For entrepreneurs and innovation leaders, developing and leveraging your network can be the key to success. The Executives’ Club of Chicago hosted a panel discussion on collective entrepreneurial creativity, delivering how connections can be used to advance projects and ideas. A partner with Clareo and professor at the Kellogg School of Management, Robert Wolcott, moderated a panel of leading entrepreneurs and innovators including OKCupid.com founder and Match.com CEO Sam Yagan, OpenTable founder Chuck Templeton, 1871 founder Howard Tullman and senior fellow at Farmhouse/Leo Burnett Craig Sampson. “Be authentic by being authentic” said Tullman. Whether engaging with new connections or promoting your business on social media, Tullman emphasized putting real care and concern at the forefront. “If you farm out your social media, you’re unsuccessful in a big way. You want people who care about your business responding to concerns. People on the outside fail; we’re looking for real connections.”
Yagan, sporting a Match.com T-shirt, added that authenticity matters when representing your own company. “I’m an evangelist, not a sales person. I always want to be comfortable wearing the t-shirt from my company.”
For real engagement and connections, the panel preferred to get out and meet people, rather than rely on social media, which tends to be transactional. “Never underestimate anyone; it’s about the long term,” Templeton said. Yagan explained, when meeting new people, he tried to think how he can help them from the start. Not every relationship will pay off, he cautions, but the return for the few that do is worth the time.
For bringing entrepreneurship and creativity into large organizations, the panel agreed that culture comes from the top. Leadership must make failure an okay option as long as the organization learns from mistakes. This includes meeting customers and ensuring the proposed solution fixes a real pain point. Regarding minimum viable product launches Templeton said, “If your product really solves a pain point then people will use a half-baked product.”
As advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, the panel agreed the challenges of starting a business are not for everyone. “A lot of people want to be an entrepreneur to be an entrepreneur,” said Yagan. “That ensures disaster. Entrepreneurship seems glamorous; there is a success bias. The reality is often depressing and sometimes sucks. The worst part is you can’t leave. You can’t just decide to give your two week notice.” This led to an emphasis on getting into businesses and learning before starting your own. “Be a role-player first,” said Tullman. “Build your craft and networks. Don’t start as the entrepreneur. This is an idea you can’t easily do from scratch.”