ABC’s of Is­land en­trepreneur­ship

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WEEKEND BUSINESS - Blake Doyle Blake Doyle is The Guardian’s small busi­ness colum­nist. He can be reached at blake@is­landrecruit­ing.com.

Busi­ness on P.E.I. moves in ebbs and flows like the tides sur­round­ing our shores. And as tem­pos of change drift through North Amer­i­can busi­ness cul­ture, the ver­nac­u­lar and ap­proaches also splash into Is­land board­rooms and cu­bi­cles.

For any­one ob­serv­ing the Is­land busi­ness land­scape, lo­cal en­trepreneurs have been very suc­cess­ful. In fact, over the course of the last few years many of our lo­cal start-ups have been ac­quired fully or in­vested in by en­ti­ties for­eign to our province. This has cre­ated op­por­tu­nity and wealth, but also a loss of lo­cal au­ton­omy and con­trol.

Well-in­tended agen­cies, such as the Startup Zone, have lib­er­ally seeded and fer­til­ized the en­tre­pre­neur­ial soil and new batches of com­pa­nies are sprout­ing and flour­ish­ing. A re­newal process that or­gan­i­cally re­places the or­ga­ni­za­tions which have pros­pered and been culled.

I came across an ar­ti­cle this week that spoke to the at­mos­phere of me­chan­i­cally scripted start-up en­vi­ron­ments and the op­ti­mistic jar­gon that fills cor­ri­dors and en­thu­si­as­tic busi­ness mod­els. “Disruptive, In­vestable, First-Mover, El­e­va­tor-Pitch, Seed-Round” — all im­por­tant con­cepts but many miss­ing the fun­da­men­tal qual­i­ties of a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, and the suc­cess fac­tors that lo­cal ex­it­ing en­trepreneurs pos­sessed.

To re­cal­i­brate and ground my fo­cus, I re­turned to a clas­sic cin­e­matic mo­ment that un­der­scored the fun­da­men­tal of suc­cess. An ora­tion of such fer­vor that it may ap­pear as a Satur­day Night Live par­ody to young im­pres­sion­able start-up as­pi­rants. With­out the fun­da­men­tal of sales, or sales prospect, no idea is re­ally “in­vestable” be­cause in­vestors de­mand in­vest­ment re­turn.

ABC! For those fa­mil­iar with the 1992 film “Glen­garry Glen Ross” about a sales-fo­cused real es­tate firm, one of the strong­est mo­ments is the dress­ing down from an un­scripted Alec Bald­win: “Al­ways be clos­ing.”

It is a di­rect, and crush­ingly de­liv­ered, sales be­rate­ment that demon­strates in busi­ness, sales are es­sen­tial or achieve the al­ter­na­tive – fail­ure. This clas­sic video clip is a re­minder that with­out the ex­e­cu­tion of sales, there is no busi­ness. A decade later an­other film cap­tured the en­thu­si­asm of the 2000s era, “Boiler Room.”Ben Af­fleck also pro­vided an emo­tional and mo­ti­va­tional sales clos­ing mono­logue. Th­ese should be stan­dard course cur­ricu­lum for all startup en­trepreneurs.

Both th­ese tirades are hard to watch for most peo­ple, but mo­ti­va­tional to busi­ness own­ers and en­tre­pre­neur­ial par­tic­i­pants. Sales are what drive the econ­omy, not ideas or pre-rev­enue con­cepts. Ed­u­ca­tion on share struc­tures or tax avoid­ance are ir­rel­e­vant at a start-up stage. Formative or­ga­ni­za­tion, busi­ness plan gen­er­a­tion and of course sales ex­e­cu­tion are the foun­da­tions nec­es­sary for suc­cess.

An Alec Bald­win de­liv­ery would prob­a­bly frighten many start-up en­trepreneurs, so that ap­proach may be a lit­tle harsh. The con­cept of sales fo­cus, soft skill train­ing and re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment are the fun­da­men­tals ab­sent from ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and startup train­ing.

The ABC’s of sales and sales man­age­ment are crit­i­cal and nec­es­sary skills that need to be in­tro­duced early.

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