Joe Cullinane is the founder of Strategic Artistry, a Silicon Valley strategy company. He is a business strategist with international experience in sales and marketing, business development, teaching,  executive coaching,  business model design and leadership. He has held executive and sales roles at leading global technology companies including Xerox Corporation, NCR Corporation and Diversified Software. Joe founded the Telum Group and has worked extensively with startups, entrepreneurs and executives as an advisor, consultant and coach. He has an MSC degree from Northwestern University, MBA from Dominican University and a BS in Marketing from Northern Illinois University. Joe has authored two books, Surfing The Rift: The Executive Guide To The Post-Web 2.0 World and 21st Century Selling. Based in the Bay area, he now mainly works as a teacher, mentor, coach and advisor particularly with start-up companies and entrepreneurial leaders.

He recently spent a month in Dublin as an Adjunct  Professor at DCU Business School and talks to us here about entrepreneurship, coaching and the changing world of work.

On entrepreneurship and success

The best entrepreneurs start with vision and want to do something big. They want to make something happen in the world and they don’t necessarily follow the rules. They have the mindset of an entrepreneur which is to overcome obstacles, to do what it takes to be successful. This is common among entrepreneurial leaders, irrespective of organisation or industry.

On encouraging an entrepreneurial culture among students

Entrepreneurial leaders are not only found in startups but also in non-profits, universities and government institutions. An entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily start a business.  It helps how you think about solving problems in any environment. There are all kinds of entrepreneurial tools of innovation available like the Business Model Canvas and the LEAN Startup model, that are all about rapid innovation, prototyping and testing solutions with customers very quickly.  They are designed to accelerate and compress the timeframe to success or failure. Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset in any endeavour can be valuable. The 4 Cs – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication have been identified as job skills that will be needed for the future and successful entrepreneurs require all four.

Advice to student entrepreneurs

Here are three things to consider.

  1. Increase your luck! Research shows that lucky people really are luckier for three reasons.  They are on the lookout and see opportunities, they have huge social networks. They are willing to take a risk.
  2. The importance of face-to-face contact and personal relationships in business is more important than ever. As often as you can, meet people in real life. Social media tools are great enablers to set up the meeting but important meetings are much better person-to-person. Big business deals are still conducted by people.
  3. Get to know as many people as you can and be on the lookout for mentors.

On the startup culture in Dublin

I’m really impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit in Dublin and Ireland. Ireland feels like the start-up innovation centre of Europe. People are doing very innovative things here and they have the right mindset.

Silicon Valley has the infrastructure to scale certain start-ups, but one can start a great business anywhere.

The whole focus is to build a really great company.  Just serve customers, solve their problems, do it in a unique way, grow gradually, build your business. Worst case scenario, you’ve a nice little business that employs people and you make a living and have some fun.

Why do some entrepreneurial endeavours succeed and some don’t?

The top factor for success is timing according to a study by Bill Gross (Idea Labs).  Timing won over team, investment and the idea. Being at the right place, being willing to act if you have a good idea is a key factor to success.  If you are getting traction in the marketplace, don’t wait. If you find the right opportunity and there’s a window, go for it.

Entrepreneurs are resilient. If they try and fail, they try again and again. They learn from failures and hopefully, they will find the right business at the right time. Don’t give up, continue to persevere.

On his work as a mentor and coach

At this point in my career it’s less about what I’m doing and more about the people I work with, the people I coach, mentor, advise and teach. Helping them become successful in their career and business has become more important. If you work with a CEO and they become successful, they can reach dozens of other people.  Working with entrepreneurial leaders is a highly leveraged way to bring about change.

On companies investing in people through coaching and training

In Silicon Valley, as technology continues to advance, people skills become more and more important. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon said he focuses on what’s not going to change rather than what is going to change. One thing that doesn’t  change is human nature. Investing in human relationships, being able to communicate, persuade, the ability to empathize, these are critical skills for success. As machines take more of the easy-to-do tasks, the ability to work with people becomes more important. We have undervalued people and now organizations are recognizing the need to invest in people.  People are a company’s greatest asset.

On mentorship and coaching

A Google study about management found that the number one skill employees were looking for was coaching. Young people going into the workforce want to learn. There is evidence that people who have mentors are more successful.

Mentorship and coaching aren’t about telling people what to do.  It isn’t “here’s how I did it, now you go do it that way”. Coaching and mentoring are about helping people be successful. We all have blindspots and mentoring and coaching help people with their blindspot. Mentors and coaches can act as a sounding board for ideas and help work through difficult situations. Sometimes you have hard things to do but there’s still a best way to do them. It’s about the person that you’re coaching. You’re not doing it for them but helping them find a way.  I believe it’s important for universities to teach people coaching and mentoring skills.

On the changing world of work

The number one reason people leave jobs is their boss. I read a recent Gallup poll which found that only 10% of people are engaged in their job in Europe. Something’s not working. We think that only client facing people need good people skills.   The fact is we all need these skills.  Leading organisations are developing approaches to leadership that are more human centred.  They are creating collaborative coaching and mentoring cultures.   They are transforming command and control, hierarchical cultures into learning cultures. The former is a remnant of the past, this idea of the boss telling you what to do, really doesn’t work as well. Now, we’re looking at a more collaborative, flat model of problem solving, teaching and learning. That’s a model that fits our world better. We can no longer wait to go up the hierarchical tree to get a decision.  Every individual must be empowered to act in the best interest of the customer and organization.  Innovation happens at the edge of organizations.  We must not stifle those who choose the road less travelled.


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