Thursday, September 25, 2008

Entrepreneurship =Hip..yeah baby

What do The Flaming Lips, the Roots, martinis, Des Moines, IA , and entrepreneurship have in common? The quietly cool Amedeo Rossi. Amedeo owns and operates The Lift, a cool martini bar, and The Vaudeville Mews, a happening live music space, both in Des Moines; yeah, that's right Des Moines, IOWA. AND, together with the Des Moines Music Coalition, he successfully organized and promoted this past summer's terrific 80/35 Music Festival (I-80 and I-35 intersect at Des Moines, where we elect presidents).

Amedeo visited my Entrepreneurial Leadership class at Drake University Tuesday and shared his experiences and advice. He worked for 12 years in HR for several large corporations and developed an understanding for basic management and accounting, so that when approached by a friend about opening a new bar/meeting place in Des Moines, he was ready. Like many entrepreneurs, he kept his day job while starting up The Lift, a smooth no-smoking, no TV hang- out near Court Avenue in Des Moines. They opened The Lift in the spring of 2001 and just barely hung on through the quiet aftermath of 9/11 where people didn't go out much. The Lift was no-smoking before it was the law because Amedeo believed it was simply wrong to subject his employees to the hazards of second hand smoke.

Recognizing that there were virtually no venues for local music acts to perform, he and his partner opened The Vaudeville Mews a few doors down from The Lift. VM offers an awesome selection of local and visiting talent in an inviting and accessible space.

Along his small business way Amedeo also hooked-up with the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition and the vision-thing started happening. He and his colleagues starting dreaming and visualizing and jonesing about making Des Moines a center for progressive music--not just in Iowa but for the whole damn country. And they are doing it. The first 80/35 Festival was a solid hit: great space, great bands, great crowds, even with some hard rock competition down the road a bit.

I could go on; I love this guy and what he is trying to do and doing. But duty calls. Here are some tidbits for entrepreneurs from his presentation:
+Get some experience. His 12 years a job...have come in handy, and his day job enabled him to pursue a new dream.

+Your dream will cost more and take longer to achieve than you expect (they all do).
+Cash is king; you gotta pay your bills, so you have to sell something and get paid.
+Adapt. Stuff happens; times and tastes change, so you must also.
+Successfully managing his new ventures has been like piloting a battleship. That is, when he recognized change was on the way or was unavoidable he reacted carefully and smoothly. He was committed to a course, but altered his path when necessary and did so deliberately.

That last one is unique so far among our guest entrepreneurs,a t least in so far as Amedeo specifically articulated his deliberate approach to adaptability. As we have discussed in class, entrepreneurs take calculated risk; they are NOT big risk takers; in fact, they are often risk avers.

Amedeo is doing great things. Many thanks and best wishes for continued success to him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are we purged yet? from 85 b,b,billion to 700 BILLION!?

85 BILLION DOLLARS. YES I AM SHOUTING. Had the feds acted two days earlier they could have acquired AIG for a mere $25 billion. How would you explaoin that little differnece to your boss? Those of you who believe more governement and more regulation will save us from ourselves can pick up the difference. Some commentators smarter than me have suggsted that if the SEC had simply reinstated the long-standing but recently abandoned short trade rules the runs on some of these companies may have been averted. I know, I know, we all pay for the correction of market excesses, but I'd rather pay directly than through the inefficient regurgitative process of big government.

When I asked my students the other day if they felt more insecure than they did last week, they all shrugged. When I asked if they felt more insecure and anxious about their futures today than they did a year ago, most still shrugged. One international student said he was more worried because of the perceived failure of AIG because he wants to go into the insurance biz. Setting aside the wisdom of his career choice, I asked him to consider whether the failure of one of the largest players could not be viewed as an opportunity for smaller or regional firms.

Monday, September 15, 2008

High time for a high colonic

Yes, Erin Burnett, the hot biz news talking head on CNBC (also known as Warren Buffett's number one groupie) referred to today's market gyrations as a colonic. Great image, but methinks we may need to shove another finger down our throats. We will feel better. Even the mighty can choke on indigestible gristle.

Who'd have thought "moral hazard" and "too-big-to-fail" would enter the vernacular?

And don't forget, this great country came into being as a debtor nation.

Let's get the politicians out of the banking business; require transparent disclosure; make 'em mark everything to the market and if they can't value something, make 'em mark it to ZERO.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Words you can't say in the newspaper

So...I'm trying to get some traction with this blogging concept; so I volunteered to blog about small biz ventures, entrepreneurship and the like for the Des Moines Register. Lynn Hicks , the Executive Business Editor, is a cool guy, and he is all for it. So I say, "hey Lynn, I'll write about the class I'm teaching and get students to read and comment." "Cool" he says (or words to that effect). So I do that. Today I wrote about the second guest entrepreneur to visit. He mentioned how he remembers me as the guy who swore at a business gathering his firm sponsored. Specifically, I said "we need more bullshit around here" in commenting on the state of the deal environment in Des Moines. Well, the Register's blog system kicked back the post and told me to revise the word "bullshit." So, I changed it to "Bulls**t." So I guess it's now safe for the kids to read. George Carlin, forgive me.

25 Connections and building on

Adam Steen visited my Drake University Entrepreneurial Leadership class this morning and hit one out of the park. I'm 2-for-2 in signing up all-star guest speakers (IMHO...god, I can't believe I just used that IM lingo).

Adam is the type of enterprising young person (i.e., younger than me) that Central Iowa, Des Moines in particular, strives to attract. He grew up here; went off to college; played a little baseball in the Phillies system, got cut, parlayed a contact into a job selling insurance in Minneapolis (yuck); got fired (yahoo!), and badgered his way into a spot with a new private investment banking firm with his dad (who refused to hire him at first). Now he has his own business, 25Connections (25 players on a major league roster), a unique take on marketing and networking for success.

Tenacious? You bet. Obnoxious? No way. He is so damn nice and enthusiastic I wasn't sure I could like him. He connected with me after I suggested that we needed a little more bullshit and deal commotion in Des Moines. Geez, you'da thought he'd never heard the word uttered in public before. But I now consider him a mentor to me; he brings me fresh insight and a completely different perspective to looking at deals and networking.

"Enthusiastic?" you ask? "Prove it" you say. Well watch the video where he tries his hand at bull riding:

Ya gotta love it when he demands a do-over. Way to go Adam.

Here are the Five Steps* to becoming an effective entrepreneurial leader he shared with us:

+Learn how to fail.
We all get cut from the team now and then.
One must accept the inevitable defeats, build on them, and then accept success.

+Be an Active Thinker.
Think critically.

+Be Curious
Read everything you can.
You never know where you might find the next opportunity.

+Be skeptical.
Don't believe everything you read.
Question assumptions

+Have no fear.
Ride the bull.
Get in the game.

Adam's mission is to create success for others. He's on his way.

*I added the links to jazz things up a bit and to expand the network. I'm sure Adam won't mind.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Party Bus Driver

Wow. I'm "teaching" Entrepreneurial Leadership at Drake University in Des Moines. I put "teaching" in quotes because it feels more like I am guiding students to discover on their own what makes and what it takes to be lead an entrepreneurial venture.

Anyway, why the "Wow!" Well, yesterday, my first guest presenter, Alexander Grgurich, provided a terrific guide to how to drive an entrepreneurial venture. While an undergrad, Alexander bootstrapped some $, bought a bus and turned it into a party bus. Half a dozen buses and a couple of acquisitions later he has built a solid little company, all at the ripe old age of 22, and is looking for new opportunities. Also while an undergrad, he ran for mayor of Norwalk, a small town near Des Moines, and came within 6 votes of winning the election; he turned that bump in the road into a successful run for Norwalk's city council. (hmmm, do I see a trend of small town politics
leading to bigger and better things? I did not ask him if he can field dress a moose, but I'd bet he could learn if he had to).

Alexander and I share an interest in co-working; we also believe in giving back to the community. I thought he'd bring a unique perspective to the 40 students in my class, and he graciously agreed to talk to them early yesterday morning. Here are some highlights from his excellent presentation:

+You never really know where the next big thing* will come from, but you must keep an eye on what is going on in the world. Alexander recommends Springwise, a very cool business trends site.

Tom Davenport discusses this in his blog at Harvard Business Publishing. Thanks to CrowdSourcing Directory for the eye image.

+Entrepreneurial Leadership involves innovation, risk and persistence.

Without innovation progress will grind to a halt.
It doesn't require a new product or gizmo;
it can be a new, better way of doing something
Life is hard; it involves risks.
The key is to protect your downside; try not to lose if all if you fail
If you fail, try again, and again, and again.
He was elected only after 2 failed tries.

+He closed with 3 tips; I'll call them Grgurich's Guide to Successful Entrepreneurship:

1. Understand who you are
Put aside all distractions and identify your strengths and weaknesses (he drew pictures).

2. Admit you don't know everything, and ask for help when you need it.
3. Find mentors.

Great stuff. Keep an eye on this guy.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My Entrepreneurial Philosophy

I love Wordle. Here is what I got when I plugged a statement of my entrepreneurial philosophy into this little word cloud generator. Pretty cool; but I realize that I need to emphasize other words and concepts to really drive home my belief that entrepreneurs make things happen.

I think this one by Jackson Miller is a better image of what the author was trying to say (and what entrepreneurship involves):

I am going to have my Drake University Entrepreneurial Leadership class use this delightful tool to develop their own views of what it takes and what it means to lead an entrepreneurial venture. Kudos to Mike Sansone for introducing me to Wordle.