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MGMT 3010 Course Reflection

The 7 weeks of the MGMT 3010 here in the US flew by. Below is my reflection about what I've learned so far in this course.

Excerpt: Kai, Chris, and Ben emphasized the importance of excitement among the founding team. There is excitement among my micro-venture teammates, and we all worked well together. I’ve made good friends in seven weeks, and I am excited to travel to China with them. I’m looking forward to experiencing the “T.I.C.” (This Is China) moments that Kai mentioned.

MGMT 3010 Reflection

Executive Summary: Prior to starting this class, I thought of entrepreneurship as an easy way to be my own boss. However, in the seven weeks of this course, I’ve realized entrepreneurship is much more than simply developing an idea and starting a business. The process to support an entrepreneurial venture is difficult and takes significant effort. That being said, I can tell that successful entrepreneurship is rewarding based on the presentations of Kai Worrell and Chris Berghoff. Both Kai and Chris revealed their excitement for entrepreneurship and for doing business in China.
I’ve learn about different forms of entrepreneurship, strategies for idea generation, questions to ask myself during the idea screening process, the importance of industry analysis, and the need to prevent “group think.” One of the principal themes from this course is the importance of enthusiasm and excitement. I look forward to applying what I’ve learned thus far to my observations and learning in China. I expect China will make me much more excited about entrepreneurship than I am already.

Entrepreneurship Can Take Many Forms: My first take away from this course dispelled a common misconception that entrepreneurship is simply starting your own manufacturing business or running a software company out of your garage. In reality, entrepreneurship can come in many forms—from home-based to use in large corporations. I am especially drawn to the idea of social/non-profit entrepreneurship. In many ways, each newly created non-profit is an entrepreneurial venture, and the skills I’ve learned from this course will have direct applications to a future non-profit I hope to develop. As Steve explained, this form on entrepreneurship relies on developing a social mission to solve problems. The mission and problem-solving approach are the critical aspects of a non-profit venture.
I had a chance to speak in-depth with a teammate from another course, Ben Murray, who started a private, non-profit middle school to serve the Latino community in Minneapolis. I was surprised about how closely the start up process he described mirrored the concepts we learned in this course. He wrote a detailed business plan to secure funding from donors, foundations and other charities. His enthusiasm for improving educational opportunities for immigrants was a key “selling point” of his nonprofit venture concept.

Idea Generation Requires Effort, an Open-Mind and Time for Creativity: I didn’t realize how many random thoughts I have every day until I recorded them for the activity early on in this class. Idea generation can happen naturally, but good ideas—as opposed to random thoughts—require added effort and synthesis. One of the blocks to good ideas for me is a lack of time and dedicated effort. I know I rely heavily on a routine, and will take Kathleen Allen’s advice to build time for idea generation into my routine (50). Steve’s advice to write down everything will also be very helpful. (I saw Steve’s mass of Post-Its idea during an office visit—he really does write down everything.)
One of the best sources of ideas that I’ve learned from this course is the “pull” strategy we discussed in class. It is easy to identify problems in our daily routines, and I often hear people say “wouldn’t it be nice if . . . .” I saw the “pull” strategy in use during my team’s research of Worrell, Inc. Worrell uses ethnographic assessments to identify problems and inefficiencies that people don’t even know exist and then solve those problems through innovative design. The “push” strategy of idea generation may be most useful to when starting a social/non-profit entrepreneurial venture. My “geeky” passion for Parkinson’s disease education will be a good place to start if/when I start a non-profit venture.
Finally, building my network and on-the-job experience will be helpful for generating ideas in the future. Allen reveals that 73% of new venture ideas come from prior experience and over 50% come from people in your network (53). This is more evidence of the importance of building my network.

Idea Screening is a Critical Check-Point for New Venture Creation: After completing our business plan, I now realize the importance of completing the Venture Capital Screen to narrow down your ideas. In class we discussed two questions to help narrow your ideas: “Do I gotta have it?” and “Is it as easy as fallin’ off a log?” My team didn’t ask these questions early enough in our idea generation phase to screen out poor concept ideas. We struggled to narrow down our ideas, and we may have reached our concept idea sooner had we asked these questions earlier.
The “excitement check” is also a good idea screening method. Ask yourself “is this idea something I’m really excited about?” Kai, Chris, Ben, Allen and Steve all revealed the importance of excitement and passion in entrepreneurship. I had trouble developing a connection with my micro-venture for this course—the excitement wasn’t as high as it should have been. In the future, I will refine my idea or consider moving to a different idea if I’m not truly excited about my next venture concept.

Feasibility Analysis Has to Happen Early: The difficulties we had expressing our venture concept revealed the need for a feasibility analysis early on in the planning process. Porter’s Five Forces cannot be ignored or underestimated (93). In our micro-venture, my team did a good job with an internal analysis, but did not spend enough time completing an external scan and industry analysis like Porter and Allen suggest. I learned a good industry analysis will require extensive outside research using many different sources. Chris was able to learn about Control Product’s industry in China by networking heavily with colleagues and industry counterparts in Minnesota and China. Again, networks are key!
Often, your concept idea may be feasible in one market, but not in a different market. Take Worrell’s concept of innovative design as an example. Based on my study of Worrell and the in-class presentation on USActive, the Chinese market is not as receptive to innovation as the US market. (Paul Stepanek summarized the challenge when he said that R&D in China means “receive and duplicate.”)
The in-class lecture about the Industry Growth Cycle was particularly helpful. I’ve studied the Industry Growth Cycle before, but did not realize how all growth cycles start over to make a continuous cycle. As the cycle enters decline, a new product/trend should already be started. It is usually the right time to enter the market if you can pick up first time buyers and encourage others to adopt your ideas as the trend grows.

Marketing Research Must Examine All Possible Market Segments: The most profitable ventures will capitalize on all possible market segments. We overlooked an important market segment when we developed our venture. It is entirely possible that a venture will have multiple target markets, and each requires its own unique marketing plan as a part of the business plan. In the future, I will use a Customer Grid that lists customer segments, benefits, and strategies to summarize each market segment (105).

Founding Team Must be Excited, Open and Critical
: The biggest trap my team encountered while writing out business plan was “group think.” Steve warned against this in class, but preventing “group think” is easier said than done. In future ventures, I will evaluate myself to determine if I am allowing “group think.” I will make an effort to provide constructive criticism when necessary. It is better to spend the time getting the concept right in the planning phase rather than going back and fix it later.
It isn’t possible to prevent “group think” entirely, and that is why outside advisors are so important to any venture concept. My team did not utilize outside advisors for our micro-venture as we should have; I will actively seek out advice and critiques for my ventures in the future. Bouncing my concept ideas off of neutral third-parties and asking “does this make sense?” will be helpful for my next venture concept.
Kai, Chris, and Ben emphasized the importance of excitement among the founding team. There is excitement among my micro-venture teammates, and we all worked well together. I’ve made good friends in seven weeks, and I am excited to travel to China with them. I’m looking forward to experiencing the “T.I.C.” (This Is China) moments that Kai mentioned.