Managing Communication:  Entrepreneurship vs Normal Life

Managing Communication: Entrepreneurship vs Normal Life

Communication

This post is inspired by a recent lack of communication between my wife, Gwen, and me.  It reminded me of how we had to manage communication with Joshua, our young entrepreneur.  At first, we didn’t realize there was an issue, but a couple of confrontations identified the problem.  We had to figure out how to talk to each other all over again.

I was Joshua’s parent, business adviser and educator.  The problem was that the conversations on all these topics would run together and get very convoluted.  I found myself praising him for a great pitch to investors in one breath and chewing him out for his room being a mess in the next.  Gwen was not always in on some of our business conversations, which was another issue we dealt with, and would expect Joshua to be responsible for some school or family task without knowing Joshua and I had agreed on some other prioritization of his time.  It was confusing and frustrating for all of us.  We had to do something different.  We were all living two different lives, the normal one with school, family and friends, and the business one with product development, meetings, pitches and investors.  It was challenging, tiring and incredibly exciting.

Here’s what we did.  We treated business conversations like a business meeting.  We had certain times of the day devoted to business discussions, and planned topic focused conversations just like any other business meeting.  When casual conversation morphed into business, we had to all be conscious of what was happening and decide whether to table it and schedule a business conversation.  Gwen limited our business conversations during our family dinner.  She said that was a family activity and she was absolutely right.  She helped us set boundaries and priorities.

Yes, it was weird and a bit hard to get used to.  However, without compartmentalizing and organizing our conversations, chaos ensued that had a negative impact on our family.  With faith and family as top priorities for us, this was an unacceptable consequence.

THE TAKEAWAY: Good communication is critical for businesses and families to be successful.  It is important that communication issues be recognized and dealt with immediately.  Allowing poor communication to fester will undermine our friendships, families and businesses.

3 Ways Clear Communication Can Help Entrepreneurs Avoid Confusion

3 Ways Clear Communication Can Help Entrepreneurs Avoid Confusion

Communication

I can’t stress enough how important communication skills are for entrepreneurs.  These skills are, of course, generally important in life and business but that importance is magnified when trying to describe how a new technology or product works, why it matters and how the company intends to make money selling it.

I routinely see pitches from entrepreneurs and listen to them describe their product, market, business model and growth plans.  Below are a few key areas that we must get right for successful communication to occur.

  1. Clear, concise, precise speech – We cannot let our speech patterns get in the way of the message. Every second that the audience spends trying to decipher your improper pronunciations, slang terms, imprecise or lazy speech, or gets distracted by silence filling “uh”s, “so”s and “like”s, is time they are not focused on your message.  You’ve just explained your major value proposition while they were still trying to figure out what you meant by “Our product is like, uh, well sort of like if Uber and Facebook got married and had a baby in the flash delivery space”.  https://hbr.org/2013/06/how-to-give-a-killer-presentation/
  1. Know your audience – I can’t tell you how many times I see entrepreneurs do the same pitch to prospective customers and investors. These two audiences are very different in terms of their priorities and language.  With prospects we focus on the product, why they need it, why it’s better than the alternative, and why it should matter to the consumer.  Investors, while interested in the product, are more focused the market, the business model, and how they make money.  Investors speak the language of business. As an entrepreneur, even if your expertise is in the technology or the industry, you MUST learn the language and concepts of business to communicate with investors.  Prospective customers want to know whether the product comes in chartreuse and investors want to know how you intend to scale the business. This informs us of the best use of our presentation time. http://www.forbes.com/2010/10/21/public-speaking-selling-leadership-sales-rein.html
  1. Conversation, slides and demos – Each of these elements plays a part in communication and it is important to know which one is the best tool for the job. Conversation alone may not convey more complex concepts best communicated in a graph on a slide. However, you can’t put everything you know on a slide or it will look like you vomited a novel in Power Point format.  The audience doesn’t know whether to listen or read.  I’ve seen many engineers pitch ideas, most of whom worked for NASA, that were communicated in this manner. Finally, demos are great if they have been properly introduced.  The other concern about demos, videos and accessing websites in real time during a pitch, is that local connections to the internet and outside sources of content often fail.  This can throw off your timing and cause the presentation to lose momentum.  Always have a backup. http://onboardly.com/startup-pr/best-startup-pitch-decks-of-all-time/

THE TAKEAWAY:  Clear, concise verbal communication with the appropriate support of graphics and demos can be your most powerful tool when trying to convince prospective customers or investors of the value of your product, team or company. Prepare. Let trusted advisers critique you and practice, practice, practice before you go LIVE.

STEM and Entrepreneurship

STEM and Entrepreneurship

skills

There was such interest in my previous post on programs that can help parents and students pursue STEM and entrepreneurial endeavors,  that I decided to add some information to the partial list of programs mentioned in my previous post.  Find one near you and engage in the programs or volunteer to help.

Y.E.S (https://arcapital.com/aeaf/yes/) – The Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, an affiliate of Arkansas Capital, created the Youth Entrepreneur Showcase (Y.E.S.) for Arkansas business plan competition in 2005 to introduce young Arkansans in grades 5-8 to the potential and opportunities of entrepreneurship.

EAST (http://www.eastinitiative.org/) – The EAST program, a project based learning program that teaches kids coding, video production, how to use design and GPS mapping software, and develop websites, is already in 200+ schools around the state

Arkansas Innovation Hub (http://www.arhub.org/) – Nonprofit organization with a maker space (lots of cool 3D printers, microprocessors, etc . . .) dedicated to talent and enterprise development in an environment  where Arkansas entrepreneurs and innovators find support for success.

Art Connection (http://www.arhub.org/art-connection) – A student art program located inside the Arkansas Innovation Hub

Noble Impact (http://www.nobleimpact.org/) – An education initiative that exposes students to relevant experiences and tools that enable them to navigate a world defined by uncertainty with an entrepreneurial skill set and a public service mindset.

STEM Coalition (http://arkansasstemcoalition.com/) – A statewide partnership of leaders from the corporate, education, government and community sectors which plans, encourages, coordinates and advocates policies, strategies, and programs supportive of excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning in order to expand the economy of Arkansas and produce higher paying jobs. STEM Centers around the state may be found at http://arkansasstemcoalition.com/arkansas-stem-centers/

100 Girls of Code (http://www.arhub.org/100-girls-of-code) – The mission of 100 Girls of Code is to achieve gender parity in STEM fields by introducing more young women to code and computer engineering at a young age. We seek to inspire more girls to pursue a future in STEM.  NWA Chapter http://www.100girlsofcode.com/nw-arkansas.html

First Robotics (http://arfirst.org/index.html) – The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

Best Robotics (http://www.bestinc.org/b_best_regions.php) – In these project-based STEM program students learn to analyze and solve problems utilizing the Engineering Design Process, which helps them develop technological literacy skills.  Programs in Jonesboro, Harrison, Little Rock and Ft. Smith.

Arts and Science and Kids Museums – Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas – Pine Bluff – (http://www.cityofpinebluff.com/pbar/arts-science-center-for-southeast-arkansas/), Museum of Discovery – Little Rock-(www.museumofdiscovery.org), Mid-America Science Museum – Hot Springs -(http://www.midamericamuseum.org/), Amazeum – Bentonville – (http://www.amazeum.org/)

Arkansas Out-of-School Network (http://www.aosn.org/) – A network of after school programs around the state.  A few notables include:

4-H State Robotics team (http://www.4-h.org/youth-development-programs/4-h-science-programs/engineering-technology/4-h-robotics-program/)

Adventure Clubs of Bentonville, AR (http://www.edline.net/pages/Bentonville_School_District/Departments/Childcare_Enrichment/Adventure_Club)

Bella Vista Boys and Girls Club – strong STEM focus with NASA curriculum (http://www.bgcbentoncounty.org/programs/education/)

J.O Kelly Middle School  (21st CCLC after school program) – robotics focus

The Camp Pfiefer program – environmental STEM related projects

The Saline County Boys and Girls Club – Benton – entrepreneurship focus, partners with 4-H

Horatio Elementary School – 21st CCLC – focus on Coding

The Audubon Center, Little Rock – focus on environmental stewardship

UALR Children International – Summer ‘Mind Your Business” Camp – Youth Entrepreneurship Program