our focus lies in the realm of small business, but we stay connected to the "big-market" world of venture capital and their "sexy" startups because 1) there's a lot of talented folks who hang out in that neighborhood, and 2) they're consistently sharing valuable experiences and insights about growing businesses.
though much of the perspective and advice associated with growing a large market venture is irrelevant to growing a small business, every once in a while we encounter a universal truth worthy of sharing. today we were inspired by an article published by the venture development center at umass boston. here's our condensed translation for the small business owner ::
the folks at umass rightly posed the question of "how do you know if a mentor has the right qualifications, motivation and time commitment to help?" in response, they came up with a rating system based on four simple questions to help business owners determine if a prospective mentor is likely to meet their needs. again, we've made some slight adjustments to account for the variations associated with building a company for "main street" vs. wall street ::
(attach a score to each of your answers, with 1 being low and 4 being high)
total your score and divide by four. here’s what it means:
1.0 to 2.99 – the mentor is just a contributor.
3.0 to 3.99 – the mentor is, well, a mentor.
4.0 – the mentor is a super mentor, the kind you want.
like the umass venture center, mentorship lies at the core of ZENCubate and all of our other business-building services. we buy into the concept of scoring a "4.0" on their scale, and you should, too.
happy new year everyone! we've been off the radar screen for many months creating a lot of exciting change for 2012, and our core theme is "simplicity." as i was listing my goals for the new year recently, my thoughts meandered to martin luther king (we honor him on monday). and this juxtaposition led to my thoughts for this 1st newsletter of the new year.
reflecting on dr. king's accomplishments, i started working backwards -- i wanted to imagine what his list of New Year's resolutions might have looked like. here's what i came up with ::
ironically, psychologists claim a big reason most of us flop at maintaining new year's resolutions is because we fail to make them realistic. business gurus say the same thing. sure, being realistic is important. in the context of the times in which he lived, however, many would have said dr. king's goals were not realistic. yet he succeeded. i'm convinced failure is driven more by a lack of simplicity than by a lack of "reality."
why simplicity is key
consider my imaginary resolutions for dr. king. their simplicity articulates their essence. their simplicity fully examines and understands all their complexity, yet is itself uncomplicated. their simplicity orients us to what needs to be done. there's a tremendous amount of complexity wrapped up in a just this little bit of simplicity. once we have simplicity, however, things become easy. and so we succeed.
it's taken years to recognize, but i now realize main street ventures solves the same, big problem for every customer (be they start-ups or established businesses) -- the dire need for simplicity. naturally, our customers don't see it this way... they define their problems in other ways. those who ultimately work with us come to "get it." and they succeed.
which brings me to ZEN
at the end of 2010, this company launched the ZENBungalow. having recognized simplicity has always been our key to creating success, this became our first brand extension clearly driven by the core values of simplicity, clarity, focus and collaboration. though most perceived the bungalow as a "place," it's really an accelerator. we liken it to throwing gasoline on a fire.
this month main street ventures launches two pilot programs driven by these same core values -- ZENCubate and ZENLegal. we're in the process of pushing information out about each on our new website. my professional resolutions for these programs may not be quite as lofty as dr. king's, but they are ambitious ::
i look forward to sharing more in the days ahead -- especially how simplicity can bring value to small businesses everywhere, including yours.
jack speranza is ceo and founder of main street ventures and passionate about building profitable, independent businesses.