Using the Tool


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The Tool has a set of guidelines for both the inventor-entrepreneur as well as for the mentor.

Entrepreneur and Inventor-Entrepreneur Guidelines

Step 1- Getting started

You are about to embark in a process of assessing your core competencies to identify areas that are strong in as well as areas that you will need to strengthen in order to lead your enterprise at this stage of its development. The first and most important part of this process, is to make sure that you really are committed to it. This cannot be something that someone on your team or board, or donor or investor is trying to convince you to do. Rather it´s a step that you yourself want to take realizing that the road to success for your enterprise depends highly on having the right leader and leadership team at the helm. The capacity of your enterprise to achieve its goals of solving a critical and systemic problem, and to reach as many people as possible, depends on having a team that can lead it toward these goals.

Here is a table of some of the soft and hard skills that all CEOs need to lead their businesses. Review them carefully. Do you think you have most of these skills? Which ones do you believe are strongest? Need work?

Your head Your heart Your brain
Think Strategically
Make Informed Decisions
Focus on key next steps
Constant learning
Think creatively and manage risk
Find the right people
Delegate and trust your team
Inspire and motivate
Be honest and consistent with yourself and others.
Financial analysis
Business modeling
Basic engineering
Market research
Metrics
Your gut Your mouth Your ears
Resilient and be able to weather hard times
Use your intuition when decisions are not so black and white.
Be resourceful and self-reliant
Communicate and convey ideas clearly
Sell and be persuasive but know when customer if not ready to buy
Networking
Give and receive feedback
Know your customer

This process of self-discovery is of course not an easy process. It’s a challenge for anyone in a leadership role. It will require you to be honest with yourself and open to the outcomes. To help with this, we recommend that you work with a mentor. The mentor can be a great guide – asking the right questions, challenging you to think differently, reassuring you on what you are doing right, and supporting you as your try to make the needed changes.

Securing an effective business mentor can have a profound and fundamental impact on your enterprise, particularly for those at the early stages of an enterprise and aiming to have high rates of growth. A recent article suggests that there are five ways to make the most of business mentoring:1

  1. Understand why you need or want this mentor. Usually, the mentor is someone whose knowledge and/or experience exceeds your own to such an extent that their input can have a substantive positive impact on your business´ performance and your ability to run it.
  2. Know where the issues lie. Although the mentor should be able to indicate some of the areas that you might want to focus on, you are in the best position to understand your business and the goals that you want to achieve. The mentor is there to help guide you toward these goals.
  3. Have the right attitude. You need to enter this relationship with the right mindset and attitude. It’s imperative that you not become defensive and that you see the mentor as someone who is trying to help you carry your business forward, and has valuable advice to give you.
  4. Know how your mentor can add value. It’s important to understand the particular area that you mentor is helping you with. In this case, it´s to help you assess your core competencies as the CEO of your enterprise and to make changes in order to achieve its growth.
  5. Find the time. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day challenges of running your enterprise and putting larger picture challenges in the back burner. The mentor is there to help you assess larger strategic issues, and you need to make sure to find time for this process

1.Five Ways to Make the Most of Business Mentoring, Startacus Admin. https://startacus.net/culture/5-ways-to-make-the-most-of-business-mentoring#.VbbUU_lVikr
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Step 2- Prepare and take the survey

You should reach out to your mentor to discuss the Inventor-Entrepreneur Tool and the process that you be undertaking in the coming weeks.

He or she will walk you through the overall steps of the process- from self- discovery of your core competencies – both those that are strong as well as those that need to be strengthened.

Then he or she will invite you to complete the survey. This should take 40-50 minutes. Please take your time in responding to the questions and try to be as honest with the responses as possible.

Step 3- Reviewing the assessment report and begin the conversation with your mentor

The survey will send you a report of your scores- Very High / High / Medium / Low / Very Low. You will have the option to download the report as a word document. Otherwise you will receive the report in your inbox.

Please carefully review the scores that you received. Is there anything that surprised you? Anything that you might want to change.

Download the Talent Action Plan Template, to write down notes to prepare for the conversation with your mentor. Carefully review the reflection questions from the Report. Take time to respond to some of these questions. Do any of them seem particularly relevant? Use the template to write down which ones would you like to work on. Also jot down any doubts you might have regarding the scores. And any potential next steps you would like to take to address competencies that need to be strengthened.

The mentor will soon schedule a time to begin a conversation focusing on the responses to the survey.


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Mentor Guidelines

The first step in the mentoring process is to have a conversation with the inventor-entrepreneur regarding the tool and the process that it entails. Ideally, the inventor-entrepreneur would reach out to you to ask for this assistance realizing that he or she is at a point in the stage of the enterprise where this is needed. However, even in those cases where you are initiating the process, it’s critical to ensure that the inventor-entrepreneur truly wants to go to this process and sees the benefits that it will bring to him or her.

Step 1- Review core competencies

To prepare yourself, please review the core competencies that we are suggesting should be present at the early stages of the enterprise process.

Do a high level assessment of which skills you believe the inventor-entrepreneur is strong in and which areas you believe he or she might have some gaps.

Step 2- Review set of common flaws

It might also be helpful to review the common entrepreneur flaws that often emerge at each stage of enterprise development. The following short descriptions of these common flaws can help you to determine whether the inventor-entrepreneur that you will mentor has or could potentially have some of these flaws or challenges at the particularly stage that they are at or will evolve towards.

Validate

If I do it myself, it will be done right. CEO is a great implementer but not a great team builder.

This inventor entrepreneur has a very clear vision for his enterprise. He understands the market and how to get his product or service to the market. He has a business model that seems to have the right cost/price structure and a dependable production/deliver system. His main issue is that he tends to micro manage and wants to run every detail of the business himself. He doesn’t trust that his small team really has the capacity to independently run things so he hovers over them and often doesn’t delegate decision-making authority. He prefers to surround himself with a more junior team members that are there to implement tasks rather than to actually take over operations. He spends far too much time on the internal and not enough on the external- building partnerships and attracting donors and investors to provide the needed capital.

The What and the Why, but not the How: CEO cannot convert vision into an actionable plan.

This inventor/entrepreneur likes to be out selling her vision. She is a great communicator and is able to convince stakeholders to support her vision and its impact. The potential of the business is great, so she has many followers who want to see it succeed. She is continually being asked to present at conferences and she has been invited to enter several accelerator programs. However, she has difficulty operationalizing this vision into a business that is working. Although she works hard and dedicates hours to the business, it is not always time well spent. She often focuses on the social side but not on the hard numbers side. She doesn’t really understand the need to develop systems and would prefer spending time focused on the customers demand or on new marketing ideas, then on validating the product and ensuring that the cost-revenue structure works. Nor is she always available to sit down with the staff to really analyze if the business is working.

Other stages
Start Up

My invention or the highway: CEO falls in love with their idea and is not willing to refine the product to adjust to user needs.

This inventor or inventor entrepreneur is convinced that his or her product/technology is needed by low income communities in their country or region. The product is extremely innovative and as far has he or she can tell, no one else has thought of it. He is committed to bringing this technology to the market. However, the customer validation done so far with 250 potential users indicates that the customers find the product very hard to use. They have other options to solve their problem – that are less eco-friendly, but easier to use and access. The inventor is not very open to exploring product alternatives. He or she believes that he can convince the customers and that they will eventually begin to purchase it.

Inventing is my comfort space: CEO does not have business experience and has difficulty remaining focused on selling the product.

She has many ideas for other products that would also benefit the community. She would rather spend time in the laboratory or workshop then out selling, or creating a small business that works. She spends very little time assessing the financial side of the business to make sure that the costs can be kept to a minimum. She has directed most of the capital that she was given by her angel investors to the production side and has left very little for the marketing or business operational side. She also questions when her partner tries to encourage her to spend more time on these activities, and tells him that he should do this on his own.

Prepare to Scale

It needs to go through me. CEO becomes bottleneck- can´t hire effective leaders or let go of authority.

This inventor entrepreneur likes to oversee all enterprise areas and approve all deliverables. He has a hard time identifying senior talent because he finds that they don’t always agree with all of his ideas. He hired a COO to run the company but questioned most of the changes they wanted to put into place in order to expand operations. The CEO felt that it was money misspent. He also hired someone to lead the Marketing Strategy but didn’t approve the budget to support it even after it had been approved by the CFO. As a result, several of the senior management positions are often vacant which causes delays and inability to grow the business. He is opposed to externalizing the production process to a third party in order to save on costs and ensure timely delivery. He would rather keep this in-house. He himself is not always available to review and approve aspects of the business which causes delays and even leads to losses in sales and missed opportunities.

I will be the face of the enterprise. CEO choses wrong role for herself and becomes a hindrance to scaling.

She believes that as CEO she should be out selling her cause and her enterprise. She lets go of the technology side, which is where she would rather be, and spends most of her time making presentations, meeting with donors and investors and identifying supporters. However, her talk is usually focused on the product side. She spends most of her presentations focused on the engineering aspects of the product and what it is designed to do. Her eyes light up as she talks about how sustainable and easy to use the product is and never seems to get to the scaling plan- the new market segments, projected sales, needed financing in order to build the team and set up systems for growth. As a result, she usually does not succeed at closing a deal, and often not even at getting the person to a next stage of conversation. There is someone on the team who is clearly suited for this role, but the CEO doesn’t feel comfortable handing this role over to anyone.

Step 3- Introducing the survey

Now contact the inventor-entrepreneur to explain the process to him or her. Preferably you will do this in person and show him or her the diagram of the four stage process and what we are trying to achieve. Ideally this would have been discussed early on in your relationship, or as part of an annual performance or mentoring plan. We suggest that you don’t elaborate on the core competencies before the inventor-entrepreneur has had a chance to complete the survey since we don’t want to bias them in their responses.

Please direct them to the survey. Decide with the entrepreneur if they consider themselves to be at startup, validate or prepare to scale phase. They should indicate this in the survey. The results are not meant to be written in stone, but rather as starting point for the conversation. Also explain that you will follow up after they respond to the survey to begin to discuss the results. Provide them with 1-2 weeks to complete the survey. It will take no more than 40-50 minutes.

Step 4- Reaching out to team members

It’s a good idea to get some input from other team members regarding the inventor-entrepreneur in relation to some of the core competencies. The most objective way to do this is to ask them questions from the survey that you believe are relevant in the case of the inventor-entrepreneur. It’s key to gather the team´s perspective on:

  • The amount of time that the inventor-entrepreneur is spending on day-to-day operational tasks or productive development tasks versus strategy and networking.
  • The commitment of inventor-entrepreneur to refining and proving the business model based on customer feedback and a cost –revenue structure that works.
  • Whether the inventor-entrepreneur is delegating tasks to the team and the degree to which he or she trusts the team to do these tasks while also providing needed input and guidance.
  • Whether the CEO has the capacity to chart a path forward for the enterprise and build a network of stakeholders who support and are helping the enterprise to reach its goals.

Please use the Notes Section of the Tool to jot this feedback from the team.

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Step 5- Reviewing survey results and preparing the conversation

The survey will send a self-assessment report both to you and to the inventor-entrepreneur that includes the final scores as well as a set of reflection questions. Each core competency will be assigned a score: Very High / High / Medium / Low / Very Low. Please carefully review the scores that the entrepreneur received. Make sure to assess how he or she responded to the questions and whether you agree with these responses based on your knowledge of the entrepreneur.

Download the Talent Action Plan Template (in the Developing the Action Plan), to write down notes to prepare for the conversation with the inventor-entrepreneur. Review the reflection questions for each core competency, and decide which ones you believe are most relevant to go over with entrepreneur. Please add any additional questions you might have, particularly for those areas where the inventor-entrepreneur received lower scores.

Also review the responses from the team questions to see if they are consistent with the responses of the inventor-entrepreneur. Where there is lack of consistency, develop questions that might help to uncover why the inventor-entrepreneur has a different perception than that of his or her team members. Getting perspectives of the CEO and team to align is critical to the process.

Finally, jot down some possible next steps on the core competencies that need to be strengthened. This will help you and the inventor-entrepreneur to develop the action plan.

The results of the assessment will determine the number of sessions you should plan to have with the inventor – entrepreneur. You should program around 20-30 minutes per competency area. However, if there are areas that really need to be assessed, the session might require more time. Also, you might decide with the inventor-entrepreneur that you will only be able to focus on 3-4 of the core competencies for now- those that need greatest attention. Important to allow time for a substantive topic.

You can use the short video testimonials (in the Resources Tab) as a way to start the conversation.

Step 6- Consider the transform, transition, transfer options

Consider three possible ways to fulfill the gaps in each of the core competency depending on the final score ranges- Very High / High / Medium / Low / Very Low

Transform: Does the inventor-entrepreneur have the capacity to transform and gain the needed core competency and stay on as the CEO?

Transition: Would it be better to transition the responsibility to someone on the team that has this core competency? Or to transition the role of CEO to someone else on the team?

Transfer: Is it time to actually consider having the inventor-entrepreneur transfer the technology or business to an already existing company.

Transform Transition Transfer diagram