By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
I believe in metrics. To borrow from Peter Drucker (or whoever said it first), if we can measure it, we can manage it. I was reminded of that quote recently as I was catching up on my report reading over the holidays.
For the last several years, the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation has produced the Tulsa State of Entrepreneurship Report, a high-level assessment of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tulsa.
Not only are these annual publications an excellent source of survey and other information about entrepreneurship in the Tulsa region, the foundation includes calls to action and then circles back in the next year’s publication to report progress against those goals.
For example, survey participants previously identified co-working space for various entrepreneurial communities as a need. With 36 Degrees North, The Bridge, Savage Space and The Forge, entrepreneurs in the Tulsa region now have physical space to work, connect, network and grow.
An identified focus for 2018 is supporting and helping advance entrepreneurship and economic development for underserved populations, including women and veterans.
The foundation kicked off the diversity focus by creating a Tulsa-wide conversation through a series of hosted events on women’s entrepreneurship and economic development. When the social media announcement went out for the first event, there was encouragement, but also pushback. Why focus on women’s entrepreneurship; why not focus on entrepreneurship in general?
Foundation CEO Elizabeth Frame Ellison was direct: In Oklahoma, growth in women-owned businesses is 10 percent below the national average. The metrics tell the tale; our state is missing opportunities.
Research by McKinsey & Co. shows that companies with diverse founders, leaders, and teams are 35 percent more likely to outperform national industry norms. The reverse is also true — companies that are in the bottom quartile in diversity are 25 percent less likely than average companies to achieve above-average financial returns.
So, we have the metrics; what can we do to be deliberate about increasing entrepreneurial diversity — not just because it is right (it is), but because diverse companies get better business results?
Serial entrepreneur Cindy Convery, who, after a two-decade career in the movie and TV industry, turned to Oklahoma to start up her newest venture, Raw Space for Rent says, “VCs, investors, and founders who want to be deliberate about increasing diversity, just do it. Looking for more deal flow from women and minorities? Set more meetings with women and minorities. Get out there and find those deals. And bring women and minority investors into the partnership for a better point of view on investments that translates to revenue.”
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation offers more ideas. Develop and advance the business case for diversity. Expose more girls to more coding education opportunities at every level of K-12. Create respectful work environments through education, open discussions, and policy. Create education and awareness for high net worth women who want to support women-led businesses but may not know how.
The foundation’s report is keyed to the Tulsa region — but the message and the metrics fit across the state.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.