Dr. Jeff Cornwall is the inaugural Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Dr. Cornwall's current research and teaching interests include entrepreneurial finance and entrepreneurial ethics.

Dr. Jeff Cornwall is the inaugural Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Dr. Cornwall's current research and teaching interests include entrepreneurial finance and entrepreneurial ethics.

Hopscotching Your Business Models

Image by Merio from Pixabay

The coronavirus and economic crisis have certainly challenged many entrepreneurs to do some serious re-evaluation of their business models.  One of my friends compares it to being a toddler playing at the beach, getting knocked down by wave after wave after wave.  More often than not, this has resulted in more hopscotching than simple pivoting when it comes to business models.  Rather than incremental changes, known as pivots, entrepreneurs are being forced to reinvent their businesses on the fly as the pandemic creates seismic disruptions in society and in the economy.

Typical Pivots

Significant pivots in business models are common during the early days of a new venture.  We pivoted the business model of every startup I have ever launched once we opened for business and received feedback from the market.  In the days when we relied on formal business plans to guide our startups, some of these pivots could be rather jolting.  Today’s business modeling tools facilitate a more incremental process of pivoting during early days of a new business.  Steven Blank refers to this as the searching stage of customer development.

Once the searching stage leads to a clearer picture of what the market truly needs our business model to be, the execution stage begins.  This is where the focus shift from customer discovery and pivoting, to scaling and building business infrastructure.

Hopscotching the Business Model

The disruptions being caused by the coronavirus and the governmental policies that are following the outbreak, force established businesses to jump, or hopscotch, to a new version of their business model or even a new business model entirely.

Some of these are more survival strategies.  For example, distilleries across the country have shifted some or even all of their production capacity to making hand sanitizer.  Such efforts have helped ease the temporary strain on the supply chain for hand sanitizer until the market can stabilize.  Restaurants, with their dining rooms temporarily closed, are turning to curbside service, grocery sales, home delivery, family take-out meals, and so forth to bridge the gap until they can return to business as usual.  Boutiques have found that people are buying fewer new outfits, as we are mostly working from home.  So many have decided to make face masks a fashion accessory.

Some changes in business models look to be more permanent.  I have already highlighted changes in travel and music that are likely to be more permanent post coronavirus.  I plan to look at other industries over the coming weeks.

How to Navigate the Need to Hopscotch?

So what is an entrepreneur to do during such a crazy time?

Steve Blank suggests using a tool called the Market Opportunity Navigator to help uncover new opportunities for a business to pursue amid the coronavirus.  In his blog post, Blank offers a great case study to illustrate how a healthcare company discovered how to hopscotch its business model.

Ted Ladd offers a process in a column at Forbes that is helpful.

The first step is to deconstruct your business model to its core parts using the Business Model Canvas.  As I tell my students, the business modeling tools we have at our disposal today are not just to help you launch your business.  They are powerful tools to help you navigate your business through the many changes that are likely to come in the future, even in “normal” times.  This article in the Cape Cod Times offers some specific things to consider when deconstructing and re-evaluating your business model.

Next, Ladd suggests that entrepreneurs reimagine each part of the business model, using creative thinking processes, to reinvent each part of the model in the new world created by the pandemic.

Finally, Ladd suggests that, just like you did at the startup stage, you need to work with your customers (which may be entirely new customers) to test and refine the new elements of your business model.

SCORE offers three tips for those hopscotching their business models:

  1. Don’t forget the need for quality in what you offer, even if it is a temporary change in your model.
  2. Stick to what you know — don’t forget your core competencies.
  3. Don’t leave your old customers behind.

The Need for Resolve

One of the first blog posts I made as the coronavirus crisis began to unfold was about resolve.  As I stated at the end of this post:

The resolve we are seeing among entrepreneurs will pay off for our economic future.  It will take time and hard work, but these entrepreneurs are the ones who will lead us into our next economic expansion….and we will have one!

To ensure this bright future, don’t just get ready to pivot — get ready to hopscotch!

2020 Disruptors

2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 — Deadline for Submissions – CED – Council ...

Disruptive companies fundamentally change their industries.  While many entrepreneurs tout that they will be disruptive — in fact, almost every one that I have ever heard pitch for money has made such a claim — very few actually deliver on their intended disruption.

Every year CNBC identifies fifty companies that they believe are truly disruptive.  I have had the pleasure to serve on the Board of Advisors for the CNBC Disruptor 50 List for the past several years.

Nothing has created more opportunity for disruption in my life time than has the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic collapse.  The creation of this year’s list included explicit consideration of the impact that the coronavirus is having on the potential growth and disruption of this year’s finalists.

The coronavirus is transforming how we shop, how we work, how we seek healthcare, how we play, how we learn, and how we get our food.  This year’s Disruptor 50 covers a broad spectrum of industries, which illustrates the fundamental economic transformation now at work around the globe.

Top 5 Disruptors of 2020

The top five are as follows:

  1. Stripe — digital payment platform company that has now created a financing program, Stripe Capital, that is a quick and easy source of funding for small business
  2. Coupang — the “Amazon” of South Korea that delivers packages ordered by midnight before 7:00 the next morning
  3. Indigo Agriculture — seeks to use natural microbiology and technology to improve sustainability, profits for growers and consumer health
  4. Coursera — hitting close to home, this company offers individuals anywhere in the world access to online courses and degrees from top universities at a fraction of the cost
  5. Klarna — this already profitable Swedish fintech company has an app that lets customers buy at their favorite stores now, entering only their email and Zip code, but pay later

You can see the entire fifty companies on this year’s list here.

I planned to get this posted as soon as the list came our earlier this morning. However, I got lost reading about all of this year’s startups.  What an amazing group of companies! Just as in past economic crises, there is fertile ground for disruption, and this year’s Disruptor 50 offer us a peak into our future.


Here is how CNBC describes their methodology:

All private, independently owned start-up companies founded after Jan. 1, 2005, were eligible to be nominated for the Disruptor 50 list. Companies nominated were required to submit a detailed analysis, including key quantitative and qualitative information.

Quantitative metrics included company-submitted data on workforce size and diversity, scalability, and sales and user growth. Some of this information has been kept off the record and was used for scoring purposes only. CNBC also brought in data from a pair of outside partners — PitchBook, which provided data on fundraising, implied valuations and investor quality; and IBISWorld, whose database of industry reports were used to compare the companies based on the industries they are attempting to disrupt.


Getting to the Other Side: Travel

Image by Steve Adcock from Pixabay

Mrs. C. recently mentioned that she would consider taking a trip in an RV.

Many of you might not consider that blog-worthy, but traveling the country in a motor home is something we never would have considered in the past.

We love to travel.  We enjoy road trips, beach trips, cruises, European travel, hiking trips, amusement parks, you name it.  In fact, I had been considering taking a phased retirement to allow us to have more time to take some extended trips. However, RV-ing was never, ever on our list of future travel plans.

Then came the pandemic.

Travel Disrupted

Bookings on US domestic airlines are down 90% from last year.  Airlines are slashing the number of flights to try and compensate.  Airlines are trying to calm worried travelers by significantly improving cabin cleaning procedures. Rather than breezing through the cabin to pick up newspapers and drink cups passengers left behind, airlines have implemented protocol to deep clean and disinfect all passenger areas between every flight.  To help with social distancing, Delta is no longer allowing people to book middle seats.

Hotel occupancy rates hover at less than half of what they were last year at this time. Europe has been particularly hard hit, with occupancy rates dropping from 70-80% last year to less than 30% today. Like the airlines, hotels are stepping up cleaning standards.  Standard services are no longer standard. Daily housekeeping is a thing of the past, as are breakfast buffets, minibars, and valet parking.

The cruise industry, charter bus companies, airline companies, and aircraft manufacturers are lining up to get government bailouts.

Such efforts by industry stalwarts are to be expected during times of intense disruption.  Companies will do whatever they can to preserve the status quo.

The Market is Changing

Normally, I try not to insert myself when thinking about changing markets and the entrepreneurial opportunities they create.  However, Mrs. C. and I are the travel industry’s target market.  We love to travel. We planned and saved through the years to allow us to travel. And now, we are blessed with the time, resources, and lifestyle that allows us to indulge in our wanderlust.

But the disruption of the coronavirus has done what disruptions like this normally do. It has changed our thinking and our behaviors as customers.  And when these changes resulting from disruptions happen, they alter the future.

The Future of Travel

When thinking about the future of travel, we must take any predictions from industry insiders with a grain of salt.  The lens they use to look into the future is biased toward what things have been like in the past.  But, the reality is, no one is good at predicting the future when it comes to disrupted markets.

However, if I had to bet based on our attitudes and the attitudes of fellow Baby Boomer travelers like us, I do think the future of travel will be quite different.

One of the scenarios that Mario Gavira explores in his series on possible futures of travel is what he calls “The End of Mass Tourism as We Know It.”  In this possible future scenario, the changes in our behaviors and attitudes from the pandemic alter our purchasing patterns in travel.

Urban-based crowded tourism will decrease in favor of outdoor and natural environments and long-haul destinations will be perceived as high risk compared to closer-to-home locations.

Conversations Mrs. C. and I are having about our future travel plans echo this shift.

What are the Opportunities?

One clear winner will be businesses that can efficiently and effectively offer cleaning and sanitizing services. Commercial painting companies are starting to explore using their spraying equipment not just for paint, but for sanitizing agents. Sanitization will be a hot industry for some time, offering some comfort that even heavy traffic tourist sites can be made safer.

We are already seeing robotics and other technologies reduce the need for humans in the service sector.

After the 2008 real estate collapse, entrepreneurs gobbled up failed condominium projects and turned them into apartments. This time around we are already seeing such projects turned into luxury “aparthotels“.

Travel agencies that offer planning for more off-the-beaten-path destinations, with more of a focus on outdoor activities may flourish.

Businesses that cater to road trips are predicted to see a boom in business, as more of us decide to travel in their min-vans and SUVs like families did in their station wagons during my youth.

And, oh yes, RV sales and rentals are seeing a spike in business post coronavirus.

Who knows…you may be seeing Mrs. C. and I tootling down the highway in an Airstream some time soon.

Getting to the Other Side: Music

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The best governments can do to help pull us out of an economic crisis is create conditions favorable for economic recovery.  It takes entrepreneurs to actually do the work that can get the economy growing and take us to “the other side.”  When looking back, this has been true for every economic recovery since the Industrial Revolution.

Entrepreneurs are already beginning to do what they do best: find opportunity in the chaos.  Financial author John Mauldin goes so far as to say that right now “the greatest entrepreneurial and technological boom in the history of humanity is brewing.”

To see where entrepreneurs will be leading us, it is best to examine things industry by industry. Given our home is in Nashville, there is no better place to start than the music industry.

From Performance to Product

Historically, the music industry has been resilient. Facing numerous disruptions over the past century, the music industry has adapted to every fundamental change in its business model.

The technological disruptions from Edison’s invention of the phonograph and Marconi’s (or was it Tesla’s) invention of radio brought music directly into people’s homes. Music evolved from only being experienced through live performance, to a product to be “consumed.”

As usually happens after entrepreneurs creatively destroy what was, the industry consolidated around the new business model that emerged. The large companies that emerged became very efficient at making money from the production and distribution of music as a product. Musicians made money by working for these companies.

From Product to Digits

The next disruption of the music industry came from the Internet.

The digital age took away the value of music as a physical product.  We no longer had to purchase an album or a CD to consume music. Music could now be streamed directly to us via the Internet.

Over the next two decades, new business models evolved for music. Tech companies replaced music labels as the dominant players in the industry.

When music was a product, singers and songwriters made money by getting a small piece of the revenues generated by the music they wrote and performed. But as music was no longer a physical product, the share of revenues available for the artists from the digital distribution shrank to almost nothing.

Singers and songwriters had to adapt.  To earn a living required that they develop a new relationship with their fans. They had to tour more and develop alternate revenue streams, such as merchandise for their fans, to make a living.

However, just as a new equilibrium in the industry was settling into place, along came the coronavirus!  Live performance of music ended abruptly, and artists are now struggling to find a new way to make money.

From Artist to Entrepreneur

Yesterday, our family gave a musical gift to Mrs. C. for Mother’s Day that would not have been available a few months ago. City Winery and a group of their regular artists got together and offered a personalized video of a mini-set to give as a Mother’s Day gift.  The video was waiting for  Mrs. C. in her email inbox yesterday morning. Mark Broussard, one of our favorite artists, opened with a personalized message to “Yammy” (her grandma name) and he then performed the four songs that he wrote for each of his four children.

Artists and others in the music industry with an entrepreneurial spirit are starting to innovate and experiment with new business models.  Private Zoom concerts. Live streaming.

What we are seeing so far is that people want to keep the personal connection with their favorite artists. This is the value proposition that artists tapped into over the past decade through live performances and social media.  But with the outbreak of the coronavirus, it will be a long time before we are comfortable sitting shoulder to shoulder at a concert with our fellow fans.

So what comes next?  That story is just starting to unfold.  The funny thing about markets is that they often surprise us.  The odds are that anyone who says they know what will be next for the music industry will probably be wrong.

But, there will be a next act for musicians. Whatever comes next will be a result of musicians and others in the industry stepping forward as entrepreneurs.

A dear old friend once described entrepreneurship as being a lot like sausage making.  We love the finished product, but we really don’t want to see it getting made.

The process of innovation and entrepreneurship is messy, confusing, and frantic. But when it’s done, the outcome is quite satisfying!

Serial Entrepreneurs to the Rescue

As the economy starts to come back to life, don’t be misled by statistics on small business failure.  Although the number of small businesses impacted by the current crises will be staggering, there is a slight-of-hand trick that may fool people when it comes to entrepreneurs’ contributions to rebuilding the economy.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you the serial entrepreneur!

Don’t Just Watch the Businesses: Watch the Entrepreneurs

A serial entrepreneur is someone who starts multiple businesses over their careers.  To understand the serial entrepreneur’s economic contribution we need to consider not each business started by them, but by their cumulative body of entrepreneurial work.

For example, over my lifetime, I have been a part of about a dozen and a half startups, including solo startups, partnerships, and family businesses.  Of all of the startups I have participated in over my career, only two are officially still operating: my consulting practice and our educational content family business, Entrepreneurial Mind LLC.  Were all the rest failures? Absolutely not!  We sold some the ventures, and others just ran their course.  Probably two or three of them could truly be called failures.  They all created jobs, built wealth, and contributed to economic growth.

To understand my long-term economic contribution as a serial entrepreneur, you have to look at all that I have done over the past four-plus decades.  You can’t just look at the outcome of one single deal, no matter what its outcome, good or bad.

A Current Tale

Two of my alums, Corey and George, are current examples of serial entrepreneurs at work amid the pandemic and accompanying economic collapse.

Corey’s current business lost most of its accounts during the first week of the economic shut down.

George had been doing gig work between startups. However, his employer furloughed George from his current gig.

Rather than define what they are experiencing as failure, they put their heads together and asked one simple question: What pain being created from the current crises could they provide a solution for?

Newly Created Pain

Organizers of most meetings, conferences, and other gatherings cancelled them due to the coronavirus.  Corey and George’s hypothesis is that as we come out of the current crises, there may be a more lasting impact on such events.  Sending people to meetings and conferences is expensive.  If companies find that there are viable virtual alternatives to physical travel, there may be some level of permanent shift away business travel for meetings and conferences.

Most of the current alternatives in the market that offer virtual meetings focus on educational content delivery and training. While this is an important part of going to conferences and meetings, most people say the biggest benefit they receive is from the informal interactions in the hallway or over drinks with other attendees at the end of the day.  Current offerings do not really offer this as a part of their virtual meeting platform.

Corey and George are feverishly working on solving this shortcoming.

Follow the Ball

Just as in the carnival “cups and ball trick,” we need to pay careful attention to see where the serial entrepreneur ends up next.

This is the essence of a serial entrepreneur.  To a serial entrepreneur, entrepreneurship is a process, not an event.  Even though the last business may no longer have enough demand to keep operating, the entrepreneur never stops.  For the serial entrepreneur, their career is a journey from opportunity to opportunity.

Three Steps to Survival

Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

Sadly, many small businesses will fail over the coming weeks.  To increase their company’s chance of survival, there are three critical steps that small business owners must take.

Continue to Slow Down the Outflow

The first step is to continue to find ways to slow down the outflow of cash.  You’ve probably made some initial cuts, but there is always more that can be trimmed.

Look carefully at all expenditures and cut any that do not directly impact your ability to generate revenues, and generate revenues now.  Most entrepreneurs think that many of their expenditures are an investment in their future growth.  We need to recalibrate our thinking. Growth is likely a long way off for most small businesses.

Most economic forecasts are seeing a very slow recovery when it does happen, and there is a lot of uncertainty about when that recovery may begin.  We may see a short-term bounce when things start to open up again, but it may only be temporary.  Be cautious about opening up your spending again!

The V-shaped bounce-back is most likely not going to happen.  Think of cash as a finite resource that needs to be preserved.  This is no time to be timid when it comes to cutting costs!

Anything for a Buck

The second step is to find ways to bring in short-term revenues.  Remember during start-up when you would do anything for a buck?  Get back to that mentality.  Don’t worry about strategy.  Don’t worry that you might send confusing messages to your customers.  They are likely in survival mode, too.  There will be time to get back to honing your strategy later.  Now it is all about cash!

What’s Next?

The third step, once your cash flow is stabilized, is to think about what will be next for your business. Be ready to accept a very different future for your business than you had in mind just a few short weeks ago.

Consumers and businesses will behave very differently over the coming months and even years. Don’t be in denial about what you are seeing.  Savings will become a national obsession in the coming years.  Anytime we have a severe economic shock, people come out of it with a much more conservative approach to managing their money.

The fear of coronavirus may ease once there is a treatment or vaccine, but our collective psyche is likely to be altered for many years.

What we are going through is not just changing our economy, it is changing our culture and our society.  Be ready to think differently about your value proposition and be ready to act boldly!

Cash is King

The moral of the story is simple.  Cash is king!  In fact, cash is king, queen, emperor, and president for life!  This is not a new truism.  However, it is now the most important principle in business.

Virtuous Entrepreneurship

Image Source: Jeff Cornwall

Full disclosure: I am an Adam Smith nerd. The picture above was the result of a long search that Mrs. C. and I went on when we were in Edinburgh, Scotland a few years ago to find the grave site of the Father of Free Market Economics.

First we had to find the correct cemetery.  That part was not too hard, as it was well-marked and had a large memorial to Adam Smith at the entrance. But, then the search for his actual gravesite began. We searched through the various headstones, row after row after row after row. We knew it was in there, but could not find it.  Finally, when I was about ready to give up, Mrs. C. said, “Here it is!”  It was not the large, noble headstone I had imagined such an important icon would have.  Instead, it was a grave marker no larger than the sole of a shoe.

Anyway, to understand why I am so fascinated by Adam Smith, I need to explain the two faces of Adam Smith.

The Adam Smith We All Know: The Invisible Hand

The first, and most famous face of Adam Smith is that of the economist who first helped us understand the power of free markets in his book, The Wealth of NationsIn this work, Smith explains how the power of the “invisible hand” of the free market builds economies.

Smith explains that individuals within free markets act by following what he calls commercial virtues. The first of these virtues is self-interest. By pursuing self -interest, individual entrepreneurs unknowingly benefit both the economy and society. However, this only works if the entrepreneur acts with the commercial virtues of prudence, justice, industriousness, and frugality.

The Adam Smith Most Don’t Know: The Importance of Virtue

Adam Smith was not only an economist, however.  He was also a moral philosopher.  His book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, helps us understand the second face of Adam Smith. Smith recognized that the collective acts of self-interest by entrepreneurs in an economy must be moderated by nobler virtues, or the whole system will run amuck. Individuals must overcome the purely selfish impulses of the commercial realm, as there is more to life than economics.

The nobler virtues necessary for the free market to be sustainable, according to Smith, are benevolence, generosity, gratitude, compassion, kindness, pity, friendship, and love.  These are not virtues commonly associated with free market capitalism, and yet without them, the individual selfishness leads to the eventual downfall of both the economy and society.

Bringing The Two Faces of Smith to Life

So why bring up the two faces of Adam Smith while we are in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis?

Because even in the face of closed businesses and an economic free fall, we can see Adam Smith’s virtuous capitalism at work. And through the acts of entrepreneurs who bring the two faces of Adam Smith to life, we see hope for the future.

Kindness and Compassion

C19 Liberator is a charitable organization set up this past month to harness existing 3D printers to meet the demand for protective face shields to protect those on the front line of fighting the coronavirus here in Tennessee.  One medical facility alone, needed 400 face shields, and needed them quickly.  C19 Liberator has found small businesses and individuals who own 3D printers. They asked them to step up and meet the challenge of using 3D printers to make hundreds of face shields. They are donating them for use by medical personnel and first responders.

Generosity and Pity

One of the types of businesses that has been deemed essential and is able to remain open is liquor stores.  One local liquor store, Cools Springs Wines & Spirits, has donated $25,000 to to Tennessee Action for Hospitality to help support other businesses that have been unable to operate during the current crises due to government mandates.

In an interview in Williamson Home Page, Cool Springs Wines & Spirits CEO Bret Moore says:

“We feel fortunate our store is open for business. In addition to taking extraordinary measures to create a safe environment for our employees and customers, we wanted to give back to those in our industry who are profoundly affected by this pandemic.”

Benevolence and Gratitude

Gravity Payments is a Seattle-based company that helps small businesses process payments. When the current pandemic and economic crisis hit, the impact on Gravity’s financial health was immediate. The company saw a 55 percent drop in revenues in one month.  To survive, it first appeared that CEO Dan Price would either have to layoff 20 percent of his workforce, or face certain failure.  Like many entrepreneurs, Price decided that neither option was viable and needed to find a creative “Plan C”. Price went to his employees and asked them to help him come up with a third alternative.

Each employee filled out a form that only the leadership team would see, in which they stated how much they could sacrifice in earnings to help avoid either a massive layoff or company failure.  The plan worked, and everyone has been able to keep their jobs.

An Army of Virtuous Entrepreneurs

We are facing more than just the survival of individual businesses. Many experts are suggesting our economic system is in jeopardy.  Let’s all remember the lessons of Adam Smith and create an army of entrepreneurs who not only can revitalize our economy, but ensure the preservation of free markets through benevolence, generosity, gratitude, compassion, kindness, pity, friendship, and love.

eLearning Opportunities

We are excited to announce that our digital educational content company, Entrepreneurial Mind LLC, is partnering with the eLearning platform, Eloquens. Through this new partnership, we can some of our courses directly to individuals wishing to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills.  Our content is usually only available as part of broader certification or other structured programs offered by our partner organizations around the globe.  Through Eloquens, we will be able to offer some of our Entrepreneurship content as stand alone courses.

We have three courses currently available.  We feature them in the righthand column of this site.  You can click on each to learn more about the content offered through each course.


Five Steps to Secure Social Capital During a Pandemic

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

A myth about entrepreneurs is that we are just a bunch of “lone rangers.” (The Lone Ranger was a fictional former Texas Ranger who went off on his own to fight bad guys). According to the lone ranger myth, the reason we start our own businesses is that we can’t get along with others.  We can’t function in an organizational structure. So we ride off into the wilderness by ourselves to chase down our next deal.

Every myth is based on a bit of truth. Entrepreneurs do tend to have a higher need for independence. There are decades of studies of entrepreneurs that suggest we have a stronger urge to be independent than the average person.  In simple terms, psychologists define the personality trait of independence as preferring to act on one’s own thoughts rather than follow others.

Just because we have the urge to follow our own ideas does not mean we have poor social skills. To the contrary, independent thinking is recognized as an important part of healthy social skills by most psychologists.

In fact, there is a growing body of research suggesting that what is called social capital,  having a strong network of people with knowledge, experience, and wisdom to draw from, is an important determinant of entrepreneurial success.  It can be even more important for many entrepreneurs as the financial capital they need to succeed in business.

Important Sources of Social Capital

What are the sources of social capital for entrepreneurs?

It starts with their family and friends. At first glance it might seem that the social isolation we are all practicing should facilitate a stronger flow of social capital to entrepreneurs.  After all, we are quarantined 24/7 with our family. However, being forced into togetherness is challenging us to find new ways to interact as a family.  Those who have retired often talk about the initial challenges of finding a new rhythm for family life once the retiree is so much more time at home. During our adjustment to everyone being at home, it can become difficult if not impossible for family members to provide the social capital the entrepreneur needs from them.

Another critical source of social capital for entrepreneurs are their mentors, coaches, and advisors. These are the people who help keep entrepreneurs moving ahead and staying “between the rails.”  At this point in my career, one of my greatest joys is serving as a mentor for countless student and alumni entrepreneurs.  I know how important my mentors and advisors were for me when I was a full-time entrepreneur, and hope that I can pay it forward to today’s young entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs also receive vital social capital from their peers, that is, from other entrepreneurs.  This includes industry peers, which is why we are drawn to meet-up groups, trade shows, and industry associations.  These peers help us with the content of our businesses.  It also includes entrepreneurs outside of their industry.  The social capital we get from these entrepreneurs is more about the journey of entrepreneurship and about the challenges of being an entrepreneur, rather than the more technical aspects of building the business.

Staying Connected with Social Capital

Just as raising financial capital for a business takes time and effort, so too does securing the social capital we need.  Here are five steps to ensure that entrepreneurs get the social capital they need to keep their businesses moving ahead during these challenging times:

  1. Intentionality in working from home.  There is an old adage in family business: keep family time for family, and work time for work.  As we adjust to a work-from-home economy, we need to take this advice to heart.  There are many great articles available on how to effectively work from home.  I posted one at this site.
  2. Family support needs structure. It is imperative to create a structure that ensures you can tap into the family support you need for your business. I find that our daily neighborhood walks is when I get the advice and support from Mrs. C. that I so desperately need for my work as a professor and as an entrepreneur.
  3. Mentors reach out regularly. Those of us who have the privilege of being mentors to entrepreneurs need to be intentional about reaching out regularly to touch bases.  Even a quick text or email can go a long way to ensure the entrepreneurs we work with have a life line to us when they need it.  Many of the entrepreneurs I talk with express feeling alone in their struggle to keep their businesses alive.  Remind them that they are not alone.
  4. Set up weekly/monthly Zoom coffee or beers. I have various people who I meet with regularly over a cup of coffee or a beer.  Some are my mentors, some are peers, and others are those who I mentor.  Don’t let these important meetings stop because of the coronavirus.  Create a regular schedule of zoom coffees and/or zoom beers to keep these vital conversations alive.
  5. Peer-based Zoom meetingsWe have an amazing group of alumni entrepreneurs who all meet once a month to talk about their entrepreneurial journeys. Until we can safely meeting as a group, we are moving ahead, same time as always, on Zoom. Is it as good as meeting face-to-face?  No, but it is better than losing this source of social capital.

Even as we seek to stay safe through social isolation, it does not mean that entrepreneurs must become isolated from their critical sources of social capital.

Free Cash Planner for Small Business

Q1sah3oit2govg86wfld fileCash is King, Queen, President for Life, and Master of the Universe for entrepreneurs.  Just ask any of my students!

One of my alums, Ben Cooper, founder of Amplify, is offering a free cash planner tool for small businesses.  What a great gift to help all of us who are navigating the treacherous waters of cash flow during the current crises.

What you’ll get:

  • A Customizable Cash Planner Spreadsheet
  • 8 Training Modules
  • Free Call to Review Results

Thanks, Ben!!