Jim is an independent consultant, teacher and business coach. His current projects include teaching in Moscow, Grenoble and Boston, choosing ventures for IMD’s 16th Startup Competition, a research project on the future of executive education, further development of IMD’s first MOOC, and various strategy, networking and innovation mandates with multinationals in Europe. He is also collaborating on a book on “blind spots”, as well as entrepreneurial cases.
Jim joined the management team of IMD in 1993 as Director of Marketing. During a 20-year career at IMD, Jim had direct responsibility for IMD’s clients across a wide part of the world, was a member of the Executive MBA teaching team (focused on entrepreneurship and IMD’s work in Silicon Valley), ran IMD’s annual startup competition and had responsibility for IMD’s worldwide alumni network. Jim stepped down from IMD in August 2013 as Executive Director. He is the former Chairman of UNICON, an association of the world’s top business schools.
Before joining IMD, Jim was Managing Director of a Swiss startup in the medical device industry, Bioself. Previous to his MBA degree, he worked as an engineer in the USA and Africa for Schlumberger, a leader in the petroleum services industry.
He has contributed substantially to six startup companies over the past 15 years in the US and Switzerland. The Swiss federal government chose him in 2003 to join its strategy committee for the “Swiss Houses” in the United States, Singapore and Shanghai, under the Swiss Secretariat for Education & Research. He is also a jury member for Switzerland’s Venture Lab entrepreneurship program and serves on the Board of AISTS, the International Academy of Sports Science & Technology. He completed his doctorate at the Grenoble Ecole de Management focused on entrepreneurship and networking. He received his MBA from IMD in 1984 and he has a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia (USA).
Jim was born in the United States, has Swiss/American citizenship, speaks English and French, is married and has three children. He lives in Switzerland. His non-professional interests are sports and cooking.
It is accepted as a given that resource-starved entrepreneurs typically need to network to get what they need at below-market rates. Much has been written that supports the notion that accessing social networks, and developing better networking skills, will increase the entrepreneur’s probability of success. At the same time, there is a large body of literature that suggests that the link between networking and networks, and success, is not so direct and thus the time-starved entrepreneur is left to wonder how much time he should put into networking activities (perhaps to the detriment of other internally-focused activities), when he should do it, with whom, and whether he has the necessary competence.
My research question was: Are there a small number of specific networking activities that a first-time entrepreneur must focus on in order to increase his chances of success?
This research with 644 entrepreneurs from around the world has shown that there is no networking activity or competence that, alone or even with a small number of other factors, could measurably increase the entrepreneur’s chances of success. However, if the entrepreneur can get competing managers to talk about him, this will have an impact on his reputation (but he must also pay attention to his comfort in following up contacts, assure that people get value from conversations with him, be regularly in contact with people outside his team, and regularly attend events expressly for networking purposes). Further, having the right network in place at the time of startup launch is a strong foundation for the acquisition of paying clients. Confidence has an impact on networking success (measured by how much we learn from people outside our immediate team). The entrepreneur’s comfort with networking does not have an impact on success. The act of learning from people outside of your startup has an impact on the startup’s reputation. The entrepreneur’s past startup experience helps in the acquisition of paying clients, as does the breadth of past professional experience.
Startup founders lacking these competencies and experiences should consider mitigating their weaknesses through hiring employees who can compensate or by utilizing their board of directors or advisory board.