93. Ramon Ray’s Entrepreneurial Communities

“Small business” is just a government classification. Entrepreneurial businesses serving well-defined communities via creative specialization exhibit enormous economic productivity, energy and dynamism.

Such businesses can not be defined quantitatively as small, medium or large. They’re defined by their qualitative impact on their customers’ lives.

Download The Episode Resource Ramon Ray’s Entrepreneurial Communities – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Entrepreneurial businesses care differently, and care more.

Big businesses must pay attention to size and scale, to their huge revenue and profit streams, to their many, many shareholders, to journalists and bureaucrats and financial analysts. They are, typically, managing to maintain progress or status on a well-established pathway, and have limited time and resources to devote to customer care.

The triple-option of the entrepreneur.

Small businesses are designed and constructed to care for customers and communities. As Ramon Ray puts it, small business entrepreneurs choose to:

  • Create what we want;
  • Serve whom we want;
  • Collaborate with whom we want.

As a consequence, business owners care differently about their customers, their colleagues, and their collaborators and partners.

Small business entrepreneurs create communities of fans.

Ramon sees small business owners serving their chosen communities as Celebrity CEOs. This does not require millions of Twitter followers or a pack of paparazzi. It results from being known and trusted as the specialist supplier of a highly desired service personalized to a well-chosen, often local, customer base. It’s the deli owner with the best sandwiches, or the mechanic to whom to trust one’s 1958 Edsel.

Customers become fans, deeply emotionally bonded to the entrepreneur and the service. Business owners become more deeply intimate with customers-as-fans, and the synergy is complete and lasting. The entrepreneur and the firm come to fit the community perfectly, and become indispensable.

The well-served community is a qualitative measure of business success, not quantitative.

Ramon Ray aims to build a community of entrepreneurs along similar lines of helping and caring.

Entrepreneurs can thrive by serving well-chosen communities, and they can also thrive by being part of a community. His vehicle is a B-corp formed by fellow-entrepreneur Seth Godin, to support small business entrepreneurs. Akimbo provides knowledge, tools, and courses to help entrepreneurs run and grow a business. Ramon’s latest contribution is a series called Small Business Essentials, a workshop in 12 modules. The modules cover essentials including pricing, cash flow, and hiring, as well as entrepreneurial refinements such as properly defining what problem you are solving and who are you solving it for.

A special feature of the workshop is that participants are joined online by fellow entrepreneurs, so that there is a group experience, group knowledge sharing, and group Q&A. The community helps itself by helping each other. It’s a place to learn and a place to ask questions.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

“Celebrity CEO Mindset” (PDF): Get It Here

Ramon Ray’s “Small Business Essentials” Workshop: Check It Out Here

Ramon Ray’s book, The Celebrity CEO: How Entrepreneurs Can Thrive by Building a Community and a Strong Personal Brand: Get It Here

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): https://e4epod.com/model

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

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Unsure Of Your Direction In These Turbulent Times? Entrepreneurship Can Provide All The Answers You Need.

2020 has been a strange year. My friend Ben always asks me, “Is the world crazy enough for you today?”  He knows I nurture the entrepreneurial spirit and he likes to challenge me: there’s too much uncertainty in 2020 even for those who typically embrace it, which is a good definition of entrepreneurs.

But, in fact, entrepreneurship is the answer in crazy times. Here are several reasons why.

Entrepreneurs are independent.

In times of turbulence, whether economic or political, global, national or local, many people can get confused. They’re not sure what to think, and they find it difficult to sort through competing claims or conflicting evidence. They look for the reassurance of someone else’s opinion to latch onto.

That’s not the case with entrepreneurs. They are independent thinkers. They rigorously seek cause-and-effect where it can be found, but they are also keenly aware that complex systems – when shocked with a pandemic, a disputed election, civil unrest, zero and even negative interest rates, significant changes in shopping and travel habits – can exhibit unpredictable and unstable emergent properties.

Entrepreneurs apply their own judgment based on the information that’s available to them and the insight that’s unique to them; they make a decision; and then they test it against reality by implementing it and adapting based on the results that come back. Independent thinkers are society’s best resource amidst turmoil.

Entrepreneurs are non-ideological.

It sometimes appears that we are suffering through a clash of ideologies, whether social or political or economic. Ideologies tend to be rigid and unrelenting, and those who hold one see opponents in anyone who holds another. Ideologies are not useful to entrepreneurs, and so they don’t include them in their assembly of resources. Ideological rigidity doesn’t mix with the pragmatism and adaptiveness that are keys to entrepreneurial thriving.

A non-ideological world sounds very attractive right now.

Entrepreneurs have no time for identity politics and political correctness.

Entrepreneurs are typically pursuing a finite goal with a finite amount of resources. They need the best people they can recruit to join their team, they need clarity of communication and a shared mission. The last thing in the world they have any time for is worrying about the political correctness of a choice or of a statement. They’ll listen to legitimate market preferences of course, but they won’t be distracted by meaningless noise. entrepreneurs don’t lie bout equality or unity. They assemble diverse teams – where the diversity comes from complementary competencies not divisive demographic distinctions – and they judge on passion for the task, performance, and results. 

Entrepreneurs are non-compliant.

A consequence of the pandemic is that a portion of the population has been beaten down into a state of compliance by authorities wielding mandates. Compliance is undesirable behavior when it is viewed through the entrepreneurial lens of innovation, betterment and economic growth.

We’re all better off when there is non-compliance: when Uber refuses to comply with the mandates n favor of taxis, or when AirBnB refuses to comply with pro-hotel mandates, or when medical researchers defy those who want to constrain experimentation and progress. Non-compliance is the right stance for society, and entrepreneurs can be counted upon to take it.

Entrepreneurs hold to the ethic of service.

In our current conflicted world, capitalism is condemned by some as exploitative and even evil. Some critics see profits that they deem to be extreme and extractive of the value that workers create, others see pollution and environmental damage. They are totally wrong and completely misguided.

The ethic of entrepreneurial capitalism is to serve others. The entrepreneurial market works when producers identify unmet needs and wants among their fellow-citizens who seek betterment and improvement. Multiple entrepreneurs compete to be the one chosen by consumers to meet that need, rivaling each other to come up with the highest quality / lowest cost solution. The ethic of entrepreneurial service has raised living standards across the globe and lifted billions out of poverty.

Keeping entrepreneurs unleashed will generate more and faster improvements in the future.

Entrepreneurs believe in liberty and property.

Entrepreneurship thrives only in favorable market conditions, with the right supportive institutions. The most important of the institutions is the legal framework to make it easy to start new ventures, favors innovation (Professor Michael Munger of Duke University calls the framework permissionless innovation), and imposes as few stifling regulations as possible, so that otherwise unrealized innovation is set free. Overall, we can think of the institutions of entrepreneurship as liberty – freeing creative minds and brilliant engineers and operators to follow their purpose to wherever it takes them in the pursuit of the profit that comes from consumer approval.

The second major institution of entrepreneurship is property. Entrepreneurs stake their own property in a bet that their business can succeed and grow. They take risks with their own property – and therefore need to operate in a framework that respects private property and their right to do with it whatever they will. When private property is restricted, limited, over-taxed, over-regulated or confiscated, entrepreneurship can’t thrive.

Liberty and property together are the institutions of entrepreneurship. 

Entrepreneurship Yields Meaning And Purpose.

At the bottom line, we all seek meaning and purpose in life. Meaning refers to our framing of the difference an individual wants to make in the world, the feeling that one’s endeavors are worthwhile. Purpose refers to the specific goal the individual pursues as in making that difference.

Researchers John Bitzan and Clay Routledge of The Challey Institute have documented, based on deep research, how individuals’ belief in the free working of the entrepreneurial marketplace provides them with the sense of meaning and purpose they seek. Bitzan and Routledge call this feeling “individual agency” – the feeling of being free to act and capable of meaningful achievement in the institutional context of capitalism and free markets. Individual agency is the central idea of entrepreneurship.

What’s The Ideal Age To Be An Entrepreneur? Let Market Conditions Decide.

[postintro]This is the first article in an occasional series from Professor Raushan Gross on The Institutions Of Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is a powerful pathway to innovation, growth, prosperity, and a better life for all. Its emergence and thriving are not automatic; it requires enabling institutions. Professor Gross will analyze and explain the institutional supports required for entrepreneurship to play its role in elevating society to the highest levels of achievement.[/postintro]

The condition of the market economy is the most critical aspect of entrepreneurs’ success, not the entrepreneur’s age. Yet, who say the opposite; that there is a Golden Age of entrepreneurial success, and it is 45. The combination of the age of the entrepreneur and the right mindset is said to be the perfect formula for market success.

While I agree that everything takes time, I am not convinced that age and mindset are essential for successful entrepreneurial endeavors in the long run. Although age and mindset have a role in success, we cannot disregard the requisite market conditions that are more likely to produce favorable or unfavorable results regardless of age and mindset. Entrepreneurs need a favorable market that rewards their risk-taking. If would-be entrepreneurs who are not in their Golden Age today are advised to wait to see success when they enter their 40’s even under unfavorable market conditions, we are in danger of eliminating one of the economy’s critical functions – entrepreneurship itself.

Conventional thinking about entrepreneurship is changing before our very eyes. For example, there have been significant declines in small business ownership and new startups, and fewer unicorns decade over decade. Why? Let us say that Rome was not built overnight, and neither was the entrepreneur. Products take time to produce; it takes time to develop a network of customers; it takes time for the entrepreneur to develop awareness, it takes time to find the market error that can be turned into an opportunity, and finally, it takes time for the market to adjust to changes in consumers’ tastes, preferences, and perceptions. Entrepreneurs do not acquire human capital in just one day, nor were economic systems created in one day.

Entrepreneurship is a social phenomenon that manifests itself through the passing of time, and application of human energy and capital, and favorable market conditions. No group of persons sat around one day and created our market economy; it took vast amounts of experiences and knowledge to come together, creating a space for the entrepreneurial function to operate for us. If the Golden Age is 45, and there have been declines in new entrepreneurial births, who will the newcomers follow? How will the ranks fill with those who can imitate the paths of successful entrepreneurs or small business owners?

The favorable conditions of a market economy are essential so that an individual at any age can find and pursue meaning in life. The benefit of favorable market conditions is to allow would-be entrepreneurs to find meaningful ways of applying their human capital to serve society’s most urgent needs, making conditions better for both others and themselves. The market provides a means by which one entrepreneur pursuing their own aims can enable someone else with whom they have no direct contact to pursue their own goals. In other words, productivity begets productivity.  Another benefit of a favorable market economy is that it brings forth visible adjustments, errors, new knowledge, and information, against which entrepreneurs can weigh their subjective opportunity costs in assessing the risk of pursuing a possible opportunity.1

In essence, individuals accumulate entrepreneurial skills and opportunity awareness, but they have to act to put them to practical use, and if they cannot, society pays the costs. The costs amount to a decrease in new entrepreneurship, innovations, and knowledge. People pursue endeavors when they are incentivized to do so, and if they are not it will leave a gap in one of the most critical market functions – entrepreneurship. Rome was built through the experiences and knowledge set in motion by many people over time. F. A. Hayek stated:

“the successful combination of knowledge and aptitude is not selected by common deliberation, by people seeking a solution to their problems through joint effort; it is the product of individuals imitating those who have been more successful and from their being guided by signs or symbols, such as prices offered for their products or expressions of moral or aesthetic esteem for their having observed standards of conduct –in short, of their using the results of the experiences of others.” 2

An open economic system, where individuals of all ages (younger, older, and in between) are encouraged to pursue their economic interest considering their subjective opportunity costs, ipso facto is likely to increase new entrepreneurial births. Therefore, the condition of the market economy is a necessary factor for entrepreneurs to maximize their range of choices and ideas, and to discover and innovate. A favorable economic system provides individuals in a society a way to use their human capital to achieve society’s needs, on behalf of people they will never know directly.

Certainly, age and experience play to the entrepreneur’s advantage, but what matters most is the market economy’s conditions.

How will people who are not at the Golden Age react to the current market conditions? They need a measurable market indicator – others’ success. Who will fill the shoes of the entrepreneurs and small business owners who have vanished? We must remember that Rome was not built overnight, and neither was the entrepreneur and the system in which they operate.


[1] Kirzner, I. M. (2015). Austrian Subjectivism & the Emergence of Entrepreneurship Theory. Liberty: Indianapolis, ID.

[2] Hayek, F. A. (2020). The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.


Raushan Gross, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Business Management at Pfeiffer University.

92. Clay Miller: 5 Austrian Principles Applicable to Your Business Today

Principles of Austrian economics have immediate applications in business. Clay Miller, a deeply experienced and highly successful global tech entrepreneur, makes the case via five principles drawn from five easily-accessible sources of Austrian economic theory, with many accompanying examples.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Principle 1: The distribution of knowledge requires disaggregated thinking.

Source: “The Use Of Knowledge In Society,” F.A. Hayek – Get It Here

Hayek wrote this paper as part of a research program into the problem that economics tries to solve. He defined it as a knowledge problem. Knowledge “never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess”.

The implication he drew was for central planning by governments and their departments and committees that would attempt to plan production or set prices. Such central planning is impossible because dispersed knowledge can not be aggregated and so the planners never have enough knowledge on which to base a plan.


“The statistics which such a central authority would have to use would have to be arrived at precisely by abstracting from minor differences between the things, by lumping together, as resources of one kind, items which differ as regards location, quality, and other particulars, in a way which may be very significant for the specific decision. It follows from this that central planning based on statistical information by its nature cannot take direct account of these circumstances of time and place…..”


In our Economics For Business project, we have the opportunity to help entrepreneurs apply the same principle to business knowledge, or data. Too much aggregation can obscure information that is really important and most useful for improving business performance.

Here’s an example. A frequently used KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is average revenue per customer. It’s calculated by aggregating all customer revenue into one number and dividing by the number of customers. For this to be actionable intelligence, it is necessary to assume that spending by each customer is very uniform. But consider the case where average revenue per customer is $190 for a customer base of 10 users, composed of 9 who spend $100 each and one who spends $1,000. The KPI does not suggest that each new customer you acquire will spend $190. In fact, it’s more likely they’ll spend $100. And, in fact, what you would really like to know is the profile of the $1000 customer and whether that profile, applied in recruiting new customers, would enable you to recruit more $1,000 spenders. You really want to choose metrics that can provide insight into individual customer behavior — like the nature and motivation of the one $1,000 spender.

Similar Austrian thinking would apply, for example, to Google analytics, which can profile the type of customer interacting with your website or app, and observable behavior such as conversion rate by page visited, or abandonment rate for specific pages. These are disaggregated statistics that can help you serve customers better.

Austrian thinking is rigorous in seeking to identify cause and effect, and to ensure that correlation is not mistaken for causation. A simple example is restaurant data that exhibits a 30% increase in customer traffic on Tuesdays. There’s a correlation between day-of-week and traffic increases — but it’s not causation. Tuesday does not cause the traffic increase. What does? It requires digging to find out, perhaps, that a local firm offers a perk to office workers to pay for them eating out on Tuesdays. As Hayek would say, this is specific knowledge of time and place, more likely to be qualitative than statistical, embracing the subjectivity that’s central to Austrian economics.

Principle 2: Consumer Sovereignty requires that entrepreneurs are directed by their customers.

SourceBureaucracy, Ludwig von Mises: Get It Here

This book focuses on the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of bureaucratic organizational structures and processes. In a chapter titled Profit Management, Mises defines the Austrian concept of consumer sovereignty. Understanding and applying this concept is central to entrepreneurs’ capability to create effective value propositions for their offering, brand or business.


“Thus the capitalist system of production is an economic democracy, in which every penny gives the right to vote. The consumers are the sovereign people. The capitalists, the entrepreneurs, and the farmers are the people’s mandatories. If they do not obey, if they fail to produce, at the lowest possible cost, what the consumers are asking for, they lose their office. Their task is service to the consumer. Profit and loss are the instruments by means of which the consumers keep a tight rein on all business activities.”


Consumers are the ones driving production. It’s up to business managers to make sure that every decision is towards bettering the value proposition offered to customers.

For example, the décor in a restaurant should be chosen not because the owner favors it or because an interior designer decrees it, but for the purpose of enhancing the value experience of those consumers the owner wants to attract and to serve. This requires empathy. Consumer sovereignty and entrepreneurial empathy go together.

Because consumers are the ones valuing what is produced, they are the ones ascribing value to the product or service the entrepreneur produces. The entrepreneur needs to anticipate what they value, and to do so requires ever-greater closeness to the customer. Clay described the value provided by simple but tasty barbecue restaurants in his home state of north Carolina, in a décor of plastic and paper and small booths. But that wouldn’t attract the customers who prefer fine dining in a five star restaurant. The customer decides what experience they value.

Startups can usefully anticipate consumer preferences by creating an imaginary perfect customer, and thinking through the value they want and the value the business can facilitate for them. Once in production, get as much feedback as possible on the actual value experience and the customer’s feeling about it. Every decision made inside the business needs to be for the purpose of and directed towards improving the customer value proposition and value experience.

Principle 3: Human value scales are complex and ever-changing and entrepreneurial empathy is required in order to reach an understanding of customers’ value dynamics.

SourceHuman Action, Ludwig von Mises: Get It Here

Human Action is the magnum opus of Austrian economic theory. Every chapter will yield great insights for business. Clay selected value scales as a topic.


“It is customary to say that acting man has a scale of wants or values in his mind when he arranges his actions. On the basis of such a scale he satisfies what is of higher value, i.e., his more urgent wants, and leaves unsatisfied what is of lower value, i.e., what is a less urgent want. There is no objection to such a presentation of the state of affairs. However, one must not forget that the scale of values or wants manifests itself only in the reality of action. These scales have no independent existence apart from the actual behavior of individuals. The only source from which our knowledge concerning these scales is derived is the observation of a man’s actions.”


When a person makes a decision to purchase your product or service, they conduct a quite complex evaluation to integrate your offering into their scale of values. And the values and the scale is constantly changing. Consumers are not static robots. Their circumstances change, their preferences for saving or spending change, their time of life or even time of day demand rearranging of value scales.

A consumer may have a high preference for Krispy-Kreme donuts. But then they go on a diet. Their value scale changes. Losing weight and increasing fitness are now higher values than enjoying a donut. If you are the Krispy-Kreme donut franchisee, it’s important to be aware of the value scale change, and to empathize with the customer. Maybe you could develop a promotion called “Cheat Day” that rewards them with a donut treat after a week of exercise and donut restraint. As Wayne Gretzky used to say, skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now.

How can you understand value scales? One interview with a customer — what a researcher would call deep, rich qualitative information — can be worth much, much more than survey data. Mises said that we can only know an individual’s value scales by observing an individual’s actions. Having them answer a survey question such as “How highly do you value this item?” or “What price would you pay for this item?” does not indicate how they would fit the item into their value scale. They may say they would pay $250,000 for a Ferrari, but, when they weighted the experience of owning the Ferrari versus the opportunity cost of foregoing other experiences, would they actually make the purchase? The survey answers won’t tell you.

Entrepreneurs are rewarded for estimating correctly what the customer values and creating the appropriate value proposition.

Principle 4: The market is a discovery process, with uncertainty on both sides of market exchanges. All entrepreneurial actions are tests, with no certain outcomes.

SourceCompetition And Entrepreneurship, Israel Kirzner: Get It Here

This is a seminal work on entrepreneurship. One of the major themes is that markets are a process of discovery. That insight directs entrepreneurs to think in dynamic, process terms. The entrepreneur experiences uncertainty in what he or she is producing, because they are not sure of what customers will value in the future. The customer is uncertain, too, because they’re unsure of how they’ll value what the entrepreneur produces. Whenever we, as consumers, feel trepidation about “pulling the trigger” on a purchase, we are experiencing this uncertainty. Meanwhile, the producer is anxiously discovering the receptiveness to his or her value proposition.


“The market process, then, is set in motion by the results of the initial market ignorance of the participants. The process itself consists of the systematic plan changes generated by the flow of market information released by market participation — that is, by the testing of the plans in the market.”


Kirzner points out that every plan an entrepreneur has, every value proposition, every offering made to prospective customers can only be a test, a trial. Nothing in the market can be certain. Entrepreneurs are trying to anticipate what customers are going to value, and they can never be sure in advance.

That’s why entrepreneurs use empathy, to imagine, if they were the customer, what type of experience the customer would be looking for. Entrepreneurs must imagine what customers might enjoy in the future. They must seek the customer’s agreement that, “Yes, your product or service delivered what you promised and made me feel better.”

One implication of Kirzner’s principle of “market ignorance” is for branding. If a brand has accrued a certain level of market reputation, consumers will feel less ignorant. They will feel they “know” a brand that’s been producing for 100 years, that is symbolized by the 3-point star that can be seen everywhere, and that is trusted and approved by many other consumers. A brand represents the stored experience and the stored reputation of many customers.

Principle 5: All entrepreneurship is for social good, and more social good is achieved by subjecting business to the marketplace test of profit and loss.

SourceAustrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Organization, Peter G Klein, Nicolai Foss, and Matthew McCaffrey, “Austrian Perspectives On Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Organization”: Get It Here

In Chapter 4 of this book, the authors discuss the concept of social entrepreneurship. This is an idea that seems to be gaining traction, especially among millennial business owners and millennial entrepreneurs. The idea is that business should be focused on something more than profit and loss. It should provide some “social value”, making the world better. Klein, Foss, and McCaffrey provide some robust Austrian thinking with regard to social entrepreneurship.


“However, these metaphors (“social value”, etc) often imply a false conflict with traditional entrepreneurship. For example, the contrast between conventional market entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship implies that the former is somehow not social, or even anti-social. This is misleading, however; for example, Austrians would respond that Mises’s calculation argument demonstrates that the entrepreneurial market economy is profoundly social. Entrepreneurs, by bearing uncertainty in an effort to satisfy consumers, work ceaselessly to improve the welfare of all members of society, and their work in turn strengthens bonds of cooperation between individuals and communities, while at the same time disincentivizing conflict and exploitation. This is social behavior in its most fundamental form.”


Steve Jobs improved society greatly by inventing the iPhone. The impact on society was considerable — better communication and information sharing, and higher productivity for billions of people.

Every venture — including social ventures — must grapple with basic economic problems. Taking on a social mission does not relieve the firm of the pressures of the marketplace. Social enterprises are business organizations, and if they earn revenues through the sale of goods and services, they must apply judgement to allocate scarce resources in the face of uncertainty. Genuine participation in the marketplace requires them to be subject to the profit and loss test.

Klein, Foss and McCaffrey make the point that “social value” is incalculable. What’s good for one individual is not the same as for another. Individuals value things subjectively. When a business pleases one group, it may be adversely affecting another.

Profit is not evil. It’s impossible to make a profit without serving your fellow man. You are doing good for society by being an entrepreneur, by producing things that people want and value. You forego your own consumption by investing in your business, and so you are making a sacrifice to serve others. And if social entrepreneurs are not subjecting themselves to the profit and loss test — if they are supported by charity or grants — then they are not receiving the signals form consumers that they are allocating scarce resources in the way that consumers — i.e., society — prefers.

The ethic of entrepreneurship is to serve, and to make others’ lives better, and to receive the approval and reward of customers via the profit and loss mechanism of the market.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

“The Use Of Knowledge In Society,” F.A. Hayek (American Economic Review, Vol. XXXV, No. 4, September 1945; pp. 519–30): Get It Here

Bureaucracy, Ludwig von Mises (Yale University Press, 1944): Get It Here

Human Action, Ludwig von Mises (Mises Institute, 1999): Get It Here

Competition and Entrepreneurship, Israel Kirzner (Liberty Fund, 1978): Get It Here

Austrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Organization, Peter G Klein, Nicolai Foss, and Matthew McCaffrey (Cambridge University Press, 2019): Get It Here

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): https://e4epod.com/model

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

Ready to put Austrian Economics knowledge from the podcast to work for your business? Start your own entrepreneurial journey.

Enjoying The Podcast? Review, Subscribe & Listen On Your Favorite Platform:

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91. Curt Carlson on Innovation Champions

Austrian economics sees an economy in motion, perpetually renewing itself. Economic agents (firms, customers, investors) constantly change their actions and strategies in response to outcomes they mutually create. This further changes the outcome, which requires them to adjust afresh.

Entrepreneurs live in a world where their beliefs and strategies are constantly being “tested” for survival within an outcome these beliefs and strategies create. It’s complex.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

One of the strategies required in this dynamic system is innovation: the enabling of new value propositions to customers, sustained by new resource combinations, new technologies, new go-to-market capabilities, new channels and new delivery mechanisms.

Innovation has often been characterized as presenting the entrepreneur with an unmanageable level of uncertainty. Curt Carlson challenges this idea and believes innovation can be predictable via the utilization of sound process, captured in his N-A-B-C method, which we explained fully in E4EPod episode #37.

In addition, Curt tells us in episode #91 that the right individuals can strengthen the process by acting as innovation champions. Here are their characteristics.

1. Originate a value proposition.

The route to value starts with a value proposition — accurately identifying a need and developing the appropriately differentiated approach with the right cost structure. Champions are those who can originate innovation projects with an energizing and inspiring proposition. They are customer advocates with creative capabilities. Champions can use Curt’s process map for guidance, or our own “Economics For Business Template” ().

2. Collaborate with a complementary partner.

Innovation is a team game, and it often starts with a partnership of two. Venture capital funds often look for a team of co-founders rather than on brilliant individual. A combination of an engineer and a marketer is a good one, but there are many more. The key is that the partner is complementary: different skills, different experience, same commitment and passion.

3. Build a team over time.

The benefit of complementary skills is not limited to co-founders or co-champions. As an innovation project evolves, the need for more skills and different experiences expands. A champion is able to add complementary skills via new team embers over time, while maintaining team cohesion and integrity.

4. Learn necessary value-facilitation skills.

Recruitment is not the only route to new skills for the team. The champion should be able to recognize skill gaps and fill them via their own learning. For example, mastering the interpretation of qualitative data from customer learning sessions is imperative but not intuitive. Champions work hard at gathering the data (listening and empathy skills) and processing the data (interpretation skills) to project possible future solutions (imagination skills). These new skills are learned over time.

5. Iterate with the team and in larger forums.

It is impossible to predict how an innovation process will proceed, and what twists and turns will be necessary. A champion is able to iterate the understanding of the need, the approach to solving it, the use of technology, and the management of costs. Change is constant not only in the world, but in the innovation project. Iteration can be conducted in the small team, but the champion should also seek larger — perhaps company-wide — forums for sharing and commentary. Everyone’s input counts. Champions don’t become too possessive of their ideas.

6. Champions exhibit enviable human values.

Project teams are often under stress. Deadlines loom, experiments fail, ideas clash. A champion demonstrates human value of trust and respect and integrity that bind teams and projects together. People want to work with champions.

7. Champions take organizational responsibility.

All innovation projects are fraught with risk and uncertainty. Some will fail. Others will take unexpected turns. When the unwanted or unexpected happens, a champion takes responsibility and does not try to deflect blame to exogenous factors. All decisions are subjective, and champions take ownership of their decisions.

8. Champions persevere.

Innovation project timelines can be long. Curt described some that took 10 years or more (like the development of Siri, which eventually became associated with the iPhone4). Despite barriers that might seem insurmountable, and setbacks that might feel humbling, champion s keep going no matter what. They are inspired, and inspirational to others.

9. Champions succeed.

Success is not a behavior or a characteristic, it is an outcome. Nevertheless, with the right process and a good team, champions succeed repeatedly.

In our hyper-competitive world, without a champion success is not possible. The only viable path is to aspire to be the best at what we do. That starts and ends with someone committed to success — a champion.

Additional Resources

Check out Curt Carlson’s HBR article, “Innovation for Impact” (PDF): Click to Download

Curt’s website is PracticeOfInnovation.com. Click on “Innovative Indices” to see how to assess the innovative potential of your firm and projects.

“N-A-B-C Innovation Process” (PDF): Click to Download

“Curt Carlson: There is a Systematic, Repeatable Process to Generate Customer Value”: E4EPod episode #37

4 Rock-Solid Basics Carry Entrepreneurs Through Crucial Periods Of Business Transition.

[postintro]Please welcome our newest guest contributor, Lucy Reed. Lucy is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. She created Gig Mine (https://gigmine.co) to help others dig up sharing economy opportunities in a user’s area, all in a single web location, so users don’t have to jump between multiple sites. It’s the new and improved way to get a gig job![/postintro]

Operating a successful e-commerce or small business takes some dedication. Your business needs the right marketing plan in order to attract your first customers, but you also need to take the right steps to keep shoppers coming back. So, if you are an entrepreneur, how can you make the most of your business model? By following a few simple steps that will help you grow your business, protect your brand, and keep your products in demand with the customers that matter most.       

Innovation Can Create and Keep More Customers

 It seems like the world is changing a bit faster with each passing year. You may need some updated tech, improved marketing, or a fresh look to keep up with these changes. So, make sure your business has the resources it needs to adapt and improve to meet the needs of your customers.

If you’re not especially tech-savvy, there are plenty of human and digital resources you can utilize that will ensure your business keeps up with the times. For example, would your customers benefit from a computer or mobile app that makes your product or service more readily available to them? Working with an app developer on an as-needed basis is a minimal but worthwhile investment for taking your website presence to the next level. Do you want to elevate your web design, but a graphic designer isn’t in your budget? Take advantage of online courses (many of which are free) to learn basic coding skills that will help your site stand out from the competition.

Quality Customer Service Will Always Be in Demand

No matter how much tech influences the ways that customers shop, customer service will always be important. Consumers want to know that their money is being spent wisely. So, if your customer service is not up to par, you could lose out on some major profits. If you operate a small e-commerce business, you can create trust and loyalty with your customers by paying special attention to a few key areas.

Give your shoppers the power to answer questions themselves with a detailed, clear FAQ page. You should also consider providing support via live chat or be expedient in answering emails. If your personal and business inboxes are combined, think about creating a business email so you can stay connected to your customers. Supreme customer service will not only help you retain current customers, but you can also offer incentives for online reviews, which can help you attract even more customers.

Social Media Can Be a Powerful Small Business Tool  

Email and chat should not be the only channels for connecting with customers. According to some recent stats, well over half of adults use Facebook or some other form of social media on a regular basis. With so many current and potential customers likely scrolling through their feeds, it only makes sense for you to take advantage of this virtually free marketing opportunity. So, how can you best promote your business online? First and foremost, you need to identify your target customer base so you can tailor your social media presence. Maybe your product will appeal to a younger audience who uses Instagram, or perhaps you’d prefer to focus your efforts on an older clientele who prefers Facebook.

Once you have your demographic identified, start promoting your brand with frequent posts, customer interactions, and even social media contests. In general, you need to have engaging content that’s eye-catching no matter which channel you’re posting on. For example, having a post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with a photo or graphic that grabs your followers’ attention and linking to a product or how-to article on your site is a great way to provide valuable information about your business that drives traffic to your site. If you are new to utilizing all social media has to offer, working with a specialist to build your presence can provide you with immediate and long-term customer engagement.

Negative Reviews and Feedback Can Help Your Business Improve

So far, we’ve focused on the proactive steps you can take to build a positive relationship with your customers, but what should you do when that relationship sours? Dealing with negative customer experiences is just another part of owning a small business. The way you react, however, will determine whether those experiences hurt or help your business. Some customer complaints will show you problems with your operations or customer service model, so take the proper steps needed to address them. Others may simply be a need for the customer to be heard, so in these cases, take the time to just listen. No matter what methods you use to help heal those customer relationships, be sure to do so in a timely manner.

Most people appreciate a speedy response from business owners, and you may be able to save a lot of relationships by being so responsive. But what if after all those efforts, your customer still leaves a bad online review? You should still do what you can to resolve the situation, but also realize that negative online feedback happens to everyone. As long as you have worked to earn enough positive online reviews, one or two unpleasant ones are not likely to hurt your business.

Some negative reviews are not even real to begin with. If you do suspect your business to be the victim of fake online reviews, it’s important to take the proper actions to report those reviews through the proper channels. This guide offers step-by-step instructions on how to report false reviews to Google, Facebook, and Yelp so they can take action to have them removed. You may not be able to get the review taken down right away, but you can at least begin tracking your efforts to prevent review spammers.

Ensure Your Entrepreneurial Success with These Tried-and-True Techniques

Running a successful e-commerce or small business definitely takes some work. Always pay attention to key business factors, like customer service, brand reputation, and online engagement, which can pay off big for your small business. Put in the effort with the steps above and focus on building relationships with customers that will last. Most importantly, believe in yourself and your product so you can better promote your business.

Lucy Reed’s website is gigmine

Photo Credit: Pixabay