Mark Curry: Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from Indian Country

The headquarters of Cherokee Nation Businesses in Oklahoma. Photo from Cherokee Nation

Mark Curry, the founder and CEO of MacFarlane Group, thinks entrepreneurs can learn a lot by looking at economic development in Indian Country:
Emerging entrepreneurs can learn a great deal from these tribes’ economic development efforts. Here are my Top 5:

1. Vet every opportunity. Here’s a story we’ve all heard before: Your research shows you have a great idea for a business. You’re confident it will make you the next Elon Musk. You pitch a trusted friend and she agrees: You are a visionary. You go for it. You launch your business, which folds months later.

2. Disrupt… For examples of business disruptors who have changed an industry, look no further than Southwest Airlines, Spotify and Uber…or what American Indian tribes did in the gaming industry during the 1980s. They began offering new, convenient, safe, local gaming facilities to consumers whose demand for that type of entertainment was not being met by casinos in Las Vegas or in-home card games. Although it began as just a few tribes operating bingo halls for locals, tribal gaming today is a $30 billion industry, with over 350 tribal casinos operating on tribal land in 28 states. Find a way to re-invent or re-imagine a product or service, or fill an unmet need.

3. …but expect opposition. Disruption can be polarizing, and disruptors often find both passionate supporters on one side and stiff resistance on the other.

4. Find strength in numbers. The idea of working hand-in-hand with your competitors may seem counterintuitive. However, there is a place for cooperation among competitors. American Indian tribes come together through trade associations to share best practices, educate the public and lawmakers about their products, and work cooperatively to ensure the sustainability of the industries in which they participate. The tribes have established thriving associations to help drive economic development and business creation – The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development and best practices in the fintech arena with the Native American Financial Services Association.

5. Work around, not against limitations. Understanding your limitations, and knowing how to be successful in spite of them, is critical for small- to medium-sized business owners. While it is the inclination of many entrepreneurs to believe they can do anything, successful business owners acknowledge their limitations and work with them. Financial limitations change the amount you can invest in your business. Geographic limitations can influence everything from your hiring pool to shipping costs to rent. As you build your business plan, identify your limitations and figure out ways to succeed with them, not in spite of them.

Get the Story:
Mark Curry: What can entrepreneurs learn from Native American tribes? Everything. (Fox News 10/31)

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