The Difference Between a Mentor and an Advisor

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 8:00 AM on March 28, 2012:

I asked Jim Flowers, Executive Director of VT KnowledgeWorks, this question:

"What is the difference between a mentor and an advisor, between mentoring and advising?"

Jim Flowers kindly replied:

The Difference Between a Mentor and an AdvisorMy working definition of a mentor is "someone who provides timely, contextually relevant information."  Merlin did not tell young Arthur what to do.  He provided him with examples of potentially useful information about the world.

I also attempt to make clear for people the differences between and among information, opinion, and advice.  This set of distinctions is most easily demonstrated by a simple example.  "The sky is blue."  "Blue skies are pretty."  "You ought to go outside and look at the pretty blue sky."

Information is almost always useful.  Opinion is colored by the experiences and beliefs of the person opining.  Advice is a prescription, typically based on opinion, and is heavily loaded with the world view held by the advisor, often regardless of, or with limited relevance in the context of, the world view of the advisee.

"if I were you, I would…" is a useful acknowledgment that the advice about to be delivered is recognized as personal to the speaker, though not necessarily to the listener.

Advisors assume, at least temporarily, control of some part of the decision-making process.

Mentors assist and empower decision-making by the mentee.

More by Jim Flowers on Handshake 2.0

More about VT KnowledgeWorks on Handshake 2.0

Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0, is a VT KnowledgeWorks member company.  VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated.

When Is Time to Turn Off a Start-Up?

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 8:30 AM on May 12, 2011:

From Jim Flowers:

When is it time to turn off a start-up?Anne Clelland, the founder of Handshake 2.0, asked me a really tough question.  "How," she asked, "can entrepreneurs know when it's time to give up and move on?"

How, indeed?  What if they stop too soon?

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
- Thomas A. Edison

What if they continue, for apparently valid, but faulty reasons?

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run."
- Kenny Rogers

Eileen Shapiro and Howard Stevenson, in Make Your Own Luck, provide a surprisingly practical method for deciding whether to continue a "bet" of any kind.  You can check out the relevant excerpt here.

The clever and diverse methods we all employ to make poor decisions are catalogued by Joseph T. Hallinan, in Why We Make Mistakes.

What these and other experts point out is a fundamental human condition.  How we feel colors what we think we know.  What we believe controls the knowledge available to us. 

If you question these assertions, check out the Ladder of Inference.  And, of course, no two people see a situation through the same eyes.

So - my less-than-definitive answer to Anne's tough question is this: when it's time to quit, you'll know it.

You may well be incapable of proving it, but you will certainly know it.  You will know it in a personal way, perhaps useful and convincing only to you; but you will know it nonetheless.

To put that into my favorite metaphorical context: MOXIE is the intersection of your Power to take action and the intensity of your Purpose.  When your MOXIE is exhausted, it is time to quit.

Jim Flowers is the executive director of VT KnowledgeWorks. He writes the top-rated blog for entrepreneurs, So you want to launch a business... VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated.

If You Don't Quit, You've Got a Chance to Win as a Start-Up. That's Moxie.

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:15 AM on February 5, 2010:

Today is the deadline - Friday, February 5, 2010 - for submitting an Intent to Compete form to the  VT KnowledgeWorks Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit Business Concept Competitions - one for students, one open - by featuring a video a day on entrepreneurship by Jim Flowers, executive director of VT KnowledgeWorks.

Flowers has a series of videos on what he terms the Four Fundamental Factors of entrepreneurship.  As he explains in his blog, So you want to launch a business..., "Success or failure of a new venture is determined very early on the strength or weakness of only a few fundamental factors, four, to be exact."

Here's one of the Four Fundamental Factors from Jim Flowers - Moxie.

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VT KnowledgeWorks, a regional business acceleration center that helps companies bring ideas to market, will present the Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit on April 7-8, 2010 at the Inn at Virginia Tech & Skelton Conference Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. This two-day comprehensive workshop is for prospective company founders, entrepreneurs launching or re-vamping a business, growing companies seeking expansion capital, and individuals interested in investing in early-stage companies.

Here are step-by-step instructions for applying for the Open Business Concept Competition and step-by-step instructions for applying for Student Business Concept Competition.

Here's more about VT KnowledgeWorks on Handshake 2.0 and here's the VT KnowledgeWorks blog, Inside VT KnowledgeWorks.

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VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Start-Up Mentors Don't Tell You What To Do - They Give You Information

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:15 AM on February 4, 2010:

We're counting down towards the Friday, February 5, 2010 deadline for submitting an Intent to Compete form to the  VT KnowledgeWorks Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit Business Concept Competitions - one for students, one open - by featuring a video a day on entrepreneurship by Jim Flowers, executive director of VT KnowledgeWorks.

Flowers has a series of videos on what he terms the Four Fundamental Factors of entrepreneurship.  As he explains in his blog, So you want to launch a business..., "Success or failure of a new venture is determined very early on the strength or weakness of only a few fundamental factors, four, to be exact."

Here's one of the Four Fundamental Factors from Jim Flowers - Mentors. 

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VT KnowledgeWorks, a regional business acceleration center that helps companies bring ideas to market, will present the Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit on April 7-8, 2010 at the Inn at Virginia Tech & Skelton Conference Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. This two-day comprehensive workshop is for prospective company founders, entrepreneurs launching or re-vamping a business, growing companies seeking expansion capital, and individuals interested in investing in early-stage companies.

Here are step-by-step instructions for applying for the Open Business Concept Competition and step-by-step instructions for applying for Student Business Concept Competition.

Here's more about VT KnowledgeWorks on Handshake 2.0 and here's the VT KnowledgeWorks blog, Inside VT KnowledgeWorks.

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VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Putting Magic in a Start-Up

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:15 AM on February 3, 2010:

We're counting down towards the Friday, February 5, 2010 deadline for submitting an Intent to Compete form to the  VT KnowledgeWorks Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit Business Concept Competitions - one for students, one open - by featuring a video a day on entrepreneurship by Jim Flowers, executive director of VT KnowledgeWorks.

Flowers has a series of videos on what he terms the Four Fundamental Factors of entrepreneurship.  As he explains in his blog, So you want to launch a business..., "Success or failure of a new venture is determined very early on the strength or weakness of only a few fundamental factors, four, to be exact."

Here's one of the Four Fundamental Factors from Jim Flowers - Magic.  He uses fanatical customer support from Rackspace Email & Apps as an example.

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VT KnowledgeWorks, a regional business acceleration center that helps companies bring ideas to market, will present the Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit on April 7-8, 2010 at the Inn at Virginia Tech & Skelton Conference Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. This two-day comprehensive workshop is for prospective company founders, entrepreneurs launching or re-vamping a business, growing companies seeking expansion capital, and individuals interested in investing in early-stage companies.

Here are step-by-step instructions for applying for the Open Business Concept Competition and step-by-step instructions for applying for Student Business Concept Competition.

Here's more about VT KnowledgeWorks on Handshake 2.0 and here's the VT KnowledgeWorks blog, Inside VT KnowledgeWorks.

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VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Entrepreneurs Need to Know Their Markets

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 7:00 AM on February 2, 2010:

We're counting down towards the February 5, 2010 deadline for submitting an Intent to Compete form to the  VT KnowledgeWorks Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit Business Concept Competitions - one for students, one open - by featuring a video a day on entrepreneurship by Jim Flowers, executive director of VT KnowledgeWorks.

Flowers has a series of videos on what he terms the Four Fundamental Factors of entrepreneurship.  As he explains in his blog, So you want to launch a business..., "Success or failure of a new venture is determined very early on the strength or weakness of only a few fundamental factors, four, to be exact."

Here's one of the Four Fundamental Factors from Jim Flowers - Market.

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VT KnowledgeWorks, a regional business acceleration center that helps companies bring ideas to market, will present the Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit on April 7-8, 2010 at the Inn at Virginia Tech & Skelton Conference Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. This two-day comprehensive workshop is for prospective company founders, entrepreneurs launching or re-vamping a business, growing companies seeking expansion capital, and individuals interested in investing in early-stage companies.

Here are step-by-step instructions for applying for the Open Business Concept Competition and step-by-step instructions for applying for Student Business Concept Competition.

Here's more about VT KnowledgeWorks on Handshake 2.0 and here's the VT KnowledgeWorks blog, Inside VT KnowledgeWorks.

***

VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

To Build a Region, High-Tech is Top

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:15 AM on September 28, 2009:

Technology brings a positive balance of payments into a region. In our introduction to the Building a Region series on Handshake 2.0 - in which we're exploring the definitions of regional economic development and related issues - we asked several questions, one of which was:

"What is the relationship of the development of a local technology industry to regional economic development?"

Jim Flowers, Director of VT KnowledgeWorks answered:

High-tech companies produce top-of-the-food-chain jobs.  Their highly-educated workforce, producing high-value products and services, earns above-average wages, and fuels the local/regional economic engine by consuming the products and services of the various enterprises that involve less intellectual property, such as restaurants, specialty stores, remodeling shops, lawn services, etc. 

In addition, high-tech businesses are commonly green (no belching smokestacks); they have a long life-expectancy (being grounded in the latest stuff); and they sell principally to customers outside the region (the technology world is really flat), thereby creating  a positive balance of payments for the region as a whole.
 
So, it’s reasonable to emphasize high-tech as a catalyst for more general economic growth.  High-tech companies produce high-paying jobs.  They are green.  They are connected to the earliest stages of new markets, and thus have long life-expectancy.  They contribute positively to the regional  balance of payments.
 
Should all entrepreneurship be supported?  Of course, that’s why we have Small Business Development Centers, SBDCs and community incubators.  Each sub-sector of the overall economic “system” has unique challenges.  No one has demonstrated a successful one-size-fits-all approach to business acceleration.  In many respects, business is business, but there are very real market sector nuances to be addressed.  The metaphor is weak, but you might compare broader economic development and developing a technology industry to the practice of medicine - family practice versus specialists.

Photo credit:  Jennifer Greger

Jim Flowers and VT KnowledgeWorks were featured in the Tech Showcase on Handshake 2.0, sponsored by Rackspace.  VT KnowledgeWorks and Jim Flowers are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated.

In our Building a Region series, are we asking the right questions?  What are better questions?  What are the answers to those better questions?  We welcome guests posts and comments.  With a guest post or an idea for one, please email us at contact@handshake20.com.

Growing a Regional Economy - One Small Company at a Time

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 9:23 AM on July 26, 2009:

A guest post from Jim Flowers:

High-impact companies have extraordinary revenue growth plus expanding employment. A recent Small Business Administration study provides startling data about business formation and economic growth.

  • In the US, only 2-3% of all firms are high-impact companies (extraordinary revenue growth plus expanding employment).
  • Almost all the new jobs are created by high-impact companies.
  • Only 7% of high-impact firms have more than 20 employees; and they create about 2/3 of all the new jobs.
  • 0.2% of US businesses create 2/3 of the new jobs!
  • 93% of the high-impact companies have fewer than 20 employees; and this group creates about one-third of all new jobs.
  • Very small companies create about 1/3 of all new jobs.
  • Surprise: The high-impact firms are NOT typically fresh start-ups.
  • Less than 3 percent of high-impact firms counted in 2006 were founded within the previous four-year period.
  • It can take years for the growth mechanism to mature.

And, by the way, almost all net job loss is coming from big companies.
 
What does this mean for regional growth and economic development?

My conclusion is this.

  • Encourage the formation of new companies, particularly those built on 21st century technologies and market trends.
  • Support small companies as they work through their risky formative years.
  • Understand that this business-farming process must be a permanent way of regional life, not some quick fix to a downturn.
  • De-emphasize recruitment of large industrial relocations. Over time, they are more likely to decline than to grow.

Here’s the good news for the New River Valley of Virginia and beyond: we have a great start on building a truly entrepreneurial region.  With Virginia Tech and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center as a hub, we are poised to make the entire NewVA region a model for 21st century technology-based economic development.

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For more information, please see the PowerPoint presentation by Jim Flowers Beyond Traditional Incubation.

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Jim Flowers is the director of VT KnowledgeWorks, writes the blog So you want to launch a business..., and is the author of MOXIE and other fundamental entrepreneurial concepts.

Handshakers Can Get Moxie

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 5:00 AM on June 16, 2009:

Moxie And Other Fundamental Entrepreneurial ConceptsUsers of Handshake 2.0 - "Handshakers" - are cordially invited by Jim Flowers to save 50% on MOXIE and other fundamental entrepreneurial concepts.  MOXIE is an entertaining “must-read” for people considering first-time business start-ups.  Jim Flowers shares 40 years of insights in a light, very readable little paperback.
 
Go to the MOXIE bookstore and enter this code to receive your discount:  LNJWTFRR

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Jim Flowers is a client of Handshake 2.0.

Shaking Hands with the Real Thing - A Successful Entrepreneur - David Poteet

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 9:50 AM on March 24, 2009:

Jim Flowers shakes hands with entrepreneur David Poteet From Jim Flowers:

“Success or failure of a new venture is determined very early, on the strength or weakness of only a few fundamental factors, four, to be exact.  Those four factors are Market, Magic, Mentors, and Moxie.  If these are not "right,” nothing else really matters.  It's not that a business with some weaknesses in these areas can't survive; but it's highly unlikely that it will flourish.”

Excerpted from MOXIE and other fundamental entrepreneurial concepts.

In June, 1993, Matthew Gray at MIT ran a small program which automatically traveled links within the Web network to try to count active sites.  His small "World-Wide Web Wanderer" found around 100 sites – total.  That same year David Poteet became an intra-preneur.  He convinced Radford University to fund and launch its first website.  By anybody’s reckoning, David was on the bleeding edge of the www phenomenon.

The success (including awards) of the Radford site convinced David that his days as a designer of print graphics were over.  In September of 1994 the emerging Web was made available to all comers on a patent-free, royalty-free basis.  David looked around, thought it over, took the entrepreneurial plunge, and launched New City Media in the summer of 1995.  He rented an apartment with a high-speed Ethernet hookup and worked out of the spare bedroom.  That took some Moxie, and an understanding wife.  By the end of 1996 New City had four employees and an office; and the Poteets had their guest room back.

David recognized a dynamic, new Market opportunity.  He had the “crazy (at the time) notion that the Internet was really about communication, not just technology.”  He saw “humans making connections with each other and building communities unrestricted by geography.”  David wanted to build a “new city.”

As a young business owner David relied on a handful of Mentors to help him both to avoid and also recover from serious blunders.  He gives particular credit to David Shanks at the Radford Small Business Development Center, Ron Lussier (his first CFO), and Bonz Hart, another local software entrepreneur.

In 1999, while the internet community was booming, “rookie mistakes” took the growing company to the brink of financial disaster.  David credits his mentors, incredibly loyal employees, aggressive bankers, and a strong faith with providing the Moxie-fuel to keep him going in the face of serious financial challenges.  He put everything he had on the line, committed to success, and came home a winner.

But, beyond the Moxie, what has made New City Media special?  What is the Magic that attracts a continuing march of high-profile clients?  It is faithfulness to the inherent power of each client’s own story, dedication to esthetic excellence, and insistence upon a truly pleasant and intuitive total user experience.

Today New City Media is not a web design firm.  It is an “experience design agency” and a trusted and intimate partner to its growing list of prominent and well-satisfied clients.  It doesn’t just publicize each client’s story.  It quietly and professionally becomes part of it.

It’s a true pleasure to shake hands with David Poteet.    

Jim Flowers is the architect and Director of the VT KnowledgeWorks business acceleration center in Blacksburg, Virginia.  He is the author of MOXIE and other fundamental entrepreneurial conceptsHe is a client of Handshake 2.0.