In preparing for my speaking tour of Japan last month, it was necessary for me to do considerable research in order to deliver valuable information to the audience of academics, government officials, students and young professionals, who would be attending five events, which the U.S. Embassy, Japan had scheduled. Since the Embassy is encouraging entrepreneurship in Japan, and the program tour was scheduled for March, Women’s History Month, The Embassy’s Cultural Program Specialist Tatsuo Hayakawa, requested that I speak on “Unique Business Models of American Women Entrepreneurs.” Tatsuo’s recommendation was truly inspired. Not only did it inspire the audience, when I presented it, it inspired me!
In doing the research, I learned so much. First, while I was familiar with the more traditional business models of such companies like Curves (franchising) and Spanx (creator), I was less familiar with the business models and competitive edge of companies like Flickr, Huffington Post and Media Bistro, among others. I learned about the freemium model, the multi-sided platform model and others. I found a book that does a great job of illustrating the business models of today’s most exciting enterprises – “Business Model Generation” (Wiley), which was prepared by a collaboration of 470 practitioners from 45 countries. Reading it was like getting an MBA in business models.
In presenting this information to my audience , I also wanted to communicate how vital entrepreneurship is to the economy of Japan, and every nation for that matter. I found a study by the Kaufmann Foundation that showed how startup firms are key to creating jobs and impact economic vitality. Of course, most of us know that, but I didn’t actually know the rationale and the statistics that back up this claim. According to the study, large corporations look for ways to reduce the number of jobs in order to be more productive, and reduce expenses. New entrepreneurial firms must hire in order to grow. According to the US Census, virtually all net new jobs in the U.S. are created by companies in their first five years of existence or by startups in their very first year. Firms in their later years also hire, however, they also eliminate many more jobs than they create.
Tatsuo wisely requested that I include in my presentation, tips for starting and growing a business. Between my own experience in launching and running 4 businesses, and having been educated by the more 100 business experts speaking at conferences presented by the Women’s Leadership Exchange during the 10 years I was actively involved, this part of the presentation required little research. However, I wanted to include the most critical tips, that often fly under the radar, when people are launching or growing a business. Watch for my next blog in a week or so, when I will share some of the tips I presented in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.
I especially learned from the multitude of questions I was asked following the presentations. I was overcome by the enthusiasm and heartfelt interest of the men and women of all ages attending the programs. Their challenges are often different than ours, due to cultural differences.
From a speakers point of view, it is certainly takes a lot more work to be handed a topic that isn’t on your ‘most popular speeches’ list and requires research. But look at the benefits. I learned so much and now – if the reviews of my Japanese presentations are an indication – I can add “Unique Business Models of American Entrepreneurs” to my ‘most popular’ list. — Leslie Grossman, www.lesliegrossmanleadership.com, co-founder, Women’s Leadership Exchange