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Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

When a mistake can be an opportunity

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herbie20hancock

Herbie Hancock, a famous jazz pianist.

I watched recently a video of an interview of Herbie Hancock, a great jazz pianist, who plaid with the most beautiful musicians. In this video, he explains that one day, during a concert with Miles Davis, he plaid a wrong accord during Miles solo. He was terrified and disappointed by the wrong note he did, but surprisingly, Miles pursues with a note that was in accordance with his wrong note and took another direction in his solo. It was totally improvised. Such anecdote makes thinking about serendipity, the fact that you get something different than expected.

In the industry, there are many examples of discoveries made by accident. For instance, the company 3M was experimenting glue that should be very resistant. The experience failed and it was the opposite results that the R&D team obtained. The glue was weakly adherent. Somebody saw an opportunity to use that glue, and this is how the post It was born, this small paper peace you can stick on your screen or other support.  What was considered as a failure has been transformed into an opportunity.

Talking about that wrong note and the improvised situation that followed, Herbie Hancock speaks about something that made growth each other. By playing another note to stay in tune, Miles showed he was keeping the dialog with Herbie and created another musical sentence. He was probably aware too that they can only succeed together, or fail together. The first option only was the good one. Such situation teaches about personality of each other and contributes to empower a relationship, and it is the contribution of a strong team spirit, from people who want to build something together.  Complementary skills and the desire to build an original project are the key ingredients of entrepreneurship. Like improvisation in a jazz jam session, a lot of things can happen in an entrepreneurial project, and the capacity of the team to pivot to another plan in function of the circumstances and to catch opportunities, will lead to success.

This nice story has to make think that failure is not definitive as success too. To fail doesn’t mean that you have to restart from zero. Experimenting, trying new things and make mistakes are a necessity to move things forward, to reach new level of knowledge.  Thomas Edison who filed more than one thousand patents, was used to say “I have not failed. I’ve just found then thousand ways that won’t work”. Experimenting and trying many times can only foster the emergence of serendipity, to create opportunities to expand your skills, to meet people and share skills and ideas, to develop your network. It reminds us that success does not come always when alone, that personal success does not exist without collective success.

Last but not least, making mistakes and learning from it contributes to empower your skills but also your self-confidence.  Step by step, you will be used to face new challenges, to push your limits and to face the future with confidence. Don’t forget that mistakes can be opportunities.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

April 4, 2016 at 19:05

Freelance, a stronger collaborative work relationship?

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Team ConceptIn many areas of business activities, companies are contracting freelancer’s services. In a fast changing environment, where punctual and specific competences are needed for specific projects, freelance contractors represent a more appropriate solution. One of the differences with an employee is the nature of relationship between the company and the contractor. The employer-employee relationship is a subordination relationship, while the relationship between a company, here the customer, and the contractor is a collaboration relationship.

When you ask to freelancer what they appreciate in this way to work, they often mention the fact that their work is much more appreciated and that the positive feedback of the customer has much more value than the feedback of an employer. Why? The appreciation of an employer can be motivated by some political games. Some bad managers, lacking of leadership, appreciates people who are not too ambitious, only doing they work as usual. Some people feel that such positive feedback does not ring as sincere.

A real freelancer minded has no hidden agenda. When he is working on an assignment, the goal is to achieve what the customer defined within the fixed deadlines, and not to have a permanent position in the company. This means that regularly, the freelancer has to look for new opportunities, and he has to show capacities and proven records in order to catch these opportunities. Such situation, as each worker today, implies that he has to be up-to-date in terms of knowledge and competences, to be able to offer innovative solutions and a high level of added-valued services. In other words, he has to learn on an ongoing way.

Organizations are groups of people, having specific and complementary competences, working together on projects. These collaboration relationships imply knowledge sharing. We talk here about collective intelligence.  The complexity of processes, the development of technology makes that we have to learn more, faster, on an ongoing way, and sharing knowledge with colleagues is clearly a win-win process. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon that relationships between employees are conducted by competition spirit, not favoring the sharing of knowledge and collaboration, and particularly within companies facing restructuring times.  As freelancer, you are assigned on a project for a limited period, and your interest is to provide quality, but also to share and acquire knowledge.  You are not in this sphere of competition and your goal is not to have a fix job, but your goal is to prepare the next assignment, the next project. By working with partners, with customers who are aware about the benefits of collective intelligence, you can create a sphere of motivation and stronger collaborations, where each member of the team can acquire tools to face new challenges, to get better opportunities.

Collective intelligence is clearly an advantage in professional relationship.  It is an asset for people within an organization who have to reach a common goal. It is not forbidden to think about the fact that freelancer community is more favoring this concept in his way to work. Collaborative intelligence makes that people are building communities where everybody gets stronger, acquires more knowledge and competences that represent the only career security. Let us think about that knowledge what is not shared has no value. Collaboration is much more interesting than competition. The only healthy competition is the one with ourselves, in order to build more ambitious projects and reach higher goals.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

November 28, 2014 at 07:28

Think big, think wide, think wisely

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Richard Branson, an entrepreneur and humanist mind.

Richard Branson, an entrepreneur and humanist mind.

In a previous post, I was talking about the importance of education in the process of an enterprising mind development. Recently, I was reading an article in the Datanews magazine, about Sebastien de Halleux, a successful Belgian entrepreneur. In this article, few mentioned points are the evidence that education and entrepreneurial attitude are the key of a successful life. By success, we should not think only about financial success, but about personal success, when you give to yourself the possibility to move forward.

Sebastien de Halleux, is a 35 years old serial entrepreneur, who founded “Playfish”, an online game software company. In the interview, he mentioned that one regret he had is to have not move earlier to the United States to develop his business, and said that if you want to develop a business, you have to locate it in the country where it make more sense, and United States remain the best place for the online games or social media business. Despite the location, Sebastien mentions something I pay attention to. As Belgian like me, he mentions that you can’t find the international top people in Brussels, capital of Belgium, capital of Europe. We have to mention that Belgium is facing economical crisis like many other European countries, but some statistics show that the entrepreneurship rate is lower of 30% than the average level in Europe. Such statement does not appear positive about the mid-term economical development. Could Belgium not have a stronger economy, should not it be possible to become a country with successful companies like in the Silicon Valley? Is it because Belgium is a small country?

In his comment, Sebastien de Halleux talks about “international”, says that you have to think big. Today, the world is a village thanks to new technologies and the globalization of the economy. In order to be a successful player in this world, education is essential to build a successful life. This is the reason why the government has to ensure the development of an efficient education system. It has to be an ongoing process of investment. It requires important financial resources, but the mid and long-term returns are priceless for the society but also for each individual who will have the possibility to build his own way, his own life, with positive impact on his personal wellness. Each people have to be encouraged to make studies he likes, not only for economical purpose, but also to open his mind. We see these last years students who have to choose to make other studies, because some quotas in the field they choose were reached. This is in my mind totally senseless. If you ask around you, you will meet a lot of people doing a job without direct links to the studies they did. But it doesn’t mean that the studies they did are useless. Studies are useful first to develop the process and the wish to learn. We are learning everyday. For those who remember the Steve Jobs speech at the Standford University, they remember him saying that you never know in advance what you will do and if what you learn will be useful. Some students will probably do a job that does not yet exist, but the most important is to connect the “dots”, to use what you learn to create something. In Apple company, a lot of Steve Jobs collaborators were not IT guys, but biologists, physicians, but they were really passionated by the Apple story. By mentioning this, I mean that “international” means “to think high, to think wide, big, to think wisely”.

I mentioned previously the lack of entrepreneurs in Belgium and the statement that some Belgian entrepreneurs move to other countries to build projects. Even If some initiatives are done to promote entrepreneurship, people are not so enthusiastic to start as entrepreneur. The difficult economical environment make that people are not entitled to build their own activity, but there is also a negative image given to successful entrepreneurs who are guilty to become rich, which is not well accepted when other people are losing their job and when they are facing difficulties to have a decent life. In my mind, such debate is totally senseless and to put entrepreneurs in guilty is not a solution. In our society, work has to be considered as a value, a value that has to be respected. It is senseless to criticize entrepreneurs who succeed and who earns money. The development of the economy contributes to create wealth and jobs, with consequences to increase the level of tax and social contributions. These taxes and social contributions are necessary to finance schools and universities, contributing to the education and to the fundamental research. To criticize entrepreneurship has a negative impact on the economy and the society and make us dependent of multinational groups that can relocate their activity in other countries. It is important to develop a network of local businesses, working with other international companies. But it means that each of us has a responsibility. Entrepreneurs need to have a long-term vision and to play a social role. By developing a business, you create jobs and by creating jobs, you develop a market. You can only develop a sustainable business if people have the possibility to buy your product and services. Such statement is not “rocket” science. To develop a business, you need competences, know-how, and here is the key role of education. Entrepreneurs need to keep in mind that the taxes they will pay will contribute to maintain and develop a high quality education system, contributing to educate people and to create know-how and intelligence, needed to run our society, in large domains like business, education, culture, etc. But it means also that the politic has also a high responsibility, the responsibility to use received taxes to develop an efficient education and social system.

Some entrepreneurs have and show social responsibilities and it is the case of Sebastien de Halleux who is investing money in NGO, acting in education for students of the emergent countries, and work based on computer for people living in countries where workless level is high. Social responsibility means a education to what is money. You can not block somebody who wants to create a business, and who is generating cash because he had a good idea. World is moving because people had ideas, developed them, and built business with these ideas. Entrepreneurs are not only motivated by money but by creating something new, by the wish to change the world. But they have not to forget that you can only wear a tie on a time, and that if they earn a lot of money, their can make work people in decent conditions, but also contribute to finance social projects, like Richard Branson did with his foundation, Virgine Unite. This is a positive way to change the world. Albert Einstein said “Don’t be a man of success, be a man of value”. So, think big, think high, think wisely.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 3, 2012 at 20:49

Listen to your inner voice

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Steve Jobs, who listened to his inner voice.

In his famous speech at the Stanford university, Steve Jobs said “Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” I was remembering this sentence during a informal meeting of entrepreneurs organized by a partner.

I am used to attend some informal entrepreneurs meetings. These cessions are the opportunity to make new contacts, to expand our network, but also to hear about experiences, interesting professional ways. By sharing our respective experiences, we can note interesting things, learn about some useful solutions or advice, but also put an end to some believes.

I am always amazed by people who decides one day to take a completely different professional way. In the last cession I attended, there were two men who decided to change of professional goals, one moving from chemistry to sales of ICT hardware, and another, moving from manual activities to a training and coaching activity. Each of them explained in which circumstances they took their decisions, and by listening to their stories, I can learn or confirm a few things.

The common start point in such decision process was a dissatisfaction element. One of the guy was not satisfied about the job he was doing, and wanted to have more recognition, to look for something more interesting. The other was blamed by his boss, telling him that he will never be a good sales guy. He decided to show himself he was able to be one’s. In both cases, people want to have a better image of themselves, and are maybe noticing that there are not anymore at the right place, or never were at the right place. Suddenly, there is a shock, a flashing light in your head, meaning that you want something else. This shock brings the motivation to initiate that change process.

Such shock, such flashing light is not the only element contributing to decide to change of professional direction. It is also an effect of a long and gradual change process. Through our work, through different professional experiences, we are expanding our knowledge, acquiring competences, and sometimes, talents are emerging, a wealth you acquired day after day. The fact that you are looking for something else and that you make an assessment of your competences, make that you suddenly realized what are your competences and what new ideas you could concretize.

Of course, such transitions are not always easy, and one of the attendees, as many entrepreneurs I met, confirm such difficulties. But to launch a idea, a new business is always a challenge. The most important thing is to be focused on your goal and to persevere to reach it. It doesn’t guarantee that you will reach the success, but failure is not a fatality. By having the courage to launch a project, you will learn a lot of things, you will learn from other people you will meet. Even if you fail, don’t think that you will have to restart again. You will only take a new start, with more experience, with more knowledge. Have also the humility to share your failure experiences with other people. You will gain in credibility and break some believes that business is an easy thing. By sharing your failure experience, you will learn something to somebody else, and you will probably receive some advice from somebody else too.

To start a new business, to become an entrepreneur is always a difficult challenge. But with courages, motivation and hard work, by adapting your strategy, by meeting and working with other people, you can maximize the chance to reach your goal. But motivation can only be there if you are convinced by what you are doing, and if you have the talent to do it. Listen to your inner voice.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

May 9, 2012 at 23:08

Does uncertainty boost talent and creativity?

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If something is growing since I started my professional career 23 years ago, it is uncertainty. As each of us can see around, the world is fast moving. By looking how the world moved, we just can note that it doesn’t move on a linear way. A fundamental question we have to think about, is how can we drive our own way, our own career, if predictions become impossible?

This question, we thought about it for the first time when we are at school. At a certain time, we have to choice the studies we want to make at the university or high school. By the past, such choice was driven a bit by passion, but also by the opportunities such studies can offer. Today, how can we answer to such question when your future job probably doesn’t exist yet. For instance, did you heard from webmaster or social media 20 years ago? What answer can we give to such question today?

Fundamentally, before to be workers, we are first human being, and a strong education is the basic to develop citizenship, but also to become…the person we are. By learning languages, mathematics, philosophy, we are acquiring matters feeding our brain, developing our intelligence, and maybe making appear some talent and passion. Knowledge and talents are the key component to catch opportunities, and to build a wealthy career. This is a first step. As some of us can think, there are people who have strong education, but who are facing professional difficulties, due to difficult economical circumstances, or because there are doing a too specific job for which the demand is low. Does it mean that people are definitively lost in such circumstance, that there are front of a dark horizon?

Today, education is not something we only acquired when we were at school, but it is something we have to feed and acquire on an ongoing way, for the simple reason that in a fast moving environment, we have to move fast also. Learning has to be a natural exercise. Our brain is a muscle we have to make work too. As I mention above, all what we can learn can drive us to new opportunities, but the combination of skills can make us creative and develop new ideas in order to provide answers to new demands, to create new opportunities too. I would mention Steve Jobs who doesn’t invent the graphical interface (it was first a Xerox invention), but he was the first who perceived the potential of such technical process. The combination of skills is what Steve Jobs mention in his famous speech at the Standford University ( * ): connecting the dots. You never know all what you can do with some skill forward. You can only note it backward.

Talent and skills are certainly the most appropriate answer to face uncertainty. But what is also even most important is experiences. Each of us, we developed skills and talents by studying at school or by reading books, but also by working on several projects during our career. Each project is probably an important source of knowledge, leading to make some statements, pushing us to find solutions, to innovate and to get constant feedback of the stakeholders of the project. With such feedback, we are feeding our own knowledge base, and building a strong reference system, allowing us to create and develop more efficient solutions, to face much bigger challenges. By acquiring and developing talents, by acquiring experience, we empower our self-confidence, and we are much more prepared to face uncertainty.

Uncertainty has not to be seen in a negative way, but as a potential of opportunities. I remember few years ago when I went on holiday in France to make a bicycle trip during 10 days. Each day we started, we had no idea what we will do or see during the day. On the evening, we had wonderful images of landscape, of interesting visits and conversations with local people. This is probably one of the most beautiful holidays I had. By thinking to much in advance to scenarios, you are often disappointed by the reality.

Uncertainty is not something we can’t face. It is something that can bring us energy and motivate us to develop talents. It implies we need to have objectives and passion to reach them, to be self-confident. It is something we can be prepared, if we work on our capacity of adaptation, if we are flexible, if we decide to expand our horizon. But as mention Lynda Gratton, in her book “The shift”, we need to be “active creators” and not passive consumers. It is not forbidden to think that uncertainty is something contributing to boost talent and creativity.

Blog references: (*) http://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die.html , (**) http://www.lyndagratton.com/

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

May 1, 2012 at 16:48

What if I fail?

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In my previous article, I was talking about an entrepreneur I met recently who was building her first project as entrepreneur. We talked about the fact that the entrepreneurship is always a risk, and that the chances to succeed and to fail exist. The possibility to fail is probably a important reason making that some people don’t want to take the risk of entrepreneurship.

As Peter Drucker said, to become an entrepreneur, you don’t need an entrepreneur character, but character only. A character able to face risk, looking for change, and seeing change as an opportunity. But the ability to face risk is not enough, you have to manage it too. When you start a project presenting risks, have always an alternative plan, and measure the level of risk you will not go over. These two conditions will make that you will take more easily risks and be able to take appropriate actions if you don’t succeed.

The character is not only a condition making that people are scared to become entrepreneur. Failure is ofter considered as negative by people around you, and failing people have a guilty feeling. Failure has to be seen as a fact and something you can learn from. Such experience is not useless for many reasons:

  • By launching your own activity, you will have to do a lot of things and to manage things you were not used to manage. You will develop skills and maybe discover hidden talents. This talents and skills are open doors to new opportunities,
  • In an entrepreneurship project, you meet people to take advices, to contract specific expertise. You will meet new environments, you build a network, with people who bring you advice, and maybe new ideas. These new ideas or advice you acquired are feeding your knowledge and experience. You will can use them for other projects, or in other contexts.
  • By analyzing the reason of your failure, you will identify your mistakes, and to develop alternative solutions or scenarios. Such analyze make that you will be ready to restart other projects on a more appropriate way, without repeating the same mistakes,
  • Your experience of failure can make that you could be a valuable partner for future projects, build with other partners. Expertise is most of the time acquired by experience,and failure is a part of experience and contributes to bring added value,

By having this in mind, failure doesn’t mean that you are back to the start point. You are just on an new start point, with more skills, more experience, making that failure is probably not an absolute necessity, but an experience you can use as a raw material to build new and stronger projects. By do not deciding to take the risk to launch your own project, you will not fail but you will not succeed too. Remember this quote I don’t remember the author: “There is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur. You are a failed entrepreneur only when you quit. Until then, you’re simply not successful yet.”

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

January 11, 2012 at 21:35

An entrepreneur, an optimistic person?

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Philippe Gabilliet, professor in a MBA school and auteur of "L'éloge de l'optimisme"

The year 2011 is over, and traditionally, the new year is the time to build new projects, new resolutions. Nevertheless, if you red of heard to the news, it is not a secret that 2012 will probably be a difficult year (one more you will say), particularly in the euro zone. Some countries are already in economical recession. Such times are concerns for people, who are wondering if they will keep their job and will be able to pay the bills at month end. The entrepreneurs are concerned also by the crisis and the negative impact on their business, are facing lack of visibility, making the decision-making difficult. What can they do to face such difficulties? The entrepreneurs who have long term views know that they will face difficult times in their life, and are prepared to such situation. The only thing they have to do also is to stay optimistic. Really? You probably think that it sounds like a joke. What the fact to be optimistic can solve in such situation? Let us talk about this.

Few weeks ago, I was reading a book about the optimism, written by Philippe Gabilliet, a professor in a French MBA school. I can only recommend to everybody and not only entrepreneur , or people having a entrepreneur mind, to read this book. Here, I would like to talk more specifically about entrepreneurs, who seem to be by definition optimistic persons. Indeed, to become entrepreneur is always a risk. The success an entrepreneur can meet is proportional to the risk of failure he can meet too. Does it mean that he is not aware about the risk he can meet, by deciding to start a risky business? Let us consider that most of the time, he is aware of the risk, if he prepared seriously his project, and was well advised by mentors. By being aware about the risk, for which reason is he still motivated to build a project of business? This is a good point, and to explain this, we have to mention a distinction that professor Galilliet makes in his book.

We have to consider two kind of optimism, or pessimism. The is the optimism or pessimism of way, and the optimism and pessimism of goal. Each person can present these two characteristics.

  • The one who is an optimistic of way and an optimistic of goal is probably the one who is not conscious about the reality. His thoughts are “We will succeed and it will be easy.”
  • The one who is a pessimistic of way and pessimistic of goal, is the most negative person of the four we can define here. He thinks that “It will be difficult, and finally, we will not succeed”. Such person has not to become an entrepreneur. He has the certitude to fail.
  • The one who is a optimistic of way and a pessimistic of goal. For professor Gabilliet, this is the most strange attitude we can find. Such person thinks that “We will probably not succeed , but he will have learned something”. Interesting, but does such person believe to the pursued goal, or does he favor his own interests?
  • The one who is a pessimistic of way and an optimistic of goal, is probably the most conscious of the difficulties. He is convinced that “We will succeed, but it will be not easy at all”.

The pessimistic of way and optimistic of goal is certainly the most prepared person to the entrepreneurs life. He is aware about the difficulties he will face. Despite the fact that he is an optimistic of goal, he is yet aware that he could fail too. The question is how can he still stay motivated, in front of a potentiality to fail? The optimistic is somebody who can use the failure as a raw material to learn something and to develop other alternatives, strategies, to reach the goal he assigned to himself. Failure is an element that will feed his knowledge base and that will give him the resources to anticipate. I was speaking recently with an entrepreneur who was building her first project. She was aware about the potentiality to fail, but she told me that such experience is an opportunity to meet people, and to learn a lot of things you can use for other future projects. An optimistic will consider the positive side of things and to use it to move forward.

In my mind, entrepreneurs are optimistic persons. There are persons who believe to that famous quote “We didn’t know it was impossible, so we did it”. To become an entrepreneur is always a risk, and if they were no optimistic persons like entrepreneurs, most of the inventions around us would not exist. If you move 30 years back, and that we told you the future inventions that would exist today, a lot of people would consider you as crazy. But optimistic entrepreneurs who probably met failures in their life, realized these inventions, like the web, the solar airplane “Solar Impulse”, etc..

As conclusion, I would say that even if times are difficult, you can always move forward with your creativity and your optimism, two key components who will gain more and more value in the future.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

January 7, 2012 at 18:21