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.

90. Per Bylund On A New Austrian Business Paradigm: Facilitation Of Value

In our project to make a useful link between Austrian economic theory and business practice, we earlier introduced the Austrian Business Model. This is a recipe to make a profit – a template adaptable to any individual firm.

Download The Episode Resource The Austrian Business Paradigm – Download

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

What exactly do we mean by paradigm?

A paradigm is precedent to a business model. It’s the underlying way of thinking – a set of values, beliefs, concepts and practices that combine to constitute a distinctive entrepreneurial approach to business.

Per Bylund’s exposition of the principle of Facilitation Of Value leads to a new – Austrian – paradigm for business. Here is the framework:

The Purpose Of Business is to facilitate value for customers.

In today’s interconnected, fast-changing world, businesses are formed and managed with the intention of ensuring value experiences for customers. This challenge is fraught with uncertainty, because value is an emergent – and therefore unpredictable – property of the interaction of people, artifacts and behaviors in complex systems.

Customers, whether consumers or businesses, operate in their own system. They must fit everything they consume into their existing system – their life or their business processes and organization.

Customers experience value in their own systemic context. If they own a car, for example, they experience ownership value within a system of taking kids to school, commuting to work, and shopping, as well as in an intersecting system of service, maintenance, fueling, accessorizing and replacing worn parts.

Businesses interface with the customer’s systems from their own system of design, procurement, resource management, partnering, warehousing, distribution, payments, technological enablement, regulatory compliance, communications and many more elements. A business system facilitates value to realize the customer’s experience within their own system.

The value of any offering is positively perceived by customers when the fit into their system is felt to be a good one and the offering contributes to system improvement or enhancement in some dimension. Uncertainty is always present because the system improvement can not be predicted with certainty in advance.

Austrian economics provides the principles for entrepreneurs, managers and strategists to establish a unique, sustainable, profitable and scalable process to facilitate value for customers.

The end-user / consumer takes the primary role.

A business can not be an assembly of resources or an expression of core competencies or the implementation of innovation in isolation. It can’t be the result of a strategy to penetrate a market or disrupt a competitive set without first understanding the hopes and dreams and aspirations of customers. It can’t be a simplistic choice from a set of business models on the business school shelf.

A business must stem from giving the customer the primary role. The very purpose of a business is to please customers by serving their needs, and so their perception and preferences must define the business design. Since the needs of customers are subjective, idiosyncratic, changeable and context-dependent, methodological individualism – making the individual the unit of analysis, rather than groups or segments or markets or industries – is the indicated approach.

This approach is a lot different than ideas of shareholder value or stakeholder value. It is sometimes acknowledged in terms such as consumer-centricity or consumer-first. But those commitments tend to be tactical and implementational. Relentlessly and unfailingly taking the point of view of the customer is fundamental to the new business paradigm. It’s what make business purposeful and ethical, sustainable and responsible.

Value is determined by the end-user or consumer.

What consumers seek from business is value. Value is hard to define and challenging to quantify because it is a subjective experience of the consumer, within that consumer’s own individual context. What’s perceived as valuable by one individual consumer will not be the same as another individual, and any individual can change their perceptions or their ranking of what’s more valuable at any time.

Value, therefore, can not be created by a firm or a brand, despite the traditional use of that language. Value is formed in the consumer domain, as an emergent property of the consumer’s choices, behaviors and context. Take a laptop PC for example. The value experience changes depending on whether the user is a gamer, an executive in the financial system, or a video editor. It varies based on the software the user installs, the usage advice he or she receives from peers and experts, the quality of the user’s network, their preferences for in-use performance, and many more variables. You can examine the same value experience thought experiment for any good or service of your choice, e.g. the value of an Audi A8 to a family of 6 living in rural South Dakota compared to a family of two in Manhattan with a one-bedroom apartment and a single parking space. Value emerges in lived experiences within these varied contexts.

For a business to business enterprise, it is sometimes expedient to limit the value analysis to the final purchaser / end user. There are sometimes some special value considerations in these contexts. For example, business customers tend to evaluate every economic choice in money terms – does it lower costs or contribute to higher revenues? But it is also the case that a business customer is often, in fact, multiple users (whether a procurement committee or a department all using the same item), and so a group rather than individual assessment of value is appropriate. Nevertheless, value remains a subjective, idiosyncratic, changeable phenomenon.

Empathy for customer dissatisfaction is the starting point for business development.

Dissatisfaction with the status quo – Austrian economists sometimes call it unease – is the raw material for business development. The genius of consumers is to always sense that their experience could be better than it is.

Empathy is the diagnostic skill of observing and analyzing behavioral data and deducing emotional drivers for change and innovation. A customer searching online for more efficient home heating solutions may be dissatisfied with the ambient conditions in the home, or with the level of his or her gas bills. An individual interview can determine which of these – or other alternatives – applies and point the way to a desired solution. The entrepreneurial practice is to focus empathetic attention on the inner drivers which are manifested in observable behavior.

There is no shortage of customer dissatisfactions to be addressed by businesses. The skill of empathy is to advance beyond taking the point of view of the consumer and to feel the experience that the consumer feels, and to identify the feelings that really matter. This is counter-factual – it’s not actually possible to feel what another human being feels – and is therefore an act of imagination. Imagination provides the energy for consumers’ dissatisfaction (they imagine a better future) and for entrepreneurs’ creativity (they imagine what dissatisfaction feels like for the consumer, and they imagine solutions to that dissatisfaction).

Empathic design

To advance from imagination to a business plan is an act of design. Design can be captured as a process in which an innovating business creates a blueprint for a good or service or technology or other artifact that presents a practical solution to a customer. There are many design process alternatives. The shared design principle is to start with an identifiable customer with a problem to be solved, and progress towards a solution with which the customer can interact and can evaluate.

Early prototype solutions should be adequate to share a resonant imagination between entrepreneur and customer, and to stimulate realistic responses from customers regarding features and attributes they do or do not find valuable, and flexible enough to accommodate frequent iterative adjustments based on those responses.

Uncertainty exists as a barrier to be overcome in the delivery of new solutions to customer dissatisfaction. Adaptiveness is the entrepreneurial response to uncertainty.

Uncertainty is integral to the business paradigm. Uncertainty can be experienced as the impossibility of predicting the future because of the extreme complexity of the interactions of customers, entrepreneurial offerings and potential solutions, opportunity costs, transaction costs, environmental factors and other system elements. The response to uncertainty is adaptation: making a change in a business offering and monitoring the resulting change in customer acceptance, customer behavior, customer interactions or other consequential results. Favorable changes are preserved, unfavorable ones discarded.

Continuous dynamic change then becomes the norm for businesses in an adaptive system. There is no equilibrium, no stasis, no predictive planning, no stable combination of assets or resources. There are no system-imposed or structural boundaries to a firm’s activities, just the subjective entrepreneurial judgment about interaction with customers to facilitate customer value. In complexity theory terminology, customer value is the constraint to the system that can shape change and emergent outcomes (think of Steve Jobs constraining his designers to “no buttons” on Apple devices).

Businesses accumulate capital as a result of the flows of income from customers.

The measure of business effectiveness is the flow of income from customers. Insofar as entrepreneurial actions set in motion a flow which is projectable into the future, a business is in a position to make capital investments both to expand its capacity to generate income flows and to create new innovations to stimulate new flows.

Current flows are subject to change at any time when customer preferences change, or their environment changes or there are shocks to the customer’s system. Entrepreneurs must develop accurate appraisals of which of their assets – in what specific combination – are most responsible for generating income flows, and establish them in such a way as to be flexible in rearranging them and recombining them in response to (or in anticipation of) market change.

Future flows from investments in innovation are uncertain and unpredictable. Entrepreneurial skill in identifying productive investments (foresight) differentiates more successful from less successful firms.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

The Austrian Business Paradigm (PDF): here.

“The Austrian Business Model” (video):

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The Epic Calling Of The Entrepreneur.

Many of us feel the pull of contributing to something “bigger than ourselves”. It could be a cause, a charity, a movement, a great project. It could be mentorship in a collaborative organization. Some people even claim that working for the government qualifies: representing (or regulating) the people.

But doing something “bigger than ourselves” does not have to be interpreted purely as a collectivist principle (sacrificing the rights of the individual for the common good), nor as altruism (living for others and not for oneself).

Almost 250 years ago, Adam Smith pointed out that it is not out of benevolence that the butcher, the brewer and the baker provide customers with dinner. Rather, it is out of self-interest. Which is an 18th century way of describing the entrepreneurial ethic of service.

Ethic of service

In an entrepreneurially driven market, customers – by buying or not buying, repeat purchasing or not, subscribing or not – determine what is produced. To be successful, businesses serve customers. They spend an enormous amount of time and money to understand customers and their preferences and needs, and expend all of their resources in an effort to meet those needs in the way that gains approval. Customers are rational seekers of betterment – they buy what will make their lives better, from their own perspective. They seek happiness. That’s what entrepreneurs deliver: better and happier lives.

The reward for utilizing today’s resources in ways that generate the greatest future improvement to society is profit. It is society’s way of pointing to where entrepreneurs should direct their best efforts. The ethic of service is sustained by reinvesting profit into more investments that benefit customers.

The epic calling of entrepreneurs is to join and accelerate this cycle of service, betterment, profit and reinvestment. 

Ethic of Innovation

The market in which customers have all the power is highly dynamic. The genius of customers is to be never satisfied. Betterment is their goal, and betterment never stops. There is always something better in the future, and always a new entrepreneurial market entrant or new R&D team to design it and offer it. 

The result of this dynamic is a continuous stream of innovation – new and better products, services, techniques, delivery systems, restaurants, food, payment systems, movies, TV’s, computers, smartphones, and V/R headsets. It’s better service at every store from the high street to the mall, and every dry cleaners and every nail salon and every gas station and repair shop, because innovation includes treating people better while serving them better. The dynamics of the market means that a customer who receives good service from any provider makes that the standard in judging all others. The momentum in the dynamic entrepreneurial economy is always forwards and upwards, towards betterment. 

Ethic of digitization

Digitization brings rapid betterment at an ever-increasing pace. It’s exponential. Entrepreneurs both initiate this phenomenon and harness it. Entrepreneurs brought us the internet and websites and search engines and e-mail and online shopping. They made almost infinite amounts of information available to us – certainly much more than anyone can consume or use. The digital economy brings abundance, the opposite of scarcity, which is what economists have told us is the norm in markets. Under digital abundance, all choices are going to become richer and richer, the cost we pay for things we value is going to become lower and lower (irrespective of what governments do to their fiat money – is going to offer more and more choices and deliver better and better quality at faster speeds whatever the state of the dollar; we may pay with a different currency).

Entrepreneurs employing digital means to serve customers better will operate in this new world, pursuing and exploring the digital challenge: what are the boundary conditions of higher quality at lower cost? How can they bring digital betterment to everyone in the world? 

The emerging standard of digital betterment is that new services need to be 10X better than whatever is already in the marketplace in order to get customers to turn their heads, pay attention, and change from their current services, which are already excellent. The resultant compounding of improvement will rapidly elevate our life experiences.

And, in fact, digitization puts customers even more in charge – interactive technology brings more empowerment and control to customers than ever. We can compare prices more easily, benefit from the experiences of others who supply ratings and reviews, perform more tasks more quickly and easily, and orchestrate our own system of services and experiences in exactly the combinations we prefer. Customers will decide which digital providers they choose to allow into their lives. Only the best will qualify, and entrepreneurs will strive to be in that group.

Ethic of private property

It has been pointed out, most notably by Ludwig von Mises, that the entrepreneurial system requires acknowledgment and protection of private property to operate. Investors are free to invest in projects they judge to have the potential for high returns, founders are free to allocate their own time and resources to their innovative ideas, and customers are free to spend their own money on offerings that please them. This private property-based entrepreneurial system has brought the world increasing standards of living and quality of life for roughly 250 years, lifting billions out of poverty and squalor. Today’s entrepreneurs preserve that progress, despite the efforts of socialists to reverse it and replace private property with state ownership and bureaucratic control. No calling is higher.

Better world, better society

There is no shortage of pessimists who see the world through the lens of decline. Most of this is partisan politics, which is, indeed, descending to new lows. Some of it is politics combined with scientism (as in climate change fear). A good antidote to this pessimism is Hans Rosling’s book, Factfulness, which compiles hard data from impeccable world sources demonstrating the incredible, consistent and ongoing global progress in fields like life expectancy, child mortality, reduced incidence of poverty, growth in living standards, levels of education, elimination of disease and even reduced pollution. 

Entrepreneurship makes all of these possible via positive thinking, ideation, innovation, organization, and analytics. But, beyond these functions, entrepreneurship is the dominant force for good in the world. Entrepreneurs are optimistic (because they see the opportunities for progress), polite (because they value relationships), collaborative (to make relationships productive), law-abiding (the wrong side of the law is unprofitable), non-violent (violence is also unprofitable), and civil (because community building contributes greatly to success).

Epic calling

In Yu-Kai Choi’s book Actionable Gamification, which is an insightful analysis of human values, Epic Meaning & Calling is the core drive that is in play when a person believes they are doing something greater than themselves. Entrepreneurs experience that calling. Whatever their individual firm, invention, project or initiative, they feel the higher calling of betterment, and they derive part of their psychic profit from responding to that calling. They feel different and special because of their role and their contribution. 

And their contribution is, indeed, special. They are the drivers of the free market economy that raises everyone’s potential and attainment. They are the pillars of a collaborative culture of achievement and accomplishment. They are the creative catalysts of change. Society is better the greater the role and influence of entrepreneurs.

More of us should respond to the epic calling.

84. Bob Luddy: Five Active Processes of Austrian Economics That Helped Me Build One of America’s Most Successful Entrepreneurial Businesses

Bob Luddy is founder and CEO of CaptiveAire (, the US market leader in commercial kitchen ventilation systems. It’s a $500MM+ business with 1,000+ employees and a 40+-year success record. Bob explains to Economics tor Entrepreneurs how these principles of Austrian economics, applied as active processes, played a part.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Say’s Law

Say’s Law is a fundamental proposition in support of a production-driven market system as opposed to a consumption-driven view. It’s quite difficult to interpret and pithy summaries like “production creates its own demand” and “production precedes demand” don’t help entrepreneurs very much.

Bob Luddy doesn’t interpret, he applies. His application formula is this: new supply that is brought to market can solve problems that have not so far been solved. In that case, demand will result.

He gave this example: in the 1980s, many of the harmful effluents from cooking in a restaurant were escaping into the kitchen and sometimes even into the dining room. Those effluents could contain carcinogens, and at the very least, they’re very unpleasant. That was a problem – but it was the status quo.

So Bob thought, in Say’s Law mode: if CaptiveAire could solve that problem, and bring the solution to market at an acceptable price, demand (i.e., lots of customers) would follow. That turned out to be exactly right.

Implied in this formula, of course, is attention to market signals regarding unsolved problems, a problem-solution design process, and a communications and customer interaction capability to inform the market of the new solution. Say’s Law applies, but not in isolation from other entrepreneurial actions. Those actions, Bob tells us, include accuracy and completeness in solving the problem, since many competitors may be trying to address it at the same time. Small details can make a big difference in applying Say’s Law.

Subjective Value

Many podcast listeners have asked whether the concept of subjective value — which holds that it is the subjective and emotional evaluation by customers of an entrepreneurial offering that determines its market acceptance – applies equally in B2B markets as in B2C markets. Isn’t subjective value more relevant to consumers’ choices of fashion and food than it is to business customers’ choice of service es from vendors and suppliers?

Bob’s response: The subjectivity of value is very, very clear, and it’s reinforced in the market every single day.

He used the example of bringing an integrated ventilation system to a restaurant. CaptiveAire might be successful in explaining all of the problems it’s going to solve, its sustainability, and all relevant features and functions. Completion of a sale still comes down to the user subjectively assessing the exchange value, by asking “Am I willing to pay X amount of money to solve these problems?” The customer very well could say, “No, I’d rather live with some of the problems and depart with that much money.”

Bob emphasized the importance of communications in addressing the challenges raised in calibrating subjective value appraisal. A strategy of “solving all the problems” requires clear communications to the customer of how CaptiveAire solves the problems, so that the user can make a fully-informed decision. “If we don’t communicate well, the value of the product in the user’s mind may be lower. So part of the issue of getting a higher subjectivity of value is to have a full understanding of what the product does.” Clear communication is a component of value.

Comparative Advantage

There’s a big difference between competitive advantage and comparative advantage. Bob explains it this way: competitive advantage lies in striving to provide the same service and same solution in a better way than a competitor. Such an advantage may be achievable from time to time, but it is temporary and quite easily taken away by a hard working competitor. The market signals are clear and unobscured, telling the competitor where they must improve and the incentives to do so are compelling. No competitive advantage is sustainable over the long term.

Comparative advantage is different. It’s an unmatched capability, often built over time by accumulating unique knowledge and experience and applying them in a unique capital structure. Such an advantage is longer term, maybe not absolutely invincible, but very hard to overcome.

Bob cited an example outside of his field: winemaking in Napa Valley, California. “If you decided you wanted to make wine and compete with Napa Valley, it’s going to be a hard way to go.”

In the case of CapitveAire, “over time, we’ve been able to develop those design technologies, techniques, automated equipment and software, and when you marry all those things together and you integrate them, we gain a major comparative advantage. It’s very hard to overcome because it’s not one thing. It’s many things, and they’re all well thought out and have been developed over a number of years.”

Bob refers to on important element of CaptiveAire’s comparative advantage as “technique”. An example is “bending metal in real time and dynamically stacking it right up on the assembly line”, resulting in elimination of inventory, and very rapid turnaround time. It’s CaptiveAire’s unique methodology, developed over many years. Competitors can attempt to emulate but they fail. It’s a comparative advantage.

Opportunity Cost

The cost of any choice or decision includes its opportunity cost: what option must be declined or given up in order to make the choice you prefer.

Bob explains: Understanding opportunity costs means turning down opportunities that would divert resources, and, instead, focus on getting the best utilization out of your human resources possible, and making the most sustainable solutions, which are going to save time and money over a period of time. We make 10 major categories of products. No more. To keep those products at the right price, at a high level of performance and sustainability requires all of our time. So if we divert any of that time, opportunity costs might result in us failing at our most primary mission.

He gave the example of a line of business that required extensive customization. The benefit of customization is that each customer feels that they enjoy unique value. The opportunity cost is that it’s impossible to be all things to all people — it absorbs too much time and too many resources. CaptiveAire addressed the opportunity cost problem by replacing customization with software-enabled adjustability of certain key inputs like voltage and phase. They found that this solution could effectively address 95% of customer-requested flexibility. While competitors asked, “Just tell us what you want, we’ll figure it out” and spent resources on responding, CaptiveAire was able to stay focused on its core mission and core products and services.

Every opportunity that comes a firm’s way must be examined through the lens of opportunity cost. Austrians see opportunity cost as an active process — the same way they see value and resource allocation and pricing and many other elements of business.


Pricing is a discovery process. At the same time, it’s an element of business strategy. Bob made a strategic decision at the outset to price “lower than the market,” while aiming for highest quality. The market informs CaptiveAire of what the pricing norm is, and therefore what “lower than the market” is. The discovery part is: how low to go to maximize unit sales and revenues. The second part of Austrian pricing theory is that producers choose their own costs. Bob chose to seek ways to keep costs low enough to sustain his pricing and quality strategy, which led him to the efficiencies, automation, speed, inventory-reduction, high technology, and opportunity-cost sensitivity that characterize CaptiveAire.

Price, cost, and profit are integrated in a strategic formula that’s tested every day by the customer’s willingness to pay the price of high quality.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

Five Active And Integrated Processes Of Austrian Economics (PDF): Download PDF

Bob Luddy’s Effectuation Process (PDF): View Image

Entrepreneurial Life: The Path From Startup to Market Leader by Bob Luddy: View on Amazon

“The Austrian Business Model” (video):

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83. Clay Miller: An Entrepreneurial Journey to New Lands, New Organizational Designs and New Value

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The entrepreneurial instinct can be sparked in K-12 and around the family dinner table.

An entrepreneurial culture is highly beneficial to society at the global, national, and local level. We should examine how well we nurture the entrepreneurial instinct in K-12 schooling and in the discussions we have with our kids at home.

Clay Miller got a Commodore 64 (you can look it up!) when he was 11 years old, and his interest in computing, software and writing code started there. He was a programmer at 11 years old (something that is more common today than it was when Clay was young) and developed a taste for programming and an aptitude and some skills. He learned how to jump over hurdles of software-writing complexity at a young age.

A mentor can reinforce a young person’s disposition towards entrepreneurship, and accelerate their progress.

A local tech entrepreneur took Clay under his wing and hired him for programming projects. Clay built accounting software and other products in this arrangement as a high school student. Observing and participating in this entrepreneurial environment at an early stage in life gave Clay the idea of entrepreneurship as a future pursuit. He started to take on consulting assignments while at college, although he wouldn’t yet identify tech entrepreneurship as a “career”. He was able to begin to make the transition from pure programmer to customer service entrepreneur. Starting early can influence a lifelong entrepreneurial journey.

There are many ways to accumulate knowledge, and entrepreneurship is a fast track to applicable knowledge.

Clay chose serving customers as a pathway as opposed to continued learning in school and a conventional corporate career path. Both paths are ways to acquire knowledge. Identifying the process you prefer for knowledge acquisition – school or entrepreneurship – is a valid choice. Entrepreneurship may be the quicker and more direct route. And entrepreneurial knowledge is often more applicable, and more rapidly applicable, for your own individual economic ends.

An entrepreneurial leap forward resulted from identifying and supporting a new emergent industry.

Clay took a job as a CTO in an emerging industry; organ and tissue transplants. This enabled him to experience economic growth at a higher level through the application of technology in a high-demand environment. He learned about fundraising and financing and shaping resource allocation based on the funding available. He learned about mass customization for a diverse customer base. He learned the role of the technical advisor vis-à-vis the CEO, enabling the executive suite to achieve its vision. Finding a growth industry can accelerate your individual development.

Transition from tech expert to global customer service entrepreneur.

Clay was initially a user of offshore outsourced technological services. He mastered the economics and logistics of this organizational arrangement. Quickly, he founded his own Asia-based outsourcing corporation, and added a significant innovation: the embedded outsourced CTO. Often, firms use outsourced technology services for the flexibility of dialing up and dialing down service intensity on demand. There is a downside to this flexibility, which is loss of continuity and accumulated knowledge, as contractors move on to other jobs. Clay performs the role of CTO for his clients, ensuring them continuity of strategy, and keeps his outsourced tech talent available in his own ecosystem, so that accumulated client knowledge is not lost and can be reapplied later in the cycle.


Clay’s journey can be seen as an illustration of what psychologists call the PDA cycle – Perception, Decision, Action. Entrepreneurs perceive the world around them in a subjective manner, conditioned by their individual circumstances. In Clay’s case, those circumstances included exposure to technology, and some experimentation with it, at an early time in his life. Later, he made some decisions on best choices – e.g. between school and entrepreneurship – based on his perceptions. He acted, became a tech entrepreneur and then a customer service innovator. Every action changes the world, and so changes the entrepreneur’s (and the client’s) perceptions, leading to new decisions and new actions. Entrepreneurial success emerges from the process.

See our PDA graphic to further stimulate your thinking.

You might also enjoy reading this paper from our colleagues Nicolai Foss and Peter Klein on the language of opportunity. They say that opportunities do not exist in any objective fashion. They are not “out there” to be “seized”. Entrepreneurs create their own outcomes. Foss and Klein call their process B-A-R: Belief, Action, Results. See if you think B-A-R is different from P-D-A.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

The Entrepreneur’s PDA Cycle: Download PDF

Foss & Klein’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities, Who Needs Them?: Download The Paper

“The Austrian Business Model” (video):

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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82. David K. Hurst: Business School Fallacies and Acting Your Way to Better Thinking

At E4E, we believe that Austrian economics can guide business execs and entrepreneurs to better thinking about how to manage businesses that thrive. Business educator David K. Hurst blames neo-classical, Chicago School economics for the bad thinking that pervades business today.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Here’s how he phrased it in our @e4epod Episode #82:

I emerged from Chicago believing, or at least accepting, the basic assumptions which lay behind business education at that time, which was heavily influenced by what I came to understand was neoclassical economics. That is, it believed in greed as the primary motivation. It was all about individual self-interest and utility maximization, I think, was the word. It was heavily rationalistic in that it believes that we ought to behave like little mini scientists with everything based on evidence and data and then lastly, the focus was very much on equilibrium, that markets were self-equilibrating and that the natural condition in organizations was stable. Stability was the norm and change was something that you had to manage and that if things went awry, it was mainly because you weren’t following standard procedures. Management was essentially about allocating resources… It was nothing about innovation… and making sure things ran in a steady, linear, rational fashion.

When I got into the real world, I found that these principles were, well, wrong.

The right principles are those that Jesus Huerta de Soto includes in his Austrian theory of dynamic efficiency. David Hurst sums them up this way:

Of course the linear, stable, rational model is the way academics think businesses ought to run, if only they would listen to them, and the fact you can’t run them that way because the world is nonlinear. It’s dynamic.

Organizational Dynamism

To illustrate dynamism at work, David described a frantic time of disarray in a newly acquired company when a major project management problem arose, and sclerosis caused by hierarchy and central planning, multiple process manuals, traditional career paths and rigid job descriptions impeded a response.

Spontaneously, individuals on the front line formed small teams (they’d be called Agile today) to hunt down innovative and collaborative solutions to this and other challenges that arose. They were non-hierarchical, with no process manual, no reporting structure and no fixed operating plan.

Similar small, collaborative, horizontal teams multiplied to solve problems of business recapitalization, debt and cash flow management, innovation, pricing and many more. The business, after divesting unproductive divisions and products, became profitable, grew and thrived. There was improvement and it was, as David put it, non-linear.

New Organizational Theory: Boxes and Bubbles

David reflected on this experience and developed a theory to explain it. He observed that, in the dynamic crisis time, traditional hierarchy and procedure had faded into the background, and the spontaneous order of agile teams had taken the foreground. Both continued to exist.

I called them boxes and bubbles, boxes being the formal box structure which productive, large-scale organizations end up using, and bubbles were these soft, informal teams that we formed at a moment’s notice. They formed easy coalitions with each other and when they did the job, they burst. They disappeared and went back into the mixture out of which new bubbles could come.

The Theory Of Complex Systems

Applying complexity theory, David developed what he calls an organic approach to business management, modeled after natural ecosystems, such as a forest. Forests start off as weeds — small and fast — and end up as big and slow trees. Yet forests are dynamic: they renew themselves through fire, burning the obsolete, decadent growth to create the space into which new growth can come. At that stage, the forest starts to build a new community of fresh growth. It continues in an infinite loop, existing for indefinite periods of time.

David Hurst's Business Ecocycle Model

Austrian theory, of course, embraces the idea of complex systems. We know that any economic endeavor, any market, and any firm operates within a complex system of millions and billions of provider-customer exchanges, governed by the idiosyncratic subjective value scales of consumers and the entrepreneurs who strive to empathize with them and serve them. We know that these complex systems can’t be managed in any traditional, hierarchical, procedures-manual sense, and they can’t be predicted. We understand business cycles and adaptive behavior.

How Did Business Schools Come to Teach The Wrong Model?

How did the business schools get to teach their totally inadequate model?

They adopted this model in the late 1950s. Their goal was to come up with systems to produce economies of scale, how to produce more of the same. Like the steel business – very inefficient, highly polluting but facing tremendous demand for steel for rebuilding the world in the 1950s and there was no reason to change.

The theory that emerged was how to perpetuate this success. But nothing lasts unless it is incessantly renewed. Firms must innovate to maintain dynamic competitiveness. The organizational structure required to run something with economies of scale, a very mechanical, machine-like, productive hierarchy, is very poor at innovation because those are exactly the dynamics that you’ve got rid of in the pursuit of efficiency, in the pursuit of low prices.

The theory that businesspeople used to support them in this productive model was of course neoclassical economics. It appealed to them to explain why it was all about rationality and it was all about stability, keeping things the same.

The Uses of Knowledge

David tells us that Hayek became his guide.

It seemed to me that The Fatal Conceit applied to the corporate world, the mini socialist structures. I mean, when I graduated from business school, the Fortune 500 were the sort of last refuges of Stalinist bureaucracy. They were central planners, so Hayek’s critique applied to them. That’s the way they work. People at the top were dictators, that’s the word for it.

Businesses fall into what David refers to as a “power trap”, bureaucratic and rigid.

The boss would come and say, “Well, I want to do this deal so find me some assumptions that make it work.” Instead of getting evidence-driven strategy, you got strategy-driven evidence. It was totally inverted. The process was actually a process of power, and the structures are structures of power. It ends up with elites”.

The Organic Approach to Management

David described working with an entrepreneur in South Africa.

He was Austrian, but not an economist. He was a tool and die maker in Austria and he had come out to South Africa and he had set up a tool and die business to make fuel tanks for the automotive industry in South Africa. This guy was a wizard on the technology of stamping. It was just know-how, practical knowledge.

He wasn’t dealing in abstractions at all. It was all about practice and things emerged on the shop floor, “Oops. Okay, so that’s interesting.” He was continually experimenting, tinkering, and he was hugely successful because he had this extremely efficient, effective process. And he was not intellectual in the remotest. If you tried to ask him, “What principles are you operating by?” he wouldn’t be able to tell you and that was okay. It’s the power of practice and that the actions come first, and the words come later.

There is a space in my diagram, on the left-hand side, it’s all about acting your way into better ways of thinking and on the right-hand side, it’s about thinking your ways into better way of acting. The two are melded together. It’s a dance, if you will, between the two sides.

The way you come out of business school is thinking about the job of management like an engineer. You had this machine which required to be maintained, lubricated, fixed, parts replaced sometimes, but it was essentially a machine, a smooth running machine, and you think like an engineer.

I see the manager as a gardener. A gardener has engineering aspects, but they also have wilder aspects to them. The gardener creates the conditions in which, in the case of enterprises, people can grow. They grow people. That’s what it’s all about. I see this gardener as the one being able to conduct this dance. You need to dig up soil and replace it. You may need to tear down existing plants and put them on a bonfire and burn them, break out the chainsaw and saw. At other times, you need to supply structure, a lattice on which they can be trained and pruned and all that kind of stuff. The gardener seemed, to me, to capture this duality to the manager’s task.

Measuring Unmeasurables

Peter Drucker said that there a lot of unmeasurable things which are absolutely valid and are absolutely critical. Like Mises, he understood that measurement is always about the past. It’s always about what happened. He says,

The things that really matter are the unmeasurables that refer to the future.” The example he gives is the ability of the enterprise to attract young, high motivated people. He said, “If you can’t attract these people, eventually it’ll show up in the numbers, but it’s not something you’ll see in the numbers right now because it hasn’t happened yet. It’s straws in the wind.

How do you measure unmeasurables? Through Hayekian knowledge theory: getting everybody in the organization talking to each other about what’s happening, about what they’re seeing every day, because that’s where it’s happening, on the ground. This is all a part of acting our way into better ways of thinking, getting ideas, seeing the opportunities emerge out of what we’re doing, out of the action.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

Austrian School vs. Neoclassical School: Download PDF

David Hurst’s ecosystem model (JPG): View Image

David’s book, The New Ecology Of LeadershipView on Amazon

David’s original HBR article on “Boxes and Bubbles”: Download The Paper

“The Austrian Business Model” (video):

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