Loren originally began as a journalist and worked at many magazines that unfortunately no longer exist. In 2002 he found himself at Inc. magazine, a company established in 1980 that preceded the golden era of entrepreneurship and still retains its place as a global leader in the world of entrepreneurs.
He fell in love with the role. Particularly the part where he got to chat with inspiring and creative entrepreneurs on a regular basis and learn from them. Prior to this, he had limited business journalism experience and thought business was on Wall St. This time he was learning about how some risked their own money to build a business instead of risking others.
After 6 years he began work at the New York Times where he was told to establish their entrepreneurial web page and improve the company’s overall coverage of entrepreneurship. After doing this for 6 years, he was then employed by Forbes, where he has occupied the Senior editor of entrepreneurship role ever since. He notes that Forbes has always been a magazine about entrepreneurship, but he felt that he could help improve coverage of the start-up ecosystem and improve online aspect.
Patterns in entrepreneurial world
One of the first comments made was the misleading notion that we are in the golden age of entrepreneurship. He notes that fewer companies are being started on average. compared to times past. A possible explanation cited is the increase of student debt, nonetheless he admits that it is difficult to be clear as to why. Another interesting point he makes is that despite there being much more support for entrepreneurship, rates of failure are as high as ever. He attributes that to people ‘swinging for the fences.’
Many people are not content with operating a sustainable small-medium sized business, but instead are aiming to become the next Amazon, Airbnb or Uber. Therefore they throw all their money into scaling the company quickly and acquiring Venture Capital (VC) backed funds and in many cases the company fails.
This also was a point highlighted during the discussion, that investors are also changing the way they look at companies before investing their money. Many investors will now want to see a business with a sustainable idea as well as an operational aspect before getting involved. However, this has not been the focus of Mr Feldman at Forbes.
As he duly notes, only 2-3% of businesses are VC backed, therefore he is searching for those great private businesses that are looking to operate sustainably and have veered away from the often short-lived VC model. One of the programs they have at Forbes is called Small Giants and does just that. It lists 25 companies annually, that are doing something special and are industry leaders, privately owned and mainly run by the people who own it.
One awesome example of this is the company SRC Holdings in Springfield, Missouri. They were at one time an international harvesting company that eventually went broke in the 1980’s. The employees came up with a quick decision to buy it and it is still run as such, an employee-owned company. For more on SRC Holdings incredibly unique story, checkout the video below and https://www.forbes.com/sites/petercarbonara/2017/04/18/gaming-the-system-how-one-manufacturing-company-saved-itself-with-radical-transparency-and-created-a-slew-of-blue-collar-millionaires/#4e33b9773f83.
Mr Feldman reminds entrepreneurs that nothing can really prepare you to brace for the impact of running a business. It is a steep, but rewarding learning curve that you have to figure out yourself. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses well is a massive aid. This way you can work to your strengths and understand where your blind-spots lie. You can either work to improve them or find people that can help fill the void to free you up for other aspects of the business.
One important aspect is the loneliness of the entrepreneurial journey, therefore it’s important that you find yourself a community. It is difficult to talk to people within your circles about these ideas, unless they are directly involved in the space. Seeking out people nearby who are on a similar journey can make it a bit more familiar and help ease the burden of isolation.
On that note, understand that entrepreneurs are some of the most generous people with their time. So if you ever need a hand, often you will find many who are willing to give you advice or at least tell you what pitfalls to avoid. It is truly remarkable how willing the majority of entrepreneurs are to help.
It was a real delight having Loren on the show with his exclusive insight into an ever-growing startup ecosystem. To see more of his work follow him on Twitter: @lfeldman
You can also checkout his personal podcast at: https://businessradio.wharton.upenn.edu/programs/mind-your-business,-with-the-wharton-sbdc
For the full episode of this podcast, checkout: http://www.zonalaut.com/podcasts/loren-feldman/