By: Michael | Published: April 12, 2011 | Filed under: Events, Small Business Advice, Sunshine Suites
4/5/10 6:00 PM:
Cheni introduces himself and explains his insight into the small business process. His office space has seen 6,000 companies from a unique perspective. He gets to see to see companies before they’re in a position that even VC’s will ever see. At the point a VC gets involved the company has success. Sunshine helps these companies achieve that success.
Cheni takes some time to examine how has the office evolved. After WWII, there was a strong corporate unity. The goal of students at the time was to achieve high paying, “successful” jobs such as becoming a lawyer, doctor, etc. These careers come with a tremendous trade off. The bring in plenty of money, but don’t give you any time to enjoy it. At this point in history, entrepreneurship wasn’t a common notion. At this point in history, your office space was determined by your position on the corporate ladder. The higher you were on the food chain, the more impressive the office space you worked in. For example, if you were high on the ladder you would receive the benefits of a windowed office. Going higher than that could result in a corner window office. However, at the end of the day you were still spending 8+ hours at this office and the highlight of your day consisted of conversations around the water cooler discussing soap operas.
Enter the economic downturn. As corporate revenues begin to drop they begin to seek cheaper sources of labor. Most corporations in this position relocated countless jobs overseas, resulting in a heavy blow to the overall US workforce. Enter the vision of entrepreneurship.
Cheni describes entrepreneurs as “alphas.” These individuals have the ability to take who they are and create a brand new start for themselves if need be. If someone is in a bad predicament, they can exercise their ability to leave that situation and start fresh from scratch. The key to this process is convincing yourself that you CAN accomplish what you are setting out to do.
Cheni takes a moment to describe a job he held at the Hyatt hotel. He maintained the job for 2 years but wasn’t satisfied with the monotony of the daily agenda. He proceeded to leave and start his own venture. Certainly, some ventures were more successful than others and he admits that the first one didn’t work out as projected. Cheni emphasized that these failures need to be acknowledged, analyzed to determine what went wrong, and learned from. New York City is a place with tremendous opportunity and if something doesn’t immediately work out, gears can be shifted a lot more rapidly than in a rural environment.
A primary talking point becomes the importance of interaction. Cheni discusses how tremendous social media has become and how many new opportunities it can help erupt since it simplifies the communication process. However, nothing in the world has, can, or ever will replace face-to-face human interaction. That being said, if an entrepreneur decides to leave their home to move into an office space alone, how is this any different from working from home? The same can be said about the notion of working and running a company from a coffee shop like Starbucks. ”People are there to drink coffee and unwind, not hear your ideas,” Cheni explains. A much more ideal environment would be where entrepreneurs could network and exchange ideas, as well as services, with other entrepreneurs. It was on this concept that Sunshine Suites was formed.
At this time, Cheni begins to provide insight into how Sunshine was physically started. Himself, along with his partner Joe Raby, leased some office space, ran all the wiring, painted the walls, etc. in hopes that if they could provide a solution to the aforementioned dilemma, people would want in. Moving forward with the goals of changing the focus of office space from where you’re located in the office, to what the office can provide YOU has helped them attract initial tenants.
Ten years and over 6,000 companies later Cheni realized that clear patterns emerge in successful small businesses. He spent the remainder of the talk outlining some of these patterns that he oversaw. In addition, he gave insight into a lot of his thought process when making decisions about his own company.
Start a company, at the end. “When you start a company, the first question you need to ask yourself is ‘where and when does this end?’” Cheni insisted that without determining a clear ending, planning any other time frame for the company would become exceedingly difficult, if at all possible.
Choosing a partner: When choosing a partner, find someone who has strengths in places where you have weaknesses. Play off of each other’s talents and this can help facilitate a powerful, long term relationship. The first step in choosing a partner would be to identify your own weaknesses. Cheni suggests drawing out a “T Chart” that lists what strong points you have, and which you lack.
In one column, list out the crucial elements that you will need to succeed in business. Examples include:
- Accounting Skills
- Management Ability
In the right column, indicate whether you have the skill or not. If you find yourself lacking more than one of the above, find a partner who is able to compensate. However, partners can’t be selected on these criteria alone. If this is done, the partnership will likely turn sour and end in “divorce.” An ideal partnership will include the aforementioned traits, and your partner will have the same clear vision for the future of the company that you do.
Speaking of plans, Cheni strongly encourages businesses to set goals quarterly, or in three month chunks. This is why he feels so strongly against entrepreneurs seeking office environments that require one year minimum lease terms. A company’s needs can and should be changing over three month periods, not one year. When setting these goals you should look at WHO the target audience is, WHAT problems do they face, HOW can you help solve it and WHAT is missing from the equation that needs to be addressed.
When working with goals, the two most vital resources are time and money. The biggest goal should be to understand the VALUE of time. If dedicating time to an issue that you’re not familiar with how to address takes too long, it may be a much better investment to dedicate financial resources to this issue. This way, you can reach your goals on time which should be the most important aspect of the company. Decide who in your environment can handle a task that you don’t know much about and delegate accordingly.
Tomorrow, we will post more of the content from the presentation. Stay tuned!