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UPSTARTS! How GenY Entrepreneurs Are Rocking The World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success AUTHOR: Donna Fenn PUBLISHER: McGraw-Hill DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2010 257 pages
FEATURES OF THE BOOK In Upstarts! Donna Fenn profiles innovative and technology-savvy members of Generation Y, or the entrepreneurial generation . Fenn based the book on over 150 interviews and 18 months of research supplemented by Facebook, an Inc.com blog, and Twitter. She shares noteworthy traits of Upstart companies, and suggests that more experienced business people can learn numerous invaluable lessons from them.
THE BIG IDEA Upstarts! describes GenY, a generation Donna Fenn believes to be uniquely primed for entrepreneurship. Eight of their characteristics provide critical lessons for businesspeople.
INTRODUCTION Upstarts! describes a generation uniquely primed for entrepreneurship due to its native familiarity with digital media, its creativity, and the family and educational cultures which have shaped it. Fenn distills eight characteristics of the generation from 150 interviews with young CEOs and 18 months of research, and devotes a chapter to each. Gen Yers are collaborators; use technology as a differentiator; disrupt the status quo; market to other GenYers; build brands through dialogue; incorporate social missions; redefine the workplace; and grow through improvisation. It behooves anyone hoping to thrive in this new business world to discern the lessons inherent in each of the eight.
EXTREME COLLABORATORS: BUILDING COOPERATIVE TRIBES TO COMPETE
The collaborative techniques of young entrepreneurs translate into six lessons for businesspeople:
Manage partnerships wisely . Seek collaborators who possess strengths one lacks. Clarify accountability and ownership.
Expand the definition of team . Create a tribe of trusted advisors, acknowledge what needs to be learned, and ask them for advice.
Find a mentor . Find an expert and convince them to give advice.
EXTREME COLLABORATORS: BUILDING COOPERATIVE TRIBES TO COMPETE
Join or start a peer group . Harvest the knowledge of professionals in one’s industry.
Forge smart strategic partnerships . Seek partnerships that will expand one’s market and add value.
Create deep community ties . Tap into one’s current client base for information about customer needs and ideas
TECHNOLOGY MAVENS: TECHNOLOGY IS THE GREAT ENABLER AND THE BEST DIFFERENTIATOR Ways to use technology to innovate and differentiate include: Look for the pain in existing technology . Address nagging issues of current technologies with unique solutions. Launch fast and imperfectly . Allow customers to critique the product, resulting in higher user-investment. Apply new technologies to low-tech industries . Revamp established, low-tech business models.
TECHNOLOGY MAVENS: TECHNOLOGY IS THE GREAT ENABLER AND THE BEST DIFFERENTIATOR Capitalize on social networking . Connect with customers by hosting networking arenas unique to one’s business. Use online forums to establish expertise . Create a captive audience through forum participation while resisting the urge to sell. Find new opportunities in existing businesses . Analyze one’s business for a hiccup and build a startup that addresses it.
GAME CHANGERS: DISRUPTING THE STATUS QUO AND ALTERING THE PLAYING FIELD Instead of accepting the status quo, Upstarts constantly examine it. Their investigation and experimentation allows them to join old, often fragmented industries and rejuvenate traditional business models.
GAME CHANGERS: DISRUPTING THE STATUS QUO AND ALTERING THE PLAYING FIELD Ways to change the game include: Look for opportunities to be disruptive . To stay ahead, shake up the industry with innovative, game-changing products. Be aware of changing customer needs . Locate deficiencies in traditional models. Look for supply-chain inefficiencies . Search for deficiencies in delivery. Professionalize an old-economy business . Raise the bar in industries known for shoddy service. Ferret out underserved niches . Establish one’s business in a specific service; then, grow. Step out of the box . Search for opportunities on the periphery of one’s business.
MARKET INSIDERS: MARKETING FAST AND FURIOUSLY TO THEIR OWN GENERATION Suggestions for getting clued into the GenY market include: Go back to school . Reach the GenY demographic by recruiting college students to market and sell one’s product via word-of-mouth. Scrutinize existing products . Locate slow or outdated features of existing products and services, and revamp. Think customization, not mass production . Speak to individualistic GenYers by providing customization options.
MARKET INSIDERS: MARKETING FAST AND FURIOUSLY TO THEIR OWN GENERATION Sell one’s [fill in the blank] online . To tap into the lucrative GenY market, business must be done online. Draw in one’s customers . Obtain direct feedback from customers by creating online opportunities for them to share it, fostering brand loyalty. Offer content that is entert aining . Capture GenYers’ attention with engaging messages. Avoid the hard sell.
BRAND BUILDERS: A BRAND IS A DIALOGUE, NOT A MONOLOGUE Upstarts use the Internet as a tool for establishing communities, exchanging knowledge, and sharing entertainment. Snubbing the mainstream, GenY consumers insist on contributing to brand creation. For Upstarts, then, a brand must include a continual dialogue with customers, a conversation that takes place mainly online but that may also require face-to-face interaction for more authentic community-building.
BRAND BUILDERS: A BRAND IS A DIALOGUE, NOT A MONOLOGUE Upstarts are finding success in building cost-effective, mutually beneficial relationships with high-profile industry figures. Others are cause branding, or linking a brand to a worthy cause or non-profit organization, with a GenY twist. Instead of linking themselves with non-profits, Upstarts are structuring their companies around a cause, for example an online community and marketplace for craft makers.
BRAND BUILDERS: A BRAND IS A DIALOGUE, NOT A MONOLOGUE Ways to make branding a group project include: Give one’s high-tech brand a high-touch element . Build trust by giving one’s online business a face or provide a physical space for customers to interact. Use customers to spread brand awareness . Consider hiring marketers who are customers themselves. Their brand loyalty can be contagious. Brand one’s culture . Groom hand-picked employees to build company culture and spread brand awareness.
BRAND BUILDERS: A BRAND IS A DIALOGUE, NOT A MONOLOGUE Expand one’s brand creatively . Make the best of tough times by searching for innovative ways to grow the business. Make friends selectively . Partner with established industry figures for immediate credibility. Brand one’s mission . Working for a purpose other than profits can positively affect both the world and the profit margin of one’s business.
SOCIAL CAPITALISTS: CAPITALISM AND SOCIAL MISSION MAKE A LOVELY COUPLE Although their business models differ from those of their Baby Boomer predecessors, GenYers incorporate social missions into their businesse s, a practice Fenn terms social entrepreneurship . Social entrepreneurs measure value differently than standard businesses. Whereas business entrepreneurs calculate value in capitalistic terms, social entrepreneurs measure value in terms of the difference their business makes in society or in an underprivileged segment of society.
SOCIAL CAPITALISTS: CAPITALISM AND SOCIAL MISSION MAKE A LOVELY COUPLE Fenn profiles other Upstarts who are supporting their unique social missions in increasingly innovative ways . One young entrepreneur started two companies: a lucrative coaching and tutoring service for high school students from wealthy families, and a not-for-profit service for their disadvantaged peers. He has since begun a second not-for-profit offshoot in which school-nominated students receive coaching from former NFL players and tutoring from trained volunteers.
SOCIAL CAPITALISTS: CAPITALISM AND SOCIAL MISSION MAKE A LOVELY COUPLE Some ways to redefine the workplace include: Scrap the old hierarchy . Value performance when rewarding employees. Value gratitude and new responsibilities earned. Be flexible . Cautiously use the term balance; work and life are no longer separate entities. Employees want flexibility. Integrate training and continuous learning into the company. Demonstrate investment in employees by offering training and skill-building opportunities.
SOCIAL CAPITALISTS: CAPITALISM AND SOCIAL MISSION MAKE A LOVELY COUPLE Give frequent feedback . Pay attention to the need of GenYers for feedback, set short-term goals, and motivate with rewards. Go virtual . Consider a virtual office to reduce fixed costs, but continue to value collaboration and face time. Rethink the workspace . Redesign for a blend of fluid collaboration and private workspace. Make the office reflect the business’s brand and culture.
MORPH MASTERS: KNOWING HOW TO MORPH, SCALE, AND GROW UP Ways to morph, scale, and grow up include: Assemble the right team . As the business grows, consider rebuilding the team to suit changing needs. Diversify the business . Break out of the niche market to sell products and services elsewhere. Identify value . Distill the business to its core value. Determine the product or service that is most important, and grow from there.
MORPH MASTERS: KNOWING HOW TO MORPH, SCALE, AND GROW UP Read the tea leaves . Stay abreast of market changes, search for opportunities, and reposition to capitalize on them. Stay true to one’s mission . During times of growth, avoid compromising company mission and culture. Do not be afraid to step away . Contribute to the business in the ways one does best. If not a natural CEO, carefully hire a professional who will safeguard the relationships and culture that have been built.
THE FUTURE OF UPSTARTS When probing young Upstarts through questions about the current recession, Fenn found that young entrepreneurs lead lean, diversified, creative companies and see the downturn as an opportunity for learning important lessons that may also be applied to better times. In fact, many Upstarts will weather, and even flourish in, the recession because: Upstarts know how to be frugal . Young businesspeople comfortable with living cheaply are positioned to endure the recession while others in their industry cannot.
THE FUTURE OF UPSTARTS Technology will help them cut costs . Upstarts who run virtual offices and use social networking and search engine optimizing (SEO) run highly efficient organizations. Nonfinancial resources are plentiful . GenYers are adept at collaboration and use their networks of advisors, professors, parents, and mentors for invaluable advice and support. Upstarts are innovators . They understand and heed the unique needs of their generation. Upstarts are agile and flexible . They revise and reinvent current practices and create collaborative, fluid workspaces for their employees.
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