All entrepreneurs have them and some wear them as a badge of honor. They are referred to as mistakes, errs, failures, growing pains, hiccups and more. The entrepreneurs that willing to share and discuss these shortcomings are more healthy for it. There are a lot of entrepreneurs that shove these issues into the closet and ignore them. Because it is Halloween even for startups (even those that are grinding so hard they lose track of the days) we are asking to pull those skeletons out of the closet.
There are the problem-solving techniques that are all over the internet. They generally follow the same form: 1) Identify the problem and figure out why it happened; 2) Find a different approach or solution to the problem going forward; and 3) Teach others so that the issue does not arise again. These are great tips and for most day-to-day issues they work well. But there are bigger issues that they don’t necessarily translate too.
Business disputes are part of the price of doing business. Even as a small business, you have so many connections to vendors, suppliers, and customers. Most small businesses have other connections to accountants, marketers, and other businesses. Then there are internal relationships between the business and its employees. Finally there are potential disputes between owners that can also create problems. Often times these disputes can be resolved through a mutual agreement but when they cannot be settled the Michigan Circuit Courts are called upon to resolve these issues.
Recently Michigan enacted a new law that should help the courts’ ability to quickly and efficiently resolve these disputes as they arise. Born from a pilot program that had ties to the Kent County Circuit Court, beginning at the first of the year every court with more than 3 judges will have to develop a specialized business docket.
There are many, many, many lessons to learn as an entrepreneur. Some of the most experienced serial entrepreneurs will tell you that they are still learning every day. One of the lessons that West Michigan entrepreneurs are having trouble with is that the word “failure” is not negative in the connotation of the startup community.
Josh Linkner, CEO and managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Detroit that specializes in assisting startups. Linkner spoke to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids recently. Linkner discussed his “Four Best Ways to Kill Entrepreneurship”: feed the fear, cling to the past, embrace bureaucracy and be a follower.
Sometimes in order to get your startup off the ground you have to hustle. Some startups are lucky and just pop up, make the right connection and hit the right stream of commerce running. For most though your idea has to be sold to those streams of commerce.
West Michigan startup, InBalance Health has been able to make inroads in selling its idea into the stream of commerce. InBalance makes alternative food bars and dietary supplements for people with pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. The InBar that it introduced last month was only available locally at Warren Nutrition Centers. It was announced that InBalance will soon be available at Belmark Inc., of Pere, Wisconsin; Cambridge Naturals, of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Health Store and More, of Salisbury, Maryland; Healthy Alternatives, of Beaver Creek, Ohio; Lifestyle Wellness and Spa, of Forest City, N.C. and Organic Food Depot, of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
It’s what many businesses strive for. To be able to have 350 locations across 22 states, would be a success story in most people’s perspective. That kind of growth, while it might be a dream come true, has to be regulated by the business itself. Recently Aspen Dental had 11 lawsuits filed against it in 11 different states. The claims against Aspen range from unlawful corporate practice of dentistry to unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Aspen Dental claims to provide access to high quality, affordable dental care for millions of patients across the United States. Aspen has 18 locations in Michigan, including Bay City, Flint, Holland, Jackson, Lansing, Midland, Muskegon, Saginaw and three Grand Rapids-area offices. Patricia Huddleston, who received care from the Bay City location, is one of the plaintiffs that has brought claims against Aspen.
One of the biggest worries for entrepreneurs in trying to get their startups off the ground is where are they going to get funding. These entrepreneurs think that if they can throw enough money at their idea, it will come to fruition. The issue this creates is that entrepreneurs take on debt and third-party expectations without developing other portions of the startup. Eventually those other areas have to be developed. When investors want a return on their investment sometimes that can cause pressure to rush through the process and spell disaster for the startup. There is no hard-fast rule on when funding should be sought but generally it’s a natural progression.
Privately held biotechnology firm Tolera Therapeutics Inc., a startup based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, recently closed its second round of funding. Hopen Life Science Ventures of Grand Rapids, Michigan led the round and was joined by other current investors including Triathlon Medical Venture Partners and SWMF Life Science Fund to infuse $5.5 million into Tolera. Tolera has said the funds will be used for a Phase 3 clinical trial of its immunotherapy drug called TOL101, a drug that could have broad application potential for treating diseases such as transplant rejection, Type-1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and leukemia.
Planning can be tough for any entrepreneur. It’s tough to think about where you want to see your business in a year or two let alone five years from now. It’s even tougher when the planning is due to the future of your business looking rocky. Being able to analyze what your options are and decide which option is best for your business is important. When times are good and you can’t stop pushing ahead, but the same can be said when times are not looking so good and you have be proactive.
It was recently reported that Wyoming, Michigan-based Metro Health is looking for a partner. As everyone is aware, there have been numerous changes and reforms in the healthcare industry. It is these changes and reforms that have spurred Metro to seek a partner that can give the capital and size it feels will be necessary to compete in this new healthcare era.
One of the toughest lessons for a young entrepreneur or a new entrepreneur to learn is that you cannot do it on your own. It is counterintuitive for someone who is willing to take the leap from the corporate world to start their small business to not have a strong independent streak. Despite the unnatural feeling these walls must be broken down. One of the easiest ways to start chipping away at that is connect with other entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Ferris State University is starting a program to connect students with these entrepreneurs and business leaders. The program, called CoffeE-Connect, aims to show students how to start and grow a business. The initiative was created by Ferris’ Entrepreneurship Institute and begins October 24, 2012 with Marie Elliot of the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center speaking about Finance and Marketing.
Just because you are small business owner does not mean that you need to think of yourself in terms of small customers. It is not uncommon for small businesses to think of themselves as just that: small. As a business owner you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur. There needs to be a mentality of looking to grow, compete and innovate at all times. It might be cliché but small business owners need to dream big.
Source One Digital, an affiliate of Muskegon-based RC Productions Inc., is continuing to expand. Source One Digital produces point-of-purchase signage for retailers. That sounds complex but for us laymen that is the signs you see around baseball fields, in retail stores, around race tracks, and more. Source One Digital produces all of the signage around Michigan International Speedway and also signs that appeared at the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.
“Mergers and acquisitions” sounds very intimidating. That term is something huge corporations and their teams of overpriced lawyers in $3000 suits conduct. Small and medium sized businesses in West Michigan are a world away from that level of business, or are they?
MiBiz is reporting that merger and acquisition activity in Grand Rapids and West Michigan is on the increase. There were a few large publicly traded companies that completed mega-deals earlier in the year but much of the recent flurry of activity has been in the small business and medium sized entity sectors. Last week alone, MiBiz reported 3 acquisitions by local middle-market businesses. The publication also reports that there are more business transactions on the horizon.