High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Turkey’s Iyzico Raises Series B Round of Funding with Participation from Endeavor Catalyst

The Istanbul-based Iyzico, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneurs Barbaros Özbugutu and Tahsin Isın, raised a  $6.2 million Series B round of funding led by IFC, 212 and Speedinvest, with participation from Endeavor Catalyst.  The payments company provides a platform to […]

May 28th, 2015 — by admin

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Endeavor Insight Report on What Entrepreneurs Want in a City Featured in Inc. Magazine and The Atlantic

A report by Endeavor Insight released in February examines the top qualities that American entrepreneurs look for when choosing a city to live and work. With research based on surveys and interviews with 150 founders of some […]

March 20th, 2014 — by admin

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eMBA Field Report: Endeavor Atacama launched!

Arnim Falk Bonow is an MBA student at IESE Business School in Barcelona and is spending the summer as an eMBA with Aguamarina in Antofagasta, Chile.

After six weeks in Antofagasta I have finally settled in well. The desert is still here but it almost feels like home now. Given the fact that I am the only eMBA here in the north of Chile I have started to getting to know the other entrepreneurs, mentors, and staff related to Endeavor Atacama which was just inaugurated last week here in Antofagasta. The more I hang out with these people, the more I realize how inspiring and rewarding entrepreneurship is.

Turns out that instead of only working for my assigned project I am now supporting some of the other entrepreneurs in the network. I am getting to love the Endeavor spirit because it give me a lot of exposure to different problems around entrepreneurship. Not everybody gets insight into Biotech, Software and Technology in one internship lasting two and a half months.

Last week we had the inauguration of Endeavor Atacama in Antofagasta with prominent persons from politics, industry and Endeavor. At Aguamarina, the biotech startup I am working for, we had half of the Endeavor board of directors visiting and a representative from CORFU, a government fund supporting innovation in Chile. In order to make the week a bit crazier, Aguamarina also hosted its first board of directors meeting the same day. It was a lot of pressure but there were really interesting people to meet.

In celebrating the inauguration of Endeavor Atacama, the members decided to spend a weekend together in San Pedro de Atacama. Although I had been there before I took the opportunity to accompany them. To our surprise Roberto Muller – an Endeavor Global Mentor living in the US – joined us for the trip. I can tell you that this has been one of the most inspiring trips I have had in my life!!! This man brought Levi’s to LatAm, founded PONY (a sports apparel brand), was President at Reebok and built Fox Sports. I let you imagine the stories he knew to tell but I can assure you that he was a blast. And we had some great individual talks (in Spanish, English and German)! It was a pleasure to talk to a man who has done many things in his life I wish to do in mine. Yes, it is possible!

Thank you Roberto and thank you Endeavor!

Endeavor Entrepreneur Amjad Aryan on building Jordan’s top pharmacy chain

After leaving CVS, the largest U.S. pharmacy chain, with his brother and sister to start a pharmacy chain with their father based in Miami, Florida, Endeavor Entrepreneur Amjad Aryan had what he calls a “crazy idea.” While the chain was succeeding in Florida and the U.S., there was a bigger opportunity to differentiate the business and make an impact in the Middle East and his native Jordan.

In a video profile on Wamda.com, Amjad explains this decision, as well as many others that helped him grow Pharmacy 1 into “the CVS of the Middle East.” Amjad and the Pharmacy 1 team opened the pilot store in Amman in 2001, and began testing their value proposition in Jordan. Do Middle Eastern customers value good pharmaceutical care over the convenience of the nearest pharmacy? Do customers want to browse on their own, or depend on the pharmacist for direction and advice?

After two years of business operations and customer testing yielded positive results, Amjad moved his family to Jordan. Since then, Pharmacy 1 has focused on consistency and quality of customer service, including home delivery of medications. Amjad shares that even he has made late night customer deliveries!

Finally, Amjad addresses Pharmacy 1’s two biggest challenges during the company’s early expansion efforts: naysayers and industry regulators. To overcome the first, Amjad says he focused on his work and shut his ears to detractors. Resistance from industry regulators was a bit more difficult to overcome. “We were really fought viciously [by the Jordanian Pharmaceutical Association], thinking that we are going to destroy the small pharmacies,” Amjad said. “I’m very proud to say that with 47 pharmacies, not a single pharmacy closed or shut down in Jordan because of Pharmacy 1.”

Chilean Endeavor firm Betazeta secures $3 million funding from Copesa Group

Chilean firm Betazeta, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneurs Francisco Sandoval and Leo Prieto, announced that it has secured a $3 million investment—in the form of capital contribution and share purchase—from leading Chilean media firm Copesa Group. Copesa Group will own 20% of the company. This deal caps off more than $4 million in total investments secured by Betazeta, all through Chilean investors.

Betazeta is a network of ten online vertical communities, including some of the biggest-name blogs in the Southern Cone. Betazeta’s network of blogs makes up the second largest independent Internet community in Latin America. With a steady stream of online traffic and a pioneering interconnectivity among its content and classified sites, the firm is well-positioned to tap into Latin America’s market for online advertising – which is projected to grow more than 25% by 2012, and represents the highest-growing region worldwide.

The founders acknowledge their appreciation for Endeavor’s role in their business growth and investment. Leo and Francisco, who initially met at Endeavor Entrepreneur / Board Member Wences Casares’ Traweln event, have received ongoing mentorship from business leaders including Diego Piacentini, SVP, International Retail, Amazon. In addition to local mentorship and a global advisory board, the entrepreneurs have benefited from an Ernst & Young Fellow as well as the MIT G-Lab program.

In a blog post last week, Francisco assured readers that the investment does not signal major changes or a loss of independence for Betazeta, but rather that the firm will continue pushing forward in its quest to be the leading Hispanic media outlet. The investment signals that a regional media giant—Copesa Group—also believes in that mission. With Copesa Group’s support, in the form of both financial backing and industry “know how,” Betazeta can pursue projects necessary for growth.

Argentina’s “Experiencia Endeavor 2011″: Aug 24-25

Endeavor Argentina’s annual Experiencia Endeavor conference is set for August 24-25 at La Rural Exposition Center in Buenos Aires. The public event aims to bring together entrepreneurs from around the world for instruction and networking. To learn more and register, click here.

On the first day, participants will attend a series of workshops on entrepreneurial topics, with sessions focusing on developing attendees’ management skills and business know-how. Additionally, several networking activities are planned, including group and face-to-face meetings between participants and Endeavor mentors / Endeavor Entrepreneurs. A networking party is also planned for more informal connections. See the complete schedule here.

The second day will consist of inspirational talks by prominent business leaders, entrepreneurs, and industry experts. Endeavor Entrepreneurs currently scheduled to speak include Santiago Bilinkis, Luciano Nicora, Matias Rozenfarb, Andy Freire, Martin Migoya, Guibert Englebienne and Juan Damia. Endeavor Argentina Managing Director Alejandro Mashad will also speak, along with Endeavor Global Network member David Frazee. View a complete list of speakers here.

For more information, visit https://eventioz.com/events/experiencia-endeavor-2011-xe2011. Also, be sure to follow Endeavor Argentina on Twitter (@EndeavorArg) and Facebook.

Endeavor Entrepreneur receives Woman of the Year award in South Africa

Last Saturday, Endeavor Entrepreneur Shona McDonald was honored with a Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Award, which recognizes visionary women leaders creating social impact in South Africa. Shona received the Socio-Economic Business Developers Award at a sparkling ceremony in Gauteng, South Africa.

Shona is CEO of Shonaquip, a social enterprise that enhances the lives of people with disabilities through technical, social and policy innovation. Having built her business from nothing into a multi-million dollar enterprise that has received recognition from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the South African Department of Health, Shona is known for the large-scale impact she and her company have had on disabled South Africans.

Shona built her first modular support buggy nearly 20 years ago to improve the quality of life for children with severe physical disabilities. Her comments at the ceremony reflect how far her impact has spread since then:

“Over 500,000 children and young adults with mobility disabilities living in South Africa do not have access to appropriate wheelchairs and accessible community based seating support services. This shortage of appropriate wheelchairs results in unnecessary, costly and devastating health and social outcomes for both the wheelchair users and their families who support them.”

In terms of how the award will allow Shona to further her impact moving forward, she said:

“Having spent over 20 years building Shonaquip, a social enterprise, as a tool to drive positive change in the field of appropriate wheelchair provision in under resourced regions, I now realize that I need to reach further. I need to explore ways to shift the historical contravention of human rights of people living with disabilities from its entrenchment in charitable giving and pity to become part of the moral concerns of mainstream society and establish an inclusive footprint across the globe. And for this reason I am delighted that Shoprite Checkers has recognized the impact that a social enterprise can have as a powerful driver of sustainable social change.”

Bloomberg features Endeavor company Refinancia

This week Bloomberg ran an article about Refinancia, an Endeavor Colombia company that takes an unusual approach to debt collection. Founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur Kenneth Mendiwelson in 2005, the company sells custom financial products that facilitate repayments and ensure long-term customer relations.

“We provide a dignified product to someone who has been mistreated by the financial sector,” explains Kenneth in the piece. “Someone who falls into default is not a bad person.”

A Harvard Business School graduate and former McKinsey consultant who started Refinancia with a $4 million loan from friends and family, Kenneth is an ambitious but compassionate entrepreneur who seeks to counter the perception of debt-collectors banging on doors. His success is evident in his client base of more than 250,000 individuals and expansion of services into Peru and the Mexico.

Refinancia’s dollar figures are also impressive: The 510-employee company manages a total of 800,000 loans, with a face value of nearly $2 billion, from about 15 banks in Latin America. Kenneth expects revenues of $12 million this year and $21 million in 2012. He estimates that by 2015, 60 percent of revenue will come from debtors outside Colombia.

Kenneth also has a larger vision for his services. He hopes that Refinancia can cash in on goodwill and turn one-time defaulters into borrowers. His argument is that even a person who pays back a defaulted loan will find it difficult to escape a bad credit history when seeking to borrow again: “No one is going to give him new credit, but I can because Refinancia knows exactly how he thinks and how he has behaved in the past with the refinancing product we provided to him.”

Endeavor Entrepreneur Andres Alterini on building a global company in Argentina

Endeavor Entrepreneur Andres Alterini, CEO of Smowtion, recently sat down with the Latin America PE/VC Report to discuss building a global company from Argentina. This interview is reprinted from LAVCA (Latin American Venture Capital Association).

LAVCA: Give us the Smowtion elevator pitch.

Alterini: Smowtion is a leading technology company focused on developing products and support for advertising networks. We serve over 120,000 Web publishers worldwide with an audience of 270 million unique users, enabling them to remain independent by monetizing their online content. The Smowtion SSP Publishers Platform is available in eight languages and reaches more than 200 million users around the world each month. Smowtion today is not only an IT company, but also a leading ad network that has contributed to the evolution of online advertising.

LAVCA: How did you come up with your business idea?

Alterini: The idea for Smowtion was actually born out of Keegy.com, another company I started with my two partners [and Endeavor Entrepreneurs] (Santiago Pinto Escalier and Mariano Elizari). The final business model evolved after ten years of interacting with and interpreting the needs of the booming Internet advertising sector. After many attempts, we developed a clear understanding of what the market needed and how we could provide it.

LAVCA: Tell us a bit more about Keegy. What lessons did you learn that helped you start Smowtion?

Keegy was a news aggregator, like Google News but with blogs. It let you organize the content generated by users themselves by integrating it with information from news portals. Santiago, Mariano and I started it in 2007, and at the time these functions were still separate.

In that sense, Keegy represented a democratization tool in the dissemination of content and personalized information consumption patterns based on preferences, behavior, geographic location, etc.

Although the venture was a success in regards to number of visits (more than 4 million unique users for any month), it failed to become a solid source of income so we had to evolve quickly because the money we had to put into it was running out.

However, the experience provided us with a platform to create Smowtion, which aims to create a bridge between advertisers and the people who generate web content (page authors, not massive, niche blogs or social networks).

LAVCA: What sort of financing have you received thus far?

Alterini: To date, we haven’t received any institutional funding. We were originally financed with personal savings and family investment. Fortunately, we reached the breakeven point in our seventh month, enabling us to grow organically.

LAVCA: Are you planning to approach institutional investors in the future?

Alterini: We are always looking for strategic capital to enable us to continue our steady rate of exponential growth. However, during 2009/2010 we experienced a 400 percent growth rate, and we continue to grow organically without additional capital. Although it’s not necessary at this time to raise outside funding, we are always open to new experiences and lessons to learn from others, which is something VC investors offer.

LAVCA: Your biggest market segment is the U.S. and in fact, Smowtion is included on Facebook’s approved list of ad networks. What were the key factors that enabled you to penetrate such a competitive market?

Alterini: Our formula for success is to clearly identify our customer base and listen carefully to what they are saying. Having continuous feedback from them enables us to constantly modify our products and adapt quickly to changing needs. We’ve been able to interact with both big and small publishers, which is essential for the success of our business.

LAVCA: What is your most pressing strategic challenge right now?

Alterini: In the midst of rapid growth, our challenge is retaining the unique culture and spirit we’ve developed as a startup while introducing the best corporate practices that enable us to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.

LAVCA: How are you addressing this?

Alterini: As Endeavor Entrepreneurs, we have access to a network of mentors and leading experts in the area of strategic consulting. We are constantly connecting with them to learn from their experiences. To me, a successful example of how to deal with this challenge is Mark Zuckerberg and the transition he’s managed as Facebook has grown so quickly.

LAVCA: Who is your competition? What do you see as your competitive advantage?

Alterini: Our competitors are primarily other sell side platforms (SSPs), including Admeld (Google), Rubicon Project and Pubmatic. Smowtion’s advantage is its technology and human capital resources. Because of this, we are a global company even though the CEO and his team are based in Argentina.

LAVCA: Where do you want Smowtion to be five years from now?

Alterini: We will be billing more than 20 times what did last year; that would be revenues of $500,000 per employee. With a staff of over 200 employees and a solidly professional human resources structure, we will have a dynamic company culture that, while resembling the intellectual and creative atmosphere of a university, is based on the sound business practices of the digital world and global markets.

LAVCA: As an entrepreneur based in Argentina, can you give us your perspective on the current entrepreneurial community in the country? What changes would you like to see in order to strengthen the environment for start-ups in the country?

Alterini: The Argentine entrepreneurial culture is in its early stages. There is a need for increased training at all levels, a greater emphasis on risk taking and a better understanding of the financial instruments that will enable projects to be born and developed with funding structures that won’t fail before startups can grow and prosper.

Alan Patricof, VC superstar and Endeavor Global Advisory Board member, discusses the VC landscape in New York

Recently, Endeavor Global Advisory Board member Alan Patricof spoke with journalist Connie Loizos about the venture capital landscape in New York. The article below, “Alan Patricof: ‘You’ve Got to Be Realistic About the Marketplace‘”, is reprinted from pehub.com.

New York is getting awfully crowded these days. Accel has opened an office in the Big Apple this year. So has Canaan Partners, Matrix Partners, and, now, New Enterprise Associates, which already has a handful of investments in local startups and wants to demonstrate its “continued commitment to the area,” as NEA partner Tony Florence told VentureWire yesterday.

What do longtime New York-based VCs think of their enthusiastic new neighbors? Hoping to find out, I called Alan Patricof yesterday afternoon. After all, Patricof was among a small group of investors who had the scene to themselves in 2006, when he founded Greycroft Partners, an early-stage digital media-focused venture firm. It’s hard to remember now, but at the time, many big-league VCs still complained that nascent Web startups couldn’t move the needle enough.

That was just fine with Greycroft, which scored an early stake in the parent company of paidContent.org, for example, and the Huffington Post. The former sold for a reported $30 million to The Guardian Group in 2008 after raising just $3.3 million in Series A financing from Greycroft. Earlier this year, the Huffington Post sold to AOL for $315 million. It had raised just $37 million. (Greycroft — which has raised two funds totaling $205 million — participated in the juggernaut’s Series A and B rounds.)

What a difference five years have made, suggests Patricof, who spoke with me from Greycroft’s Madison Avenue offices. Our conversation, edited for length, follows.

How much harder is your business today, given how many firms have flocked to New York and how seemingly overheated it has grown?

Well, our business hasn’t become harder. Just the opposite is true; the concept I had when I started Greycroft has been confirmed in spades. What’s happened is the market is much harder. It’s getting increasingly hard to find companies at an A round with pre-money valuations of $10 million, [where the firm feels most comfortable]. I don’t want to say it’s irrational exuberance, but there’s certainly an excitement level that’s evolved over the last six to 12 months that’s created a level of interest around companies we focus on, and that’s influenced the expectations of young entrepreneurs.

How have you adjusted?

We’ve [funded companies with higher than] $10 million [pre-money valuations] in several cases. We’ve also reached earlier in the development cycle, making a series of seed investments at earlier stages and lower valuations.

Are you at all concerned that valuations are too high or that they won’t hold up?

How far will they spread and how long will it last? It’s a big unknown at this point, but we have to be realistic about valuations going in and exit valuations and not get carried away by the euphoria at the moment. The reality is that something like 95 percent of deals in the digital media world over the last seven or eight years have [sold] for less than $100 million. We certainly hope and expect that some of our companies will be valued at well over $100 million. We have three or four companies in our portfolio right now that are in excess of that number, and of course, Huffington Post sold for [roughly] $300 million. But we try to be realistic about the environment and where transactions are taking place.

Which deals did you participate in at a $10 million plus pre-money valuation, and which companies in your portfolio are worth multiple hundreds of millions of dollars in your view? I’m guessing Glam Media is one?

Pulse and Klout were both above $10 million pre-money valuation levels, but I believe both are the kinds of companies with exit potentials well in excess of $100 million if they continue on the trajectories they are on right now. [Pulse is a visual news reader for the iPad, iPhone and Android that raised $9 million from Greylock and Lerer Ventures last month. Klout, which measures social influence online, has raised $10 million; Greycroft participated in its $8.5 million Series B in January.]

As for [your other question], I won’t comment on specifics. You’ll have to take your own guesses, though to a certain extent, no one knows. Several companies have been in our portfolio for a while and have grown in terms of revenue. We’ll see if they go public or get acquired at large prices. None of us expected to see an exit from Huffington Post when we did, but conditions change and you have to go with the flow.

Speaking of which, have you had to slow your pace with the landscape shifting as it has?

Not at all. I just got out of a Monday partners meeting that started at 11 o’clock and ended at a quarter to five. It’s a very active time, and businesses have never looked better. I think we’ll do 12 full-size investments this year and three to six seed investments. So we’re full out.

So you don’t think there’s a bubble in New York, I take it.

I didn’t say that. I am concerned that pre-money valuations are growing, and that people are [looking at] the public valuations that are in the paper every day and…concluding that the world has changed dramatically. And I don’t think it really has. The companies that can potentially go public are a very limited subset of the overall venture market. VCs invest in a couple thousand new companies every year, and according to one study that I saw recently, only one percent of them grow to exceed $100 million [in valuation] companies. So what’s that? Twenty companies each year can be potentially eligible [for that club]. You’ve got to be realistic about the marketplace.

Five entrepreneurial tips from Michael Feuer, co-founder of OfficeMax

This article, “The Not-So-Secret Secrets To Making It Big: Five Surprisingly Doable Steps That Will Propel You To The Top,” is re-printed from youngupstarts.com. These insightful tips on effective leadership are provided by entrepreneur Michael Feuer, author of The Benevolent Dictator. He cofounded OfficeMax in 1988 starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money, a partner, and a small group of investors. As CEO, he grew it to more than 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales topping $5 billion. He is also CEO of Max-Ventures, a venture capital and retail consulting firm, and cofounder and CEO of Max-Wellness, a comprehensive health and wellness retail chain that launched in 2010.

Have you ever said to yourself, How in the world did [insert name of powerful business executive] get to where he is? He’s not any smarter than I am! Well, chances are you’re right. That executive who made it big probably doesn’t have more powerful brain cells than you…but what he (or she!) probably does have are three non-glamorous but crucial qualities: focus, discipline, and follow-up.

These three qualities might not sound extraordinary, but they can truly set you apart. The truth is, there isn’t a simple magic bullet that will propel you straight to the top. Success in any endeavor, especially business, really comes down to specific character traits and habits. If you have those qualities, you’ll excel. And if you don’t, you probably won’t.

Before you ever craft a sales strategy or walk into a client meeting, whether or not you have a chance of success has already been decided by how you think about your work, what you have to do, and how you do it. Outcomes are shaped by your focus, discipline, and commitment to follow-up… or lack thereof. It’s important to remember that achievements are often less dependent on your technical know-how and more dependent on how you organize and think.

Read on to learn what these three qualities look like in practice, and how you can make them work for you:
Take good notes.

Taking notes in business is just as important as it was in your advanced economics class in college. Your brain isn’t always as powerful as you think it is, and having a written record of your boss’s project analysis or your colleague’s sales strategy can save you from having “oh darn” moments, and can set you apart from the pack and put you on a straighter path to success.

I’ll frequently dictate the notes from a meeting the second I walk out, or appoint someone to act as a scribe beforehand. I keep all of my past notes in a folder on my computer, and I also always make sure to jot down next steps. These habits ensure that nothing falls off the radar unintentionally, and that I always have a good idea of what needs to happen next. Oh — and I often shock new team members by writing the letters ‘FU’ and a date at the bottom of my notes. New people are always relieved when they learn that those letters aren’t a pejorative, but a shorthand I use as a reminder to ‘Follow Up’ by a specific date!

Do what you say you will, period.

In today’s dog-eat-dog environment, a person’s word isn’t always his or her bond. And that’s a shame. When you fail to follow through on promises and commitments, you imply that you lack discipline and — perhaps — shouldn’t be trusted with more important tasks and objectives. However, if you cultivate a reputation for being completely reliable, you’ll enjoy more responsibility and success as well as better business relationships.

I routinely tell my employees that I’m not their father and won’t babysit them, and that if they tell me they’re going to do something, they’d better make good on that assurance. I can’t afford to have people on the team who are undependable. However, I do provide alternatives by giving everyone three acceptable ‘outs’: They can tell me that they can’t finish on time, that they don’t want to do it my way because they have a better idea, or that they think their assignment isn’t worth the effort and can convince me why.

Give homework assignments.

A leader’s job is to make people think and discover alternatives. It’s a great way to determine who on your team you can rely on and who is capable of taking a project to the next level. You can afford to invest in developing someone who is interested in developing.

When I give assignments, I keep a running tally of what happened or changed from previous sessions on the same topic or project. No matter if you’re on the giving or receiving end of homework, remember that the way these assignments are handled is a great way to gauge attitude, commitment, potential, reliability, and whether or not someone is a player.

Scrap your iron-clad five-year plan.

Being able to work with focus and discipline is generally a good thing…unless you’re focusing on things that won’t help you or propel you forward! To help prevent this, Feuer recommends developing a short-term plan with a six- to nine-month outlook. This plan will help you get through the year. He also recommends creating a longer-term plan with a seventeen- to eighteen-month strategy. It will encompass the goals and benchmarks you need to achieve during this time period. Why have two plans instead of one? Well, the world is simply evolving too fast to rely on a one-size-fits-all five-year plan.

I’ve found that many organizations spend too much time thinking about what’s going to happen way down the road when all they’re doing is guessing. And when their predictions turn out to be inaccurate, they find out too late that they’ve been focusing their efforts on the wrong things. You must always be ready to modify your plans when necessary, change quickly, and deal with the unexpected. That’s what will make the difference between a company that might get by and one that is good or even great.

Use a rifle, not a shotgun.

When you fire a shotgun, your shot hits a wider area, but it lacks focused precision. In business, a shotgun approach gets the job done… but usually doesn’t yield outstanding results. Sure, you’ll hit something with a shotgun, but the price in doing so seldom provides the big payback. Yes, a rifle or laser-sharp approach will take more planning and forethought, but in the end you’ll probably save time and resources. It pays to identify exactly what needs to be done and then focus relentlessly on accomplishing those objectives.

Trying to cover a wider area and hoping that something resonates is inviting your efforts to fall short of the mark or even backfire. A laser-sharp strategy is much more practical, productive, and economical. So make sure that you’re ready, and that you aim well before you fire!”

When you take the time to focus, have discipline, and require follow-up, whether you’re a business owner, a manager, or an employee moving up the ladder, you’re creating a road map that documents what has to be accomplished and by when. Few things ever fall through the cracks when you follow this process. It is the most direct way I know to set yourself up for success!

Want to be an effective entrepreneur? Better have these relationship skills

This article was reprinted from youturn.com, a resource for intern candidates and young professionals running an entrepreneurial driven company or change-oriented non-profit. Author Martin Zwilling is CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.

Starting and building a company is all about leadership – formulating an idea, building a unique plan based on vision and experience, and forging a path over and through all obstacles.

Yet the image of leadership in business is at an all-time low, according to national leadership experts, considering the political debacles, record business bankruptcies, and executive fraud cases.

If the country is to recover financially and politically, new leaders will have to emerge to fill the leadership deficit – new leaders who understand that leadership is a privilege, not an entitlement, according to executive coach Michael Schutzler, author of the book “Inspiring Excellence – A Path to Exceptional Leadership.”

Entrepreneurs are well positioned to become the new leaders, because they perceive problems as opportunities, and have the mental mindset to innovate and execute. They have the required passion, perseverance, and work ethic. What they don’t have by default are the skills required, or the relationships. These don’t come automatically with the CEO title.

Schutzler’s view of leadership is different than many academics and executive coaches, who feel that leadership is an innate character trait. He urges people to focus on developing a few key relationship skills, and I agree. Here are some key conclusions:

Leadership is a learned behavior, not a character trait. Good judgment, for example, is certainly a hallmark of exceptional leadership, but it isn’t something you are born with. “More than anything, good judgment comes from listening,” he says. It also comes from paying very close attention to every situation, and learning from it.

Listening is the most important skill for a leader. We need to pay attention to the words and actions of others while suspending judgment long enough to allow your intellect to catch up with your instincts. Why? Because as leaders, if we speak too soon, we shut off creation. We shut off contribution. We force the adoption of our ideas.

Communicating and storytelling. This is not a skill everyone is born with, but it’s a skill we can all develop. People on your team want to believe! They want to believe you know where we are going, or you will get us there even if you aren’t sure of the exact path at this moment. They want stories that compare what they are doing with others.

Acknowledging contribution. This is necessary to sustain motivation during the hard times. It’s not hard to do and doesn’t require a lot of effort or expensive gifts. A thank-you note or peer recognition is enough most of the time.

Negotiation is a practical skill for every leader. Negotiation is often misunderstood to be the domain of clever deal makers. It’s actually really simple. Make very clear requests for a promise. Understand exactly what the promise is – what is being done, when, and what the standard of excellence is, and then check up on the status to make it happen.

Too many leaders are focused on personal ambition. He believes that we need leaders who use power as a tool for inspiring others to create a better future, not as a tool for retaining their position or perks.

The middle four points are the essential skills for great leadership, inspiring excellence, and building a successful business. They are easily practiced, and serve as the foundation for successfully attracting talent, reaching consensus, making tough choices, and harnessing ambition.

In this fashion the general leadership deficit is really an “opportunity” for new aspiring entrepreneurs in business. So practice the leadership skills needed, and step in when you are ready. Now is your golden opportunity – let’s see how many of you are up to the challenge. We need you all.

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