Editor’s Note – Welcome to “Leaders Talk with Dave Hall” a series of interviews posted every third Wednesday of the month here on the DMG blog. The series features experienced business writer Dave Hall interviewing an incredible line-up of DMG clients, giving you an inside look on what makes them tick. The questions will surround their success, their experience in their sector and the type of characteristics that drive them to be leaders in our community.
Last month we featured President of Rediscover Tours Inc. Jeff Aasgaard. This month we’re going a bit more local and speaking to President & CEO of Michigan’s The LEE Group – Mark Lee.
Capital, confidence and strategic planning are among the major obstacles facing entrepreneurs seeking to step outside the corporate world and strike out on their own, said a marketing consultant with years of marketing and branding experience.
Mark S. Lee, president of The Lee Group, a marketing, branding and communications consulting firm, said many people have great ideas but most don’t know which way to turn in order to transform their dreams into reality.
“It’s the most significant challenge that entrepreneurs face outside of raising sufficient capital,” said Lee, who hosts Small Talk with Mark S. Lee on WXYT AM 1270. “You need to develop a plan in order to execute the idea.
“This could include talking with friends or colleagues and perhaps even developing a small network of advisors to help you formulate the plan,” said Lee. “It doesn’t have to be a formalized market-research initiative but you do need to have some idea of where you’re going before you start.”
Lee, who has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s in business administration from Eastern Michigan University, said that entrepreneurship is growing exponentially and that small businesses in the Detroit-Windsor area are the engines which drive the economy.
“Job creation today is largely the result of small business growth,” said Lee, who is also an adjunct professor/guest lecturer at Eastern Michigan University.
“In my class of students, as many as 30 per cent have said they want to be entrepreneurs and run their own businesses as quickly as possible,” said Lee. “In my days at school, that percentage would likely have been zero.
“We were all focused on chasing the corporate dream,” said Lee. “But millennials want to make a difference right away.
Technology and the current generation which grew up with it has allowed that to happen.
“The current generation is the first one which grew up completely immersed in technology and you’re seeing the results of that in the number of high-tech startups,” said Lee.
Lee said that organizations and initiatives such as TechTown at Wayne State University and the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator are invaluable in providing advice and support for startups.
“There’s a lot to be gained from the collegiality of working alongside fellow entrepreneurs because you can bounce ideas off each other,” said Lee. “There’s nothing wrong with home offices but exposure to like-minded people can also be of immense help.”
Beyond the ideas and the planning, though, lies access to financing and this can also be a barrier to success.
Lee said that he’s often asked by entrepreneurs where they should turn to access financing.
“Banks, angel networks, friends, partners and venture capitalists all have their pros and cons,” said Lee. “It often comes down to how much of your company are you willing to give up in order to have access to financing.”
A struggling local economy can often have the effect of spurring entrepreneurship because many laid off workers invest their buyout money in small businesses while others are forced into trading their regular weekly wage for the uncertainty of business ownership which can ultimately be more rewarding.
“It’s a fertile breeding ground for entrepreneurs because many people seek to leave the corporate world and run their own shop,” said Lee.
But Lee, who contributes a regular blog to Crain’s Detroit Business, said self-confidence, capital, a willingness to work long hours and planning remain the keys to any successful small business.
For more information on Lee and his company, visit www.leegroupinnovation.com.