The mission of Alabama Ignite, as a podcast and online portal, is to spark innovation and grow a 21st-century economy in Alabama built on entrepreneurship.
Since entrepreneurship is the foundation of this mission and a key beam in the “wealth” circle of my Shinecast platform, I thought it might be helpful to give my definition of “entrepreneurship” and explain how I will be using the word here on the Alabama Ignite website.
Vision, Values, Value, Profit
As I see it, broadly defined an entrepreneur is someone who creates something from nothing with the goal of making money and/or instigating social change.
A 21st century entrepreneur is someone who takes a risk by investing time and/or money to bring an idea to fruition to achieve some goal: Profit, social improvement, or (ideally) both. I’ll be providing more depth to this “21st century” nomenclature in future posts.
While my broad definition encompasses both business and social entrepreneurship, the focus of Ignite Alabama is on business entrepreneurship intended to make a financial profit from the entrepreneurial venture.
Ventures and activities with a mission that fall within the sphere of not-for-profit social entrepreneurship will be covered in other Shinecast shows and on separate websites.
The focus here at Alabama Ignite is on making a real financial profit by bringing an idea, a vision, to fruition by creating a product or service that yields value by solving a problem.
I’ll also be talking more about risk and the types of risk entrepreneurs take. Sometimes the biggest risk stems from the fear of the appearance of failure, not necessarily the dollars that might be lost in undertaking a particular venture.
Profit is a necessary (but not, by itself, sufficient) outcome of entrepreneurship under my definition, but the goal of making a profit (i.e. a positive return on investment), in and of itself, is not sufficient to warrant a podcast interview or a mention on this site.
I believe in profit and I believe that the opportunity to earn a profit is the key to economic growth.
By my definition, it’s perfectly fine to want to start, scale and exit a business to take the profits and move on to a new venture.
But profit, alone, is not enough to build an innovative and sustainable business that creates economic value over time.
The reality is that a profitable and sustainable 21st-century business must have underlying values that attract and inspire customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders.
It’s not my aim to define the values of your business.
My goal here is to remind you that values matter and must be the foundation of any successful business. In a 21st century business, your customer must know what you value.
Here’s my own statement of values. (insert link)
I’m providing these so that anyone who visits this site knows what I stand for.
I hope that my statement of values will illuminate what you can expect to find here on Alabama Ignite, through the podcast conversations, and in the overall Shinecast® stable of products and services.
Values Must Be Ethical & Sustainable
A 21st century business achieves profit through ethical behavior that does not harm other people.
Business policies and procedures should exist to help lift people up to become the best version of themselves, even as they work to grow your business or buy and consume your products and/or services.
Likewise, a 21st century business minimizes and actively seeks to reduce or eliminate harm to the rest of the created world.
The business model should be sustainable, not depleting.
A Core Value Must Be Human Health
I believe that health is one of the pillars of life.
If your product or service does not enhance human health, your business is not a 21st century business.
On a personal level, if your lifestyle choices and work habits are harming your health, they aren’t sustainable, no matter how much you love your business. Sometimes, the damage to health isn’t immediately apparent. Sometimes the damage is revealed, at first, in lowered productivity.
Likewise, if you’re demanding that employees pull all-nighters or 60-hour weeks on a regular basis, your business probably isn’t sustainable.
If your employees are stressed out and living in fear that a good-faith mistake will cost them their job, your business probably isn’t sustainable.
I’m not saying that working hard is bad. I believe in work and I believe that work is good for humans.
But it’s clear that for
99.99999% of all humans, productivity declines after a certain period of sustained effort.
While working on my Ph.D., I personally experienced the consequences of pulling all-nights and average 3-4 hours of sleep every 36 hours. I was trying to work harder and longer, all the while becoming less effective and less efficient. It’s taken me a decade to recover from the physical health consequences of that era of my life and, at the time, I didn’t think anything was wrong that a nap couldn’t solve.
Rest is, in-and-of-itself, a value. Appropriate rest leads to great efficiency and productivity.
Top athletes know the value of rest. Some entrepreneurs (and employees) seem to lose sight of this fundamental principle.
Perhaps the simplest way to sum up my philosophy on the relationship between values and achieving profitability for a 21st century business is reflected in the distinction between these two words
Enhance vs. Extract
In case it isn’t obvious, I want to point that that your personal values and your business values should be consistent—otherwise you’ll be miserable in your work and in your business. And these values should be the fuel that defines the value that you will crate for your customer.
A 21st century business venture delivers value in some way by solving a problem, by meeting a need that’s not adequately addressed.
The 21st century entrepreneur starts something from nothing and delivers something of value to customers.
And this something of value that you create must be distinctive in some way and you must tell the story of how the value you add is different; otherwise, you run the risk of becoming a commodity and competing purely on price, which is usually not sustainable. If your business isn’t sustainable, it’s not a 21st century business.
If your business model depends on preserving the status quo of your industry or technology in relation to others (such as through lobbying or legislation), you probably don’t have a sustainable business that’s suitable for the 21st century.
Entrepreneurship: In Summary
So to sum up the basic definition of entrepreneur, as I’ll be using the term here at Alabama Ignite:
Someone who creates something from nothing, who takes a risk in some way, to deliver a product or service that adds value to the world, is based on defined values that attract specific customers, and is sustainable over time, both in terms of human capital and other resource usage.
I hope this page helps you to understand my frame of reference and to evaluate whether Alabama Ignite is a movement that you want to join.