Monthly Archives: April 2011

How Entrepreneurial is Orange County?

The Fullerton Chamber is hosting a special event which will explore the question “How Entrepreneurial is Orange County?”

John Bradley Jackson, Director of the CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship, will review the findings of a recent study about Entrepreneurship in Orange County and the United States.

Learn more about how Orange County compares to other regions in the U.S. when viewed from a new venture perspective.

When: Fri, April 29, 11:30am – 1:00pm
Where: Marriott Hotel at 2701 E. Nutwood Ave., Fullerton

Networking Done Right.

Networking is hot. Business schools offer classes that teach students how to network. Many of the hottest start-ups are built around the concept. But how many of us really understand how to build a network?

First of all, let me clear up the most common misconception about networking. It is not something you do to just to find a job or solicit clients. It is something you do to build lasting relationships that provide value to you for many years. People with who you conduct one-time transactions or exchange only financial resources provide you with temporary benefits. You meet them with a goal in mind and every interaction you have with them is intended to help you reach that goal. If you cannot achieve that goal, you typically stop communicating with them.

In contrast, “true” networking is the process by which you form relationships with people you can go to for support, advice, information (especially information that is unique and not easily available to others), specialized expertise, and/or creative inspiration. You may have some people in your network that provide you with all of these benefits and consider them to be your closest contacts. You may also have people in your network that provide you with only one of these benefits and you do not consider them to be very close to you. Research says that you should have both of these types of people in your network. Moreover, you should also have a diverse group of people in your network. The benefits of having such a network are that you get access to unique information, diverse skill sets that allow you to go beyond your own capabilities, and access to resources that you can leverage. Put simply, the power of networks is that, if done right, it can increase your effectiveness as a leader because it gives you access to information, skills and resources that would be much harder – if not impossible – to obtain by yourself.

So how do you build such a network? Here are some guidelines:

1. Be genuine. Do not seek to form a relationship with someone with a certain goal in mind. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to meet a certain person, you should focus on simply forming a relationship with that person. If you focus on what you can gain from the relationship, it is likely to be nothing more than a transactional relationship.

2. Follow the norms of reciprocity. If someone does something that benefits you, you should always return the favor. Not only should always give back as much as you get, you should give before you’re asked. The key is to reciprocate in a way that the other person will value. Since this varies for each person, the best way to learn how to reciprocate is to think about the interests of the whole person. For example, if a co-worker has done something to help you at work, you do not have to return the favor by doing something to help her at work. Instead, you can reciprocate by getting her some red velvet cupcakes because you know how much she loves chocolate or by letting her know that her favorite musician is coming to town and tickets happen to be going on sale in a few days.

3. Participate in shared activities. A shared activity is anything that allows you to come together with a diverse group of people – all of whom are working towards a common goal. For example, you can join a sports team, participate in a voluntary association, or be part of a cross-functional team at work. The best shared activities are those where the participants are dependent on each other, passionate about the activity, and have something at stake (“How to Build Your Network”, by Uzzi and Dunlap, Harvard Business Review, 2005).

4. Be pro-active. Take advantage of opportunities to expand and diversify your network. While this may require stepping out of your comfort zone, you can make it easier by asking your close network contacts for help. For example, instead of going to a social event by yourself, you can go with some of your close friends. This may make you more comfortable because you always have a “safety net” – if you try meeting new people and do not click with anybody, you can always go back to talking to your friends. You can also ask your close network contacts to introduce you to others in their network.

5. Perform network maintenance. Building your network is just half the story – you also have to maintain it. Make sure to set time for activities that allow you to keep in touch with people in your network. If possible, face-to-face activities are best. But this may not always be possible for a variety of reasons. If this is the case, then you can reach out by talking on the phone, sending birthday cards/gifts, writing emails, etc. This is where sites like Facebook can be useful. They allow you to send short messages to people in your network with minimal effort. You can wish someone a happy birthday or comment on their status updates.

Networking is a long-term investment. It takes considerable effort to build and maintain your network. But, if done well, the benefits to your life and your career are substantial.

Dr. Atul Teckchandani
CSUF Entrepreneurship Professor

I’m Loving It

When you take a class on Entrepreneurship at a university, there is typically no discussion for how your personal values and goals fit into the entrepreneurial process. Being an entrepreneur is very challenging – both physically and emotionally. It may involve working 12+ hours a day, seven days a week. It may require you to cut back on your social activities. It may give you less time with your spouse and kids. It may require you to max out your credit cards, take a loan on your house, or borrow money from family/friends. All of this is only worth it if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. And if the venture is not consistent with your personal goals and values, it is very difficult to generate that passion.

Recently, I had an entrepreneur come speak to my students who illustrated this lesson very clearly. Candace is the founder of Sandy Candy Swim (http://sandycandyswim.com/), a firm that sells high-quality swimwear for women. She combined her love for fashion and swimwear to create Sandy Candy Swim. On a shoe-string budget, she was able to put together a professional website and design her swimwear. After securing a turnkey supplier and placing an initial order, she is now focused on marketing and selling her merchandise.

Despite not having a retail store, the marketing strategies that have been the most effective for her are ones that allow her to interact directly with her customers. For example, she helps put together her own take on a Pampered Chef or Tupperware party. The host will invite people over and Candace will come to the house with Sandy Candy swimwear and accessories. The guests will get to see, feel and try on the swimwear while getting a personal swimwear consultation from Candace. The reason that this has been so successful for her is because she truly enjoys spending time with women to help them find swimwear and accessories that they like wearing. The passion she has for this business comes through even when she speaks to others about what she does, so I can only imagine how easily it is conveyed when she is in the middle of a consultation.

While Candace is very passionate about swimwear, she also makes sure that the business is consistent with her values and goals. She is a part-time entrepreneur. She started Sandy Candy Swim to explore her creative and artistic talents. Although she could grow the business a lot faster if she quit her day job, she has no desire to do so. She loves her full-time job too. Juggling the two can be very difficult, especially because her full-time job involves a fair amount of travel. But by setting realistic expectations for the growth of Sandy Candy Swim, she is able to maintain a balance. In other words, having a full-time job she loves and working on Sandy Candy Swim is consistent with her values and goals. Moreover, she always keeps these goals and values in mind when making decisions about her business. As a result, she is able to make sure she is enjoying every minute of being an entrepreneur.

Dr. Atul Teckchandani
CSUF Entrepreneurship Professor

Entrepreneurship Student Endorses Networking

It started about three weeks ago in my Entrepreneurial Leadership class. The lecture that day was about networking and how proactively reaching out to others is especially important in today’s weak economy. If you can connect with the right person, finding a job might be easier. While I have heard this lecture before, this time I was inspired to take action.

I picked up the phone and I called my former colleague (let’s call him Ray) whom I had worked with in the past at AT&T wireless. We had not talked in over three years, but he was very glad to hear from me. To my surprise, our conversation lasted about an hour. I was impressed with how far he had climbed the corporate ladder. In a few short years he had worked his way up to Senior Product Manager of a Fortune 1000 firm.

He asked me what I was planning to do after graduation. After describing my objective (i.e. “get a job soon”), he described a job at his firm which needed to be filled immediately. The job included a great salary, full benefits, paid time off, flexible hours, and a promotion after graduation. Conveniently, he was the hiring manager. To my surprise, he said, “The position is yours, if you want it.”

My response? Of course, I accepted the job. It was exactly the job that I wanted. The following week I was on a plane heading to Dallas for training. I’m currently working and attending night classes. I’ll be graduating in May 2011.

Making the phone call to Ray was the best decision I made this semester. My advice to you is to start networking now!

Chuck Su
CSUF Entrepreneurship Student