The second edition will feature insightful speakers such as;
- Williams Bankole (Founder, LiveYourDreamsAfrica),
- Victor Bassey (Founder, Highly paid Expert Network),
- Theophilus cornerstone (Director of Training, Strategy, and Communications, IMLPD),
- Shola Ajani (Founder, human Capital Asset management Group),
- Tito Philips Jnr (CEO of MADphilips Development Company, LTD),
- Femi Oye (CEO of Green Energy & Biofuels (GEB),
- Zubi O’Peters (Chief Executive and Strategist at Authority Growth Co),
- Wale Olajumoke (Brand Strategist, Tech24),
- Eyitayo Ogunmola (Founder, PM Hub),
- Abayomi W. Kayode (Head of ECOWAS region, Chartered Institute of Management Specialist, USA ) and
- Esohe Igbinoba (Founder, The Global Brand Network)
Topics that will be considered include
Entrepreneurship is like many other things – you tend to get better at it over time. It’s true of the saying, practice does make perfect. By identifying and emulating the qualities of other successful entrepreneurs who have more experience than you, you improve yourself.
Since these qualities are not peculiar to them alone, their transferability makes becoming a better entrepreneur much easier for you.
I recently came in contact with 10 of such winning qualities of successful entrepreneurs compiled by Williams D. Bygrave, Professor Emeritus at Babson College and founder of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM).
In his book, The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship; he had this to say regarding entrepreneurial qualities; “as with most human behavior, entrepreneurial traits are shaped by personal attributes and environment”.
According to him, “it does appear that entrepreneurs have a higher locus of control than non-entrepreneurs, which means that they have a higher desire to be in control of their own fate”.
To capture these entrepreneurial qualities in a way that is easy to comprehend and also easy to apply, he used every day words that began with letter ‘D’. These he called the 10 Ds of entrepreneurship.
I would like to share them with you. And at the end of each entrepreneurial quality, I will include a link to an unusual article previously written on it for more insight.
Let’s dig in!
The 10 Ds of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs have a vision of what the future could be like for them and their businesses. And, more important, they have the ability to implement their dreams.
They do not procrastinate. They make decisions swiftly. Their swiftness is a key factor in their success.
Once they decide on a course of action, they implement it as quickly as possible.
They implement their ventures with total commitment. They seldom give up, even when confronted by obstacles that seem insurmountable.
They are totally dedicated to their business, sometimes at considerable cost to their relationships with their friends and families. They work tirelessly. 12-hour days and seven-day work weeks are not uncommon when an entrepreneur is striving to get a business off the ground.
Entrepreneurs love what they do. It is that love that sustains them when the going gets tough. And it is love of their product or service that makes them so effective at selling it.
It is said that the devil resides in the details. That is never more true than when starting and growing a business. The entrepreneur must be on top of the critical details.
They want to be in charge of their own destiny rather than dependent on an employer.
Getting rich is not the prime motivator of entrepreneurs. Money is more a measure of their success. They assume that if they are successful they will be rewarded.
Entrepreneurs distribute the ownership of their businesses with key employees who are critical to the success of the business.
Over to you
Like all lists, these are not all the Ds there is to entrepreneurship. What other Ds can you add to the list? Drop your comments below.
What’s your entrepreneurial vision?
All great companies were first conceived as an idea in the mind of the founder. This founding idea must metamorphose into an entrepreneurial vision and brought to life if the startup is to succeed.
As an entrepreneur, having an entrepreneurial vision is a starting point; you are never too busy to look into the future. If you do not deliberately create the time to look into the future by creating an entrepreneurial vision for your startup, there’s no way you will survive long.
Because entrepreneurial vision defines your business and the foundation on which your business model will be designed. So it is extremely important to have an inspiring, compelling and clear cut entrepreneurial vision before you even begin launching your business.
You see, the business world is very competitive and the companies that don’t have a clear vision of where they are headed are easily eaten up alive by those competitions who do. When you don’t have a vision, every destination becomes your bus stop. Every customer becomes a prospect. Every project becomes a sale. Every applicant becomes an employee.
In short, without an entrepreneurial vision, your startup, product or services will just be like that of everyone else, no significance!
What is Entrepreneurial Vision?
Entrepreneurial vision is a picture of a preferable future for your startup business. It is a thing you create with your imagination and then make practical plans on how to achieve it. It is what you see your venture will be doing in the future, and what it should be doing today in order to get there.
Entrepreneurial vision is your own making; your role is that of a manufacturer creating a finished product, in this case; a preferable future; a better tomorrow for your startup. It’s not by force; it’s a choice. It entails making a choice to pursue the preferred life of your choice. It’s not the same as your life purpose.
Purpose is not a picture that you paint, it’s a call that must be obeyed – answered. It’s not a thing you created, it’s a thing created for you deposited in you. Purpose is not within your power to create, it’s a thing you discover.
Purpose lies in your source and not in your choice. What does this mean?
Purpose is something hidden deep within you by the creator from your very beginning. It is a treasure that is to be discovered. You don’t alter (change) it or choose (pick) it; it’s discovered because it chooses you.
You must therefore make a choice to follow or submit to what you have discovered about yourself. Since you never made yourself, you can only search within yourself to discover what the creator hid in you.
Our task as humans is to uncover or discover what it is that we carry within us individually.
Your entrepreneurial vision is an instrument for fulfilling your life purpose. So your entrepreneurial vision (pictures of a preferred future) must be in alignment with your life purpose (what you were created to originally do).
Because your entrepreneurial vision has to do with how far you want to carry out your life purpose through your business.
Entrepreneurial vision is a question of the size of your startup dream – to what extent do you want to follow and carry out your life purpose? How far do you want to go in the direction of your purpose?
Your life purpose is your destiny – the end; your entrepreneurial vision is your legacy – the means to the end. Your entrepreneurial vision should lead you to fulfill your life purpose!
How to Create an Entrepreneurial Vision
To create an entrepreneurial vision for your startup, follow this simple process below.
Passion -> Purpose -> Vision
Passion, that thing which you enjoy doing and naturally excel at is the source of your purpose. Because it comes with you from birth, your purpose was defined by the creator.
You cannot choose your passion; no one says to himself/herself, this is what I want to enjoy doing. We all must submit to our passion, it is a force that consumes and inspires our life work.
Once you can tell what your passion is or are, purpose is the contribution you want to make on earth using that passion.
Your entrepreneurial vision becomes clearer when you have found purpose. It becomes the extent to which you want to fulfill purpose. Entrepreneurial vision is how far you want to go in the direction of your life purpose.
For example: “Company X aspires to be here, selling this product or providing this service, to these people, using this technology, or these means for this purpose.”
How Entrepreneurial Vision Impacted My Business
Entrepreneurial vision plays a role in energizing and directing the birth, growth, and direction of new ventures, mine was no different. Entrepreneurial vision has greatly impacted my startup in the following ways;
Clarity of Purpose
The greatest impact of entrepreneurial vision on my business is the clear sense of purpose it gives to our entire operation.
These days as entrepreneurs, it has become increasingly difficult to really explain with clarity what your business is about as there are many ‘me too’ businesses out there. But through entrepreneurial vision, I have been able to set my company apart and stand for something very tangible in the mind of my target customers.
Entrepreneurial vision is how I chose an unusual business name –MADphilips. I added the acronym ‘MAD’ which stands for Making A Difference to my surname ‘Philips’ and registered it as my company name. It is the single most distinguishing factor of our business. It is the philosophy that drives all that we do.
Entrepreneurial vision helped us define our business. Our business is SIGNIFICANCE –empowering people, businesses and lives to be different and making a difference.
Today, MADphilips is fast becoming a Nigerian brand with a global appeal that is helping people, businesses and lives become dissatisfied with SURVIVAL and showing them how to make the crucial life changing transition from survival to significance.
Entrepreneurial vision has also helped to shape the kind of products/services we develop at MADphilips.
naijapreneur.com – a business and entrepreneurship resource was created to raise a tribe of unusual entrepreneurs and equip them with necessary knowledge and skills to build SIGNIFICANT [extra-ordinary] businesses that profit from purpose by changing the world!™.
Differentiate Online – a 360° digital marketing solution was created to help these significant businesses become an ICON in their respective industries through online marketing.
UniteNigeria.com – a platform for social change was created to unite the voices of Nigerians on pressing societal issues in order to make a difference by influencing positive changes in Nigeria.
asuqu.com – an online marketplace to buy and sell professional services in Nigeria, where I’m currently a co-founder was created to help talented and skilled Nigerians earn a living through their passion –doing what they love.
The desire to change the present into something better by solving a problem is the core driving force of every unusual entrepreneur. That desire is expressed in an entrepreneurial vision that energizes and propels the entrepreneur and the startup he/she creates towards a greater future.
Without an inspiring entrepreneurial vision to guide and harmonize actions, there’s every possibility that your startup will be stuck in confusion!
The unending news of one tech startup or the other getting massive VC funding in the media is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Not only is this very distracting to budding entrepreneurs, it’s gradually killing the age long startup strategy of bootstrapping to success.
Bootstrapping is a process whereby an entrepreneur starts a self-sustaining business, markets it, and grows the business by using limited resources or money – this is accomplished without the use of venture capital firms or even significant angel investment.
Many of the successful companies that we see today – Dell Computers, FaceBook, Apple, Coca Cola, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Oracle, eBay, Cisco, SAP and Virgin, to name a few, had their humble beginnings of bootstrapping to success.
But these days, all you need is an idea and you’ve got yourself an excuse to raise money. How come we seem to always want the rain check instead of putting our brains to work first?
Call me old school or even cynical, but here’s one fact that can’t be denied; not every startup or entrepreneur is going to get funding.
Yea, that’s reality for you, so suck it up and deal with it!
On this entrepreneurial journey, there’s no guarantee. And nothing can be more dangerous to your morale as an entrepreneur than succumbing to the fantasy of funding.
Trust me, I know the drift.
Lying awake all night wondering where the next income is going to come from to cover your expenses is no joke. Or wondering whether you will make it to the end of the month before running out of cash can be damn scary.
So yea, the fantasy of funding can be very appealing, especially in such situations. If only you could just get a major investor’s financial backing, all these nightmares and worries will just disappear, right?
Your Problem is MORE THAN Money
Funding is a palliative solution to a more fundamental business problem that most startup, especially these days don’t like to brutally confront.
It’s a fundamental business problem if your startup can’t generate some initial revenue to sustain itself till your business idea is fully validated and ready to scale.
It’s a fundamental business problem if your startup can’t find a way to successfully launch a minimum viable product to test the market with without seeking for major external funding.
It’s a fundamental business problem if your startup needs major external funding to create her first customer.
It’s a fundamental business problem if your startup can’t raise her initial funding internally from your family and friends.
It’s a fundamental business problem if your startup needs money to figure out how to make money.
It’s a fundamental business problem if your startup can’t find a way to start small.
It’s a fundamental business problem if your startup needs money to solve a problem no one is willing to pay for.
My point is pretty simple; there are so many fundamentals that are often left out once you allow yourself to succumb to the fantasy of funding.
There are just too many business basics that more money won’t necessarily help you solve. And getting caught up in the fantasy of funding will only becloud your thinking.
Until you identify these business basics and brutally address them, access to more funding will only amplify your fundamental business problems.
The Mindset for Bootstrapping to Success
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to understand one fundamental truth about starting, building and growing a business; there’s no guaranteed straight path to success.
What does this mean?
It means that your business will not manifest itself in the same exact way you dreamt of it or conceived the idea. It is absolutely going to take a very different form than when you first started and you must accept this reality if you will succeed.
This is the mindset you need to have for bootstrapping to success. You have to be prepared to think about your business in several different ways and continually work on the most minimal action you can take per time to get you closer to your goal.
Because all the resources you need to make your business a success won’t come to you at once. They will come in bits and pieces, and your ability to make the most of what you’ve got per time is what bootstrapping to success is all about.
If you would rather focus on having all the money and resources you need to start the way the business was conceived, then you are not going to ever start. But once you accept the reality that venture capital funding is not the only way to grow your business, then it’s easier to open up to other bootstrapping to success strategies available.
Strategies for Growing Your Business Without VC Funding
Here are some bootstrapping to success strategies that you don’t need more money for; applying them will enable you avoid the fantasy of funding.
I wish I could skip this fundamental business principle; think big, start small. All great things start small; I know you knew that already. But why aren’t most startups doing so?
Why do new businesses without any form of validations for their ideas just want to raise money without any substantial track record of success or traction?
I know you do need money to start, but do you really need that much money that you can’t raise internally through your family and friends?
If your startup idea is too big that you can’t start small, then perhaps you need an interim startup idea that will allow you make enough money to startup your big idea.
My point here is simple; don’t let the lack of money hold you down from starting. See your startup in bits and pieces rather than a completed whole. Then start with the smallest bit and piece bearing in mind that where you are starting from is not your destination.
The more traction you gain as you grow the idea from its smallest bits and pieces, the more tangible bootstrapping to success gets.
Don’t go into any business you haven’t first figured out how to make money from. Not knowing how the business is going to generate revenue is a warning sign you have a fundamental business problem.
Your business model is how you structure your business to enable it make money through the products/services it offers.
When starting small, your task is to find a way to start with the very first bit and piece that can win you a paying customer.
Your greatest startup success story is a paying customer. If you can get the first one, strive for the second and the third and so on until you have fully understood how your new business makes money.
Your primary drive should be to see your startup idea being embraced by paying customers. They are the best sources of finance any business can have. Always start with them first, they are great bootstrapping to success enablers.
Because you need the money to keep ploughing back into the business to sustain your bootstrapping to success strategy.
“Get a customer before you start your business, if you can. So many people say to me, “I have an idea. Can you introduce me to VCs?” There is a HUGE gap between “idea” and “professional venture capital”. In the middle of that gap is “customer”.”
– James Altucher, Investor and serial entrepreneur
Most of the things you may need more money for are being done by others and it wouldn’t hurt to just collaborate with them.
I realize that strategic partnerships mean giving up some sizable piece of the pie, but that’s permissible as long as it’s a high impact partner. Remember that you are just starting out and money is not a luxury you have to get the things you need, so you’ve got to focus on gaining some traction and less about money.
Bootstrapping to success through strategic partnerships is about giving up some piece of the pie today in order to secure a bigger pie tomorrow. The involvement of high impact partners intrinsically increases the size of the pie than what you alone initially had.
One form of strategic partnership you should explore for bootstrapping to success is joint venture. Rather than create a product/service all by yourself, partner with others through a joint venture relationship.
Providing a Service
I’m sure you are aware of this, most service businesses are usually less capital intensive than the manufacturing businesses.
This is another bootstrapping to success strategy you can adopt to avoid the fantasy of funding. This is equally applicable to manufacturing businesses; you just need to widen your scope a little bit.
If you are manufacturer and need money for production, find a way to provide a service with your professional expertise. That you want to manufacture a product means you have some deep level knowledge and expertise can be sold.
While this might not seem encouraging at first, remember my point about starting small, this is only temporary until you can raise the money you need to start initial production.
Knowledge is one thing bootstrapping to success cannot do without. Not having money to toss around means you will have to gain mastery of some critical aspects of your startups survival.
And this will require you to invest the only resource you have – time, to acquire the knowledge and skills you need to navigate the business during her infancy.
Bootstrapping to success by becoming resourceful is how most startup entrepreneurs grow personally and professionally. Through this, they are much equipped to execute strategically better than just the entrepreneur who has more money to throw around.
As a result of being resourceful, the same results people spend money to get, they achieve through strategic execution at much lower costs.
You don’t have the money to waste, so you dare not be trying stupid things. Bootstrapping to success is about focusing on the things you do best and letting go of all other things that may distract the startup.
You can’t serve the whole market obviously; you lack the capacity and resources. So your best bet is to focus on a profitable niche and being the king of that niche.
As you capture your niche market, you can extend your focus into another niche market. The strategy is to fight one battle per time and only fight the ones you are most equipped to win.
How are you Bootstrapping your Business to Success?
These are not all the bootstrapping to success strategies available to startups, so join in the conversation and share your own story below in the comment section.
In today’s edition of the Unusual Entrepreneur Interviews, I have on the hot seat Connor Gillivan a serial entrepreneur who has built multiple eCommerce businesses starting from his college days.
He lives to make a positive impact on others through the use of his passions. Without further ado, here’s the unusual story of the unusual Connor Gillivan!
Part One: Connor Gillivan Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Awakening the Spirit of business
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do?, how do you do it?, why do you do it and who do you do it for?
My name is Connor Gillivan and I am a serial entrepreneur living in Orlando, Florida. I am the founder and Chief Executive Officer of eCommetize.com, a company that builds and manages online stores for high-traffic online influencers.
I am the co-founder and Chief Technology and Content Officer of FreeeUp.com, a company that takes a hands-on approach to outsourcing within the eCommerce industry.
Finally, I run my own site, ConnorGillivan.com where I write about my experiences as an entrepreneur and attempt to guide aspiring entrepreneurs through the first year of starting their business. All of my entrepreneurial endeavors stem from my passions and wanting to continually grow as an individual.
I am forever inspired by others, especially the visionaries that have made a lasting impact on the world, i.e. Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison.
How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business? Where there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I have always been attracted to the idea of being your own boss and building something that can eventually have a true impact on others. One of my first work experiences was working for my older cousin who had started and owned his own landscaping business.
Working for him taught me that hard work, determination, and persistence can allow you to be an entrepreneur. From what I learned while landscaping, I even started my own company to earn some extra cash during high school.
As I moved into my college years, the idea of starting another company was always on my mind. I was an Economics and Math student so I was constantly being taught new strategies that I would be able to apply to my eventual business. When a fellow classmate told me that he had started his own business and was looking for a cofounder, I jumped at the opportunity. Things haven’t slowed down since then.
When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
My first major vision stemmed from an internship with ThinkImpact where I traveled to Mpumalanga, South Africa to build entrepreneurial ideas with community members in remote areas of the province. For the three months that I was living there, I recognized the lack of resources and the major need for a better system of delivery to the most remote areas of the world.
While I have been unable to pursue that exact vision yet, it pushed me into the eCommerce space because of the similarities. At the core of eCommerce, retailers are attempting to connect a good to the end consumer via the Internet. I am still driven by my vision of delivering goods to the most remote regions of the world to benefit the inhabitants there.
What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
I’m a strong proponent of this belief. I personally only pursue entrepreneurial endeavors that I am passionate about because I know that I will be happiest and most successful working on them. However, you also want to make sure that your passion is an expertise of yours as well.
In order to succeed in building a new business, you must have domain expertise. This allows you to strategically grow with your competition, structure your operations properly, and identify growth opportunities.
Look at it like this. An entrepreneur may be extremely passionate about biking, but their entire background is in financial investments, which they are also passionate about. My advice would be to start a new business in financial investments as it is where you know the most. By all means, continue to pursue biking and even get involved in community planning, but keep your entrepreneurial career focused on what you are best at.
What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
My personal mission as an entrepreneur is to make a positive impact on others through my passions. I have always been more attracted to positive impact than monetary aspirations. My ultimate goal is to own and operate two companies: one focused on delivering clean water to the most remote areas of the world and the second focused on discovering the science of teleportation. I am determined to create a world where anyone has the ability to easily access necessities, such as water, and where the science of teleportation is becoming a useable technology.
What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
Entrepreneurs play the innovative risk taker. They are the individuals, groups, and companies tasked with addressing the biggest problems faced by society. Entrepreneurs are responsible for listening to others, identifying major issues, and creating innovative solutions. Today, entrepreneurs are expected to perform their duties through the use of technology.
Part Two: Connor Gillivan Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
STRATEGY: The unusual execution of business best practices
How do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability?
I identify business opportunities based off of three major factors: the people, the value proposition, and the demand for the product. Before looking at the product or strategy, I dive into the people that are running the company.
Do they have an expertise within the field? Do they have a track record as an entrepreneur? What are their motives? Do they have the core skills on their founding team?
Next, I look at the value proposition. Is the business idea addressing a real problem in the market? Finally, I look at the market. Has the entrepreneur validated their hypothesis by talking to real customers?
Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
Absolutely. Over the past three years, I have built a close group of mentors that I meet with on a monthly basis to gain insights and ask questions about the toughest aspects of my companies. They have all had a significant impact on the growth of my companies in the most difficult of situations.
Mentors serve as a clear mind when you are struggling through one of the lows of growing your business. I recommend all entrepreneurs to surround themselves by people smarter than themselves so they can continue to learn and be challenged.
How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs use their time for?
I follow a very strict regimen where I am working 10-12 hours Monday through Friday. Each Sunday, I create goals to achieve for the upcoming week. Each night, I plan out my next day scheduling out each hour in the day to stay as focused as possible. I run 3 businesses so it is important that every minute is optimized to full capacity.
As an entrepreneur, you want to be focused on what will grow your company. This may involve training, strategizing, and talking to new customers. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are performing repetitive tasks for longer than 3 weeks, hire and train someone else to do it for you.
In your free time, I highly encourage entrepreneurs to exercise, read, and spend time with their loved ones. As an entrepreneur, it’s difficult to shut off. You have to find activities and hobbies that allow you to remove yourself from the daily grind.
How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
For my businesses, most of our approaches to signing new clients comes through three forms…
- Direct sales outreach,
- Affiliate programs, and
- Digital marketing
One of the most valuable forms of marketing is through your current customers. Find ways to reward your current customers for referring their friends, family, and colleagues…they will be your best customers and marketing force.
Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter and how do you cope with funding issues in your business?
For my entire entrepreneurial career, I have self-funded and bootstrapped my companies. My co-founders and I manage our finances tightly and we make sure that when we are spending money, it is leading to future growth of the company. In my experience, funding can be a hurdle to get over, but it should not limit you from working on your business. If you can build a business idea valuable enough to generate revenue, you have a much better chance of finding an investor interested in giving you funding.
The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
Pricing should be based off of similar products in your market and knowledge directly obtained from your customers. Take the time to speak with potential customers about your minimum viable product and ask them what they would be willing to pay. Talk to 100 potential customers and you should have a good idea of what pricing model may work for your product/service.
Part Three: Connor Gillivan Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
MISCELLANEOUS: Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for entrepreneurs
Since you became an entrepreneur – someone who solves problems for people profitably; what has been your most outstanding accomplishments in the context of business?
In 2014, my first business, Portlight, reached $7.5 million in yearly revenue with a team of over 60 people. The company was managing and selling over 1,000,000 products on the Amazon US Marketplace and was working with over 1,000 manufacturers around the United States.
Since the Fall of 2015, I have been working on two new startups, eCommetize.com and FreeeUp.com, and both have already reached profitability with promise of growth leading up to 2017.
What would you describe as your major setbacks and what lessons did you pick from them?
In early 2015, my business partners and I ran into a number of issues while selling on the Amazon US Marketplace. Our data integrity was not meeting the expectations of Amazon and we were forced to downsize our business in an effort to improve our data management. We were put into a situation where we were forced to lay off half of our team. It was one of the most difficult times that I had to endure as an entrepreneur.
I learned a tremendous amount from the experience that I am carrying forward with me as I build my two new companies. The main lesson that I continue to reflect on is staying focused on the most important aspects of growing your company. When you stray away from your core competency, it leads to disarray and can create issues within your organization.
Where there any particular questions you expected me to ask that is beneficial to entrepreneurs and I didn’t? Kindly share with us such questions and their relevant answers here.
I do not. I really enjoyed your questions and appreciate you allowing me to participate in this interview.
Over to You!
I’m so convinced you had more than you asked for in this interview. But just in case, he missed out something, what more would you like to know about the unusual entrepreneur Connor Gillivan?
You can ask him further questions below in the comment section and I will be sure that you will get an answer directly from him.
Also, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur? What lessons, what philosophy of his strike you the most? What strategies did you pick up from him?
Connor has shared his unusual story with you, now is time to hear from you. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
No business can survive for long without some form of competitive advantage. Whether it’s explicitly defined or not is one thing and whether it’s a sustainable competitive advantage or not is another thing.
But essentially, that you’ve been in business for up to 3 years and still able to make a sale, no matter how small, is an indication that you have some form of competitive advantage. Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t last more than your first year in business!
What is Competitive Advantage?
Competitive advantage refers to one or more qualities, attributes, features, or aspects of a company’s products/services that makes it a favorable choice to the target customers when compared to other existing competitions.
These qualities, attributes, features, or aspects of a company’s products/services are the ingredients for creating a superior value proposition in the market. Without them, you will either end up creating an equal value proposition or inferior value proposition compared to the existing alternatives.
Your competitive advantage is the answer to the question; why should your target customers buy from you rather than from other existing competitions?
Your target customers seek out for justifications when making a buying decision. They want to know why they should consider your company and her products or services above all the existing alternatives in the market.
All the things you’ve put in place to enable them prefer you above other competitions are your competitive advantages. They are the things that give your company and her products/services a fighting chance in the marketplace.
Your business is dead if it doesn’t have any. Your competitive advantage is your company’s license to compete in the market. Without it, no one will pay attention to neither your company nor the products/services it sells.
How Sustainable is Your Competitive Advantage?
Like I deliberately mentioned above, all existing businesses have some form of competitive advantage. Otherwise, they would have been long gone.
However, having some form of competitive advantage is not a guarantee against business failure. Because in the end, if your competitive advantage is not strong enough to keep you in the market, then it’s just a question of time before your business dies!
Meaning, not all competitive advantage is a sustainable advantage. Furthermore, not all competitive advantage can last forever without being copied by others.
So where does this leave you?
Very simple; don’t settle for some form of competitive advantage, rather aim to create sustainable competitive advantages.
The following points will help you determine if you have a sustainable competitive advantage or not.
- If your competitive advantage can easily be replicated by others in the same market or industry as yourself, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet.
- If your competitive advantage is solely dependent on price, being the cheapest in the market, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet. Unless you complement your cheap price with some other superior value propositions or your cheap price is as a result of some revolutionary business processes you developed like Wal-Mart.
- If your competitive advantage was bought with money, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet because your competitions can equally pay for more to get it. For example, in Nigeria DSTv versus HiTv – both are pay TV brands but the later (HiTv) outbid the former (DSTv) to get the exclusive license to broadcast the premiership league football competition. The following year, DSTv retaliated with a higher offer and outbid HiTv to regain the premiership league license. HiTv struggled for a while, and eventually disappeared from the market.
- If your competitive advantage is dependent on your unique location, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet. Unless you’ve completely bought the entire surrounding environment or own the exclusive right to be the only player in that location.
- If your competitive advantage is having the most product or service features in the market, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet. Why? Because there will always be another competition that will come up with a product or service with less features and steal your market share or other competitions who will come up with more features than you.
How to Create a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Don’t be dismayed if all your competitive advantage seems to have been discredited above. There are still strategies you can adopt to create a sustainable competitive advantage for your company that cannot be easily copied.
Focus on the following;
An organization’s culture is like the personality of an individual, it’s absolutely impossible to replicate 100%.
Because it is not entirely dependent on one thing but rather a set of complex intangible things that takes a while to create.
The culture of an organization is a sustainable competitive advantage because it is the foundation on which all other sustainable competitive advantages will sprout from.
Culture is the character of an organization; it dictates the behavior of the organization and determines the attitude of the people. It defines the mindset of the entire organization and influences every action, decision and intention.
It is a powerful competitive advantage that can make or break your company. And it begins with your very reason for being in business – your purpose. Companies with the greatest cultures didn’t stumble upon it by accident; they were all driven by purpose.
When your purpose for being in business is defined by your passion to make a difference in a particular industry and in the lives of your target customers, then you’ve got yourself a recipe for culture.
Just as it is with some of the greatest humans whose lives had major lasting influences on the world; Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King etc the strength of their character comes from their purpose for being.
The same is true for great companies; their character as defined by their culture comes from their sense of purpose. Your purpose for being will attract the right kind of people with common shared values committed to building a business that MATTERS!
Purpose defines values.
Values define character.
Character defines culture.
Culture defines sustainable competitive advantage.
The caliber of people in your organization to a very large extent will determine the sustainability of your competitive advantage as a business.
Sustainable competitive advantages don’t create themselves, people do.
And to attract the kind of people that will create the kind of sustainable competitive advantages you desire, your company has to be driven by purpose – a greater reason for being other than profits.
In my last unusual article about competitive warfare, I talked about the need to create a tribal team in your business. I cited the US Navy Seals as a perfect example of what a tribal team should be like.
A core attribute of such a tribal team is their commitment to the mission. The mission above everything else is what defines, dictates and influences their every action, intention and disposition. The mission is the key that unlocks the potentials of the tribal team.
Tribal teams don’t respond to money alone, they respond first to a mission. They respond to purpose because they are driven by purpose. And if you want to attract such into your company, you’ve got to be about building a business that MATTERS.
Companies with the greatest competitive advantages of their industry are powered by tribal teams – people driven by purpose and committed to a mission of greatness.
- Apple: one of their competitive advantages is design. This is as a result of their mission to create products for the “crazy ones” – people who want to change the world. It isn’t surprising to note that Apple is home to the most creative minds in the world enabling it to consistently come up with innovative products with breath taking designs.
- Google: one of Google’s competitive advantages is their search algorithms, the best in the entire search engine industry. This is as a result of their mission to help organize the world’s information. It is equally not surprising to note that Google is home to the best software engineers in the world enabling it to consistently improve her search algorithms.
- USA: countries also have competitive advantages and United States of America is one country that boasts of the world’s smartest people. One of their competitive advantages is innovation. America leads the world in terms of innovation and this is as a result of their mission to create free country where anyone and everyone is welcomed to pursue whatever they like and become whatever they want. This mission is essential to the unending influx of the greatest minds in the world into the United States to explore their dreams. No wonder they lead the world with ground breaking ideas, inventions and innovations.
I can go on with more examples, but I am sure you got the point already. Your ability to keep coming up with sustainable competitive advantages is directly linked to the caliber of people in your company.
And to attract such caliber of people, your company must stand for something; it must be driven by purpose and committed to a mission far greater than just making profits. You cannot buy such caliber of people with money alone!
The internal operations of your business are another source of sustainable competitive advantage. This is known as business processes; it’s the sum of all procedures, systems, structures, policies and technologies that powers the whole activities of your company.
Business processes define how work is being carried out in an organization. Without the existence of such processes, getting work done in an organization can become chaotic. Business processes create order in an organization and with orderliness comes efficiency.
This is the sustainable competitive advantage that is gained from having solid businesses processes in place in your company – efficiency.
Efficiency is the speed of execution within your company. How well and how fast are things being done in your company? The answer is efficiency. The more efficient a business becomes, the more things it can accomplish on time and for less.
Efficiency gained through sound business processes can become a source of sustainable competitive advantage because it impacts on the eventual outcome and quality of the products/services you sell.
- Dell computers for instance was able to build a strong competitive advantage over the other existing PC manufacturers through her business processes. Rather than manufacturing ready to buy PCs, Dell computers engaged with their target customers directly and allowed them customize their own desired PCs with custom specifications.
- Wal-Mart is still occupying her positions as the world’s biggest retailer as a result of her solid business processes which efficiently integrates supply chain management with technologically advanced logistics and distribution system. This has enabled the company to continually reduce the costs of inventories thereby allowing her sustain her everyday low prices competitive advantage.
- Back in 2008 when we ran a cyber cafe business, the entrance of a close competition nearly cost us our business if not for one of our efficient business processes. The competition copied our pricing strategy, copied our ticketing solution (timer) and infringed on our location. The only thing they weren’t able to copy was our membership strategy which was built around a set of efficient business processes. In the end, this alone proved itself in our competitive warfare against them.
Business processes indeed do take time, effort and cost to create, this is precisely why they do so well as sustainable competitive advantages. When your competitions think about the whole time, effort and costs it will take to create a duplicate, they will decide otherwise.
The more complex those business processes are, the more difficult they are to replicate by your competitions. It will take a lot of hard work, but it is very much worth it to start creating and building your own efficient business processes for your company.
Apart from the competitive advantage they bring, they also help you scale your business and offer you the opportunity to expand quickly.
Another often overlooked source of sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge. And I am a big proponent of this. Apart from being a personal beneficiary of the competitive advantage of knowledge, I have equally witnessed it at work in the businesses of my clients.
You see, what you know about your industry, your customers, your business environment, your competitions, and your strategic partners can powerfully create a sustainable competitive advantage for your company.
Knowledge is the source of ground breaking inventions and innovations. The most innovative companies are learning organizations – they perpetually invest in trainings and research and development.
In a fast paced business world that we currently live in, you cannot afford to remain competitive with outdated information. You’ve got to stay at the top of your game with up-to-date information about your industry, customers, business environment and even your competitions.
Thought Leadership (Authority)
Are you a known, liked and trusted expert in your industry? If not, you should be.
Thought leadership is another often overlooked source of sustainable competitive advantage for your company. The mere fact that you are an influential voice in your industry commands an undue competitive advantage over your competitions.
Thought leadership cannot be bought, it is earned over a long period of time and this is what makes it a sustainable competitive advantage. Building a passionate audience around your business is a luxury that many of your competitions won’t even dare to confront.
When you are the leading voice in your space, no amount of advertisement from your competitions will distract your passionate audience from paying attention to what you’ve got to say next.
- Gary Vaynerchuk grew his family wine business from a small liquor store in New Jersey, USA to a powerhouse brand called Wine Library. How? He became a wine expert on his video blog show called wine library TV on YouTube that attracted a massive online audience of 100,000 viewers a day!While his competitions were busy chasing local customers to visit their wine stores, Gary was busy building an audience of passionate wine lovers. WineLibrary.com was an eCommerce trail blazer and Gary used tools like email lists and video to expand the reach beyond New Jersey.Leveraging on his thought leadership, Gary has built up his family’s liquor store into a $60 million business. He has published 4 bestselling books, started a media consulting company and co-founded a $25 million investment fund.
The true sustainable competitive advantage doesn’t come from a particular product or service (outcome), but from a particular kind of company (source). So the real question should be; are we building a truly sustainable competitive company?
A company that has the capacity and capability to perpetually come up with superior value propositions in their chosen industry or niche.
A company that is capable of continuously raising the bar in whatever industry or niche it chooses to operate.
A company that can consistently outperform itself even though the competition haven’t yet caught up with her existing superior products/services.
This is the true sustainable competitive advantage; to build a company that is fundamentally capable of creating competitive advantages. The goal is to focus on the source (the company) rather than the outcome (competitive advantages).
Outcomes can always and will always be copied; it’s all a matter of time. Great companies are aware of this brutal fact and that’s why they perpetually keep outdoing themselves rather than trying to outdo the competition.
The secret of winning is to consistently be ahead and let the competitions play catch up!