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Nuts & Bolts: Smart networking

Entrepreneurship students

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: For the past few weeks, we've been talking to listeners about the nuts and bolts of building a small business. We've learned what happens when a company grows too fast. We've talked about the lessons of failure. Where to look for capital. When it's time to hire help. And when it's time to pull the plug. Throughout, we've heard from Patti Greene, an entrepreneurship expert at Babson College. She joins us now to wrap up our series. Patti, one of the themes here is that entrepreneurs make the same mistakes again and again. Why is that?

Patti Greene: They don't talk to each other very often and so they all feel like they're the individual, that they have to figure it all out themselves, where in reality if they'd talk to each other and share what they've learned, a lot of this could just be avoided and move on to the next mistake or the new mistake.

Jagow: OK so what forums are out there for entrepreneurs to share their ideas, their wisdom . . .?

Greene: It really depends where you are and that's why I think this is not only an individual entrepreneur question, it's a policy question. It's an economic environment question. So in some areas there's excellent, excellent chambers of commerce connecting them not just one entrepreneur to another but to the rest of the community to support entrepreneurship: the bankers, those who would provide debt capital, angels, having angel networks. And then there's a number of national programs too. I've been a longtime advocate of the Athena PowerLink program. This is for women entrepreneurs but it helps create voluntary boards for them for a year to help them learn better about what they might do right, what they might do wrong.

Jagow: Well I guess some of the qualities you have to have to be an entrepreneur, you'd have to be pretty idealistic or optimistic, but that can also be a liability. So how do you balance those two things?

Greene: I think you temper your enthusiasm by having a set of metrics that we talked about in the series as well, by really knowing where your business is. I remember there was one entrepreneur years ago I worked with who didn't keep financial statements and if there was money in the drawer, business must be doing OK. And if the drawer was empty, they were in trouble. Obviously not the right way to run a business.

Jagow: But is it the case in starting a small business that you kind of have to do it your own way or is there a model that you should follow?

Greene: It's a blend. You absolutely have to keep some of your own way in it. The last thing we want is a cookie-cutter approach to creating businesses. Lots of people have the same ideas. It's the entrepreneurial implementation that actually makes it special and gives it more of an opportunity for success. It's incredibly hard work, especially in the beginning it pretty much is running your life. And that's why it's so important to think about what is it you're trying to build that fits you, your family and again this enterprise that you're trying to create.

Jagow: All right Patti Greene from Babson College, thanks so much.

Greene: It was a pleasure, thank you Scott.

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