Episode Thirty Nine Features Steven Maranville of Maranville Enterprises Talking About Startups.
My Key Takeaways:
Steven James "SJ" Maranville, Ph.D. was a very interesting guest and provided an academic spin on startups that I hadn't considered or thou...
Episode Thirty Nine Features Steven Maranville of Maranville Enterprises Talking About Startups. My Key Takeaways:
Steven James "SJ" Maranville, Ph.D. was a very interesting guest and provided an academic spin on startups that I hadn't considered or thought of.
In this episode Steven shares:
To learn more about Steven, his website is Maranville Enterprises » Maranville Enterprises. He can be found on LinkedIn, FaceBook, and most Social Media as well.
Be sure to hit Subscribe in your podcast app so that you don't miss it or any other episodes.
[00:00:00] Greg Mills: Our guest today is known as the startup unicorn trainer. He boosts the vision acuity of entrepreneurs who are caught in the fog of venturing by removing their blind spots and fitting them with new lenses so that they venture with vision. He totally blind, but while lacking eyesight, he avails with entrepreneurial insight.
[00:00:21] Greg Mills: He's earned a PhD in entrepreneurship with specializations in strategic adaptation and organizational transformation. He's an author and the founder of Moran Ville enterprises, as well as Morinville seminars without further ado, Dr. Steven Morinville.
[00:00:41] Steven Maranville: Greg. Thank you so much for inviting me on your podcast. I really enjoyed talking to your audience. Uh, just a little bit more about myself, as you've mentioned that I'm chairman of Miranda, bill enterprises, the venture creation corporation, and as a strategic advisor, I guide entrepreneurs through that foggy wilderness of starting and scaling their ventures.
[00:01:08] Steven Maranville: So I work with a variety of different types of entrepreneurs and, maybe we could get into talking about that.
[00:01:18] Greg Mills: Yeah, that'd be great. Now I gave a little bit of a brief bio, but could you fill in the gaps from that and bring us up to speed with what's going on in your world today?
[00:01:28] Steven Maranville: Yeah, absolutely. So I began Miranda hill enterprises, 36 years ago, I had finished with an MBA and, I didn't really want to take the. The typical MBA career path. There were two things about me that I absolutely knew. There were lots of things I had no clue about, but these two things I totally knew, I loved the process of learning and I was also driven by the competition of business.
[00:02:05] Steven Maranville: And so while I thought I'd like to create something, the more I thought about it, I really wanted to help other entrepreneurs to create their ventures. And as I started out working with those ventures, they were small businesses. They needed to know how to compete with the big guys. They needed to know, how to raise money when they were running low on cash, how to market themselves, how to get the right people and train them, just everything that needs to be done in a small business, they needed help.
[00:02:40] Steven Maranville: And I can do that. So I began working with them and after a couple of years, I decided that, I needed to assess where Miranda enterprises was going. And I really discovered that there was a future for Moran bill enterprises, but there were changes that needed to take place. And one of those changes was that I needed to be working with ventures that were trying to scale.
[00:03:09] Steven Maranville: And in order to help those kinds of entrepreneurs, another change was I needed to add some additional tools to my toolbox. So that's when I entered a PhD program. And as you mentioned in the introduction, I have a PhD in business administration. With specializations, uh, you know, entrepreneurship, uh, adaptation and organizational transformation.
[00:03:40] Steven Maranville: And when I finished with the PhD, I, I really had two careers at this 0.1. I was a professor and the other, I was, working as a consultant with entrepreneurs that at this point were growing and working with venture capital firms. And so I kind of have these two careers that are going on. Well, I had to make a choice between the two careers and the way that I saw it, is it, what was in common with both is that I'm a teacher.
[00:04:15] Steven Maranville: I was a teacher as a professor. I'm a teacher as a consultant. So I wanted to take the teaching skills that I had acquired as a professor and apply them full time. To working with entrepreneurs brings us really up to UpToDate where I grow fledgling startups into gazelle scale ups, and then transform those Gazelles into unicorn bound ventures.
[00:04:49] Greg Mills: Okay.
[00:04:51] Steven Maranville: a fledgling startup is one that is in its very earliest stages. They don't yet have a validated business model. They may not have, sales or if they do, they're not consistent sales. And that's really the goal then is to validate that business model and to also, create some consistent, even growing sales among those three kinds of ventures, the fledgling, the disaster.
[00:05:22] Steven Maranville: The unicorn, it is, it's going to be rare that a gazelle or a unicorn comes to my website and says, this is the strategic advisor that we need. Because by the point that they're at that stage in their development, they tend to have all of the advisors that they need. But I have had the good fortune of working with Gazelles and even unicorns, but I'm more used to working with the fledgling startup.
[00:05:54] Steven Maranville: And it's my goal. When I start working with that kind of an entrepreneur, I want to raise them from being the fledgling venture to the gazelle venture. And if they have that potential within them to become the unicorn venture, the venture that has a billion dollar valuation. That's who I am.
[00:06:18] Steven Maranville: And that's where I am today.
[00:06:20] Greg Mills: Okay. Now we're back up just a little bit. And I'm going to ask you, you had sight until you were about seven and then you were diagnosed as legally blind. And then later on, as an adult, you totally lost your sight. You've obviously overcame that, but how has that perhaps shaped you into the person that you are today?
[00:06:40] Steven Maranville: That is really the key question. as you mentioned, I had been born with sight and when I was seven, I just had the DNA that was going to cause me to lose my sight. And in that year, uh, being seven years old, I was in the second grade. I lost 90% of my sight. So I have this 10% remaining after losing that 90%.
[00:07:10] Steven Maranville: It, it stabilize. Why have this 10%. And 10% is what I describe as mobility vision. So I have the ability, if I'm walking down a street, I can see the sidewalk that I'm walking on. I can see the grass on either side of that sidewalk. Although I can't really see the blades of grass. I see the grass. I can see the road.
[00:07:37] Steven Maranville: I could see that there is a sign on the side of the road. However, I wouldn't be able to read that sign. So I couldn't tell you what road I'm on. If I didn't already know that's what 10% site acuity means. As I matured and became an adult, I did lose even that 10%. Well, let me actually say I lost that 10% site because Greg, although I have lost my sight, I have never, ever lost vision.
[00:08:12] Steven Maranville: So, being totally blind in the 2020s, can't really begin to describe that as being a disability. It definitely is a nuisance, but the technology that I have is so amazing that there really isn't anything that I need to do much less, even anything that I want to do that I'm not able to do.
[00:08:42] Steven Maranville: With the work that I do as a consultant, I am either talking with people. On the phone, on the computer or I'm writing and all of the technology that I have, it enables me to do all of that work plus more.
[00:09:00] Greg Mills: When you say you're writing, are you actually typing it out or you write handwriting or are you dictating or some combination thereof?
[00:09:08] Steven Maranville: Yeah. So I use, just a normal computer. Yeah. There's nothing special about that computer at all. It's the same computer that anyone else would be able to purchase. But on this computer, I have some software that's called a screen reader and it doesn't matter what program that I'm using. It could be a email or a word document, a website. I am using a keyboard and yeah, I am I'm old school. So I, even though on my computer, I could. Uh, just tap things on the screen. I like to use a tactile good old fashioned keyboard and, you know, I'll use the arrow keys on that keyboard to move the cursor around on the screen. And wherever I placed that cursor, the screen reader reads the text to me, that's there.
[00:10:08] Steven Maranville: It works on any kind of program. The only thing that is not, so perfect is with images, but even that's getting better because people that are programming on websites now put descriptors of the images that they're placing on the screen. And so I can even tell what an image is today in some cases.
[00:10:31] Greg Mills: Okay.
[00:10:31] Steven Maranville: Okay.
[00:10:32] Greg Mills: Now, did you come from an entrepreneurial background at all? Was anyone in your family while you were growing up? Did they have their own business?
[00:10:41] Steven Maranville: So I did. I, I grew up in a factory farming town in Illinois, just a little rural factory farming town. And everyone in my family either worked in a factory or on a farm. Where I really started to get an entrepreneurial interest is when I had gone to college as an undergraduate student, I was studying fine arts and communications, but I had friends of mine that were studying business.
[00:11:15] Steven Maranville: And I listened to them talking about the way that they were learning by using the case method and projects and talking about the things that they were learning about business. And that just completely caught my attention. I always had, as I had previously mentioned, the two loves of learning. And the drive of competing.
[00:11:39] Steven Maranville: And when I was hearing their stories, I think that I was actually more interested in the business cases that they were talking about the network. So it was through talking about business cases, studying business cases that I started to develop my interest in wanting to be an entrepreneur and helping entrepreneurs to start and scale their ventures.
[00:12:06] Greg Mills: Okay. Now, you've had a lot of, formal education and you've learned, a lot of OJT.
[00:12:13] Greg Mills: How did you put the stuff that you learned in the educational sense and apply it, I guess is what I'm trying to ask.
[00:12:23] Steven Maranville: Yeah, I understand what you're asking. I view entrepreneurship as experiential learning and as a professor, even prior to being a professor, I understood the real value of experiential learning as a way of learning how to adapt. And, I might even just add that as a part of being blind.
[00:12:51] Steven Maranville: It has been a central in my life to learn how to be adaptable. And, as a young child, when, you're seven years old and you lose your sight, I don't know that it was so traumatic for me as it was for the adults. Because when you're seven, you're just experiencing what's happening and you want to adapt.
[00:13:17] Steven Maranville: You want to figure out how to do what it is that you want to do. And so there is that sense of, of learning at a very young age. The importance of adaptability. And this is how I view what goes on with ventures, because ventures have such a high mortality rate, you know, Eagle here, statistics that 90% of ventures fail within their first five years of existence.
[00:13:51] Steven Maranville: And of course the type of venture, the industry that they're in makes a big difference in what those statistics are. But nevertheless, there is a high mortality rate among startup ventures. A big reason for that high mortality rate is what I'll describe as their liability of newness. They're a new venture.
[00:14:17] Steven Maranville: They're young, they're immature. They don't yet have a robust. immune system. And so they're vulnerable to all of the kinds of hazards that are in the environment. And so, as I began working with startups, even at the very earliest stage of startup, which is where they have the highest vulnerability to not existing anymore, it's important for me to help those entrepreneurs, those founders, to learn how to, inoculate themselves against those hazards that are in the environment.
[00:14:59] Steven Maranville: That's the thing that I like to focus on with a very young startup with a new venture. I've had lots of experience of working with new ventures that are just getting started, , helping them to create the business model. Helping them to start to develop some traction toward getting sales.
[00:15:20] Steven Maranville: But all of that kind of in the background is the sense of experiential learning that an entrepreneur is going through a learning process. And those entrepreneurs that do learn, more effectively, they learn faster. Those are the ones that gain adaptive advantage. Those are the ones that increase their probability of survival and overcome those just unbelievable, mortality rates.
[00:15:56] Greg Mills: Okay. Now you talked about the fledglings and the Gazelles and the unicorn bound ventures. Let's go back to most of my audience. Would probably be in the fledgling with maybe a few Gazelles in there. I'm not aware of Elon Musk listening to this, but he might be.
[00:16:16] Greg Mills: What would you specifically advise a fledgling, especially somebody that's starting out that they know they want to be in business for themselves, but they're not entirely sure what their product is or what their product should be.
[00:16:33] Steven Maranville: That is not uncommon at all. That there is an entrepreneur who, they have that mindset that they want to be an entrepreneur. They know that they have the grit inside of them to do. But they haven't yet decided on a product. The advice that I give to those entrepreneurs get a notebook, get a writing instrument.
[00:17:00] Steven Maranville: In fact, Greg, this is the very first thing that I do with a client. During our first meeting, I give them a homework assignment to get a notebook, to get a writing instrument and to carry that notebook and writing instrument with them all the time. And whenever they're coming up with an idea, write this down in the notebook.
[00:17:25] Steven Maranville: And it takes some time during the week where you go through the notes that you've written in that notebook and flush them out. You've written down a basic idea of a product that you might create. So now describe that product in more detail. As you start to write more product ideas, you're going to start to see that there may be a theme among those products, that there are certain areas that you have, and innate eye for observing the needs of a market.
[00:18:05] Steven Maranville: And I would just, I would say that anyone that's thinking about becoming an entrepreneur who hasn't yet come up with a product idea that real process of coming up with a product idea, doesn't really begin with brainstorming product ideas. It begins by finding problems, gaps in the market. The way that I like to describe it is that a buyer has a goal and that buyer is looking to accomplish.
[00:18:42] Steven Maranville: But there's something that's keeping them from accomplishing that goal. And that's really the job of the entrepreneur is to figure out what's keeping them from accomplishing that goal and to close that gap with a solution, whether it's a product or a service.
[00:19:02] Greg Mills: Okay.
[00:19:03] Steven Maranville: it always begins with the market.
[00:19:07] Greg Mills: Now you talked about closing the gap, but in some instances, like with new technology that's disruptive, does that actually create the gap
[00:19:21] Steven Maranville: Oh, absolutely. I work with two types of entrepreneurs, fundamentally, you know, whether they're know fledglings, Gazelles, or unicorns, there are two ways in which those ventures. Are innovating or entrepreneuring venturing. One is that they're discovering a new market, a market that's emerging, that doesn't yet really exist and is just being discovered.
[00:19:50] Steven Maranville: The other is an existing market where there are competitors, maybe the big competitors and the entrepreneur is disrupting that market. And in both cases, there's innovation that's going on. But the way that you go about discovering a market versus disrupting a market, that's.
[00:20:18] Greg Mills: Okay, that makes a little bit more sense and just in case anybody thinks that it was me coming up with that on my own. No, I had actually read some of, Steven's literature on his site and I'd found that and thought that was an interesting question to ask. So going back, to the fledgling entrepreneur for the fledgling business.
[00:20:43] Greg Mills: No, once they've identified, their product or service, what other kinds of their next steps?
[00:20:51] Steven Maranville: So the next step is to test that product, right. They've identified the market problem, and now they have a solution. To close the gap on that problem, but really at this point, it's just a proposed solution. The thing to do now is to test that proposal, to get out, let's actually create a prototype and that prototype could be at various stages.
[00:21:25] Steven Maranville: It might simply be a drawing, a design. It could be a fully developed functioning product, but let's get something produced that we can actually put in the hands of a potential buyer. And let's start getting feedback about that product. There are two kinds of tests that you can do. One we'll call an alpha test, and the other is a beta test. So an alpha test is the test that you do inside of the organization. If you have employees, this is where you're testing the product with your employees. But let's say that you're a solo entrepreneur and an alpha test is very much like letting your, family members and your friends test this out for you now.
[00:22:20] Steven Maranville: That's okay. You're going to get some feedback by doing that. It's inexpensive, of course, to have your family and friends do the testing for you. But as you might also imagine that you may not get the highest quality feedback from, because number one, they may not actually be the real potential users of this product.
[00:22:47] Steven Maranville: And number two, they're so closely associated with you. They want to see you succeed. They don't want to give you bad news. And so they may not be giving you the real feedback that you need to hear. So a beta test is where you're now taking this product outside of your venture to potential users and buyers of this product.
[00:23:14] Steven Maranville: And it might be more difficult to coordinate getting a product into their hands. But the feedback that you'll get is much more valuable because they really are actual users and they're not so closely associated with you that they're unwilling to share with you negative feedback. And that negative feedback can be the most important feedback that you get.
[00:23:42] Steven Maranville: It allows you to make the kinds of adjustments to the product that are necessary to actually meet and close the gap on the market's needs.
[00:23:54] Greg Mills: Okay. Yeah, I could see the, the alpha test going. Yeah. Probably not providing a lot of great feedback unless your product or service did something catastrophic, the beta test I could see being a lot more, more specific.
[00:24:09] Greg Mills: It could be a lot more, critical, maybe a lot more, humbling
[00:24:14] Greg Mills: We're talking about going from, a fledgling to a gazelle,. At that point, what are some of the common mistakes that you see people make. And what does it even look like when they're moving forward and gaining traction?
[00:24:32] Steven Maranville: You've got a product now, right? You've tested this against actual users, potential buyers. And so the next stage here in, in growing this fledgling into a gazelle is to have a validated business model. And what that basically means is how am I going to actually sell this product?
[00:24:57] Steven Maranville: How do I get it into the hands of lots of buyers? And how do I do that in a way where I can make a profit. And so there are lots of different types of business models that a venture could adopt. and much of that depends on the type of industry in which that venture is competing. But the fundamental key is the word that you used traction.
[00:25:28] Steven Maranville: And if we're talking in the classic sense of traction, traction means sales, that you're actually finding someone who will give you money to have your product. You asked what the biggest mistake that I see entrepreneurs at this stage making. And that mistake is they are looking for venture capital before they ever have tracked. In some cases they're looking for venture capital when all they have is an idea. there are three stages of looking for money. The first stage is family and friends. The second stage is an angel investor and the third stage is venture capital. Family and friends, these are the people that know you the best.
[00:26:27] Steven Maranville: They want to see you succeed. They may not understand the product or the technology or the industry that you're in, but they believe in you. And so they're willing to give you what money they have to help you get up off the ground. And this was called the pre. stage it's it's even the pre-revenue investment stage, because at this stage you may not have any revenue.
[00:27:00] Steven Maranville: You've got that idea, but you haven't produced anything yet to actually sell to a potential buyer. an angel investor comes along when you actually have some traction, you've sold some products. You have shown a validated business model, and you also have, some consistency in terms of the sales that you're making.
[00:27:30] Steven Maranville: So this angel investor, they're a professional, unlike family and friends, they understand the industry that you're in. They understand the business model, the technology that you have. They're willing though, to take on the risk at this stage, because where you're at the seed stage, this is a pretty risky stage for a venture they're willing to take on that risk because they see that there's a potential, a super high return to them.
[00:28:05] Steven Maranville: The next stage is when really you are a gazelle and that's where venture capital comes in. And really the venture capitalist is doing the same thing that an angel investor is doing. They're providing you with money there. They're providing you with their know-how, but they're doing it at a much higher level of, uh, investment in your company.
[00:28:31] Steven Maranville: Whereas an angel investor could be putting in a million dollar. A venture capitalist is going to be putting in $10 million a and M more. My advice is when you're at that, pre seed stage, don't concern yourself with venture capital. Don't even concern yourself with angel investors. You need to cultivate your family and friends because I will come across a lot of, , potential entrepreneurs who they're contacting me because they want it to be introduced to investors.
[00:29:16] Steven Maranville: And I need to explain to them that even if I were to introduce them to angel investors, that angel investor is very likely not going to invest in them much less, even talk with them if they haven't yet. Plumbed the depths of their family and friends, because why is an angel investor who really doesn't know you going to invest in you?
[00:29:44] Steven Maranville: When the people who know you the best aren't willing to invest in you. And, and that's where you have to begin as a fledgling. Now, of course, the response that I will often get to telling them that they need to plumb the depths of their friends and family. They're going to say to me, well, all of my friends, my family, they're all broke.
[00:30:06] Steven Maranville: They don't have any money. Well, the only response that I can give to that is that you need to find some better friends and family, because if you want to be an entrepreneur, that's where you have to start. You'd need to get the money from the people who know you the best.
[00:30:26] Greg Mills: Okay. I could also see that as being a distraction too, in that, you're focusing on, either angel investment or or, or,
[00:30:35] Steven Maranville: Or a venture capital,
[00:30:37] Greg Mills: capital, you know, that just totally left my mind for a second the expense of sales or, you know, trying to move your product forward.
[00:30:45] Steven Maranville: And that is really just the key is the word that you use distraction too many entrepreneurs view getting the capital. As the objective, getting the capital is not the objective producing a product that people are going to buy is the objective. So it's like being on, a cross country road trip, and you need to have gas in that car to get across the country.
[00:31:18] Steven Maranville: But remember that the purpose of this road trip is not to make a tour of gas stations,
[00:31:26] Greg Mills: Okay. Now let's talk about if somebody is at the gazelle level, . Do you find that most of them want to become unicorn bound ventures or are there some people that don't and why might they not?
[00:31:39] Steven Maranville: you know, at the point that they become a gazelle, which a gazelle as you know, it's a fastest running animal on earth. And so in terms of the star, We call these scale up ventures because they're their whole purpose is to take that consistent level of sales that they're making. And now grow that as fast as we can.
[00:32:06] Steven Maranville: Once a venture is in that stage of being a gazelle, they're really no longer in, in the category of a small business. This is now a high growth business where a small business it's always going to be a low growth business because it has entered an industry that's in a mature phase of its life cycle.
[00:32:33] Steven Maranville: But with, a scale up venture, this is a venture now that's in either an emerging industry that has lots of growth ahead of itself or an existing industry. That, that, uh, entrepreneur is disrupting in ways that's completely changing the dynamics of that industry. So an example that I'll give you is, looking at the donut or the coffee industry before Starbucks came along, the coffee shop industry was a pretty mature industry.
[00:33:10] Steven Maranville: There were a lot of competitors, no one is making a whole lot of money because no one has a dominant, competitive advantage, but then Starbucks comes along and they change the narrative about the coffee shop, rather than being a place where you go to buy coffee. Starbucks turned the coffee shop into a place where you have an experience as you drink coffee.
[00:33:41] Steven Maranville: And that completely changed the way that people, utilized coffee shops, that took a mature industry back into the growth stage of that industry. That's what the real function of entrepreneurship is it's to, to change the growth of an industry. And, I think that the real key then with being a gazelle is figuring out how to systematize the process that you're using to produce whatever product or service you have so that you can maximize the growth of that venture. The key issues are. Sometimes it's a challenge that you love to have all that growth, but it can be a real challenge to keep pace with that growth. If you're having really tremendous success with it,
[00:34:44] Greg Mills: Okay. Now on the gazelle, what is the typical company look like? If there is such as far as size number of employees?
[00:34:56] Steven Maranville: that is going to make a big difference in terms of what industry you're in, what kind of business model you have. But the thing that's in common to know when you've reached a gazelle status, this is now when you are growing in multiples of revenue. It's not just growing incrementally in revenue.
[00:35:20] Steven Maranville: That's still a fledgling, you have some consistent sales going on. That's a fledgling and that's good. But when you're reaching status, we're talking about a doubling tripling your revenues every year. So this is a pretty high growth rate.
[00:35:42] Greg Mills: Okay. The reason I asked, I was thinking that it might be easier for a smaller company that is a gazelle to systematize and it would be for a larger, but then they may both use some of the same tools.
[00:35:56] Steven Maranville: And typically Lynn, a gazelle is starting out as a gazelle. They're not going to have a whole lot of employees. They're pretty low. Yeah. To during that stage though of growth, right? Because the growth in sales requires growth and organization, and that's where the problem comes in. The sales are coming in so rapidly and the size of the sales, as I mentioned, doubling tripling annually, all of this is happening so fast.
[00:36:29] Steven Maranville: And so furiously that the venture has difficulty keeping up with getting the right people, much less yelled at the right number of people and the right people, as well as the right technologies in place so that they can actually manage that, hypergrowth.
[00:36:51] Greg Mills: Okay. What kind of tools and you can speak on a macro or micro level, but, would they need to use to systematize.
[00:37:01] Steven Maranville: Again, this is going to make a difference in terms of what industry they're in, what business model they're using. But if we talk very basically about what every organization has to deal with, you're growing your structure, you're growing your processes. And so the tools within those processes are going to be different depending on what kind of a product or service that you're offering.
[00:37:30] Steven Maranville: What kind of a business model you've adopted, but processes in general structure in general is going to be new to a gazelle. Because as a fledgling look, we started out as a solopreneur. You know, let's just a one guy, one gal who's running this venture. And then the entrepreneur brings in, a team and this team has a variety of, talents, right?
[00:38:08] Steven Maranville: It's, it's unlikely that, that the team is going to be brought in a specialist. So this team needs to have skills in areas of marketing and operations in finance. But now as the venture grows, we're moving from this simple structure where the entrepreneur is the center and is surrounded by a team to now we have a hierarchy that's beginning and people are taking on more specifically.
[00:38:40] Steven Maranville: Responsibilities for which they're accountable. And that means now that the entrepreneur really has to start getting out of their own way while they were the star during the stage that they were a fledgling. Now that they're a gazelle, they have to do a lot more delegation. And if they're going to delegate, they have to have a lot of trust in the people that they're delegating to.
[00:39:08] Steven Maranville: And in order to have trust, they're going to have to have trained those people that they're delegating to. They're going to have to train them very well. So the whole management situation changes from fledgling to gazelle rather than you being the person that, to doing all of the work, to being the person who is managing the people that are doing.
[00:39:35] Steven Maranville: And that's a huge mindset change.
[00:39:40] Greg Mills: Okay. Now let's back up just a little bit and talking about mindset, what is the mindset needed to go from a fledgling to a gazelle? And then also same question from a gazelle to a unicorn.
[00:39:56] Steven Maranville: This is key. Whenever I'm working with clients, I find that where we inevitably need to start is by talking about and working on developing mindset, there is a certain mindset that is necessary for entrepreneurship. And if I take it back to, as I mentioned to you, when I finished with my MBA, there were two things that I absolutely knew about myself.
[00:40:25] Steven Maranville: I love the process of learning and I was driven by competition. What I have now learned over 36 years of working with startup and scale up ventures is that those are the two fundamental mindset, characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. Number one, they are learners. They have a desired at just a driven curiosity to figure out what this market needs and how to satisfy that need, in order to really be a successful entrepreneur, you must be the expert in your domain. It doesn't matter what, you know, what your domain is. You need to be the expert in that domain. And this can come from being school smart as well as from being streetwise. Yeah, I I've had clients that fall into both of those categories. It doesn't matter what. Your school smart or streetwise. But what does matter is that you recognize which one of those two you are and you capitalize on the way that you learn.
[00:41:40] Steven Maranville: The second after learning is that dry for competition? it is absolutely essential to treat entrepreneurship from a perspective that you are playing hardball. The best way that I can describe this is that there are two types of people that play chess. There is the person who is, a leisure chess player.
[00:42:12] Steven Maranville: They play chess for fun. And then there is the chess master, the person who plays this game to win as an entrepreneur, you're playing a game of chess. And you are not playing a game of chess against amateurs. They're in it for just the fun of playing the game. You were playing against masters who are in it to win it.
[00:42:40] Steven Maranville: And if you expect to win that game of chess, you need to become a chess master yourself,
[00:42:48] Greg Mills: Okay. Is there ever a reason, or can you describe the mindset where somebody might just be content to stay as a gazelle and not go to a unicorn?
[00:42:59] Greg Mills: Do you ever see any of your clients just choosing to stay as a gazelle or are they always, pushing up or how's that work?
[00:43:08] Steven Maranville: By its nature, a gazelle either becomes the unicorn, or it flattens off. Right. And you know, and it flattens off at whatever level of valuation that it flattens off at. I think that it's necessary to have a mindset of course, that you're always improving. But as your venture improves, there's a certain level at which it's not going to get the same kinds of multiple gains.
[00:43:42] Steven Maranville: Not every venture becomes a unicorn as you might imagine. Very few ventures become a unicorn. In fact, that's really why they're called unicorns. It's because finding a venture that reaches that level of billion dollar valuation is as rare as finding the mythical creature of a unicorn. So those ventures that reach a certain level of maturity, right?
[00:44:08] Steven Maranville: And they plateau, they're still going to be looking for ways to improve and ways to compete, but they're not going to be expecting, the big multiple gains. And, and there's nothing wrong with that because growth tends to SAP profitability. It takes a lot of money to keep that growth going once growth stabilizes.
[00:44:34] Steven Maranville: Now you can start producing profitability and the smart entrepreneur uses that profitability that's coming from. From their venture to invest that into another venture or some other kind of investment, that's going to keep that money growing.
[00:44:54] Greg Mills: I imagine you've got some pretty incredible stories of both success and failure with the various entrepreneurs that you've worked with. Are there any that stand out in your mind that you could share with us?
[00:45:07] Steven Maranville: One venture that comes to mind that your audience might be familiar with is a venture that's called purple, purple innovations. Are you familiar with them, Greg?
[00:45:18] Greg Mills: Yes. They're the mattress company, right?
[00:45:20] Steven Maranville: They are. And you wouldn't think of a mattress company as being a unicorn, a billion dollar valuation because those kinds of companies. Tend to be what we'll call a tech company, but, Greg, the more I think about it, the more that I believe every company is honestly a tech company in today's terminology.
[00:45:47] Steven Maranville: When we talk about a tech company, it's kind of a shorthand for information technology, and we associate that with electronics and digitization. But I think that's really quite myopic. The original or let's say classical definition of technology is solution that's being used to solve a problem.
[00:46:22] Steven Maranville: That doesn't have to be electronics or digitization. It's a solution to a problem, right? It's knowledge that you use to solve a problem. So any product really, uh, a, uh, a compilation of knowledge. So I'm going to just go from that point that I've got this venture here, this purple innovations that is not producing an information technology product, but they're producing a technology.
[00:46:59] Steven Maranville: It's a sweeping technology. I had connected with, one of the founders of that venture and connected with them on LinkedIn. We have corresponded a bit and one day I get a message. I telephone call from. And he's saying, we've got the kind of a problem that many ventures would really love to have.
[00:47:23] Steven Maranville: Is it, we are growing so fast right now, in like doubling their revenue annually well, he's saying that they're growing so fast that, that the board, the CEO, they're all over their heads, this company is just growing so quickly, they're way over their heads. And they need someone who will come in and ask tough questions because no one in their organization is willing to ask those tough questions.
[00:47:57] Steven Maranville: They're afraid of killing the golden goose, or the goose that's laying the golden egg. And, so I had that opportunity, to be the one who asks the tough question. And that's really the work that I do. I am the guide by the entrepreneurs side. There are so many decisions that an entrepreneur needs to make, especially at the fledgling level, but even as you're growing from fledgling to gazelle and even potentially to a unicorn, there are constantly decisions that need to be made, that any one of those decisions can destroy the ventures, future potential. And there's just no way that an entrepreneur can have all of the answers to all of the questions. If the CEOs in the largest corporations in the world need to have advice. In terms of a board of directors, in terms of consultants, even the, the people that they're working with on their senior staff, with all of their education and experience, if they need to have advisors so that they're seeing the entire landscape, how much more critical is it for an entrepreneur?
[00:49:27] Steven Maranville: Who's in this murky haze of the, fog of venturing, uh, how much more critical is it for them to have those same kinds of advisors that give them perspective?
[00:49:41] Greg Mills: I could imagine be way more critical. Can you give us an example of, such a decision that could potentially cripple a company or put them out of business.
[00:49:56] Steven Maranville: I work with a variety of fledglings that they have a product and they're trying to figure out, what's the best way to, deliver that product so that they're going to get maximum revenue and be able to make a profit from that the choice of a business model that you use can make all the difference.
[00:50:28] Steven Maranville: For example, I was working with, a venture that's located in Europe and the mission of this venture was to teach. European countries, employees, I probably, I should really say executives in corporations located in Europe, how to speak English, and particularly how to speak business English so that they can more effectively, grow their companies out of their European countries and become more global.
[00:51:10] Steven Maranville: So he had begun the entrepreneur of this venture. He had begun the venture as a solo, you know, he's by himself and he's traveling around to these different countries, going to corporations, teaching them in person. That's one business model and that was helpful to him as he got the venture started, but that was not a sustainable business model.
[00:51:45] Steven Maranville: It was going to have to change because there's only so much of him to go around
[00:51:51] Greg Mills: He became the bottleneck.
[00:51:52] Steven Maranville: Right. He was exactly the bottleneck. And so as we counseled on this and, and talked about what the options were for being able to grow his venture, there were options of, one, we could hire more people that he could train to be the trainers and send them out.
[00:52:15] Steven Maranville: And that wasn't a bad idea. That was kind of a transactional idea. It's the logical next step that there aren't enough of him to go around. So let's get some more of him to send out to these countries. But a more transformational idea is why do we need to actually travel to the location? Why do we have to, to go from one country in Europe to another, to be in the same room with them when we could actually systematize this process.
[00:52:52] Steven Maranville: If we're teaching people who speak Italian to speak English, let's create an online course for that. If we're teaching people who speak German to speak English, let's create another course for that. It just made sense that if we could systematize in that way, because so much of what was being taught was the same thing that's being taught from country to country.
[00:53:19] Steven Maranville: It's just in a different language. Let's systematize that process and there's still a human element involved. It's not just dedicated to the cores where either that entrepreneur or somebody that he's delegating that responsibility to can travel to a country and deliver, , in-person speeches that delivers the human element, that that was important to their business model.
[00:53:48] Steven Maranville: But the core of their business model could be systematized by systematizing, that business model that enabled their venture to grow by five X on an annual basis for about five years.
[00:54:05] Greg Mills: Wow.
[00:54:06] Steven Maranville: That was rapid growth. I mean, that's an example of the kinds of processes that need to be changed as you're becoming, you know, growing from a fledgling to a gazelle, it's just rethinking how you're actually doing business, not just maybe taking it to the next step, but completely transforming the business model that you're using into a totally new way of, of seeing your business.
[00:54:33] Greg Mills: This has been great. I know we're a little bit over, over an hour now, so I'll go ahead and get ready to wrap this up for you. What book do you currently recommend to move someone to either start their business or move it to the next level?
[00:54:48] Steven Maranville: Oh, I love this question because I, in spite of being blind, I am a voracious. I do a lot of my reading on audible. So yeah, those are our books that are being read to me. And what I have discovered Greg is that there are two kinds of books. There are the books that it's okay. You read it one time, you absorb everything that you need to read out of that book.
[00:55:15] Steven Maranville: And, uh, it's okay. Then to pass that book on to a friend, a colleague, but then there are those books that there's some real depth to it. And it's the kind of a book that's worth reading over and over, even on an annual basis to read that book, you know, twice, three times each year, because there are depths of insight that you're going to gain every time you read the book.
[00:55:45] Steven Maranville: One of those books for me is a classic. That's called the lean startup by Eric Rice. It talks about some of the things that we've talked about today. , the fact that, that you need to begin as a fledgling, looking for the market's needs and then finding solutions that close the gap on those needs and then testing those solutions incrementally so that you're not going all in with all of your resources and finding out that this is not the venture you incrementally step-by-step discover that this is the venture, or this is not the venture.
[00:56:32] Steven Maranville: And that book, the lean startup gives a nice step-by-step process on how to really discover it. If you have the product that your market wants using this quote, lean methodology.
[00:56:50] Greg Mills: Okay. Now, is there a piece of software or app that you recommend to people that are in the fledgling and, and gazelle levels for their business or.
[00:57:03] Steven Maranville: I think that really the, the piece of software that, and it's very general, but it is critical learned how to use an Excel spreadsheet,
[00:57:16] Greg Mills: Amen.
[00:57:17] Steven Maranville: you know, because the most critical thing to you as an entrepreneur is understanding how to read the score. And for you, the scoreboard are your financial statements. I, I'm not suggesting that the entrepreneur needs to become a CPA.
[00:57:35] Steven Maranville: That's not necessary at all, but it also doesn't require a CPA to create an income statement or a balance sheet, and you should be creating those kinds of statements so that you are always aware of your numbers. Always know the score on the scoreboard.
[00:57:58] Greg Mills: Okay. Now what's the best way for our listeners to get in touch with.
[00:58:03] Steven Maranville: I would absolutely love for your listeners to contact me on LinkedIn. I, that that would be my greatest honor. And if they'd like to learn more about who I am and what I do, they can go to Moran, Ville enterprise. So Moran Ville, M a R a N V as in Victor, I L L E enterprises.com.
[00:58:31] Greg Mills: Okay. And lastly, what's the number one piece of advice that you can give for our listeners?
[00:58:38] Steven Maranville: Always know what your next milestone is. You've got a plan. Y'all hopefully you're looking out into the future. You're venturing with vision and you're seeing into the future where you want to be. But the way that you get to that future is through a series of milestones. Know what your next milestone is, and always be working on that milestone.
[00:59:07] Steven Maranville: If you're working on something that doesn't relate to that next milestone, you've got ask yourself, why are you working on.
[00:59:19] Greg Mills: All right. Well, that's a wrap. Thank you, Dr. Steven, for being a guest on the entrepreneurs over 40.
[00:59:26] Steven Maranville: Thank you, Greg. It's really been a pleasure to talk to your audience.