Case: An Entrepreneur Report
Author: Edlira Hoxha
I had the pleasure and the honor to get an interview from a successful and intelligent entrepreneur, Nik Rokop. Mr. Rokop is past President & CEO of nLake Technology Partners, a management, business development and technology commercialization group specializing in nanotechnology. He has 30 years successful entrepreneurial experience in engineering, manufacturing, sales, marketing and international operations. His career spans the iron and steel industries, manufacturing, consulting and the Internet. Nik is involved in support of the entrepreneurial community as founding member and current President of the Chicago Microtechnology & Nanotechnology Community, founding member of the BIG Idea Forum, Vice Chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Chicago, and member of the Steering Committee of the Technology Commercialization Task Force. Nik was named one of i-Street Magazine’s Top 100 in Technology & Economic Development in 2002.
Nik earned his BS in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. He also holds a Professional Engineerâ€™s License in PA. He got his first job at the age of 9 years old. During his studies he was working at his fatherâ€™s company (iron & steel industry) and remained there for 17 years.
I believe that Mr. Rokopâ€™s advices are precious to any business idea not only mine since his experience lays in different areas from sales, marketing, and internet to iron and steel industry, including services and products.
During the interview I distinguish some very vivid similarities between Mr. Rokop and and our class discussion entrepreneur. First of all, what draw my attention was the optimistic point of view that the interviewed entrepreneur had about the opportunities and about failure. I was impressed when I heard him say â€œSo what if I fail, I will try again… I will use the lessons learned from the failure to do something goodâ€œ. I discerned his confidence and the very special characteristic â€œfarmer vs poetâ€ when the entrepreneur decided to leave his father business because it didnâ€™t meet his vision for the future of the company, as Mr. Rokop described â€œI left my fatherâ€™s company because we had different vision, he wanted to maintain the business whereas I wanted to growâ€. Also, his alertness in opportunities and the risk-taking attitude (educated risk as he emphasized) were some of the rest traits I distinguish as the entrepreneur was talking about a business company he had started during the first steps of the Internet in our world (Internet CafÃ© in an big airport), which are very close connected to our discussions in the class. From our discussion I couldnâ€™t help but memorize a phrase that he said while our conversation was to the end: â€œPeople that do not take risks, educated risk, do not succeedâ€. Moreover, as we repeatedly have refereed in class, Mr. Rokop emphasized what the vital role that team plays in entrepreneurship. He confirmed our discussions about â€œA good team that can make a not a very good idea work and a bad team can make a very good opportunity to failâ€.
On the other hand, the fact that he never felt the necessity of creating a business plan, except for loan request, is contrary to what we had discussed in class. Furthermore, when I asked Mr. Rokop to elaborate the way that he created his team he explained that usually he would cooperate with people that he had worked before in contrary with what Charles Ferguson did in â€œVermeer Technologiesâ€ case and with our discussions in class.
Of course there are more things that contribute in success and failure as well. I had the luck to interview an entrepreneur that had experienced both. As far as I could understand the experience that Mr. Rokop had gained in his life had helped him to succeed in his business attempts. Even though as he mentioned sometimes there were trade-offs that must had be done. As I already have refereed to he started to work since he was 9 years old. I think there is no need to mention than a strong educational background make thing easier in some ways but not in every aspect can that be helpful. As the entrepreneur was talking about his life and his work experience I realized that there were much more factors that had guided him to success. Initially he started to work in his fatherâ€™s company, while still in college, which gave him the opportunity to travel around the world by himself, to be contact with different people and develop communicative skills. As many people say â€œit is not what you say, it is how you say itâ€. From that we can understand how important it is for an entrepreneur to know how to reach people with different cultures in different levels. During his employment at his fatherâ€™s company he also developed other skills, that are vital while creating your own company, marketing skills (selling, taking orders, delivery), international business (being in contact with other countries as well). Also, he had cooperated, always on behalf of his fatherâ€™s company with another company which abled him to be a member of a team, to learn to share ideas and to get the best results of it.
Although, the fact the he grew up in an environment where his father in those difficult years had the initiative to start his own business alone was a very good start for him to built confidence and to deal with the different challenges that being an entrepreneurship might cause. In my opinion, all these characteristics are equally valuable to create a successful entrepreneur and a useful member of our society.
In additional to his successes Mr. Rokop during his career had to deal with failure as I mentioned earlier. As he explained if he had had a better market research or if he had chosen another place or serve it in a different way, that venture might had not failed. As the matter of fact either in success or failure there are speculation about the reason but in the bottom line entrepreneurs and their teams always work with passion, vision and optimism for the best results and success. I found his answer to my question whether he would change anything from what he had done in his entrepreneurship life and the choices he had made if he had the chance to turn time back. He replied to me spontaneously saying that his decisions and his choices, his successes and the failures were what had made him what he is today and what had he achieved in his life. He continued saying that from the failure he had learned not to give up but go in pursuit of his goals. Also he had learned not to make the same mistake second time, but to progress in his life and to be always in the search for new opportunities. And success had taught him that he could control his own destiny, he could leave, stay or change the things. He could achieve whatever goal he wanted as long as he had the chance to go after it.
I am in a very pleasant position to say that from the interview with such interesting person I learned some invaluable things. The conversation with Mr. Rokop made me realize that confidence is vital not only as a professional but as a person in general. Moreover, I understood how important is to have respect and be honest in life. As Mr. Rokop said â€œmaterials come and go, what we gain in the end is respect and the honesty between cooperators, colleagues and our fellow man. Good people are important in our livesâ€. We should take risks, try new thing and it is ok to be wrong or fail because that make us betters. The interview also confirmed our discussions in class about the entrepreneurs, they act more than think. I realized that as much as we think we are not able to predict every aspect, that there will always be differences between planning and the actual life, so we should act in order to have results. After all is better to have wrong result than no result at all. In addition to the above, I think the most important lessons that I took from the interview which I think will help me and my team with our business plan came from Mr. Rokop two last answers. Is an entrepreneur born or made? He clearly explained that you can be an entrepreneur. All the traits that I described earlier can be gained through hard work and strong will. Moreover, he emphasized that a team can be entrepreneur; the way that the members of the team complete each others ideas and respect each other can drive even a poor opportunity to a big success. Who should be an entrepreneur and who should not? According to his opinion entrepreneur should not be are the stubborn, shallow minded and short term visioner. He added that entrepreneur should be someone that is able to recognize opportunities, which is long term visioner and has the ability to give high level solutions to different problems.Â Mr. Rokop showed me that it takes time to achieve goals and sometimes they change but we should always try to fulfill our dreams.
The combination of all the things mentioned and learnt and with very hard work and devotion, not only from me but from my team as well, a very successful business plan can be created.