1) Global entrepreneurship is increasingly the path millennials want to follow in pursuit of success, and they are willing to struggle and take risks to follow it.
I have been giving this lecture every year or two for the last several years, to a classroom of Wharton students studying emerging economies. When I gave this lecture several years ago, and discussed what I was doing, more expressed interest in pursuing careers in investment banking. Some questioned whether I should be spending more time serving large institutions instead of working with entrepreneurs. Now, many more people were interested in someday forming multinational ventures, and fewer were interested in private equity, investment banking, hedge funds, and management consulting.
While I believe in the merit of spending a few years working for an established organization, it is thrilling that so many students see this as a viable long term career trajectory. Multinational entrepreneurship is something that one is more successful in when one has a web of connections pursuing similar endeavors. I have yet to learn of a lone wolf success story in this arena.
2) Define buzzwords within your specific context.
When one student asked me to define scale within the context of my lecture, it reminded me that we need to define and redefine the terms that we use to articulate our vision, especially when they are central to the argument that we put forth. So I got "down to the nitty gritty" and gave examples of what scale means in a very practical level for SH International.
Scale means that, instead of putting together events in multiple cities and countries to educate others in multinational entrepreneurship, like I used to, I made an online training. This means that instead of spending money on airfare, and missing half of my audience because they couldn't make a specific day and time, I can work with entrepreneurs in the US, Brazil, France, Canada, South Africa, and Sweden, all without leaving the country and spending a dime on airfare. And all without coordinating dozens of schedules.
Scale means that I can get a US product into distribution across the Middle East, by working with partners that have resources far beyond those of my small company (where I am the only real employee, but work with an advisory board, partners, subcontractors, interns, etc). And that I can do that all without herculean strength. This is critical, because how many of us actually have nerves of steel? I believe in multinational entrepreneurship strategies whereby the ordinary person does the extraordinary. I do not believe in only having these aspirations if one has rare superhero DNA to back them up.
Scale means building a mechanism which can be built up and out rapidly without incurring rapidly increasing expenses at the same time. For the multinational entrepreneur, it's a little bit of magic - turning almost nothing into something, by using specific strategies for doing so. The Multinational Entrepreneur Training teaches these strategies.
3) People do not know where to begin.
While many in the room were interested in pursuing multinational entrepreneurship, one raised his hand to express that he did not know where to start. A seemingly simple question was one of the most difficult to give a satisfying answer to. Since multinational entrepreneurship is not a typical path, there is no typical way of finding it. Instead, I encouraged the students to follow their interests and to be curious about the world around them. That eventually might lead them to the right opportunity. I gave them an example of a student who recently graduated from Wharton and is now a client of mine, who had made lots of friends from Ghana during his classes. He had visited them and seen the opportunity. And he could not resist being attracted to it, and is now building a business across three continents mostly in agricultural trade and technology.
Of course, SH International has a lot to share with potential multinational entrepreneurs, to spark their curiosity and interest, and help them orient themselves on this path. We work with entrepreneurs that are already making millions of dollars in revenues, and other entrepreneurs that have barely started a business plan. It's the desire for global understanding, interaction, connection, and yes, impact, that drives many multinational entrepreneurs, and that make it a joy to serve them. We do not judge our clients by their current revenue levels, and whether they have fancy rolodexes (does anyone still have a rolodex? Do millennials even know what one is?)
That's enough reflecting and rambling for today. Keep learning and growing!