A podcast based on the winning principle that entrepreneurs need only know the laws of economics plus the minds of customers. After that, apply your imagination.

113. Jacqui Boland’s Entrepreneurial Journey on a Red Tricycle

This week on the Economics For Business Podcast we were gifted the opportunity of reviewing and assessing a completed entrepreneurial journey, courtesy of Jacqui Boland, founder, CEO and now alumna of Red Tricycle, following the acquisition of the company by the corporate owner of tinybeans, a family photo sharing and journaling app.

Red Tricycle is a brand — “a lifestyle brand that fuels the parenting universe with daily inspiration for family fun.” In the “Economics For Business Value Proposition Template,” the Red Tricycle proposition would be:

FOR: Fun Moms

WHO: Search for and utilize ideas for family activities for parents and children to enjoy together.

VALUE PROMISE: A unique daily source of ideas and inspiration for family fun

VALUE RATIONALE: Every day, Red Tricycle finds and presents all the best local and in-home family fun opportunities and makes them easy for Moms to research, evaluate and act.

BENEFIT > COST: In one daily web visit, Moms have easy access to a unique curation of new ideas and inspirations, simply formatted, and requiring a minimum of their precious time.

Jacqui was generous in helping us map her entrepreneurial journey to the stages of the Economics For Business GPS.

Key Takeaways And Actionable Insights.

Imagination

The pre-design phase in which entrepreneurs develop the imaginary construct of their business idea.

Jacqui was a new mom in a new and unfamiliar city. She wanted to identify all the opportunities for fun with her family. She became an avid online searcher. A few conversations with some other moms revealed that many moms are searchers — with intensity and determination and a commitment to find and evaluate all the relevant information in their field of search. The idea of an online one-stop location for information about local family-friendly fun activities was born.

A useful tool for the Imagination phase of entrepreneurship is “Entrepreneurial Empathy”: Download Here.

Design

The phase where a validated imagination is transformed into a more formal business model.

Jacqui capitalized on her existing knowledge field. She knew magazine publishing and the power of content, and how to source it. She knew the advertising revenue model for magazines. She was able to design a crisp business model of content creation, content presentation, consumer engagement, and attractiveness for local and eventually national advertisers.

One of the tools in the Design tool set is the “Means-Ends Chain,” helping entrepreneurs to align their business design with customer values: Download Here.

Assembly

The phase in which design is operationalized by selecting and combining assets: people, technology, content, operating processes.

Assembly for Red Tricycle began with people: content producers, editors, salespeople. Jacqui found investors, initially angel investors, then angel groups, and, later in the business’s evolution, institutional venture capital. In turn investors and investor groups like 500 Startups were very useful in providing connections and recommendations for technology and software resources. Comparisons between different operating models that the investor groups were able to provide were useful guidance in making resource selections.

Consult our “Austrian Capital Theory” tool for capital assembly of resources: Download Here.

Marketing

The phase in which the designed and assembled entrepreneurial offering is presented to the market for consumer consideration.

Red Tricycle adopted a city market-by-market rollout strategy, starting in Seattle, proceeding to San Francisco, then systematically adding more cities. The killer app for market introduction was “Mom Word Of Mouth”. Moms have friends in other cities, and travel between cities, and are excited to share family fun ideas with others. The best sharers were subscribers to the Red Tricycle newsletter, so the brand worked hard to build up a subscriber list.

Red Tricycle KPIs were traffic, subscribers, and revenue. As a result of a system of creating and testing content, Red Tricycle could seed new markets with say 20 or 30 stories that drove good SEO traffic. And then the job was to convert that traffic to subscribers to the newsletter.

Building brand uniqueness is fundamental for the Marketing Phase. Use our “Brand Uniqueness Blueprint”: Download Here.

Customer Experience

The phase of the value learning process in which customers try the offering, experience its benefits, and assess the subjective value.

Red Tricycle designed a very specific customer experience, which Jacqui described as: “Quick, get an idea and inspiration to spend time with your kids, and then go offline and do it, and then come back two days later and do it over and over again.” The model was distinctive in not asking for too much time (“the infinite scroll”). Red Tricycle helped Moms focus on the lighter side of parenting and having fun with their kids.

Social media came into play as an aggregator of subjective value anecdotes. Moms would share a picture of themselves at the zoo and use Red Tricycle’s recommended hashtag, “Best weekend ever.” And not just everyday moms, but even celebrity moms, like Randi Zuckerberg, Pink, Ivanka Trump, sharing that they found a great idea for a campsite or a restaurant. These were subjective value data points.

Facilitate great customer experiences with our VUCA tool: Download Here.

Management and Growth

The phase where the business model is scaled and the marketing and customer experience reach is expanded, with continuous innovation accelerating growth.

The major growth pivots for Red Tricycle were the transition from local to national advertisers, and hiring and assembling and empowering the new team members best suited to lead the way in the new business environment that this entailed.

The goal for the management and growth phase was to roll out multiple local markets, and build a strong foundation of local advertising revenue until Red Tricycle had enough scale to interest national advertisers. The transition was a 5 year process. As Jacqui described it: “We put a plan in place and then we adjusted and adjusted and adjusted.”

A core element of the transition management is hiring. Skilled national advertiser salespeople are expensive, and sometimes it might take a year of that salary before a new salesperson can close a big national deal. There’s a lot of foundational work that needs to be done. Scaling the business was a delicate process. A fully staffed company would have a sales team across the U.S. in every market, but if you can’t afford that, you have to stretch and think, “Can this person sell local and national? Could this person cover Chicago, and L.A.?” And then once you start to get a little bit bigger, and you can hire an L.A. staff, what happens to that Chicago rep?” It’s a constant adjustment.

How does growth feel? “You’re always looking for the next milestone. And you have about a minute after you hit a goal or a milestone to celebrate, and then you run into the next quarter and you have another goal that’s even higher. So it’s a constant stretch.”

“Upsizing a Customer Need” is a useful tool for the Management and Growth Phase: Download Here.

Disposition

When the entrepreneur decides to sell the business, merge it into a larger business and relinquish the founder / owner role, or to turn it over to the next generation.

Selling a business is just as much a marketing task as establishing it and growing it. And that means seeing the business through the eyes of an acquirer — empathic diagnosis of their needs, their preferences, their goals and desires, their constraints.

Jacqui had made the economic calculation that the best path forward was not to raise additional venture capital for continued high growth, but to demonstrate solid and sustainable profitability and look for either a strategic partner or an acquisition partner. She didn’t use a banker (whose process she compared to a dating app) but conducted her own search for a firm that would recognize a complementary asset that could be a marketing engine for them. She found a partner in an adjacent field (family photo sharing) that was strong in technology and would benefit from Red Tricycle’s content creation and sales expertise. The deal was made quite quickly.

Additional Resources

Map of Jacqui Boland’s Entrepreneurial Journey (PDF): Download PDF

eGPS Handbook (PDF): Download PDF

112 Peter Klein: When Policy-Makers Discover The Benefits of Entrepreneurship, They Can’t Resist Intervening

Innovative entrepreneurship is the segment of the entrepreneurial economy that is especially highly focused on innovation via new products and services. Within innovative entrepreneurship there is an even brighter spotlight on NTBF — new technology-based firms that are cutting edge, scalable, and fast-growing. They represent only one form of entrepreneurship, but one that is very interesting. Indeed, they attract the interest of government and government policy-makers. A recent special issue of the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, a top journal for which our friend Peter Klein sits on the editorial board, examined the impact of policy on entrepreneurship itself and on the institutional and social challenges of these policy interventions.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Government policy-makers take an interest in innovative entrepreneurship when they are trying to grab some credit for economic growth and improved goods and services.

Both micro policies and macro policies aim at stimulating successful entrepreneurial and innovative outcomes. Policies to encourage the growth of green energy supplies, for example, are a micro policy; they apply only to firms engaged in particular activities. Changing bankruptcy laws (so that the reallocation of assets can proceed faster and more smoothly) or an educational initiative to support entrepreneurship teaching in school would be classified as macro policies: trying to create a new set of conditions that apply to all firms, all entrepreneurs, all technologies.

Government doing nothing to intervene is another — highly desirable — kind of macro policy: maintaining a social order in which entrepreneurs can operate with the least uncertainty about the future regulatory environment.

At minimum, government interventions in favor of entrepreneurship fail to properly consider trade-offs.

Analysis of policy starts from trade-offs. Every policy has trade-offs. Economists are the ones to point this out. Politicians just want one button to push to achieve one specific goal. All that is needed, they presume, is a piece of legislation that provides a tax break or a subsidy to the firms they want to succeed. But there are always trade offs. Directing funds or capital to one group of firms diverts it from another group. The consequences are unknown and can’t be known. What if the current crop of battery technologies, for example, do not include the one that will emerge as a more efficient alternative in the future? By subsidizing today’s technology do we constrain the emergence of a better one in the future?

Evidence suggests that neither macro policies nor micro policies are successful or effective.

One example of ineffective micro policy is intellectual property protection for selected technologies or firms. One of the papers in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal special edition looks at fast tracking patents for particular technology areas. One of the outcomes identified is the diversion of resources to overinvestment in legal protections and excess litigation with all its attendant economic costs.

Regulatory systems are another form of macro policy. An example is the number of days it takes to get the permits to open a new business. Reducing this would be a macro policy that could be effective. Peter Klein made the comparison between Singapore vs India on this variable, pointing out the correlation with greater speed of innovation in the former, encouraging new and unintended applications of technology.

But often, regulatory permissions favor well-funded and well-connected firms over the young and agile, and certification signals may not be completely accurate about underlying quality.

Micro interventions are targeted to boost outcomes by helping a particular firm or technology. Bureaucrats claim they can make better decisions than the market about resource allocation. They identify so-called “market failures” to be corrected (like fossil fuels causing pollution), and market decisions that they believe should be over-ridden. They don’t want to let consumers buy the gas-powered SUVs they prefer.

There’s no reason to believe these policy makers will get their decisions right. They certainly don’t have the incentives to do so, since they are not governed by profit and loss. They can easily pick the wrong projects.

Some interventions may be dismissed as irrelevant, but they may still produce distortions.

The papers in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal special edition point out that many of the cash payments / subsidies / tax breaks are given to firms that would have launched any way and been successful anyway. One paper (not in this collection, but cited by Professor Klein) found that the major effect of research grants in STEM is to increase the salaries of scientists rather than encourage scientific experiments that wouldn’t otherwise take place. The result is not better science, but a better life for scientists (that is, those who know how to win grants).

The private sector can stimulate basic science and government subsidies are not needed. For example, pharma companies encourage basic research at private companies via the incentives they provide via M&A strategy — an exit plan from the lab for basic science. In general, firms trying to develop new products and services for the market do a lot of the scientific discovery in the early stages of production. The government is not needed.

When government does provide venture capital (more frequently in Europe and Southeast Asia than in the US), the researchers reporting in this journal edition identified the receipt of such funds as mostly a marketing signal, enabling firms to enroll bigger partners, or get a prestigious underwriter for their IPO as a consequence of the positive imagery derived from being a subsidy winner.

Non-policy is a more promising and potentially more effective approach to encouraging entrepreneurship.

Culture is an example of non-policy. A culture that encourages experimentation and creativity, and assigns a low level of stigma to boldness whatever the result, is likely to attract more investment and accumulate more capital than a culture of more traditional norms favoring continuity. Cultural evolution like this is less likely to occur in a system where the state directs investment and chooses industries and sectors for support. One outcome is a negative view of business when business success is determined by getting close to government: in those cases, individuals tend to think badly of all business, including entrepreneurial businesses.

The verdict: maintain a healthy skepticism about the case for interventions to support entrepreneurship.

Overall, the evidence is not in favor of either macro-interventions or micro-interventions to stimulate innovative entrepreneurship. How should the individual entrepreneur think? It may be an ethical issue: whether or not to accept government subsidies or support. Nevertheless, the entrepreneur must make the best use of available knowledge, which includes knowledge of the regulatory regime. One of the papers in the collection finds that entrepreneurial businesses can make better connections with the right kinds of capital and partners as a result of government involvement. At some level, this kind of knowledge is a defensive mechanism for the real world.

And at least the regulators and policy makers are recognizing entrepreneurship as a positive force for growth and for good.

Additional Resources

“Effects of Institutions and Policies on Entrepreneurship” (PDF): Download PDF

Read the management summary of the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal special edition (PDF): Download Paper

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.

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111: Shawn Needham: How Consumers and Entrepreneurs Co-navigate Value Uncertainty in Healthcare

Austrian economics provides new insights into value: what it is, how it is created, and who creates it. The insights are summed up by Professors Per Bylund and Mark Packard in our E4B podcast episode #108. One of the most vivid images they paint is the picture of entrepreneurship as “the two-sided navigation of radical value uncertainty, both by producers and consumers, in that never-ending quest towards higher value states”.

Download The Episode Resource Navigating Healthcare Uncertainty – Download

The market for healthcare provides us with a pertinent example of co-navigation of radical value uncertainty. For consumers, there is no certainty available — they can’t know which doctors or providers will give them the best experience, they don’t know the right means to choose to attain their end (health), and they can’t use the usual market price signals in the search for value since the price of healthcare is not visible to them. They don’t purchase the product, they purchase insurance, a different financial product than the healthcare experience they really need.

Thus, the healthcare market is a natural medium for the co-navigation of value uncertainty that Professors Bylund and Packard described. In E4B podcast episode #111, Shawn Needham, a healthcare entrepreneur dedicated to helping the consumer in their navigation task, lays out 6 principles for entrepreneurs.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

1. Help consumers to be proactive about their own health.

The healthcare system wants consumers who are sick. Chronic sickness is their most profitable line. A good way to help consumers is via what Shawn calls Pro-Health: encouraging the consumer mindset and commitment to actively make good health and lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, quality sleep and stress reduction. Entrepreneurs can share valuable knowledge and tools to help good decision-making, and to facilitate health creation by consumers.

2. Enable consumer sovereignty via cash, pay-out-of-pocket options.

It’s hard to discern the operation of consumer sovereignty in healthcare systems. End-users can become locked-in to a limited set of choices. Entrepreneurs can help by developing more choices, so that expressed consumer dissatisfactions can be actualized as new options.

Examples that are already in motion include Direct Primary Care (DPC), an arrangement whereby doctors charge a set monthly fee for access to primary care, and consumers pay cash in return for an improved experience, including more time with the doctor, easier scheduling and lower cost prescriptions.

DPC doctors are healthcare entrepreneurs who are enabling consumer sovereignty, having alertly discerned the signals of consumer dissatisfaction.

3. Entrepreneurial empowerment in employer health financing options.

Employers offer ways for employees to finance traditional healthcare insurance, usually via benefits programs. In episode #109, Professor Desmond Ng described the Austrian-inspired movement among employers to empower their employees to be more creative and entrepreneurial and less centrally-directed: he called the movement Entrepreneurial Empowerment.

Entrepreneurial empowerment can be granted to employees to unleash their creativity in searching for financing options for their healthcare. The use of Health Savings Plans provides consumers with an alternative approach to meeting healthcare expenses through dedicated savings. There may be other ways to re-direct the funds devoted to funding healthcare insurance through centrally-directed employer programs, such as freeing employees to opt out of company-paid insurance premiums, and to take the same amount as a deposit into a 401K, leaving the employee with a freer choice in healthcare financing.

4. When the consumer pays the bill, the benefits of free markets can emerge.

Another pay-out-of-pocket option development is Cash Fee For Service, which is a straightforward payment whenever a specific service is required. We’ve highlighted Surgery Center Of Oklahoma as a pioneering example.

When the consumer pays the bill, lower prices tend to result because of competitive free market processes, and the quality of care tends to increase for the same reasons. In his book, Shawn Needham cites cosmetic surgery and lasik eye surgery as two examples of free market forces at work to generate higher quality and lower costs.

5. Entrepreneurial initiative combined with consumer search for betterment can create new solutions.

Shawn identifies medical cost sharing programs as an innovation emerging from the consumer-entrepreneur co-navigation of value uncertainty in healthcare. In medical cost sharing, a voluntary community pools funds so that any unexpected major medical cost can be shared across the community. The firm that co-ordinates the community typically also offers services such as bill negotiation, concierge medical services, health coaching, and discounts on health-promoting resources. There’s a greater degree of consumer sovereignty than is typical in healthcare arrangements, such as a freer choice of which doctors and labs to use. Similarly, doctors who participate in these programs are freer to set their own rates and to compete for patient trust in lasting relationships.

The healthcare market is a process.

The healthcare market may appear to be an inflexible structure, built over many years to impede organizational innovation. But viewed in an Austrian way, as a process governed by consumer sovereignty and responsive entrepreneurial creativity, it is possible to discern emerging trends in favor of greater consumer choice, market flexibility, and the inevitable role of the price mechanism to disperse blockages and lower barriers to better consumer experiences.

Additional Resources

“Navigating Healthcare Uncertainty” (PDF): Download Here

A Sickened: How The Government Ruined Healthcare And How To Fix It by Shawn Needham – Download 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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110: Yousif Almoayyed: Apply Economic Thinking To Better Manage Your Technology Projects

Does economic knowledge help you manage complex IT projects? Yousif Almoayyed thinks it does. He combines management knowledge with careful project management and principled economic thinking.

Economic thinking utilizes foundational principles to integrate knowledge management and business task management for all kinds of projects. IT projects provide a representative example.

Download The Episode Resource Economic Thinking About IT Projects – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The economic principles for IT project management include:

  • Ends-Means analysis.
  • Marginal benefit — marginal cost analysis
  • The law of returns — savings, investment and future benefit flows
  • Combinatorial productivity
  • Knowledge-based processes
  • Incentives alignment
  • Trust and reliability as institutional enablers

Ends-Means Thinking

Your ends are business ends: to generate new economic value by serving customers with continuously improving and continuously innovative services. Technology can be a means to achieve those ends, if properly harnessed. It can help with value delivery, it can help lower costs, eliminate waste and increase efficiency.

The key to economic thinking is to keep business ends and customer experience primary, and manage technology to serve those ends. Don’t let technology be the business’s master.

Marginal Benefits and Marginal Costs, and The Law Of Returns

The so-called Law of Diminishing Returns theorizes that, after a firm or a production process has attained some optimal level of performance, each further addition of an input will tend to achieve a smaller and smaller output increase. This can be true of technology projects and repays careful benefit-cost analysis. You probably already have considerable technology resources in your business, including access to services via the internet. Examine each additional tech input, at the margin, and identify just how much additional business benefit you can anticipate as a result of the new input. A rigorous approach to this analysis can be helpful in ordering priorities and understanding trade-offs.

Combinatorial Productivity

Economic thinking recognizes capital as a flexible, continuously changing combination of elements. Some combinations are capable of generating higher productivity than its individual components can achieve separately. This combinatorial productivity may not be intuitively predictable in advance, and so experimental combinations are appropriate, e.g. of old and new systems.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes in your experiments. If you don’t encounter some surprises, you are probably not experimenting enough. Don’t permit technology vendors to constrain your experimentation. Proprietary systems can force you to work within their boundaries; there are plenty of routes to new productivity outside these boundaries. Yousif mentioned his experiments with Raspberry Pi — the single-board computer used by many for experimental applications such as robotics — as an example.

Knowledge and People As Critical Assets.

Economic processes are knowledge processes: bringing the right knowledge to bear at the appropriate step. Much of the knowledge is tacit – in individuals’ heads, based on their own individual experience. Consequently, assembling and preserving the right team with the right knowledge — both inside and outside the firm — is the primary task in IT project management.

How much tech knowledge do you need? It’s certainly not the most important knowledge for your project. That position is reserved for business knowledge: your project team, in order to attain the business ends you have established for the initiative, must have complete understanding of your firm’s business mission and purpose, and of the customer service context of the current project.

If you are clear in communicating business ends both internally and externally, you will be prized customer for IT suppliers, since this clarity is often lacking and can lead to confusion and conflict.

You will always be able to assemble the appropriate tech knowledge when your business aims are clearly stated.

Choose the outside vendors who best demonstrate their ability to understand and absorb your business ends, in combination with mastery of the specific technology means you require.

Incentives Alignment and Scope Specificity

Economic thinking pays special attention to the roles of multiple players in a system and the incentives under which each player is operating. For example, a systems integrator salesperson or project manager may be incentivized by his or her company to sell more units, or more customization that requires more installation hours now and more upgrade complexity in the future.

Your internal project management includes the alignment of roles and incentives to guard against this kind of conflict. Best to have your own internal project manager.

A big part of the internal project manager’s role is to think through the project scope in great detail, to give the business ends clear dominance over all other ends, to be as specific as possible on the technology means, and to guard against mission creep and the opportunistic exercise of power by IT managers internally or IT vendors externally who might use their technical knowledge to force choices that are inappropriate to business ends.

Big data analytics projects and A.I. projects can be examples of inappropriate technology choices. Big data projects that include extensive data gathering (e.g. through sensors or via cameras for visual data) can promise new insights through analysis of the newly acquired datasets, but a careful analysis of the potential value facilitation of the output might tell a manager that the marginal benefit is inadequate. Always ask whether the project facilitates new economic value for customers or in the firm’s capacity to serve customers. Make sure the incentives to install new technology are truly business-aligned and not simply to be modern or up-to-date, and staying close to the technological edge.

Trust, Reliability and Institutional Guardrails

All economic systems are collaborative networks of individuals, strategies and artifacts. Economists examine systems not only for efficiency but also for integrity, which often comes via institutional factors such as trust between people, and reliability of input performance from people and groups. Without these institutional factors, collaboration can become impeded and frictions can arise, slowing down projects or even rendering them unsuccessful. Great project managers check for these intangibles as well as for the robustness of the technology.

Technology Combined with Economic Thinking Can Open Up New Business Horizons

Some of these economic factors sound restrictive but they’re not. They help guide you to efficient and effective choices by thinking through resource allocations, trade-offs, system optimality and the long term consequences of invisibles such as incentive alignment.

Technology is capable of changing the economics of the firm. For example, it can change the constraints of size and resource availability via new connections to a vast array of external resources that were not previously accessible and that can boost your firm’s effective scale. Yousif pointed to applications such as Upwork to add global specialized talent at variable cost, and also made reference to his collection of previously unavailable commodity supply data that was once shielded but now is made available by technology and can provide early warning signals about market price movements, making his firm better informed that it was before, and therefore better placed to serve customers.

Use technology economically to expand your capabilities so that your marginal benefits exceed your marginal costs in reaching expanded and elevated business ends.

Additional Resources

“Economic Thinking About IT Projects” (PDF): Download Here

A Guide To The Project Management Body Of Knowledge (May 2021):- Download 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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109: Desmond Ng: Entrepreneurial Empowerment and the Austrian Approach to Value-Generating Organizational Design

Austrian economics offers a wide range of knowledge and applications for better business performance. One of them is the design of high-value organizations

Download The Episode ResourceEntrepreneurial Empowerment – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Austrians understand the function of entrepreneurial businesses in the economy is to pursue and generate new economic value. That value is subjective, experienced by individuals as an improvement in their feelings of well-being. We also understand that subjective value applies not only to consumers but also to producers, including employees in firms whose purpose is value facilitation.

To fully realize the skills and talents of their employees in the pursuit of the organization’s visions and goals, entrepreneurial businesses look for the best ways to empower employees to utilize their Hayekian individual knowledge for the innovation and adaptation that leads to marketplace success.

Dr. Desmond Ng uses the term Entrepreneurial Empowerment to describe this approach to designing an organization that best unleashes the creativity of its entrepreneurial employees.

Austrian economics is particularly suited to addressing the organizational challenges faced by today’s entrepreneurial firms.

Businesses understand that they need to be more responsive to customers and the market. Firms are moving from a top down decision-making structure and searching for ways to move to a more decentralized firm structure. They are aiming to take advantage of all the different knowledge experiences that may be inside the firm, to be more adaptive to changing market environments and to acknowledge the importance of empowering employees.

Austrian economists like Friedrich Hayek fully recognized the benefits of decentralization in adapting to changing market processes. Today, Austrians can apply that same understanding at the firm level, in the pursuit of unleashing the subjective experiences and individual knowledge of each employee to greatest economic effect.

The organizational design tool to achieve maximum decentralized value generation is Entrepreneurial Empowerment (EE)

A firm that organizes using Entrepreneurial Empowerment focuses at the leadership level on clearly defining the ends of the company (which can be packaged in the form of vision or mission or goals or objectives) and on ensuring that internal communications are strong enough and effective enough to ensure complete and fully distributed understanding and buy-in among the employee base.

The means for each individual to contribute to the achievement of these ends are left open to employees; they are not dictated or bound with managerial or administrative constraints. Leadership in an entrepreneurially empowered firm is non-interventionist, free of the strictures of central planning.

EE has two components: the first is structural empowerment (SE).

The structural empowerment element of EE refers to the communication structure that delivers employee empowerment. Se informs them about their opportunities for taking action and making decisions, and provides support for them to utilize their own knowledge in doing so.

Professor Ng used the example of design firm IDEO, which provides a fully-available repository of all the firms designs and ideas from all its engineers and teams, along with information about how past teams tackled the solutions to design problems, with what outcomes. Designers on today’s teams can utilize this shared knowledge, learn from the pooled experiences, and enjoy the freedom of embarking on new design paths by combining their own knowledge and skills with the corporate knowledge repository.

Structural empowerment also requires a policy to regard failure as an acceptable part of the innovation process, in order to foster greater risk-taking behavior among employees, and a greater willingness to experiment with new and unproven ideas. SE is a process that leaders and managers must actively and persistently support. The danger is that leaders may succumb to the temptations of power and control, and to seek to centralize their authority. This can be fatal to entrepreneurial empowerment and negate all its benefits.

The second core component is psychological empowerment (PE).

Employees perform best, innovate best and contribute the most creativity when they enjoy psychic rewards from their work. One important aspect of psychic reward is the search for and successful achievement of meaning and purpose. Research is clear that these high values are found in work when it is conducted in an environment that encourages their development. Professor Ng used Chick-Fil-A as an example where, because the company subscribes to a set of values, employees in what might appear to observers as the simplest and most repetitive service and production jobs can find meaning in their work. The result is unrivaled customer service ratings. Psychological empowerment comes from leadership conveying a set of principles.

Monetary incentives, rewards, and the awarding of titles can not match psychological empowerment in terms of effectiveness for motivating employees. The Austrian perspective delivers some quite revolutionary policies and approaches for organizational design.

Rethinking the concept of leadership.

In recent years, business schools have commanded a lot of attention by marketing and selling leadership studies, with products ranging from executive education to books and online courses. However, Austrian economics suggests skepticism about the underlying concept of leadership in business. Firstly, structural empowerment and psychological empowerment are the antitheses of business school style leadership — they suggest non-leadership, letting go of control, and abandoning hierarchy.

Secondly, as Professor Ng pointed out, the centralized authority suggested by business school style leadership tends to lead to the corruption of seizing power and control, clouding the ethical considerations that are at the heart of entrepreneurship, and undermining the trust of employees lower down the hierarchy. The results can be both a loss of legitimacy for the bosses and a loss of business performance for the firm.

The Austrian perspective on organizational design and management can lead us to a higher-performing firm, a more innovative firm, a firm that facilitates purpose and meaning for those individuals who work there, and trust and legitimacy for founders and executives.

Additional Resources

“Entrepreneurial Empowerment” (PDF): Download Here

Professor Ng’s Research Paper Entrepreneurial Empowerment: “You Are Only as Good as Your Employees” (PDF):- Download 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.

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108. Per Bylund and Mark Packard: Radically Reshaping Business Thinking via Subjective Value

In a recently published paper titled “Subjective Value In Entrepreneurship,” Professors Bylund and Packard apply the principle of subjective value to generate significant new avenues of thinking for entrepreneurial businesses to pursue.

Download The Episode Resource10 Radical Shifts in Business Thinking – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Re-think value.

Business schools teach value creation. But their definition of value is faulty, based on a profound misunderstanding. Value is not objective and measurable, as in the business school paradigm of generating more of it. Value is subjectively understood and experienced. It’s a motivation for action (people have a desire to achieve experiences that they value) but it’s immeasurable. It is emergent from complex social systems and patterns of interaction between individuals, not something “created” by businesses.

Re-think the economics of value and value creation.

Value is created by consumers via their experiences. Producers are servants to consumers and their preferences; producers seek to convince consumers to allow them to provide for their wants. Since consumers have alternative courses of action, producers must scrutinize and revise their plans continuously to conform with consumers’ changing choices. This is consumer sovereignty, an essential element of a value-centric business model.

Re-think the role of the consumer in the economic system.

Consumers facilitate their own consumption. They pursue their own individual well-being, including by expressing their wants and needs to producers. The demanding of solutions is the task of the consumer, as is the choosing between available and expected alternatives. They experience value uncertainty (their preferences may end up dissatisfied) and they actively assess and learn about entrepreneurially produced alternatives that are available. They learn cumulatively as they amass consumer experience. Thus the role of value innovation and solution discovery is, actually, the consumer’s and not the producer’s. Innovations are generated by consumers in their never-ending pursuit of higher-valued satisfactions. Consumers’ own imagination and understanding shape their subjective experience.

Re-think the role of the firm.

The producer’s role can be divided into value proposition creation, value facilitation and value capture. Producers respond to consumers’ dissatisfactions with the status quo by devising and assembling new value propositions – features and benefits responsive to consumer wants, aiming to generate feelings of well-being and satisfaction. Producers become partners in the consumer’s value learning process, providing a comparatively better offering than others, so that the consumer prefers it.

The consumer generates a willingness-to-pay, when they feel that the use value of an entrepreneurial offering exceeds the price they are asked to pay. The offering now has exchange value to the consumer. This money magnitude does not indicate the actual subjective value to the parties, but it does generate profit (if it covers production costs) that can be used in the market.

Re-think business models.

A business model captures the fundamental idea of consumers and innovative businesses jointly navigating a shared experience of value uncertainty, in a never-ending quest for higher value states from which they can both profit. This co-navigation process must be built in to business model design, and business model innovation consists of new co-navigation pathways and new ways of sharing. For example, the concept of generative business models we explored in E4B episode #104 gives a greater role in co-navigation to consumers as a way of generating new value.

Management without measurement.

Subjective value represents a challenge to theories of business that adopt a “make the numbers” approach to performance. When value is immeasurable, business processes must be assessed via variables such as the quality of understanding of the consumer and their preferences, the quality and accuracy of empathic diagnosis, and the trust generated with consumers to adopt the business as a co-navigator of value uncertainty. It is possible that survey data can be helpful. More fundamentally, Austrian economics can provide a set of principles for management without measurement.

One approach is qualitative models, which can be designed and subsequently calibrated with marketplace activity. One form of such models is simulation, using agents that represent the emotions and uncertainty felt by consumers in markets. This is a direction that technologically-augmented entrepreneurship may take.

Re-think output metrics.

Similarly, in a world of subjective value and qualitative assessment, concepts such as KPI’s (key performance indicators) can’t realistically be applied. Concepts such as profit and free cash flow continue to apply, given full recognition that they are reflections of accounting conventions, because they indicate the sustainability of the firm and its business model. But new output metrics for subjectively-experienced consumer value and for satisfaction and well-being remain to be invented.

Re-think organizational design.

Subjective value applies not only to consumer activities but equally to entrepreneurial activities. Professors Bylund and Packard present entrepreneurship as an individual journey, one that is primarily mental. The journey is a series of imaginations, judgments and learning over time regarding what problems to solve, what resources are available, what those resources can do, what can and should be done with them (in combination), how to do it and why (i.e. what are the goals and ends the prospective entrepreneur aims for).

Entrepreneurship is chosen. In an entrepreneurial business, many individuals are engaged in — choose — entrepreneurship. Much of their motivation lies in unleashing their imagination, processing their own learning, and finding purpose and meaning. Organizational design becomes the search for the best structures to free the individual to make entrepreneurial choices, to apply their individual imagination and explore the co-navigation of uncertainty with consumers. The firms that do this best will be the ones that succeed in value facilitation and value capture.

Re-think motivation and incentives.

Why do individuals choose entrepreneurship? As Professors Bylund and Packard point out, money magnitudes do not express much of entrepreneurial motivation. Subjective values of purpose, meaning, achievement, personal fulfillment and others are primary. These can not be captured in salaries, bonuses, awards, promotions and titles. The firms that master subjectivist motivations will be able to attract the best talent.

Re-think the social contribution of business.

Entrepreneurial capitalism is under fire in America today. Profit is seen as exploitative, and employment is often viewed as restrictive and oppressive. The ends of business are sometimes portrayed as conflicting with those of society.

An understanding of subjective value would generate a perspective of business as the facilitator of satisfaction and well-being in society. Business creates jobs and incomes for consumers, enabling them to facilitate their own value both in the form of psychic reward in their work and user satisfaction in their consumption value experiences. Individuals, families and communities are all beneficiaries of this value generation.

Businesses provide consumers with continuously improved goods and services at ever-lower costs, providing the means for consumers to achieve their desired experiences and satisfactions. This provision of means is generated entirely in response to consumers’ expressed wants and preferences.

Contribution to societal well-being is therefore the sole end of entrepreneurial business.

Additional Resources

10 Radical Shifts in Business Thinking (PDF): Download Here

“Subjective Value In Entrepreneurship” by Mark Packard and Per Bylund (PDF): Download Here

“The Value Generation Business Model” (video): Watch Here

Corresponding PowerPoint (Download Here) and Keynote Slides (Download Here)

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

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“Subjective Value In Entrepreneurship” by Mark Packard and Per Bylund (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_108_Article

“The Value Generation Business Model” (video): Mises.org/E4B_108_Video

Corresponding PowerPoint (Mises.org/E4B_108_PPT) and Keynote Slides (Mises.org/E4B_108_Key)

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): Mises.org/E4B_108_ABM