Matt Hunt, a one-time IT manager on Wall Street who also worked a decade in strategy positions at Best Buy, has targeted an unpopular business concept as a consultant.
“The failure thing is kind of my niche,” Hunt, 44, quipped the other day. “I also do innovation consulting to help pay the bills.”
As every entrepreneur or corporate “intrapreneur” knows, any new idea, tactic or strategy can fail. And the knowledge gained from failure can prove beneficial in the long run, or aid the next venture. The failure architect also may be shunned.
Hunt, 44, has lectured at FailCon, the San Francisco-based conference for technology entrepreneurs, investors and developers.
Hunt and veteran technologist Rajiv Tandon decided to put together a Twin Cities version. There’s still space on May 20, for www.phoenixrisingevent.com at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Cost is $199 for the daylong event that focuses on “learning from failure for creating success.”
Hunt, who has business, nonprofit and government clients, knows a bit about stumbling and recovery. He flunked out of the university’s computer science program. That didn’t stop him from earning undergraduate and graduate business degrees from the Carlson School and launching the school’s web servers as it embraced the Internet 20-plus years ago.
At Best Buy, he was part of “innovation teams” that incubated some winners (Best Buy Mobile shops) and losers. He started company-wise “failure forums” to analyze and learn from mistakes. But the corporate appetite went away as Best Buy struggled to survive during the 2009-12 period amid board-management turmoil and sticking too long to the old formula. Hunt left in 2012.
Hunt concluded that — bottom line at many outfits — even limited failure is a stigma and “the unwritten rule is you’ve got 60 days to find another job” or you’re out, rather than fully vetting things, learning from them and applying the lessons.
The fear of failure often means corporate caution. It’s OK to take a calculated risk, as long as cost, downside and a well-thought-out fallback position are ready. The problem: The downside usually is not adequately contemplated amid finger pointing and shunning.
Hunt, 44, has eschewed corporate jobs to pursue his passion. His cash flow is less than decade ago at Best Buy. But his wife has a good-paying job and benefits. Hunt lives modestly with his family in St. Paul. He’s doing something new while hedging failure.
One-time janitor honored for work to protect laborers’ rights
Lucila Dominguez, who labored for years as an after-hours janitor with several cleaning contractors for “sub-poverty wages” that sometimes weren’t fully paid, decided that instead of changing jobs, she would try to change the immigrant-dominated industry.
Last week, the organizer at Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) was honored by the Saint Paul Foundation with a Facing Race Ambassador Award, along with several others working on human rights and workplace issues.
“We are honored to recognize their tireless social justice and anti-racism work, which has often required them to take personal and professional risks,” said Carleen Rhodes, CEO of the foundation.
Dominguez first contacted CTUL, which advocates for immigrant workers, to recover unpaid wages and reimbursement for cleaning supplies for herself and co-workers.
According to the Saint Paul Foundation and CTUL, Dominguez educates workers about their rights and has partnered with them to recover in recent years $1.3 million-plus in “stolen wages,” succeeded in getting 31 companies to change policies that violated workplace law, and won wage increases for 5,000 low-wage workers that has meant nearly $4 million for them and their families.
“By organizing, workers decide to not remain victims of injustice in their workplaces,” Dominguez said. “Together, with many others, I can help make a change.”
The honors included a $10,000 grant from the foundation to be used to help end racial disparity.
WomenVenture adds capacity
WomenVenture, which has counseled hundreds of clients and helped start, expand or strengthen about 250 female-owned businesses over the years, has a new tool.
This month, it started Scale Up! Twin Cities, seeded by $250,000 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, that seeks to accelerate the growth of its target businesses with annual revenue up to $250,000.
“With Scale Up!, WomenVenture will help the businesses we serve move into the big leagues,” said Executive Director Elaine Wyatt.
The Scale Up! package of services is valued at $8,000 and includes one-on-one coaching sessions, the 30-hour Kauffman FastTrac GrowthVenture program, financial management software, access to additional capital and as-needed technical support.
WomenVenture tends to focus on business planning for females of modest means and minorities who have demonstrated competence through education, work experience and starting their own fledgling enterprises.
The organization has been looking for a program and funding to “serve second-stage businesses with tools and resources that are critical for growth,” said marketing director Chris Olsen.
Women-owned firms account for 30 percent of all enterprises, according to a recent survey by American Express. However, they employ only 6 percent of the U.S. workforce and contribute just under 4 percent of business revenue, about the same as in 1997.
WomenVenture plans to admit 20 businesses to Scale Up!, starting in September. Participants must have three years in business, revenue of $250,000 and a commitment to growth and 30 weeks in the program. More information: www.womenventure.org/scaleup.
Nilfisk Americas plans move to Brooklyn Park
Nilfisk, a manufacturer of professional cleaning equipment and a competitor of neighboring Tennant Co., plans to move its Americas headquarters from Plymouth, its home for 28 years, to a slightly smaller leased facility in Brooklyn Park.
The 182,000-square-foot facility in the Northcross Business Park will better serve employees and “enhance our ability to provide world-class products and service to our customers,” said Chief Financial Officer Diane Lapp.
Nilfisk Americas employs about 300 in design, manufacturing and marketing. It is working with property owner United Properties and Pope Architects on the new space, with a move expected by first quarter 2016.