Tag Archives: guest speakers

Is entrepreneurship for you?

Jeff Levy
Jeff Levy at the TMMBA & EMBA spring networking night

By Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director & Class of 2012 Candidate

We recently had a networking night for students and alumni of the TMMBA and Executive MBA programs. Our speaker for the evening was Jeff Levy, an entrepreneur, coach, and mentor who has helped hundreds of individuals open their own franchise or small business. He’s also the co-author of Making the Jump into Small Business Ownernship (read an excerpt in this GeekWire post).

Jeff shared his entrepreneurial journey and views on what it takes to achieve small business ownership. He highlighted his personal challenges and achievements and the who, what, when, where, and why of entrepreneurship.  We followed-up with Jeff after the event with a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:

What is your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?

There have been many times in my career where I felt pride and a sense of accomplishment.  These usually came after achieving something that no one thought possible. Probably,  the most significant moment was when my partners and I put together a $35million package to buy the three division from Flow International to form Safeworks, LLC.  No one, including ourselves, during the process, knew how it would exactly come together. We never gave up on our dream and made it happen.

It’s not easy to take a leap from being employed (and the primary earner) to being an entrepreneur.  When is the right time to start my own business?  Is there a strategy that would provide the least impact to my family?

You are very right that it is not easy to leave the comfort of a regular paycheck. However,  workers today function in what is called the “new career economy.” A paycheck is not necessarily a synonym for security. At the executive level it is not uncommon to be in a different job, or in career transition every 3-4 years. What you want to avoid is having to start a business when not working as a result of a layoff. That is a lot of pressure unless you have a good severance and possibly Self Employed Assistance Plan benefits provided by the State of Washington.  I think the best strategy is to work on the planning part of your business while you have the comfort of the regular check.  Give particular thought to the capital side of the business. Do you have enough money set aside to meet your living expenses for up to a year (or more) in addition to the capital requirements for investing in the business. Once funding is secure it still takes the difficult task of balancing your dreams versus your fears. My family has always been supportive of my entrepreneurial pursuits.  They believed that my early career success working for others would be transferable to my own venture. As my wife said. In her wisdom, you have made money for others, it is time that you do it for yourself.

With the dramatic changes in technology and impending talent war, what are the pros and cons of being a full-time employee versus self-employed?

I think that there will be a talent war. It actually exists today for certain software engineers and programmers.  I do believe the jobs of the future will be “newer and fewer”. No matter what the demand may be for talent in a salaried environment, I don’t think it competes with the benefits of being your own boss.  Clearly, I have a bias in this regard. Workers tend to get comfortable living at the level of their W-2 income and don’t do enough to create real wealth or to control the most valuable thing they have, their time.  I also believe that technology will create many more opportunities for self-employment.

What is the number one personality trait you see in successful entrepreneurs?

I think the # one personality trait is optimism. The ability to look for the opportunity no matter what the difficulty or the challenge may be.  There are certainly other very important traits but you asked for one. If you are a pessimist trying to go into business, game over!

What is the single biggest obstacle encountered by aspiring entrepreneurs?

Here I need the latitude to give a few obstacles.  You might think it is the lack of capital, but I don’t believe that is what holds entrepreneurs back although it might delay entry or slow down the ramping up of the business. My story is a good example of working the plan until you make it happen.  Raising $35m looked like climbing Mt. Everest. The two biggest obstacles are being close minded and not having developed mastery of basic business management skills.

Advocacy and engagement through social media

Sara Jones, Class of 2012

Tonight was the second session of our Social Media for Managers course. This is a new class in the TMMBA Program and one I was looking forward to. It’s both relevant to the work I do and a personal topic of interest. Our instructor is Andy Boyer, a Principle at Social3i Consulting and Co-Founder of Relaborate. He’s also a Foster Alum!

TMMBA guest speaker, Alonso Chehade
Alonso Chehade talking to the TMMBA Class of '12

Our first class on Saturday was an initial overview of our class project, basic social media strategies, and what platforms are out there. The class project is for each study group to pick a non-profit, small business, or cause and build a social media campaign around it. The idea is to teach by doing. It was harder than I thought to come up with a topic. My group finally settled on encouraging individuals to volunteer through a focus on more trivial benefits of volunteering such as free swag, free knowledge, free concert tickets ,etc. The hope is to reach an audience that hasn’t volunteered much in the past while being a bit humorous and lighthearted.

Each class session we are focusing on a different aspect of social media management and building that out for our projects. Tonight we talked about tools and strategies for blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and a few other platforms. We also had a guest speaker, Alonso Chehade, who talked about creating engagement.

Here are a few takeaways from class so far:

  • Social media needs to be tied to organizational goals and the bottom line. Have metrics to measure success of a campaign. It’s easy to get caught up in getting likes, follows, etc, but there need to be other measurements to ensure that your time and dollars are going to the right efforts.
  • Create engagement by being passionate, including people’s names in posts, responding to others, and asking questions to create a conversation.
  • People are motivated by Selfish Altruism. If we’re trying to get people to care about our cause, we need to think about what’s in it for them. What about our story will appeal to them? We shouldn’t just ask them to help, like our page, etc.
  • We can use the basic principles of Dale Carnegie to find success in social media engagement.
  • Find your social media superheros like Bill Sleeper, a 96 year old tech enthusiast who made headlines after he attended a local social media event, or Dan Dewey who was featured during Starbuck’s #everylove campaign.
  • A neat tool that I wasn’t aware of: www.followerwonk.com. I’ll definitely be using this one at work!

Over the next two weeks our groups are supposed to build content and launch our campaigns so that we have some data to work with during our next session on analytics. Now it’s time to create some engagement of our own.

What organizations or groups do you think have done a great job of using social media to support their cause?