For Sean Beers, being CEO of Korkers isn’t enough. He is also President and Co-Founder of Portland Product Werks, a licensed attorney, a Certified Public Accountant, and a Board Member of the National Crime Victim Law Institute, not to mention a father, writer, musician, and fly fisherman.
Sean will be speaking at our upcoming Entrepreneurial Summit on the tough lessons he’s learned in the entrepreneur’s proverbial School of Hard Knocks. To help prepare, we asked him to pretend that such a thing as the School of Hard Knocks actually does exist, and that he has been invited to teach there.
Sean says, “First off, there is no need to pretend. I have been working with entrepreneurs in Portland for the last several years, putting them through an unofficial Boot Camp that covers essential elements for success.”
Sean Beers of Korkers will be sharing his story on June 6 at OEN’s Entrepreneurial Summit: The School of Hard Knocks. (Learn more.)
Here’s Sean’s “unofficial” Boot Camp:
Know Your Business
Key lesson students will take away:
As the title implies, know your business. It’s amazing how little so many know about their own operations. There is a tendency for entrepreneurs to have strength in one or two areas of their overall operations, yet have no clue about other essential aspects of their business.
Generally, we as human beings spend time on those areas that we enjoy and pay less attention to matters that are foreign to us or uncomfortable, so this phenomenon is not surprising. Regardless, in order to optimize your business it is critical that you understand at some level all the moving parts and how they interconnect. That is an unavoidable reality.
Key skill the course will develop:
The “sell.” Every interaction is a sale when you break it down. As an emerging company and an entrepreneur, the name of the game is to provide a “better” product or service than what is currently available to your target consumer. This requires market-level or better performance across all functional aspects of the business, even when you don’t have the financial or human resources to make this happen.
That means “selling” your vision to suppliers, employees, contractors, service providers, etc and providing them an opportunity to be a part of the solution. It creates energy, excitement, and the desire for others to give more than they otherwise would during the critical formative stages of a business.
In the beginning of my tenure at Korkers, I would often tell prospective service providers, “Ask not what Korkers can do for you, but what you can do for Korkers.” Silly, I know, but the point being conveyed is that we are building something here… we would like you to be a part of it, so please join us in making something great. It works.
Spend time in the environment you are selling into. For most, I would take them on a retail tour to visit stores, observe how consumers interact with their category and product across channel types, and really get intimate with the consumer experience. Too often we sit in conference rooms and opine about point of sale displays or the design of a product, but we aren’t looking at the issue from within its natural setting, i..e the retail floor. Often times what looks right in a climate- and noise-controlled conference room doesn’t translate in the field.
- Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler
Particularly for those that are sourcing products offshore, this book offers great insight into how the machine really works.
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
This book touched every entrepreneurial nerve I possess. It is one of the most inspiring stories I have encountered in my life.
- The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau Roshi.
Many of us in the entrepreneurial world are severe type A personalities. In fact, if you aren’t losing sleep or mentally spiraling much of the time, then you probably aren’t an entrepreneur—you are simply referring to yourself as one. As such, the tendency to be wound so tight that you lose a larger perspective is significant. I am not as disciplined as I would like to be with regard to my Zen practice, but I will tell you that it makes a very positive difference in how I interact with others and in my own peace of mind. I spend some time speaking on the 3-legged stool of success (I’ll come up with a better name for the concept someday), which includes:
- Taking care of your business
- Taking care of your family
- Taking care of yourself. For me, Zen is one of the means I employ to try and take care of my mental health during the entrepreneurial journey.
OEN’s Entrepreneurial Summit 2014: The School of Hard Knocks
Get schooled at The Kennedy School on June 6, where Sean Beers and 15 other successful entrepreneurs will share their stories. OEN’s Entrepreneurial Summit: The School of Hard Knocks offers you a chance to learn their stories and the real-life lessons that they didn’t learn in school.