How can you start to learn the Startup Skills you’ll need as an engineer.
What exactly does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
ccording to Peter Drucker “the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” The basis of this statement is that entrepreneurs look externally for opportunities rather than internally. Entrepreneurs aren’t looking at sales and marketing as an aftermath to creating a product or service they are looking at sales and marketing as the core of their creativity. This means that the focus of the entrepreneurial thinking hat is much larger than the technician. While the technician focuses on the details and features of a product or service. The entrepreneur looks at the entire market landscape and the larger context of the product or service. This is one aspect that many engineers and scientists struggle with when entering the world of business. Large picture strategy is not something that comes easily to technical minded entrepreneurs.
The main thing that trips up entrepreneurs going into business from a technical background is the assumption that if you know the technical work of a business, then you know how to run a business that does the technical work*. However, it takes a different set of skills to actually run a business that does technical work. One of these skills is being able to envisage the larger future of a business.
When building a new venture it is extremely important to have a vision. To have a clear vision is way to steer the direction of the business. Without direction many ventures fail. It is common for technical entrepreneurs to skip this stage and focus purely on management and the technical aspects. However all great companies were founded from a clear purpose or vision, which later helps to steer the decisions that need to be made as the company grows.
The most successful entrepreneurs started with the end in mind. Including those from technical backgrounds, like Elon Musk.
“Going from PayPal, I thought well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity? Not from the perspective, ‘what’s the best way to make money,’ which is okay, but, it was really ‘what do I think is going to most affect the future of humanity.’” – Elon Musk, June 2014.
The idea of the entrepreneurial thinking hat is to think of the larger context of your business and it’s role in the global economic landscape. It is to look at what the world wants and to provide a solution. As an engineer or technician you must remember to focus on the larger impact of your technology and design your business around that vision.
Beginning with the end in mind is extremely important if you want to build a lasting company. IBM founder Tom Watson Sr was said that “IBM is what it is today for three special reasons. The first reason is that, at the very beginning, I had a very clear picture of what the company would look like when it was finally done. You might say I had a model in my mind of what it would look like when the dream, my vision, was in place.
The second reason was that once I had that picture, I then asked myself how a company, which looked like that, would have to act. I then created a picture of how IBM would act when it was finally done.
The third reason IBM has been so successful was that once I had a picture of how IBM would look like when the dream was in place and how such a company would have to act, I then realized that, unless we began to act that way from the very beginning, we would never get there.
In other words, I realized that for IBM to become a great company it would have to act like a great company long before it ever became one.
From the very outset, IBM was fashioned after the template of my vision. And each and every day we attempted to model the company after that template. At the end of each day, we asked ourselves how well we did, and discovered the disparity between where we were and where we had committed ourselves to be, and, at the start of the following day, set out to make up for the difference.
Every day at IBM was a day devoted to business development, not doing business.
We didn’t do business at IBM, we built one”*
Part of the entrepreneurial thinking hat is having a firm vision and acting as you would if your business was like the company you envisage. This comes from the very first stage of business development and choosing to make decisions that make sense in the long term.
* Gerber, M. (1995). The E-myth revisited: Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it. New York: CollinsBusiness.
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