My small consulting firm, BBC, occupies a somewhat unique niche in the broad field of "management consulting."
Specifically, we work with early stage technology companies (early not necessarily in years but in the evolution of product commercialization) that need help with commercialization and marketing strategies, and securing funding for research and development of technologically innovative products.
A somewhat confounding problem for us is that the clients that need our services the most tend not to have the money to pay for them – a challenging business model for a consulting practice. Fortunately, we have found our "value proposition" (I hate buzz words but that one does fit) as consultants to technology based economic developers. State and local governments, universities, other sector specific organizations hire us to help their entrepreneurs and technology start-ups to achieve certain milestones such as securing federal R&D funding and developing viable commercialization plans.
BBC has been actively working with technology-based entrepreneurs since 1990. Although we work both regionally and nationally, a large percentage of our work is in Michigan. More importantly, Michigan is where we all live and where we all hope to continue to work until we retire. Therefore we are passionate about wanting to see a vibrant climate for entrepreneurial business growth in Michigan.
Overall, we have seen significant expansion in the resources and support available to entrepreneurs in Michigan. One need only look at initiatives such as the BBC's state-funded SBIR/STTR Assistance Program Michigan Economic Development Corporations 21st Century Jobs Fund, the establishment of the statewide network of SmartZones, and the addition of technology counselors to Michigan's Small Business & Technology Development Center to see how many more resources there are now in the State. Yet the economy overall has been moving in the wrong direction. So what does this mean for technology entrepreneurs?
It means that it is even more important than ever that they are developing their companies and products to address critical market needs. While the concept of "build it and they will come" may work in the movies, it rarely works in real life.
Therefore, it also means that entrepreneurs have to overcome certain inherent characteristics and beliefs in order to begin to identify and secure the resources that they need to establish companies around their "great ideas." In the 12 years that I've been working with entrepreneurs I've learned the following about human nature:
"Sales" is considered a four letter word
People hate to read instructions
We really are afraid to talk to strangers
Even though the overall economy might be difficult, entrepreneurs need only find a favorable economic niche to start to establish and grow new companies. My job as a trainer and coach is to provide the rationale and tools they need to help them find the appropriate niche. As part of that process, I have found the following three corollaries to the issues raised above to be key steps in the process:
- Life is Sales
- Always Read the Instructions
- Don't Be Afraid to Talk to Strangers
Not sure you agree? Stay tuned…