Week 3: Building Social and Financial Capital

One of the great benefits of living and working in one town for most of your adult life is that you have the opportunity to develop a strong social network. I do feel confident in this area, as I have worked hard to develop a reputation where people trust me and my work. I have had the opportunity through several volunteer experiences to make connections with people with significant fundraising and nonprofit experience, so I feel like I have a deep well of expertise that I can call upon. I’ve also worked closely with many business leaders in my roles with local universities, so the range of consultants (and potential volunteers) I can call upon is pretty wide.

One area I have not spent a lot of time yet is developing my network in the human services community currently working on the hunger needs of my city. I’ll definitely need their support and guidance, both to minimize the duplication of efforts and to maximize the impact of the work. It would also be important to ensure that those doing the work now don’t have any impression that I’m looking to compete or “steal business” from them. There is plenty of unmet need and never enough resources. My hope is that the food truck will be seen as additive and a partner in this work.

In terms of financial capital, I’m fortunate that I have a runway before this business can launch since I’m waiting for my father to retire. This time represents my window to get organized and save/raise the necessary funds to start operations. Initial startup expenses are mostly centralized in the truck itself. The goal is to purchase it with cash, to ensure expenses are very low. Since dad will be retired, labor costs are flexible. I do want him to be paid, but he insists that while things get going this is not important. Eventually, he’ll also need the help of a sous chef to minimize the burden of preparation. This will be a great learning opportunity for a culinary student completing a required internship for their degree program. Volunteers can also be helpful with this kind of work.

My intent is not for this to be a full-time endeavor for me or my dad, so the decision whether to leave full-time employment is not the same as it is for many new entrepreneurs. If the response to the food truck is good, it would be more likely that we’d have to hire a second chef before we’d need a large, full-time administrative team. If the idea took off, and we were able to launch in multiple cities that would be a very different kind of organization that would require a lot more attention. This is probably the scale that would be required for me to leave my full-time job to focus on the organization as my primary work.

Week 2: Maximizing Wealth vs. Maintaining Control

Wasserman’s (2012) The Founder’s Dilemmas describe difficult decisions that founders must make that can have a lasting impact on both the founder and their startup. What’s more, most founders often do not recognize the options they might consider or the impact of avoiding tough decisions early in the life of their business.

Wasserman describes the wealth versus control dilemma as “the most common and difficult of them all.” On the surface, they might appear to be complimentary, but in fact they are in constant tension with each other. This counter-intuitive relationship is the result of the need for human, intellectual, and financial resources to get the business off the ground. To land the best talent, ideas, and money it is often essential to offer investors equity. This means that they share ownership, some of the risk, some of the potential reward, and voice in decision-making. The author emphasizes that it is imperative that the founder be conscious of his or her own motivation, allowing decisions to be intentional and consistent with that driving goal.

It will be very interesting to see how this dilemma develops for my own business, as the motivation is neither profitability nor control. Intellectually, for me, starting this organization is about maximizing impact. In my head I feel like if someone else has the time, passion, and energy to devote to the cause I will be happy to yield (or at least share) control. As I really reflect on this honestly, however, I think that when making decisions I would probably lean more toward control because my vision for the organization is fairly limited. I can understand how the push-pull of this dilemma can be challenging for other entrepreneurs as I review the various dynamics involved. Making the choice to limit the scope of the organization is in effect choosing control. If the need is greater and the resources are available for the taking, this choice would be the only reason not to scale up the operation to maximize the impact.

One challenge, that I can imagine being similar for others, is that I imagine this operation as a family effort. There are certainly ways to engage other organizations to maximize donations and volunteers, but doing so would mean that they would dictate some of the terms of use. On the surface, this seems absolutely fine…but the added complexity and unforeseen challenges must be expected and planned for.

An area where I may veer more toward the maximizing wealth orientation is my desire to involve smart people and a willingness to accept outside advice. As someone who has always worked on high performing teams, I feel in no way as the source of all good ideas and decisions. I am happy to delegate and support those who assume responsibility in whatever way they need to perform at their best.

I strongly identified with the desire for slow growth and he feeling that we are well equipped to launch and build without a lot of outside help. My dad is an expert chef and has been operating a mobile catering business for 15 years. This expertise serves as both motivation and a foundation for the success of our project.