Why Continuous Learning Matters

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”  Confucius

When I first entered the world of business more years ago than I care to remember, it was a very different place.  Word processors were just making an appearance and sending a fax was the ultimate in high speed communication, the internet barely existed, and Amazon wasn’t even a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye.

Fast forward to 2018 and while the basic principles of business remain the same, the way we DO business is infinitely different. Technology has changed how we make decisions and embark on a strategic direction, how we execute on strategy, how we transact business, how we communicate. Equally, we have access to more informational and educational resources than ever before. For the small business owner today – more than ever – to ignore the need for continuous learning is to remain stagnant at best, fail at worst.

The Emerging Enterprise Center’s Business Growth Workshops hone in on business processes that every small business and entrepreneur needs while tying into the ever-evolving business environment.  Among these:

Marketing & Communication:  30 years ago, sales and marketing were almost synonymous and advertising represented the main thrust of the marketing and sales effort.  Today the world of sales and marketing couldn’t be more different, yet too often small business owners still believe that, as long as they market their product or business “customers will come”.  This couldn’t be further from the truth, so it is critical that new entrepreneurs as well as small business owners are clear in their own minds of the differences between strategic marketing, marketing communications, advertising, and sales so that they can develop and implement a sustainable business growth plan.

Selling Value:  Probably the toughest thing for first time – and sometimes serial – entrepreneurs to grasp, is the difference between selling a PRODUCT or SERVICE and selling VALUE.  Entrepreneurs and innovators, rightly, are passionate about their product and their passion is reflected when they speak about it.  What it can do, how it can do it, how it was developed, the features, the benefits.  The more clearly those features and benefits can be articulated into end user value, the less important price becomes as a part of the sales equation.  This translates into a more valuable business model that generates greater revenue.  To quote Warren Buffet:  “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”    Are you clear about the value that you are providing to your customers?

Innovation: “Innovate or die” has become a 21st century mantra and rightly so.  Failure to innovate led to the slow demise of companies like Eastman Kodak, Blockbuster, Sears and, more recently, Toys ‘R’ Us.  In today’s world of rapid technological development, changing tastes and increasing competition, product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter.  Businesses that fail to update are gradually squeezed out of the market.  Innovation doesn’t have to be disruptive – it can be gradual and incremental.  The key is to remain relevant!

Globalization:  Globalization can be a hotly contested topic but has nevertheless had a profound impact on business with increased competition, expanded markets, increased resources, technology transfer.  The increased ease with which business can be transacted internationally means that even the smallest of businesses can access customers and markets which in the past may have seemed unreachable, either directly or through strategic business alliances.

In the end, while ignorance – at times – can be bliss, when running a business, it can be fatal.  As a business owner, I’m all too aware of the fact that the first step to growing a business is the ability to acknowledge that “I don’t know what I don’t know.”  So I make sure I continue to learn.

For more information on the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Business Growth Workshops, contact Erica Crell at (302) 294-2063 or via email.

Details Released for the 2018 Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit

The Emerging Enterprise Center and the DE Small Business Development Center announced that Chuck Nunan, serial entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of Harvest Ridge Winery will be the keynote speaker at the 1st Annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit to be held on July 12, 2018 at the DoubleTree by Hilton on Concord Pike.

“As someone who knows what it is to be an entrepreneur and start a business from scratch, Chuck is an ideal keynote for this event,” says Dora Cheatham, Director of the Emerging Enterprise Center.  Harvest Ridge Winery started with its first grape varieties planted in 2011.  These included

Chardonnay, Viognier, Malbec and Merlot.  Today there are 20 acres under cultivation.

Above: Chuck Nunan, Founder & CEO of Harvest Ridge Winery will be the keynote speaker at the 1st Annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit.

The Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit is a full day, high impact event that is aimed at bringing together entrepreneurs, resource providers and mentors with a goal to supporting entrepreneurs and accelerating business growth.  The day will include workshops geared towards both general entrepreneurs and tech/science-based entrepreneurs, a tabletop expo of resource providers to the entrepreneurial community, numerous networking opportunities, and an awards luncheon.  Among the awards will be the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce David J. Freschman Entrepreneur of the Year of Award and Entrepreneurial Advocate of the Year Award and the NCC Innovates Sponsorship Award which is offered through the newly launched NCC Innovates program developed by the New Castle County Department of Economic Development.

The event will also showcase a number of Delaware entrepreneurs that are in various stages of business growth.  Ms. Cheatham says, “Delaware has some terrific entrepreneurs and innovators.  We also have a huge amount of resources and intellectual capital available to entrepreneurs and innovators. The goal of this event is to bring everyone to the table to make things happen quicker and encourage business growth within the state.”

For more information on the event, and how to nominate or apply for awards visit www.EECincubator.com or contact Dora Cheatham or Erica Crell at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Emerging Enterprise Center.

A Strategy to Exit

Written by Cheryl Beth Kuchler, CEO Think Tank

STRATEGY TO EXIT

Rich Manders of Freescale Coaching grew his company, iAutomation, to $12Million with $2.5M in EBITDA and sold 75% of the business back in 2007. Over the past decade the company has continued on a growth track reaching over $100M in 2016.

During the acquisition process, the acquiring Private Equity firm, Riverside Company, used the “SPARKLE” model as a checklist evaluate the company’s value. Each letter represents an aspect of your business that should “sparkle” and if your business doesn’t, the acquiring firm wins.

At the 2016 Harvard Innovation Symposium, Rich shared the model and explained how buyers use the checklist to determine the price of a business. HINT: The more a company SPARKLES, the more the right buyer is willing to pay.

I highly recommend watching the entire presentation – about 43 minutes. If you’re time-strapped, however, you can read a recap of what each letter stands for here.

Entrepreneur Profile: Reggie Ezeh, Data Value

Data Value, led by Reggie Ezeh, is a data management and analytics consulting firm.

Reggie has over 20 years’ experience in advanced analytics with Fortune 500 companies across the US and overseas. His experience spans Telecoms, Insurance (P&C, Auto, Health, etc.), Finance and Technology. He has managed local and global analytics projects in excess of $20 million dollars delivering top notch quantifiable value to the business in his previous positions.

Reggie saw a need in the market and a shortage of experienced professionals that can bridge the gap between analytics and business to provide strategic solutions. Having managed analytics, customer experience and marketing at local and global levels, Reggie has first-hand experience on how to transform an enterprise from a reactive, problem solving entity to a proactive and highly optimized one. And that is how Data Value was born.

 

Reggie does acknowledge that the greatest challenge is in helping potential clients – especially those who have never before focused on analytics – understand the profound impact that data can have on their business strategy. “Often times it’s an uphill task trying to sell fresh, insightful strategies backed by data to senior management who have not yet seen or understood the impact of data on today’s business playing field,” says Reggie. But he says that once senior management understands the value of analytics, Data Value is able to implement change that can be very impactful for a company. For example, a change to call center operations for one company led by Data Value resulted in a conversation rate increase from 1.5% to 3.5%!

Reggie plans to employ an intern in the Spring and a full time analyst by summer. When current projects can support it, he also plans to hire an 4-6 additional analysts, as well as local University interns to support clients. Reggie is also considering strategic partnerships with larger prime contractors for broader reach.

With the help of the Emerging Enterprise Center, Reggie now has good insight on how to plan his growth path.  Reggie says, “The EEC has also provided us with invaluable networking opportunities as well as beneficial seminars and workshops. Since joining EEC, we have made some great contacts that are sure be rewarding in the near future.”

Emerging Enterprise Center by the Numbers

 

The EEC is a business incubator that helps startups and small businesses learn essential entrepreneurial and business skills, grow their business, and develop a long-term sustainable model. The key elements of the incubator program include: one-on-one mentoring, coupled with business growth workshops. These are used to provide guidance and context to entrepreneurs and small businesses alike.

Since its inception in 2008, the Emerging Enterprise Center has worked with 38 companies generating over $61 Million in revenue and created 179 full time jobs in the County while they were in the incubator.

The EEC has 20 workshops/seminars scheduled for 2018.

The EEC uses the Growth Wheel to help mentor its participants. It is a toolbox built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. It is designed around the four challenge areas of business (Business Concept, Business Organization, Client Relations, and Business Operations).  It is a systematic approach to help entrepreneurs build their business through an action –oriented process that stays true to the way most entrepreneurs think and work. The EEC has a certified Growth Wheel mentor on staff. Click here to see the program guide for the workshops.

Contact us at 302-737-4343 or info@EECincubator.com for more information on how you can get involved in the Emerging Enterprise Center.

How does Your Business Grow?

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

INNOVATE OR DIE has become a 21st century mantra, and rightly so. Today’s globe is smaller than ever, communications are instantaneous, competition is fierce and market expectations are high and ever-changing. Innovation is therefore a prerequisite for survival.

But what is this seeming “answer to all ills” that we call innovation? How do we make it succeed? And how do we do so while simultaneously meeting various business and ROI criteria that may be imposed upon us and are often at odds with a long term innovation strategy?

When we speak of innovation, many people immediately think of breakthrough developments that changed the course of the marketplace, industry or even history: the automobile, the telephone, the microchip, iTunes. However, innovation can be as simple as changing packaging, repositioning a product, or moving into an adjacent business space. Just yesterday, we saw the release of the 6th version of the iPhone together with the Apple watch: earth shattering? Maybe not, but people were standing in line for the new version of the phone and analysts are expecting a bullish next few months for Apple.

Some may think that this dilutes the concept of innovation, but a successful – and cost-effective – innovation strategy should incorporate a range of development projects that not only works towards breakthrough products and technologies, but also allocates resources to the improvement of existing products, the expansion of existing products into new markets, and the development of existing technologies into new products.

One of the best illustrations of this concept is Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff’s “Innovation Ambition Matrix”. Following a review of a number of high performing firms, Nagji and Tuff noted that on average, these firms allocated investments in similar ratios: 70% on the improvement of existing products or core, 20% on the expansion or existing products into new areas, 10% on breakthrough innovation. Their findings also showed that the return ratios were the direct inverse to the investment percentages. While breakthrough innovations yielded a greater return, core innovations required less time and money to develop, and as a rule were more readily accepted by the end user.

By understanding and defining innovation in terms of all of these elements – and not just breakthrough products – creating a growth strategy and implementing a new product development process that fits in with a firm’s core competences makes the entire concept of innovation, while no less daunting, certainly far more manageable and sustainable.

This also makes the concept of innovation far easier to disseminate throughout the organization so that it becomes a part of the organizational culture. When employees understand that innovation need not necessarily be limited to R&D or Engineering, they are more likely to contribute ideas that – while they may not lead to breakthrough products – could certainly lead to product improvements or cost reductions.

Redefining Profit Drivers

Additional routes to growth and innovation should also involve taking an objective view of your business model to clearly understand your profit drivers as they relate to your customers’ needs. This can prove a valuable tool and may lead to a reassessment of your market metrics and a redefinition of how you position your product and/or services and better align your offering to customer needs. We are seeing this more and more as businesses strive to offer insights and solutions rather than individual products.

 Free up Resources by Controlling Hidden Costs

While all of this is going on, there is one more important element that should be incorporated in the innovation process – and that is the regular and consistent review and maintenance of the existing product portfolio. Are the products still relevant and in demand? Are there any weak or inefficient products that could or should be repositioned, improved, or even removed to make way for newer products? Maintenance of inefficient products is a hidden cost and resource drain in many organizations. To allow innovation to function at its most effective, these resources should be freed up in order to be allocated to efforts that add greater long term value.

Strategy x Execution = Success

 

Of course – as with all strategies and my own personal mantra – it’s not just about the strategy but about the implementation and execution of that strategy. Often strategies fail – be they innovation, business, market or product strategies – not necessarily because the strategy itself is flawed but because the implementation and execution is flawed. As the entrepreneur Naveen Jain once said

“Success doesn’t necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won’t win a game or battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling.”

Green Grazer Goats wins this year’s Swim with the Sharks Video Pitch Competition.

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center.

Beating out ten other startup companies, and despite tough competition, Green Grazer Goats grazed into the no. 1 position to win the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Swim with the Sharks Video Pitch Competition—now in its 5th year and with a Grand Prize totaling over $22,000 in cash and services.

Green Grazer Goats is an eco-friendly farming operation that works hard to turn problem areas into manageable property, efficiently clearing areas of noxious weeds and brush without the need for human labor, heavy equipment, dangerous chemicals – and all at about half the cost.  With their clear vision and plan, Kalyn Butt and Kevin Connor convinced the judges that they had a viable business.

For the first time this year, the Emerging Enterprise Center, Delaware’s first small business incubator partnered with New Castle County Government, as well as multiple sponsors, to offer its largest ever prize package which included:

The competition required participants to submit a 3-minute video pitch showcasing their company and describing how their prize package will be used to grow their business.  The three finalists pitched live before a jury composed of judges from the entrepreneurial and business community.  Judging was based on multiple criteria, including clarity of message and vision, value proposition and feasibility of business concept.

The two other finalists:  DEact Medical Solutions and Drone Workforce Solutions, both of which also impressed the judges with their forward thinking innovations.  All three finalists received prize packages. Videos of all the submissions can be seen on Emerging Enterprise Center Website.