William Sahlman: If you view all problems as opportunities, and then you think about ways to re-engineer a process, then I think you find opportunity is absolutely everywhere.
Opportunities come in many different forms. So, for example, I could get someone to answer a series of questions, like “What’s the worse customer experience you have?” And could you go through systematically and talk about what was wrong with that customer interaction and ways in which we might improve it? So if you start with a problem, indeed, if you view all problems as opportunities, and then you think about ways to re-engineer a process, then I think you find opportunity is absolutely everywhere.
We can train people how to get control of resources like money or to recruit and build teams, or to structure sensible strategies.
Going back 30, 40 years, people thought about entrepreneurship and were trying to figure out what was different about these folks and the activities they were engaged in and they had a number of theories. One theory said it was a personality trait. In fact, some research said you had to have a domineering mother to be an entrepreneur. Now, I often in audiences ask how many people had a domineering mother and some portion of the audience always says yes.
"When you are part of a failed venture, as long as you didn’t lie, cheat, or steal," says Sahlman, "then you’re considered experienced. And in fact, to the extent people learn from the mistakes that they made, then they can go on and do something special."
William Sahlman is an entrepreneur and professor. His research focuses on the investment and financing decisions made in entrepreneurial ventures at all stages in their development.
Sahlman has written numerous articles on topics including entrepreneurial management, venture capital and private equity, deal structuring, and the role of entrepreneurship in the global economy. He has published over 150 case studies on entrepreneurial ventures around the world.
Sahlman is Senior Associate Dean for External Relations at Harvard University. He was co-chair of the Entrepreneurial Management, Senior Associate Dean, Director of Publishing Activities, and chairman of the board for Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.