Part One: The entry point to becoming more entrepreneurial…
… is the belief that you can.
It’s like achieving a goal: if you think you can you are probably right but if you think you can’t you are definitely right.
And don’t think for a moment that being entrepreneurial has anything to do with flying around like Donald Trump in a private jet and it doesn’t necessitate employing a whole bunch of people who wear Armani and Gucci and bright red lipstick (women, hopefully not men!) or having offices with marble foyers and glass top desks.
But it has everything to do with looking for opportunities and being prepared to take a risk, albeit often a very limited risk.
So whether you are a student, self-employed (solopreneur) or a business owner, you can become more entrepreneurial by choosing to do so.
As mentioned, the entry point is to make the decision to become more entrepreneurial. In Part 2 I’ll reveal my qualifications for advising you on the subject and then in Part 3 we’ll explore the benefits of Entrepreneurial ism.
Part Two: My entrepreneurial past and why it should matter to you
My past not only demonstrates my qualifications (experience) to write on the subject of entrepreneurship but it also offers some clues for budding entrepreneurs.
Firstly, please refer to the number of times the word “launch” appears on the opposite page: five times in four months.
But paradoxically, my entrepreneurial bent had its roots in taking on part time and holiday jobs whilst at high school and then later at college – there were no credit cards and no student loans in those days so guess what?: I worked hard.
I delivered newspapers at ungodly hours, cleared tables at a central city restaurant; I washed dishes at a racecourse and sold fairy floss hot dogs, popcorn, soft drinks and ice creams at fairs. I cut grass (the type you can’t smoke … at least I don’t think you can), cut hedges and weeded gardens (including pulling out lilies from the Prime Minster’s garden, gifted to him from the then Chinese Leader Mao Tse Tung – I thought they were weeds – oops!). I packed ice cream cones in a factory and put together transistor radios on a production line in another factory. I drove tractors, trucks and vans, cut down very big trees and did part time stints in the Army (very good pay!)
In short, I worked a lot but grew to dislike the low pay and being at the whim of an employer.
So whilst still at school I started my own lawn-mowing business. I saw the potential for up-selling and branched out into property maintenance.
I liked being my own boss but didn’t want to mow lawns for the rest of my life and so I entered the life insurance industry where I woke up unemployed every Monday morning (commission only) but where I could earn more money and still enjoy my work. I hired others to do aspects that I didn’t like such as making appointments with people who really didn’t want to see me.
I simultaneously launched a security patrol business and employed others to do almost all of the work.
This was a big turning point for me because that was the first time that I was virtually completely out of what I call the “value delivery loop” and was literally earning money while I slept (the business primarily involved night time security patrols).
At first I felt truly guilty about making money without working shoulder to shoulder with employees but that feeling dissipated slowly as I viewed the incoming bank statements.
Then, whilst still in the insurance industry, I was seduced into a management role and simultaneously launched a software company to sell products into that same industry because I could see a need and figured we (I took on a partner) could fill it. Which we did.
Then in 1995 I got out of the insurance industry and founded the “Entrepreneur’s Success Programme” and took it international.
I walked away from that in 2007 when it became clear the model was outdated and after a short sabbatical I launched the 80-20 Center to meet the #1 need of business owners which is to get more clients in the door.
Latterly I’ve co-founded and launched the “College For Entrepreneurship” and I’ve simultaneously entered the publishing business and whilst it’s still early days, at this stage I feel like a pig in mud.
There are some important lessons for budding entrepreneurs here:
1. Work hard
2. Think about market place unmet needs
3. Train others to do the value delivery
4. Develop marketing capability
Part Three: What It Means To Be Entrepreneurial
Notwithstanding that there is a bit too much fluffy space-cadet type thinking in the above, it does contain some key ingredients: risk taking, contribution, creating, learning, growing, doing, optimism and the ability to see opportunity.
However the main authority on what it means to be an entrepreneur is French liberal economist and businessman Jean-Baptiste Say who originally coined the term “entrepreneur” way back in the 19th century.
J.B. Say said that an entrepreneur was someone who moved a resource from a place of lower return to a place of higher reward. I categorise “resource” as: time, thinking, energy, money, people, skills, reputation, systems, networks, technology, premises, equipment.
There are three “essential” resources which are the first three on the above list. If you have access to the first three (and you do) then you can create or replace the balance.
Witness the number of entrepreneurs who have “had it all”, then lost it all only to successfully replace everything, beginning with nothing other than their thoughts, energy and time.
The conclusion is that if you have an ability to think like an entrepreneur (more on “how” follows) and you have time and energy (i.e. you are alive) then you have the capacity for entrepreneurship.
I’d like to distinguish between a business owner and entrepreneur by making a distinction within J.B. Say’s idea that entrepreneurs shift resource the word entrepreneur
There are a lot of differences between a typical (not all) business owner and a typical (not all) entrepreneur. However the primary difference as I have observed is that whilst business owners like to do things better, entrepreneurs like to also do different things.
Take my friend and client of many years, Win Charlebois. When I met Win he was a licensee for a national retail jewelry brand. But Win was far too entrepreneurial. After some successful years he negotiated the end of the licence and re-branded under the name “The Diamond Shop”.
Win developed unique sales and marketing systems including locking the door to his shop so prospects gained entry by permission only. He carefully selected new staff and trained them in his systems.
He also developed his own international sources of quality diamonds and then did the same for Tahitian black pearls and has since added online sales, marketing and shop to his original off-line counterparts.
By contrast the ex-licensor is mostly attempting to do what they have always done albeit they are trying to do it better. Refer to the bold type above for a summary of the differences.
Part Four: Why Business Owners Need To Be More Entrepreneurial
If you started or bought your own business you probably did so with the idea of improving the quality of your life and perhaps that of your family’s as well.
You may also have wanted to make a difference in people’s lives as well but regardless of that your plans probably included more money, more free time, greater choices in respect to housing, holidays and healthcare and perhaps a few “toys” to play with.
How’s the plan panned out so far?
Statistically speaking, probably not that great. Here’s what I mean…
Pre-GFC figures (dating back to 2001) indicated that fifty percent of new businesses weren’t surviving beyond the third year, and a massive seventy percent were gone after the sixth year.
And because at time of writing we are still languishing in the Global Financial Crisis it’s likely the figures are dramatically worse.
Assuming a reasonable deterioration in those numbers it’s still likely that out of every 100 new businesses only 20 or so will be trading after seven years.
And it gets worse.
By my estimates 16 out of those 20 business owners will be working longer hours than their staff and earning less.
In summary that means the ugly facts/estimates surrounding new business start-ups are:
80% failure rate (with likely consequent erosion of personal wealth and health)
16% survival rate (but working too hard and too long and not enjoying life as much as they would like)
4% thriving rate (these owners have actually realized the dream and are earning increasingly more and enjoying a better quality of life).
Assuming you are reading this then it’s likely you are still in business and therefore not in the “failure” category but more likely you are surviving, but not thriving.
So what can you do to avoid becoming just another failure or survival statistic?
I believe that success leaves clues. And so if you look at what the top performing four percent of business owners are doing, you can then mimic their behaviour and you’ll be much more likely to get similar results.
I’ll share with you what I discovered in working with thousands of business owners, many of them top performers, over the last 31 years.
The top four percent are more entrepreneurial than the rest.
And entrepreneurs do three fundamental things differently from the 96% business owners who either fail or barely survive.
In the first instance they focus on what the market place wants and needs as opposed to how they can sell more of their own products or services.
The latter approach of – to put it crudely – “trying to sell more stuff”, is doomed to failure.
That’s because even if you crack the marketing code and your “stuff” is flying off the metaphorical shelves, marketplace needs change, competitors creep in, economic cycles continually go up, down or sideways.
In other words, consumers live in a constant state of flux and so what’s working for you today in terms of marketing your products, might not work for you tomorrow and most certainly will not work for you indefinitely.
Having spotted what I call the S.U.N. (Specific Unmet Need) entrepreneurs then create a product or service to meet that need. Not the other way around.
Note: entrepreneurs rarely rely on research in order to identify a S.U.N. Instead they observe expressions of client complaints and delight, they think about the market place and then they test their findings as inexpensively as possible.
To quote serial entrepreneur Mike O’Hagan “I fail at 18 out of 20 things that I try. But I put as little money as possible into each attempt. And then I simply take the two things that worked and do more of them.”
The second thing that the top four percent do better and more of, than the others is that they prioritize the development and execution of their marketing and sales systems.
And whilst they continue to test and measure product/service improvements they shift the weight of their attention to marketing and selling in ever increasing quantities.
The third thing the top four percent do well is that apart from high level engagements, they get themselves out of the value delivery loop.
In order to focus on marketing, and then effective management, entrepreneurs mostly do not deliver the value.
For example, one of Mike O’Hagan’s businesses is short haul removals. But in 22 years of running the business, Mike has never once lifted or shifted one item. Like other “four percenters” he’s always focused on growing the value, not delivering it. Mike’s mantra is simple: “Delegate, delegate, delegate”.
To enjoy your life and feel fulfilled instead of frustrated in your business, you will need to model the entrepreneurial thinking and behavioural styles of the top four percent of business owners.
Refer to the key lessons presented at the end of Part Two but repeated here for your convenience: work hard, think about market place needs, train others to do the value delivery, develop marketing capability
As an entrepreneur I enjoy the fact that within the bounds of market place needs, I get to choose:
the clients I work with and who I won’t work with
the team members and suppliers I will work with and will not work with
the type of work I do and what I will not do
where I will do my work (in a sunny climate near the beach and from my home office) and where I will not do my work (a city office)
the hours, days, weeks and months I will work and will not work
Sound like a good idea?
Part Five: How To Become More Entrepreneurial
I wrote a book that’s been published internationally (second edition) on how people can fulfill their life purpose.
A large part of the 103,000 word tome was devoted to the subject of human change, and a fair summary of that process is found on page 367:
If you want a different Outcome (e.g. a more valuable business, more cash in the bank, better lifestyle etc) then you need a different Input (this primarily comes down to action/behaviour) and the only way you change your patterns of behavior significantly is to change the way you Think significantly.
Buddha and the Bible agree on this one: our thoughts change our reality.
So assuming you agree with the 3 Bs (the Bible, the Buddha and my book J ) and you want to think more entrepreneurially then the next question becomes “How do I change the way I think so that I think more like an entrepreneur?”
The answer is surprisingly simple: repeatedly immerse your mind in entrepreneurial thinking.
It’s exactly the same strategy which has led me from knowing only a handful of German words to now sometimes dreaming in the German language: lots of exposure to the German language.
So you read books written by entrepreneurs and written about entrepreneurs, you attend talks given by entrepreneurs both offline and online, you have conversations with entrepreneurs, you mix with entrepreneurs (even a regular golf, tennis or book club meeting with a group of entrepreneurs is worthwhile), you find an entrepreneurial mentor or mentors and you subscribe to entrepreneurial magazines, you listen to their CDs and MP3s and podcasts, you follow them on Twitter, you subscribe to their blog.
Get the idea?
Part Six: Rate Your Entrepreneurial Capacity
Note: this quiz is based purely on my personal observations and experiences in being an entrepreneur, interviewing over 50 of them and contributing to the development of entrepreneurs since 1995, across some 196 different industry types. It is not a scientific treatment of the subject and a high or low score is an indicator, not a determination, of your entrepreneurial capacity.
Place a tick next to every box that you believe describes you:
— Dislikes academics and commonly accepted management practices that don’t in fact deliver value e.g. vision and value statements and traditional business plans and strategic plans.
— Listens to their gut
— Confident, they back themselves
— Does not suffer fools gladly but may be polite in getting rid of them
— Makes the tough calls when they need to be made e.g. change of suppliers or team members
— Is motivated by personal lifestyle improvements but even more so by “playing the game” of business and winning at it
— Is not wedded to one way of doing business or indeed to one industry
— Cannot leave a business alone – is driven to continually become increasing competitive
— Anticipates negative consequences of inaction and moves to pre-empt problems
— Is always thinking, is constantly articulating new ideas
— Makes decisions fast
— When presented with a complex problem, will quickly offer solutions for the one or two critical factors as opposed to addressing all factors
— Big picture thinker, gets bored with detailed execution, leaves that to others – orchestra conductor, not a violinist
— Will move forward simultaneously on multiple projects as opposed to sequentially
— Has a lower inertia barrier
— Finds a way for a thing to happen, rather than focusing on reasons why it can’t be done
— Looks for, thrives upon and even forces change
— Is sometimes not sensible e.g. indulges in excess
— Fiercely competitive in every activity undertaken
— Frowns and eyes glaze over when shown financial statements
— Smiles and eyes light up when shown sales figures
— Neglects performance reviews and other worthwhile management practices but understands their importance so hires someone else to implement them
— Naturally socially introverted (happy with their own company) but will become the life and soul of a party if they are dragged to one
— Is bored easily, loves to explore, adventurous, risk-taker, challenger, loves the battle
— Hates listening to speeches but happy to give one
— Paradoxically are both ego-centric and global in their thinking
— Not the world’s best speller or grammar expert and doesn’t care
— Appalling handwriting because they think faster than they can write
— Unnecessarily spends too much time at work often to the neglect of their personal relationships
— Is much less fearful of making a mistake. Willing to try and willing to fail in pursuit of a victory
— They often either failed at high school / college, or dropped out without graduating. They are often not especially academically bright but they are certainly “street smart”.
Score one point for each tick
Write the number of ticks here: ……….
Multiply by 3, write that total here: ……….
Refer to the scale below to find out the Entrepreneurial Capacity Score:
75 – 100: You were born an entrepreneur
51 – 74: You are inclined to entrepreneurialism
26 – 50: You have entrepreneurial potential
00 – 25: You have no entrepreneurial bones in your body but you can still do well as a business owner.