The current economic landscape can prove intimidating to young businesses, both in traditional fields as well as the broad tech startup community. In fact, according to a study by Harvard Business School, 75% of venture-backed startup companies go belly-up, often within the first few years of operation.
Ultimately, many of these failures are due to a lack of practical business expertise. The ideas for innovations are there but get muddled in execution.
This has substantially bolstered the market for small business consulting. Such companies offer advice, strategies, and support for small businesses that don’t have the benefit of years of experience.
“I have always looked at the world from different perspectives. I come from Switzerland, where we place a high level of importance on precision and craft. As such, I quickly see the big picture and have the ability to see beyond the surface of an issue and to detect patterns of behavior when others see chaos.”
Those are the insights of Dr Corinne Jenni, CEO of Strategati LLC, a small-business consulting firm based in San Diego. Dr Jenni has earned a place at the top of her field through years of dedication to her work. Last year she was a finalist for two different prestigious awards within the business community: Woman of the Year/Female Solo Entrepreneur (Stevie Awards for Women in Business) and Woman of the Year (International Business Awards).
She has also had multiple articles published by prominent business journals such as The Journal of Business Diversity and The Journal of Global Economics, Management, and Business Research. Her appearances at conferences for the U.S. Association for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship and the Academy of Management garnered her serious attention within the industry.
I had a chance to sit down with her to discuss how she sees entrepreneurship in the U.S. today and how businesses should look to adapt to an increasingly globalized society.
Early on, she’s quick to remind me that despite operating out of Southern California, her company’s reach is anything but limited.
“Our services are not restricted to a certain location. My national and international clients usually find me through word of mouth and my involvement in publications, research, and presentations.
I’m not a hard-core salesperson whose goal is to always be closing sales. I believe in providing value and making connections.”
And this is where Strategati earns its place as one of the most forward-thinking firms in its field: Dr Jenni consistently expresses the importance of the human factor, not just in regards to having personal interactions with her client contact within a given company, but addressing the significance of each employee, each person, and the incredible potential they offer for contributing to larger goals.
“I have always worked for small to medium businesses because I like to get to know every person and learn how they each contribute to the firm. This, in turn, has allowed me to help companies build stronger collaborations, communications, and corporate cultures.”
In the recent past, this message has been adopted by some of the largest tech companies in the world, like Google, Facebook, and Apple. Everything from corporate structure to the design of company headquarters to management strategies is chosen based on their supposed potential for allowing absolutely anyone in the company, regardless of status or title, to offer new ideas that will, in turn, be seriously considered by the company as a whole. Many features and products from these Silicon Valley giants started out as proposals from lower-level employees that were then nurtured by others all the way up the chain of command.
Strategati aims to implement this philosophy in a wider range of businesses, expanding it beyond the world of tech and startup communities.
“What sets me apart from most consultants is my involvement in my clients’ companies. I truly care about my clients and approach their problems as if it were my own company. Fundamentally, I am interested in their success as much as they are.”
And while the U.S. economy has seen many positive signs of growth in recent weeks, the long-term outlook for small businesses is always hazy, at best. There are countless factors that can make or break every quarter, especially in the first five years of starting out: demand for any given product or service, job market trends, and strength and number of competing businesses, to name a few. But for Dr Jenni, the uncertainty is part of the excitement of founding and running a business.
“In order to stay motivated during uncertain times, it is essential to have a clear vision, a strong purpose, tremendous determination, and persistence to follow your dream. Never lose track of your vision and be the one company with the greatest flexibility of behavior in order to control your situation. Most importantly, be comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown. It is exciting to me to be in the unknown because the unknown holds endless possibilities.”
In addition to her consulting work, Dr Jenni volunteers as a counselor and workshop presenter for the San Diego area non-profit SCORE, helping local businesses find their footing by offering low-cost training for business heads as well as employees. She is also a member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and facilitated the ThinkTank group for the Business Advisory Group assisting business owners in formulating and implementing strategies for 2018.
It’s all in line with her strong belief that small businesses are absolutely crucial to the health of an economy, especially in the U.S.
“Small businesses make up most of the U.S. economy, accounting for about 99% of employers and employing 52% of the U.S. workforce. I strongly believe that with proper strategic planning and wise resource allocation, any small business can be successful.”
And despite the many challenges facing any entrepreneur, she has hopeful advice for anyone at the head of a fledgling company, and it definitely speaks to how Dr Jenni was able to achieve her own impressive level of success.
“My advice to any aspiring small business owner is just go for it.”
Pausing for a moment, she laughs and tells me she can’t help but expand the idea with some of her patented practical advice:
“And be sure to do thorough research and write a business plan. That way, you can have a clear vision with measurable goals and objectives and a strategic plan to focus on for success.”
Even when delivering inspiration, Dr Jenni is keeping an eye on the big picture, which she vows to continue in everything she does, in Southern California and beyond.