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Fridays from the Frontline: Two UCLA Anderson MBA Alums Discuss Running a Company

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Entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing career choices; Forbes estimates that approximately 543,000 new businesses are started each month. That said, the truth is that 90 percent of startups eventually fail, which makes it vital for budding entrepreneurs to learn from their predecessors.

Recently, Erik Basu, a UCLA Anderson School of Management MBA alum and founder/CEO of Sentek Global, and John Tabis, Anderson MBA ’06 and co-founder of the Bouqs Company, shared their advice about running a company. And while both company founders offered different perspectives, their advice is valuable for any potential entrepreneur. We thought it made perfect fodder for today’s Friday from the Frontline. 

Run Your Company Like a Navy Seal Platoon

After earning his EMBA in 2001, Erik Basu founded Sentek Global, a leader in cyber security and technology solutions for government and commercial clients. According to his corporate biography, “his leadership is a key reason for the company’s perennial listing in the annual Inc. 5,000 list.” It was also behind his placement as a finalist for the Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2012 and 2014, as well as his 2015 feature as Most Admired CEO in the San Diego Business Journal.

In a recent blog post, Basu shared five military leadership lessons that he believes also work well for companies:

    1. Develop Team Spirit: Every person can strive to be the best at what they do whether that’s accounting or running a military operation. It’s a leader’s job to foster a desire to excel within an organization, which enhances morale and also translates into holding people to high ethical and performance standard.
    2. Foster Competition: In the military, everything is a competition, and that can work in a business as well – as long as it’s “healthy, friendly competition among co-workers in areas related to work.” This helps build camaraderie and pride in one’s work.
    3. Hire Renaissance Employees: One-trick ponies are not as valuable as employees who are skilled in a variety of areas. While note everyone can be good at everything, businesses benefit from a versatile workforce.
    4. Understand Your People: “A good leader recognizes the differences and motivations of people and works with them individually to help them focus those motivations on a common goal.”
    5. Work Out Together: While not everyone loves fitness, there are many benefits to engaging in physical activity together as a company. The key is to offer a variety of activities that everyone can participate in.

“I have tried to run my company, Sentek Global, from the beginning as I would a special operations unit,” wrote Basu. “The benefits have been development of a team of people who take an extreme amount of pride in working for the company, to the point where they self-identify themselves as ‘Sentekians’ and asked for company-branded workout clothes.”

Look at the Industry Landscape

John Tabis has a different outlook—for him, success is about changing the industry in which a company exists. After graduating with his MBA from UCLA Anderson in 2006, Tabis and his partner, Juan Pablo Montúfar, launched the Bouqs Company in 2012—focused on changing the status quo for the flower industry. To do this, they concentrated on three elements.

  1. Branding

According to Tabis, branding has been overlooked by the flower industry. “I found it fascinating that you have this category that is so emotionally driven, but with no emotionally driven brand,” Tabis explained to Crain’s Los Angeles. “That really felt like a big miss.” So, Bouqs emphasizes their brand and the fact that their company produces less flower waste than other companies to increase their customer base.

  1. Technology

With flowers, the secret to success is moving quickly. Flowers have a short shelf life, so Bouqs has developed technology that helps them move their flowers out within 48 hours, using special temperature and hydration control during transport.

According to Tabis, optimizing tech hadn’t yet been applied to the industry. “What got me excited about it is it’s rare you find an industry with such a broken supply chain, and no one ever trying to deploy technology to fix it,” he said.

Bouqs also leverages technology to better serve their customers, communicating with more than 100 farms around the world. “When you shop with Bouqs, you place an order and that order is routed to a farm, based on your parameters—who has what you need—and then it will match you up,” explained Tabis. “We are ecommerce on the front end but marketplace on the back end.”

  1. Relationships

Finally, relationships are their final key to Bouqs’s success. “Farms love working with us for a couple reasons,” Tabis shared. “Compared with the industry, when we say we are going to do a volume, we deliver on it. We also pay more—the average farmer is going to get 20 percent more—and we pay faster, in a timely fashion.”

MBA students at the UCLA Anderson School of Management have many opportunities to explore entrepreneurship while in school—whether through the Entrepreneur Association (EA) student organization or the Entrepreneurship specialization offered by the MBA program. To learn more, visit the school website.

This post has been republished from its original source,