[box] My name is Ziad Paracha and I am the founder of BClean. Currently, I attend the University of Calgary completing my degree in Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science. It was a pleasure to work with Trico Charitable Foundation as one of their 2017 summer students as well as have the opportunity to grow my venture. [/box]
An entrepreneur is always learning, going through ups and downs while trying to navigate new approaches to attain success. The recipe for innovation and running your own venture involves four key ingredients: ideas, leadership, a great team, and planning.
Step 1: Ideas
What I have quickly learned is that innovative ideas are not distinguished by size, but rather by impact. The size of profit a company collects does not reflect the size of social impact or even its success. The ability for an idea to develop into continuous implementable solutions and improve the current status quo to provide value, will eventually define its success.
Step 2: Leadership
Throughout discovering and validating my own assumptions of what a business should be, I have learnt a thing or two about what my business needs. It is fundamental that one realizes how to grow into becoming a great leader. You can’t find impactful answers without asking the right questions. If innovation is the perfect meal, what steps do I need to take? How do I avoid a flop dish? Leadership is perhaps one of the most important elements in the development and ongoing growth of a business.
Making judgments and the element of unpredictability can be a difficult challenge to overcome when trying to validate your product. Sometimes the best food is a result of good judgment by an experienced chef; whereas, other times that measurement could ruin the entire dish. Similarly, in starting a venture there needs to be validated information which allows you to have good judgment. However, the struggle is filtering through all the “noise” around entrepreneurs. When we rely on the element of predictability to make decisions, information is often filtered in our minds to support your prediction rather than the reality. In this case, you lose valuable opportunities of innovation in the ‘noise’. Being caught in the realm of noise can create a pattern of deviation from a sense of rationality to pure judgment. In essence, noise can influence a person to construct their own subjective reality based on the perception of the information they receive. This is dangerous due to its ability to influence behavior such as hasty decisions that result in impulsive decision-making often being detrimental to a business.
Step 3: Team
One way our BClean team avoided noise was by means of power sessions. We carefully and strategically created agendas, plans, and aligned our one-hour discussions with our organizational goals. In this way we provided clarity within the team and each member was able to openly input innovate ideas in a noiseless environment. As a result, we were able to effectively host meetings that were productive and gave our company the ability to confidently pivot our customer segment. The struggle, however, was the ability to stay on the task at hand. During our early sessions, one-hour seemed too short a time to conduct our meeting without interrupting the flow of ideas. To mitigate, each meeting I would put a single topic on the whiteboard to base our discussion on.
Step 4: Plan
How did we come to realize the importance of such decision-making? The A.S.E.S.S. program scaled my idea up to an innovative business that provides meaningful social impact. A.S.E.S.S provided step-by-step resources challenging our assumptions and helping us navigate through issues we faced as an organization. All which started with The Blender Canvas in the toolkit “Building On Getting Beyond Better – rethinking social entrepreneurship”. The Blender Canvas brought in harmony two distinct aspects: social and entrepreneurial. The blender allowed us to assess our social model and customer needs with our social impact on market value. A.S.E.S.S. not only differentiated our target customer from our beneficiary but taught us to inexpensively test out our venture to ensure it is aligned with our social impact. It allows you to forecast your operations five-years out so that you can map out your vision, understand your market and competition, expect the unexpected costs, be prepared to pilot, and know what success would look like – all the key ingredients of success for a venture.
I have come to conclude, that it is with these ingredients combined with the correct measurements of time and effort that you can truly make the best dish. A book that was recommended to me by Dan Overall, Executive Director of the Trico Charitable Foundation and one that I will recommend to you is “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore.
To successfully cross the chasm with customers you must understand your market segment and realize the problem the customers are experiencing. While the early adopters on the technology adoption life cycle (please see the below figure) are willing to sacrifice in order to be the first, the early majority would rather wait until it is proven that the technology actually provides improvements in the status quo. The best method to accomplish this is by remembering this piece of advice I learned at my time with Innovate Calgary:
“Customers don’t buy PRODUCTS; customers buy solutions to PROBLEMS.”
If you can figure out the problem that is killing business for your customers, then you are more likely to provide value and a greater impact. You need to plan ahead to figure out how you can best serve the customers. Remember, living the life of an entrepreneur can be difficult and cumbersome but you have to be proactive. There are a list of cuisines to choose from, don’t limit yourself to just one type.