Enough of you have asked about what I pitched to Senator Risch or said “Put up or shut up! What would a great recovery plan look like?” Almost all these thoughts will apply anywhere though I’ll use Idaho examples. Growing new and small businesses requires the same efforts most places and it’s definitely true for Idaho. Let’s see this through the eyes of Boise’s own Entrepreneur Ed and Smallbiz Sally as they explore an Extreme (Entrepreneurial) Makeover!
Get off on the right foot
Is there one thing we absolutely know to be true about building entrepreneurial ecosystems? Jim Collins’ famed mantra “Get the right people ON the bus; get the wrong people OFF.” Big challenge as many of the utterly wrong people feel entitled to drive the bus. Sally and Ed have different issues as prospective vs. established business owners but they both want one thing. They want their voice to be heard — not filtered through other people’s lenses. If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you be insulted if civic officials felt their direct voices didn’t matter? Especially when some of those filtering are Collins’ Wrong People?
#1. New and small firms ARE going to lead us out of economic darkness. I’d pick a task force that’s a mix of Eds and Sallys, of former, current, and future entrepreneurs/business owners. Be ruthless about the wrong people. There are a few experts who truly get it I’d also add. [You want my list… holler.]
#2. Doesn’t Idaho (or any community) deserve the very best advice? Idaho is fortunate that so many of the country’s and world’s very best want to help us. (Though we’ve worked hard to ignore that, lol.) Any community can create a national/global advisory board of the best and brightest. I do that for other communities, so why not here?
#3. Listen, Listen, LISTEN!
- Start hosting listening sessions that are entrepreneur-only. We know how to do this. Make sure all the different voices get heard — one great way is to have the grassroots organizations handle most of this. Consider the difference to Sally & Ed if the event’s host was the Hispanic Chamber, veterans group like VEA, a women’s biz owner group like Women Ignite, Idaho Rural Partnership, Kate Nelson’s Economic Opportunity, our great local EO chapter, Social Good/Goodwell, or of course the tireless Idaho Women’s Business Center. Quit trying to figure out what new & small biz needs until you really understand what they want. I could get this started in a few days. Imagine the amazing new volunteers to help lead our recovery!
- Combine the listening sessions with briefings on what we do know is true (and false) about growing the entrepreneurial community [http://bit.ly/TopTenEcoSys]. In fact, I’ve found you can turn listening sessions into full-blown ecosystem-building workshops (and now we can beam in THE experts.) We don’t just want Ed & Sally to share their ideas, we want them to lead!
- Surveys — another way to listen is to do community-wide surveys. Missouri recently did an example we can steal leverage. Opportunity to engage students too!
- Based on the above, commission studies to address key issues, look at potential best practices, and assess existing efforts. Did I mention that Sally once got money from iGEM? Wouldn’t it be powerful to assess iGEM’s impacts? (And engage Sally?) What if Ed and his peers argued for a world-class proof of concept center like Aalto’s famed Design Factory? Then commission a feasibility study (and get Ed to lead it!)
Don’t forget, this IS the Great Re-Think!
Again, doesn’t your community deserve the very best advice, mentoring, and learning? Here in Idaho, the IWBC has launched a new mentoring academy. You could too.
#1. Entrepreneurial Master Classes. Every street corner has someone claiming expertise in lean startup, design thinking, etc. In Boise, I’ve crowdsourced the very best of the best. Why not build a Dream Team to help local businesses & entrepreneurs? Don’t Sally & Ed deserve it?
#2. Use students (and young entrepreneurs) to help small/medium businesses to completely re-think their business model, value chain, etc. The biz owners are plenty busy with the pandemic so let’s help Ed & Sally and make it a great experiential learning process! (Of course, there are many who claim expertise here who simply do not.) Personally, I’d engage K-12. The average kindergarten teacher knows more than I do about true experiential learning!
#3. Re-think local/state policy. Commission teams to look at policy best practices. If you go to www.StartUsUpNow.org, the “America’s New Business Plan” has pages of proven/tested policies for state and local. (Also check out www.RightToStart.org for more.) I can share added fodder for discussion — ask the entrepreneurs, ask the small business owners which ideas they like! Get Sally & Ed to ask the Gov/Mayor to proclaim formally a complete commitment to be evidence-based & commit to getting THE best data. Create an ombudsman to fight in state/local government for Ed & Sally!
#4. BUY LOCAL. I’m indebted to Amy Gile of Silverdraft for the reminder. Most cities/states could do much better at buying locally. Idaho is pretty poor at set-aside of any kind (veterans, rural, etc.) Ask INL — expanding their vendor pool paid off big-time. So buy from Ed & Sally!
#5. Re-Think innovation/entrepreneurship training. I’ve mentioned before that THE best educators in the world want to help us. Always falls on deaf ears (so next post will be “what if Norris had a university?”) but K-12 is full of great teachers and eager students. What if Sally & Ed asked Dr. Angela “STEMingway” (Dr. Angela Hemingway and Idaho’s terrific STEM Action Center) to create Innovation badges for teachers and students as part of the World’s Best K-12 Entrepreneurship/Innovation program?
To all the Sallys & Eds out there, what have I missed? Got horribly wrong?
p.s. What if Norris Wins Powerball (or Senator Risch finds money for Idaho’s Extreme Entrepreneurial Makeover)
Check out Aalto’s legendary Aalto Design Factory [https://designfactory.aalto.fi/]. They will help us to build a version here. Aalto would insist that the process be driven by a steering committee of Eds & Sallys. That’s a BIG ticket item but not by stimulus dollar standards.
JR Simplot Center of Excellence for innovation & Entrepreneurship — have we really honored JR? And we see in other countries, making a hub of all things innovation & entrepreneurship — for the universities, for K-12, for industry, for Sally & Ed — the correlation of forces make this Extreme Entrepreneurial Makeover support the entire state! Example: just think how this will accelerate tech commercialization from university & industry and from Ed & Sally!
Can Idaho do this? Zero doubt. Will it? We will see, eh?
…and could YOUR community do this? Hell, yeah.[as always, major thanks to those who’ve taught me so much over the years. I really do stand on the shoulders of giants!]
Norris Krueger is a Goal Champion for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP initiative to grow ecosystem building. He is also a leading academic expert on growing entrepreneurial communities, active mentor for Venture Capital.Org and a much-decorated entrepreneurship educator and global consultant to OECD, EU and others. He can be reached at Norris.email@example.com, on social media or at www.norriskrueger.com/my-last-12-months.