The Entrepreneurial Journey Part 5 – Can You Execute?

The Entrepreneurial Journey Part 5 – Can You Execute?

The Entrepreneurial Journey Part 5 – Can You Execute?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021, by Dr. Frederick Crane

Go-to-market strategies for most new ventures are usually fatally flawed. And, they are usually fatally flawed because they are not grounded by voice of customer (VOC) research. You cannot execute successfully without truly vetting the elements of your go-to-market strategy. This is where the rubber hits the road. Planning is nothing without execution! And, executing based on assumptions and guesswork is folly. So, your execution must be validated by your customer.


First, determine your suite of offerings for your addressable market. Find out exactly what the customer wants In terms of a product/service suite. Single offerings are considered one-trick ponies to investors. They want to see a portfolio of offerings to different types of customers with different use cases. Yes, your starting point is a beach-head with a core customer and a core use case. But, you have to plan for adjacency plays – new customers, new applications etc. So, determine what will be your first offerings to the first customers and then build out from there.


Second, determine you pricing strategy using VOC. Do not use cost-plus pricing or competitive-based pricing, instead use demand-based pricing. In other words, back into your pricing using customer input. Find out exactly what your customers are willing and able to pay. In essence, do not say “our costs are X therefore are price should be Y.” Or, “our competitors are priced at ABC, therefore we should price accordingly.” No, allow your customer to set your price ceiling. They will tell you the value that they attach to your product/service.


Third, determine your channels of distribution using VOC. Engage your potential customers and determine where they currently shop for solutions like yours. And, are they happy with where they have to shop for them? You need to gain market access to your customers so find the right channels and then slot your products/services in those channels. Also, be mindful that most investors want a venture that has planned on multiple channels of distribution. Multi-channel is actually a must today so forget your notion of a single D2C channel – your own website only. Pure-plays such as this limit your access to customers; cost a lot of money re: customer acquisition; and scare investors!


Fourth, determine your marketing communications strategy by using VOC. This execution element is perhaps the most critical. The wrong media mean missed opportunities. Remember, no one knows you, your venture or your brand. You need to reach your customers. So, you need to determine exactly what media your addressable market consumes – what they read, listen to, and watch. You will not have enough budget to shotgun this. So, narrow-cast – focus – and hit your customer directly. If you know precisely the type of customers that are part of your addressable market, talk with them and ascertain their media habits. If they say, “we watch Oprah”, then, you better advertise on Oprah. If they say, I learn about product/services like this on Instagram”, then you better be on Instagram!\


A cohesive, integrated execution strategy is a must if you are going to have a successful entrepreneurial journey. And, it is possible. Just do the work and enjoy your success!


Frederick Crane serves as a Senior Project Manager for the International Council for Small Business (ICSB).

Dr. Crane is an Executive Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the College of Business at Northeastern University; Former Editor of the Journal of the Academy of Business Education; and co-founder of Ceilidh Insights LLC – an innovation management training, intellectual property consulting
and consumer insight company. He was formerly a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of New Hampshire and a Chair and Full professor at Dalhousie University.

At Northeastern, he developed the graduate new venture creation course; the undergraduate innovation course – which is now taught campus-wide; and developed the online MBA course on innovation and enterprise growth. He also serves as the Faculty Advisor for the Private Equity and Venture Capital Club. Every semester at least one of his teams from his new venture creation course goes on to commercialize a business.

Citation of Article:

Crane, F. (2021, September 7). The Entrepreneurial Journey Part 5 – Can You Execute?  The International Council for Small Business, Small Business Gazette.

Humane Entrepreneurship in Action

Humane Entrepreneurship in Action

Humane Entrepreneurship in Action

Saturday, August 29, 2020, by Ayman El Tarabishy

In guiding our actions towards Humane Entrepreneurship, we can be an organization that does not only preach about Humane Entrepreneurship but one that also practices it.

Following our reflection last week discussing the “End of the Status Quo,” we think it is time that we seriously share and discuss the steps that ICSB has and will continue to take as we endlessly strive towards a more humane-centered way of acting entrepreneurially in this world. Over the past couple of months, we have reflected upon the theory and practice of Humane Entrepreneurship. Now, it is time to move beyond thinking and imagining; now is the time to model Humane Entrepreneurship.

As promoters and upholders of Humane Entrepreneurship, what an excellent opportunity we have to exemplify the practice ourselves! Given the perspective-altering moments of the past couple months, ICSB has been able to genuinely narrow in on what is important to us as an organization, including our values, the organization’s sustainable practices, and our collective community. Flowing from this reflection, ICSB has worked to center all of our programmings around the interests of our members as well as new and pressing topics that we see as crucial to the formation of our community. We are centered around the human, being empathetically oriented to the whole person and not just the sliver of our members’ lives, which pertains to ICSB. We have attempted to curate an empowering environment, working consciously to open up opportunities to women and younger entrepreneurs. Enablement has and continues to develop as we formalize programs, bolster the ICSB Gazette, and continuously try to discover new and enticing opportunities for our members. ICSB models the equitable work of Humane Entrepreneurship as we provide discounts for members from developing nations, ensuring that all voices are brought to the table, and work to promote MSMEs for the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As we are continually attempting to show up as our best selves for this community, we recognize that we have a way to go to reach the peak of the Ideal orientation for our Humane Entrepreneurship categorization. Reaching for this Ideal status, at ICSB, we are focusing on ways that we can formalize our desire to promote a human-focused conscious while creating sustainable patterns of growth. It is from this place of discovery; we have created the ICSB Resiliency program.

This program focuses on supporting the individual. It combines ICSB’s top-level programs into one calendar and cost so that you can fully engage with the learning available to you. Finishing with an ICSB diploma and a heightened understanding of your entrepreneurial interests, this formal connection to ICSB offers and opens clear pathways of communication with ICSB leadership, which will be ever more critical as you become be a vital role in leading the ICSB community as well as the local community to the 2021 ICSB World Congress in Paris.

Being the first of its kind, the ICBS World Congress will bring Humane Entrepreneurship to “l’Exposition Universelle,” so that entrepreneurship and SMEs can take the lead in ushering the world into peace, prosperity, and happiness. This event works innovatively and creatively to bring together all voices throughout the field of entrepreneurship so that we can pull down the unnecessary walls that keep communication and support at a distance from the people that need it the most. In moving into Humane Entrepreneurship, we are building a resilient community that can succeed no matter the circumstances.

We look forward to you joining us on this journey to and with Humane Entrepreneurship. ICSB recognizes the necessity to both offer and realizes a humane-entrepreneurial orientation (H-EO), meaning that we are concurrently advocating and partaking in the widespread adoption of HumEnt. In knowing that “large-scale organizational performance effects are more likely to occur as a result of shared cultural values and beliefs that are accepted by organization members,” we must work individually for the greater collective. In guiding our actions towards HumEnt, we can be an organization that does not only preach about Humane Entrepreneurship but one that also practices it.


Kim, K., A. El Tarabishy, Z. Bae (2018). “Humane Entrepreneurship: How Focusing on People Can Drive a New Era of Wealth and Quality Job Creation in a Sustainable World,” Journal of Small Business Management 56(S1), 10–29.

Article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business

The End of the Status Quo

The End of the Status Quo

The End of the Status Quo

Saturday, August 22, 2020, by Ayman El Tarabishy

In creating sustainable and continuous cycles of growth, our enterprises must see themselves as part of a greater whole.

As transparency increases and the global population stands firmly and united in their demands to promote a just and green economy.

In December of 2019, ICSB provided a message to its entrepreneurship community, indicating the foreseeable “End of the Status Quo.” ICSB was expecting the need for a great upheaval of our past societal structure to meet the needs of an advancing world. With the growing demand for employment opportunities, attention to global health trends, and humanitarian justice, we can no longer ignore how our status quo has failed us. At the turn of the decade, we understood a need for change, and, now, almost 9 months into this Decade of Action (United Nations), it seems complicated to imagine how we managed to exist within that ancient platform.

Welcoming in this new paradigm, brought on by the need for change and subsequent crises that forced that change, we might find it challenging to articulate precisely where we are. Luckily, as always, with entrepreneurship, we can choose with which perspective we wish to engage in. Without ignoring the struggles and challenges presented by the current status of our global community, ICSB would like to participate with the new and exciting changes, unearthed by the recent crises, which can no longer be ignored. From significant alterations in education systems and the digitization of the entire world to discussions around a universal basic income, we can choose to capture the opportunities from these events. In thinking about the dramatic changes in the political world, the rise of the gig economy, and constant changes in national and international relations, ICSB has spent time reflecting on the major themes emerging from this moment.

Over the past couple of months, we have pressed ourselves to create a weekly reflection on Humane Entrepreneurship. During the struggle of the COVID-19 induced lock-down and border closures, we were uncertain of any resemblance of the present and the future. However, we felt that it was essential to build a presence that embodied our aspired future. Therefore, we have spent months creating content about the theory of Humane Entrepreneurship as we were sure that, regardless of our future, we wanted it to involve the guiding principles of care and protection for the human person as well as for our shared environment. This theory bridges the current entrepreneurial ecosystem and the ideal and future one by providing guidelines through which we might categorize enterprises. These reflection pieces have been incredible in helping shape our understanding of who we are, as an ICSB community, and where more effort and impact is needed.

The status quo is no longer enough, and in building our world anew, we might consider that we do not wish to create a new status quo, but rather that we can, instead, define our current situation through the trends it exhibits. ICSB considers four guiding themes that will push us forward into the future. The themes, being forgiveness, frugal innovation, Humane Entrepreneurship, and resiliency, represent the important topics with which we, as a community, must engage to step freely and gracefully into our future world.

In creating sustainable and continuous cycles of growth, our enterprises must see themselves as part of a greater whole. Enterprises who start to view their ventures through the perspective of frugal innovation will consequently create solutions for more people without utilizing additional resources. The businesses who are willing to honestly admit their missteps regarding employment policies, working conditions, and environmental exploitation will be able to incorporate an application of forgiveness and subsequently transition towards more virtuous practices. This execution will be part and practice of focusing on the human-specific theory of Human Entrepreneurship (HumEnt). HumEnt will ultimately leverage a firm’s, an organization’s, or a nation’s ability to create quality employment opportunities and therefore sustainably increase their wealth, which will generate patterns of resilience in the face of crisis.

As transparency increases and the global population stands firmly and united in their demands to promote a just and green economy, ICSB sees the smaller entrepreneurial units as key players in these transitions. When we begin to see the positive effects of putting an end to our past status quo, we will no longer stand for the same injustices. Micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) have an incredible capacity to incorporate these strategies and themes into their structural DNA to promote an equitable future for all more greatly.

Please follow with us as we expand our reflection series to include all players in the “End of the Status Quo.”


Article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business

The Changes in Wealth

The Changes in Wealth

The Changes in Wealth

Saturday, August 15, 2020, by Ayman El Tarabishy

We must think about if our output is wealth for wealth’s sake, where does that leave our world, our human community, our humanitarian systems, and the ecosystem?

Altering Perspectives with Humane Entrepreneurship

In the introduction to our paper, “Humane Entrepreneurship: How Focusing on People Can Drive a New Era of Wealth and Quality Job Creation in a Sustainable World,” Dr. Ki-Chan Kim, Dr. Song-Tae Bae and I posed the question, “Where — exactly — is the wealth of nations?” We lead from this specific question because it demands that we alter our perspective before even engaging with a theory of Humane Entrepreneurship (HumEnt). This purposeful act of expansion and openness allows readers to set aside their preconceived ideas and judgments that may prevent them from fully connecting with and receiving the ideas of HumEnt.

Returning to the idea of wealth, we must discuss how this expansion and change take place and what these might resemble. Going back to the basics, we will return to the World Bank definition published over 10 years ago describing wealth as “a complementary indicator to gross domestic product (GDP) for monitoring sustainable development in a country.” This definition demonstrated to the masses that wealth is not solely about specific amounts, a surplus of financial or physical resources, nor richness. Wealth now has grown to include the management of “a broad portfolio of assets,” including those that are “produced, human, and natural resources.”

As we know today, it is not just about the outcome of doing business, achieving performance outcomes, or leading a nation. Still, rather global trends tell us that it is more about how we carry out these activities. The recent and ever-evolving health and humanitarian crises have very much illuminated that if we do not make this necessary shift to achieving a virtuous and continuous ‘how,’ our world will not be able to continue caring for and housing the same amount of inhabitants that it does currently. Therefore, in other words, we must think about if our output is wealth for wealth’s sake, where does that leave our world, our human community, our humanitarian systems, and the ecosystem?

That is why we first must push for wealth to include the effort and resulting outcomes of the pursuit of sustainable development, as the World Bank indicated, as well as to initiate a conversation about protecting what we already have.

We have fallen so quickly and so easily to the charm of agile development that we have forgotten the value of the resources that we have. Luckily, Humane Entrepreneurship calls for heightened importance in the person and the community, so that with HumEnt we can begin to practice frugal innovation, which demands us to look at what we have, admit that it is enough, and use that to strive to provide equitable products and services for those who our system has systematically excluded.

Neither the evolution of our definition of wealth nor the complete acceptance and transition towards HumEnt will come first. These are two noble goals that we can think of as working collectively. Their combination will help us reframe and repurpose our business pursuits so that they have higher outcomes that involve sustainable and equitable change for all.

Let’s get started.

Article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business

Learning Lovingkindness: Three Lessons

Learning Lovingkindness: Three Lessons

Learning Lovingkindness: Three Lessons

Monday, August 10, 2020, by Marshall Sashkin

“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.” -Theodore Isaac Rubin, psychiatrist and writer (1923–2019)

Lesson 1: Breathing

Thich Nhat Hanh, an internationally-known Zen Buddhist master, observes that the importance of focusing on one’s breathing is not simply to become good at meditating. Rather, it is a first step in developing mindfulness. Coincidentally, the practice of breathing he proposed is quite similar to the activity originally designed by Herbert Benson, a Harvard physician, which Benson called the “relaxation response.” This method was, in part, based on his study of Transcendental Meditation, as described and practiced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his followers. The relaxation response is activated by following a set of simple actions that center on one’s breathing, in the context of certain physical conditions:

• Sit quietly in a comfortable position;

• Close your eyes;

• Relax your muscles, beginning at your feet and continuing up to your face; in particular relax your tongue;

• Breathe in and out through your nose;

• As you breathe out say the word “one” silently; actually, any word or phrase will do, as you repeat this action;

• When distracting thoughts occur ignore them; continue breathing and repeating the word “one”;

• Continue for ten to twenty minutes; relaxation will occur at its own pace;

• When you feel relaxed continue to sit quietly for several minutes.

Many verified scientific research studies have shown that the relaxation response has positive physical benefits. However, for the purpose of developing mindfulness the most important outcome is the elimination of distracting thoughts and the development of the ability to focus one’s mind on what is happening in the moment. These are basic requirements of mindfulness. The aim is, in part, the same as for the relaxation response: the ability to avoid distracting thoughts.

Lesson 2: Mindfulness

The aim of breathing practice is to develop the ability to focus one’s mind and attention completely on what is happening in the present moment. This is the essence of mindfulness. Thus, when asked how to practice mindfulness the monk replies, “When I eat I only eat. When I walk I only walk. When I sleep I only sleep”. Mindfulness means living consciously in the present moment, by focusing awareness on present actions.

Our minds constantly generate thoughts that take us away from a focus on and awareness of the present. This message is central to the book “Be Here Now” by the guru Ram Dass (who was once the Harvard research psychologist Richard Alpert). He refers to the mélange of thought that seems to arise unintentionally in consciousness as the working of one’s “monkey mind”. We are in this way distracted from living in the moment — the only real moment we have — and are tempted to “live” in the past or the future. Thich Nhat Hanh does not advocate forgetting the past or neglecting to plan for the future, but emphasizes how important it is to recognize that only the current moment is real and available for action.

Action is important for dealing with what Thich Nhat Hahn calls “the unavoidable realities of life”. One can do this effectively only if one is able to act without one’s actions being distorted by fear. The late guru of organizational quality, W. Edwards Deming, argued that before it is possible to ensure consistent high quality in workers’ actions one must “drive fear out of the workplace”. This is also required for mindful action. In that case, the aim is to drive fear out of both conscious and unconscious thinking. The issue of fear is the focus of the third lesson on learning lovingkindness.

Lesson 3: Living and Dealing with Fears — the Unavoidable Realities of Life

According to Thich Nhat Hanh there are certain unavoidable realities of life that typically inspire fear. Such fear is often suppressed, forced into the “basement” of one’s mind, where it can supposedly be kept from distressing the individual. Of course, just because these fears are not in one’s awareness does not mean that they have no effect. The more energy one devotes to suppressing fears the less energy one has to take positive action in the present.

There are three central unavoidable realities, each of which inspires fear:

1. No one can avoid growing old. Aging is an unavoidable consequence of living. That we fear aging is evident from the extent to which people strive to look young and from what has been called “the culture of youth.”

2. No one can avoid illness. Some illness is an unavoidable consequence of growing old. Fear of illness is evident from the extent to which denial of illness is common, even when it is obvious that one is not well.

3. No one can avoid death. Everything ends, everyone dies. Death is an unavoidable consequence of living. Perhaps the greatest fear is fear of death, of non-existence, and fear of aging and of illness simply amplify this fear.

Everyone fears some or all of these unavoidable realities, often through some degree of contact with them. As just noted, these fears are typically repressed, forced into our unconscious (“the basement” of the mind). And they often are so strong that they force their way up into the “living room”, that is, one’s consciousness. There they often distort or inhibit action.

A better approach is, instead of trying to force fears back down into the basement, to suppress them, to recognize them and embrace them with lovingkindness. This means allowing one’s self to experience the distress directly and, instead of trying to reject it, speaking kindly to it — as one might when trying to comfort a crying child — and feeling the sorrow it represents. Only then will that particular fear lose some of its strength. As a result, the next time it comes to the surface that fear will be weaker. It then becomes easier to embrace it again, to experience it with lovingkindness each time it reaches awareness. Eventually the fear will lose the strength to cause distress and generate behavior problems. It may not completely disappear, but it will no longer be so strong as to cause mental distress and behavior problems. Doing this is, of course, not at all easy.

By recognizing and embracing one’s fears with lovingkindness and thus minimizing their potency one becomes able to act effectively in the “now”. The present, the now, is the only time that one really has to take actions. Which leads Thich Nhat Hahn to point out the immense importance of one’s actions in the present. He observes that

• the only things one truly owns are one’s actions, what one actually does;

• like the realities of life, the consequences of one’s actions are ultimately unavoidable; it may be appropriate to think of this as “karma”.

By accepting ownership of one’s actions and responsibility for their consequences — as well as the inevitability of aging, illness, and death — one is able to be mindful in the present. This enables one to show lovingkindness — and compassion — toward one’s own self. Self-compassion is necessary in order to be able to treat others with compassionate lovingkindness.

Practicing Lovingkindness

The ancient Greeks used the term “agape” to refer to what is here called lovingkindness. It means the expression of love toward others with no expectations, requirements, or conditions, not even expecting others to reciprocate with lovingkindness. Another term for this is “unconditional love”. The poet Nikki Giovanni expresses well the essence of unconditional love, that is, lovingkindness, toward one’s self and others:

“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage with those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”

When mindful actions are based on lovingkindness those actions are more likely to succeed in having positive effects, that is, desirable consequences, for one’s self as well as for others.