Monthly Archives: May 2009
Well. Not really. In fact, not at all. But I did find this Inc. article where Jim Collins is being interviewed about entrepreneurship and he talks about Steve Jobs as an entrepreneur. Here’s what he says:
I think we saw the best of entrepreneurship in the ’80s. I invited Steve Jobs to my entrepreneurship class at Stanford in 1988 or ’89. He was doing NeXT at the time. He said, “We aren’t creating computers. We are creating bicycles for the mind.” That was his phrase. He said the most efficient locomotive vehicle is a bicycle, and you could create a bicycle for the mind. It just happened to be a personal computer. Now, that way of looking at a business is very different from thinking, We’re creating a company so everybody can get rich and retire. If that’s how Jobs had seen it, he would have quit a long time ago. Same with Yvon Chouinard at Patagonia. He wanted to make incredible products, but those products would be part of something bigger — creating a role model for people who wanted to build a sustainable organization. It was a noble vision of entrepreneurship, and a lot of these entrepreneurs shared it.
I’m not the kind of guy that could say, “I’m creating bicycles for the mind” with a straight face but I love the idea that these entrepreneurs were focused on something bigger than themselves. In the process of achieving their vision, both of Collins’ examples were rewarded handsomely, but I love that the real reward for them was more about building something they cared about.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of a yo-yo dieter. This is the person that you hate to eat dinner with because he tells you how many calories are in the entree you just ordered. He probably orders a side salad (dressing on the side, hold the croutons) but can’t leave without dessert. Or maybe the person you’re thinking of is the type of person who goes on the squash soup diet for 12 weeks and loses 25 lbs, but gains it all back just as fast. Either way, these people just don’t get it. Somehow they have convinced themselves that they can have a healthy body without healthy habits. Despite the fact that any reputable source will tell you that the best way to get a healthy body is to exercise and eat well, these people think that somehow they can avoid the hard work and the long-term commitment and end up with a fabulous body in six weeks.
I see the same type of behavior in some of the people that call themselves entrepreneurs. Instead of focusing on building long-term value through hard work and discipline, they want to get rich quick. There’s nothing wrong with getting rich quick, just like there is nothing wrong with losing weight quickly. But there is a problem when you want the rewards of entrepreneurship but you are unwilling to make the sacrifices.
Every entrepreneur is different, but here are a few of the things that I think will make you a healthy entrepreneur instead of a yo-yo entrepreneur:
- Take a calculated risk. Yo-yo entrepreneurs take risks. Healthy entrepreneurs take calculated risks. When it comes to taking that first step into entrepreneurship, you see all kinds. One of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make was the decision to step into the unknown and quit my day job to focus on my first real business. But I didn’t do it without dipping my toe in the water first. I took a calculated risk after I had tested the waters enough to know that I had a reasonable chance of success. There were, of course, no guarantees, but I had some idea what I was getting myself into and I knew how I’d get out if it blew up in my face.
- Make your sacrifices early. Yo-yo entrepreneurs reward themselves too early. Healthy entrepreneurs sacrifice early to reap a greater reward later on. If you are worried about what your salary is going to be in the first year, you aren’t ready to start your own business. If you are more inclined to worry about how you are going to make your first sale, how you are going to fund ongoing operations, and how you are going to knock the socks off the competition, then you have a much better chance of building a strong business.
- Allow your company to be bigger than you are. Yo-yo entrepreneurs are likely to wear the badge of entrepreneur or startup founder and CEO like a badge of honor. If you are more worried about your title or your personal PR, then you are less likely to make your business successful. If, on the other hand, you are willing to let your business be bigger than you, if you are willing to do whatever it takes to make your business successful, the personal recognition you receive at that point will be a lot more meaningful. The opportunity to let your business be bigger than yourself will present itself early and often. At some point, you will have the chance to make an interview with a newspaper about you or about your business. At some point you will have the opportunity to take credit for the work that people in your organization did or give credit. It can be tempting to take credit and focus attention on yourself but remember that it will feel hollow if you take it when you don’t deserve it and it will cost you dearly if it comes at your company’s expense.
- Hire the best people for the job. This is related to #3 because it is very tempting to make yourself look like a bigshot by hiring family and friends. DON’T DO IT. That’s worth repeating a couple more times. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. Hire the best person for the job. If that person is a family member or a friend, he or she better be the best person for the job by a mile. Be willing to hire people who are smarter than you are, more connected than you are, funnier than you are, better looking. Don’t let your ego get in the way of hiring people and don’t let your ego trick you into hiring the wrong people. It’s just not worth it.
In the end, you need to decide what you care about. Are you interested in building value in a business or in making a name for yourself? These aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I would argue that they go together like losing weight and being healthy. But the best way for you to make a name for yourself is to focus on building a strong business.