mouse trap. They do so by creating and catalyzing a paradigm of entrepreneurship that makes the social, cultural, community and economic systems that surround them more entrepreneurial as well. When this influence reaches a tipping point it becomes, in the words of Google, an “entrepreneurialist culture.” 

According to Google, an, “Entrepreneurialist Culture is not just relevant to business and engineering students contemplating starting their own businesses. It is just as relevant to people who intend to seek employment with large companies or, indeed, are going to enter public service, Non Governmental Organizations, charities, museums, hospitals, universities, public school administration and the like.”

Even more importantly, research shows that an entrepreneurialist culture is more than just the sum of its parts. It is characterized primarily by a synergistic “virtuous cycle” where a greater number of innovative people lead to shared ideas which further leads to growth in institutions that foster innovation that in turn attract more innovative people from less fertile communities and so on. Over the last eight years, SBAM’s Annual Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card has researched the issue of “entrepreneurialist culture” and has found that entrepreneurship typically flourishes in three key ways:

• Small Business Entrepreneurs are defined as firms that effectively combine technical innovation with intent and capacity for growth in high growth potential markets. 

• Intrapreneurs - While an entrepreneur is defined as an individual that takes primary responsibility for venture creation, intrapreneurs are entrepreneurs who reside inside of existing organizations that serve as change agents, steering their hosts in new directions of growth, diversification, profitability and impact. 

• Social Entre/Intrapreneurs - In 1980, Bill Drayton, a management consultant working for McKinsey & Company, coined the term “social entrepreneur” as an individual who uses entrepreneurship principally to generate positive social change operating in both the private and non-profit sectors. 

SBAM’s Score Card research indicates that communities can use Social Entrepreneurship to enhance innovation and change in non-business organizations as well as to encourage increased small business entrepreneurship as an economic revitalization strategy. Serial entrepreneur extraordinaire’ Josh Linkner, for example, tells would-be entrepreneurs that, “if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, do it to make a difference.” Many for example, look to the Charter School movement as a prime example of Social Entrepreneurship at its best – better educated students make higher performing employees and better business/community leaders and followers. In other instances, Social Entrepreneurship is being used a way to revitalize communities and seed new businesses and industries in blighted areas. Social entrepreneurs often are early adopters of new technologies, thus helping innovators compete in the marketplace. Finally, at the community level, a growing number of organizations are beginning to use social entrepreneurship principles as a way to revitalize the community based organizations that they financially support.

Those wishing to learn more about how t

You may be small (for now) but you can still grow and succeed

(By David Fant, owner of Market Mapping plus and chair of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

What do Microsoft, Apple Computer, and Amway Corporation all have in common? And, what is their relationship to small business? It is interesting to note that ALL big businesses started as small businesses. Rockefeller did not start as a huge corporation. Rather, he began small and grew from humble beginnings. Consider this: Amway Corporation, a $9 billion + company, started with two people. Apple Computer, a $350 billion company, started with just two people. Microsoft Corporation, another $350 billion company, started with just two people. Combined, these companies employ over 500,000 people – and that number is even greater if you count the independent sales force of Amway Corporation. So, what does that mean to you?

It does not mean you will become a company worth billions of dollars or that growing so large even has to be your goal. Rather, what it means is that you are the seed for growth. Expansion, growth, diversification are all the watch words of business today. Each of the above three companies became who they are by starting with one product, selling it well, then diversifying into other related fields. How do you go about growing?

1. First, look at what you do and analyze exactly how you can be the best in the market. Look at what you do well, and what you need to improve. Are expenses in line with revenue? Are you spending excessive amounts of money on things you don’t really need? Is your staff doing their job and selling like they should? If you’re a company of one, what is your sales process like? Are you invoicing your clients and collecting those fees or do you shrug your shoulders and say, “they will pay when they can?” Don’t forget, you do the work, you get paid. Don’t ever make an exception on that point.

2. Second, if you’re ready to grow, what areas do you work on first? My recommendation is finding new ways to sell more of what you make. If you have saturated your local market, can you expand geographically? If so, expand the market area for your company and expand sales. Don’t forget to factor in the added cost of servicing clients who are further away from your headquarters.

3. Third, diversify. Adding new products/services to your company’s portfolio is a great way to grow income as well as spread the risk of sales over more than one product line or service. One way to diversify is to purchase an existing company with similar products/services or who have the product/service you want to start to offer. They come with a staff, expertise and customer base that you won’t have to reinvent.

4. Fourth, find a new, undiscovered product or service. At one point in my business life I kept getting phone calls from prospective customers about finding homeowners who live on a body of water. The answer was “sorry, but that database doesn’t exist.” After about eight years of this, I decided there has to be a way. I did some research and analysis and two years later created a nationwide database of Waterfront Homeowners. It is unique in the market and to this day, no one has duplicated this niche database. 

Will you become the next Amway? Microsoft? Apple? Maybe not, but then again, you never know. What you do have the potential to become if you haven’t already is a small business with big impact. Find your niche, serve it well, expand and diversify when able – stay the course – you’ll find great success.

David Fant is the owner of Market Mapping plus and chair of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee.

How do you plan to grow? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.

2012 Will Be a Breakout Year for Small Business, and a Great Year for Michigan

growth(By Rob Fowler, SBAM President and CEO. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

I’m feeling more upbeat about Michigan’s economic future than I’ve been in a decade. The blocks are coming together to create a foundation of dynamism and job growth, and entrepreneurs are going to lead the way.

There are a lot of reasons I have such a positive outlook. SBAM’s semi-annual Barometer survey of 600 small business owners in October found that 86 percent of small business owners say their business outlook for the next six months is good or somewhat good. They are anticipating the enactment and energizing impact of business tax reform on January 1 and a fair percentage of them say they are already planning to hire more workers. I also talk every day with entrepreneurs, and I’m amazed at the number of them who tell me that, because they’ve spent the last few years getting their operations lean, mean and efficient, they are now thriving and looking forward to expansion and job growth.

Their optimism is being driven by a number of factors. First of all, the business tax reform I noted above is a jolt of energy aimed directly at the small, family-owned businesses in your town. Despite what you may have heard, the new, simplified Michigan Business Tax does little or nothing for big business, or big banks or “big oil.” Instead, it puts more money in the hands of entrepreneurs who will use this tax savings to invest in their operations, their workforce and their communities. 

Secondly, small businesses recognize that they finally have strong allies in the governor’s office, the state House and the state Senate who understand entrepreneurs and are willing to make the tough votes that support small business job creation. Small business owners have elected men and women who have proven they are friends of small business. These lawmakers have demonstrated their vision of a better Michigan by simplifying our tax structure, working for a common sense regulatory environment and supporting “economic gardening” that builds home-grown small businesses and employment. 

Challenges remain. Chief among them is that there are still some legislators who claim they are “friends” of small business at the same time they propose polices that would crush entrepreneurship. But guess what? Small business owners are the ones who decide who their friends are. SBAM, as their association, holds policymakers to a high standard if they want to be known and recognized as friends of small business. We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring votes and telling lawmakers’ constituents when we approve or disapprove of their representatives’ actions.

2012 is going to be a great year for small business and a great year for Michigan. Entrepreneurs are going to be stepping on the accelerator and getting their business operations into high gear. They are going to be hiring more workers --- one, two, a half dozen at a time – and those numbers will be multiplied across thousands of small employers in every corner of the state. It’s important now to stay the course on policies and taxes and trust that small business owners, the men and women who are your neighbors, will take the tools in hand and finish the job of reinventing our state. 

(What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Rob's prognosis for Michigan? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.)