Look Forward Think Backward What Does an Entrepreneur Do

To be realized, a vision requires time, energy, capital, belief, and drive. It is not enough to talk; it is as important to lead and do. Some people look at where they are and what they have in order to see where they can go (that is, they look forward and think forward). Others see where they want to go and look at what they need to get there (they look forward and think backward).

The two approaches sound similar but in fact are very different. The former is limited to using whatever resources and information are available, whereas the latter doesn't accept this limitation and determines what needs to become available (that is, enabling) to realize the vision. The practice of looking forward and thinking backward will identify the enablers and changes needed for future success. Once identified, these enablers and changes must be encouraged and developed.

Incremental visions can be realized with either approach, but more disruptive visions usually are realized by looking forward and thinking backward. Disruptive visions may require significant changes to the ecosystem before they can be realized. A handful of individual grains of sand will have very little impact when it is thrown against something. But when that same handful of sand is molded into a ball, it will have a much greater impact. Entrepreneurial leadership is about molding the individual grains of sand into a coherent whole. Entrepreneurs lead by

• Giving a voice to the vision and ideas

• Building and inculturating a team or organization and giving it purpose

• Identifying and acquiring resources (people, capital, information)

• Removing obstacles and solving problems

These activities should be performed in the context of a set of values and principles that guide the entrepreneur's behavior. The values and principles vary from entrepreneur to entrepreneur and should represent his or her views about how to develop, manage, and value relationships with employees, customers, investors, and others, as well as the entrepreneur's views about what success is and how to create the conditions necessary for success. These values and principles do not necessarily have to be articulated in detail, but at a minimum they should show themselves consistently in the everyday actions and behaviors of the entrepreneur. Transparency and consistency will allow others to understand the motivations and expectations as well as the likely directions and actions of the entrepreneur, which in turn will allow them to act in concert and contribute to the entrepreneur's vision.

The entrepreneur must understand and carefully consider all aspects of the vision and the steps it must be moved through to become real. Entrepreneurs must constantly deal with and move back and forth between broad, general issues and mundane, detailed issues. Building a company has many challenges, including these:

• Creating value through technologies, products, services, or content

• Measuring value in its tangible, intangible, financial, and strategic forms

• Protecting value using trade secrets, copyrights, patents, trademarks, agreements, and contracts

• Positioning the products, services, content, and company in the ecosystem

• Building and managing relationships with customers, employees, shareholders, advisers, media, analysts, and suppliers

The day-to-day activities of addressing these challenges consist of listening, learning, judging, deciding, and communicating. Entrepreneurs are judged by their ability to meet these



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