Unleashing a spirit of entrepreneurship can happen anywhere, but it doesn’t typically happen by accident. 

It requires a specific environment where innovation, collaboration, cooperation, and regionally-based support systems are aligned to create the synergy that produces economic impact.

A thriving and continually evolving entrepreneurial ecosystem requires integrated components, a commitment by community leadership and individual champions, and a full continuum of entrepreneurial support services and organizations to move new ventures from the idea stage into business maturity.

Creating an environment where entrepreneurs can survive and thrive is essential. The challenge is that if you’ve met one entrepreneur, you’ve met one entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, dream big and small, and have many reasons for starting the journey. Building companies that last takes a community, but it always begins with the entrepreneur—the person or persons that made something out of nothing.

Whenever you think of lasting companies like IBM, Proctor and Gamble, and Disney, you get it. They have company cultures that drive them to success. They have core fundamental beliefs and ways of being, and they invest in their people. These successful, long-lasting companies work on as well as working in their business. They are intentional about it.

By working on their company, they are building something that can last. 

The organization becomes the most crucial aspect of the business. As Jim Collins wrote in his book, Built To Last, companies built around single visionary leaders are time tellers. However, companies built to prosper far beyond any single leader or product cycle are clock builders.

These lessons are tricky, though. Mentors that have been there and done that can be tremendously helpful. We have great mentors worldwide now that we are zoom-enabled to help with leadership and organizational development. The leaders of these startups and growth companies are busy, busy people working in their long business hours, long weekends, and balancing many priorities. Meeting them when they can, in ways they are most comfortable, helps. The best mentors share their experiences, their successes and failures, and their vetted contacts to help. They help the new leader see the organization as more than a place that delivers products and services.

A community that invests in its entrepreneurs wins. 

Winning companies are what matters most in terms of creating broad-based propriety for a community. By winning, I mean they have found a way to solve today’s most pressing issues. They continually provide meaningful value to their customers in ways that set them apart in the marketplace. They do this in sustainable organizations, with people that contribute disproportionally to their organizations and communities. These homegrown companies create all the net new jobs in the US, and they need to be treated like rock stars of economic development.

Companies that last do five things extremely well:

  1. They consistently and continually match their products and services to what their customers truly value
  2. They have aspirational goals and objectives that drive what they do every day. 
  3. They are strategic about where they compete
  4. They differentiate themselves in the market
  5. They are astutely aware of what capabilities they have to have now and in the future to succeed.

As a sailor, I often think of this as Velocity Made Good (VMG). 

It’s a measure of how fast you are closing in on a mark or destination. It’s not a measure of how fast the boat is going. It’s the vector of your speed and direction. Going fast in a direction that doesn’t get you to the finish line before your competition isn’t a good choice—choosing the right course for the conditions, current and future produce wins.