Oct 252011
 
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Change the world

Entrepreneur – Do You Want To Change The World?

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes and are driven by a wide range of objectives.  As I’ve written elsewhere, the emotional reasons for becoming an entrepreneur range from fulfilling basic survival needs to seeking feelings related to esteem, meaning and self-actualization needs.  While there are no hard and fast rules on this, many of the greatest entrepreneurs did not get started seeking fame and fortune; rather, they wanted to change the world.

I never wanted to be a businessman; I just wanted to change the world.  Richard Branson

Do you want to change the world?

At the end of the day, we all change the world even if unintentionally and even if just a little bit.  What sort of change do you want to make happen?  Do you want to do it deliberately or unintentionally?

Remember, you are making changes every day, in your business, in your personal life, in the path that leads to your future.  Or are you?  Are you making changes, or are you just letting life happen?  You have a choice.

Whether you are the CEO of a family business that you had not intended to work in, but inherited when a loved one passed away unexpectedly, or you are a startup entrepreneur seeking to grow your first venture, you are a change agent.  You have the potential to change the world you live in.  Will you make changes intentionally, or will you just let them happen?

Although Steve Jobs said, “Things don’t have to change the world to be important,” he also said:

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.  Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me”.

Steve Jobs and his team at Apple have changed the world of computing and communications in many important ways.  Although he said that something does not have to change the world to be important, I think he would have agreed that changing the world is important.  Like so many of his fellow ultra-successful entrepreneurs, Jobs was not content with the status quo, nor was he asking others what the future should look like.  He had his ideas and his vision and through force of will and extraordinary creativity, he was going to make it happen.

Do you want to change the world in your business?  In your industry?  In some other area of life?  Do you have a vision for what the future should hold?  Do you have the commitment and perseverance to make it happen regardless of what obstacles stand in your way?

Thomas EdisonA trio of Thomas Edison quotes sum up what it takes to change the world:

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Hell, there are no rules – we are trying to accomplish something.

I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Can you come up with the perspiration to back up your inspiration?  Are you willing to disregard the status quo “rules” to change the world?  Do you have the willpower to persevere through 10,000 failed trials?

If you truly want to change the world for yourself and others, you need to redefine failure and not let it affect you in a negative way.  Take Edison’s approach and let attempt number 10,001 be just another data point, if, in fact, it’s not the one that succeeds.  It might be!

If you want to change the world, then you must have a big vision and channel your “inner Bezos, Jobs, Edison” and other entrepreneurial greats, so that you too will have the perseverance and vision to make a difference.  By the way, you may achieve great financial success along the way as well, but if for some reason you don’t, at least you will have changed the world!  If you truly want to change the world, as Jobs and Apple may say, listen more to those who “think different” than those who don’t.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

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Oct 202011
 
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Emotional reasons to be an entrepreneur

Emotional Reasons To Be An Entrepreneur

During the course of my 25-year plus career in entrepreneurship, I’ve coached and interacted with several thousand entrepreneurs, ALL of whom had one or several emotional reasons that drove them to set out on their own.  Here I will discuss several emotional reasons people choose to become and remain an entrepreneur.  I will map those emotions and feelings to a structure with which you are probably already familiar:  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  We’ll start at the bottom of the pyramid and work our way up.  In case you need a refresher, here is the structure.

Emotional Reasons To Be An Entrepreneur

Physiological and Security Needs

These are the basic survival needs we have as humans.  In order to survive, we must have air, food, water, and shelter, at a minimum.  Similarly, if we cannot stay safe physically, we are much less likely to survive for any length of time.

Some people become an entrepreneur simply because they need to earn money to satisfy these basic survival needs.  In some cases, there is no deeper reason; it’s just about survival.

Love and Affiliation Needs

It sounds counter-intuitive to say that someone would become an entrepreneur in order to satisfy love and affiliation needs.  These needs require interaction with other people and entrepreneurship is often seen as a “lone wolf” endeavor.  In fact though, there is a great deal of camaraderie among entrepreneurs.  Even though they often are individualistic by nature, there is a certain mutual respect that exists among those who are willing to strike out on their own, against the odds.  I have found many great friendships and professional relationships among the entrepreneurs with whom I’ve interacted and continue to interact.  They are my people.

Esteem Needs

I guess it’s logical and not at all surprising that in my experience at least, this is the main driver of entrepreneurial behavior.  Most entrepreneurs I know want to be perceived as unique and special.  I realize that this is true of most human beings, but for an entrepreneur, this need is often magnified.  They don’t want to be part of the crowd.  They want to make a personal statement in everything they do.  They are usually very proud and confident people, with a lot of drive and very strong desire to be respected for their achievements.

Purpose Needs

Next to esteem needs, I see purpose needs as being the biggest driver of entrepreneurial behavior, at least in my experience and observation.  Many an entrepreneur is asking the bigger questions about the purpose and meaning of life.  This is not true for all entrepreneurs, of course!  However, at least among the entrepreneurs with whom I spend a lot of time, there is a tendency to ask some existential questions and put quite a bit of time into seeking the answers.  This leads many entrepreneurs to explore spirituality and to seek opportunities to make contributions, beyond just the financial, to “the greater good” of society.  This is particularly true of those who have already become successful financially and have satisfied many of the other needs on the pyramid.

Self-Actualization Needs

Self-actualization, which is the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy, has been used in many different ways in psychology.  From my perspective, it refers to reaching one’s full potential.  In the context of all the needs discussed in this article, it would mean reaching your maximum potential in each of the areas on the pyramid.  Obviously, this would have different meaning for each individual.  Thus, self-actualization is different for each person, as would be how that person’s entrepreneurial activities contribute to reaching their “full potential”.

It’s important to realize that we are all driven by emotions.  As I’ve written elsewhere, decisions are made based on emotion, then justified by logic.  In all cases where you are trying to understand human behavior, whether it be in purchasing decisions, or in why someone chooses to become an entrepreneur, follow the emotions and the feelings and you will find the answers.  Human beings, including and perhaps especially, entrepreneurs, run on emotions, just as a television runs on electricity.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

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Sep 182011
 
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Can entrepreneurship be taught?

Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

A question I get quite frequently is, “Can entrepreneurship be taught”?  It’s a tough question and the answer is highly dependent on how you define “entrepreneurship,” so let’s start there.  If you look in Webster’s dictionary online (http://www.merriam-webster.com), there is no separate definition for entrepreneurship, but here’s the definition you find for entrepreneur:

One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.

Frankly, I find that definition a bit lacking, as it’s very dry and does not embody any of the spirit or mindset it takes to be an entrepreneur.

If you take a look at first the definition of entrepreneur on thefreedictionary.com it’s similarly unexciting and dry, but a bit further down there is another definition that is more in line with the way I think about entrepreneurship.  That definition is:

The owner or manager of a business enterprise who, by risk and initiative, attempts to make profits.

This one appeals to me a bit more, because entrepreneurship is all about taking initiative, and the motivation for taking that initiative and assuming the related risks, is usually to make profits.

We could wordsmith the definitions of entrepreneur and entrepreneurship all day long, but the definition above should be sufficient to allow us to think more about the question at hand: Can entrepreneurship be taught?

The short preview of my opinion is that I believe certain aspects of running a business can be taught very well; however, the “entrepreneurial mindset” is difficult to teach and correspondingly tough to learn, but for the most part, it is possible.  In order to look at this aspect of the mindset a bit further, let’s review my list of the 5 Key Character Traits To Be Successful As An Entrepreneur.  Though I acknowledge that this is not an exhaustive list, in my opinion, the five key traits are as follows:

1.)  Perseverance

Having been in the entrepreneurship game for more than 30 years now, I have learned that, without a doubt, if you don’t have perseverance, you are highly unlikely to achieve any meaningful level of success as an entrepreneur.  Although you may plan and do your best to predict the future, I haven’t met anyone who can do that with 100% accuracy.  Therefore, there are going to be unforeseen challenges and you will need to persevere in order to overcome them.  The good news is that, like many of the key characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, this one can be learned — you don’t need to be born with it.

2.)  Goal Setting

I’m not sure this is one that I would always have included on this list, but over time, I have learned that the ability to set goals correctly, monitor progress toward those goals, adjust course as necessary, and make sure they are completed regardless of the obstacles you encounter, is critical to the success of most entrepreneurs.  The alternative is to not set goals, but where does that leave you?  As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.  Setting goals and keeping them on your radar on a regular basis can also help to keep you motivated and on track when times are tough.

3.)  Tolerate Uncertainty

One thing most successful entrepreneurs I know do very well is to tolerate uncertainty.  They are comfortable and very often stimulated in situations of uncertainty.  Unlike many other traits, this is one that may be difficult (but still possible) to learn — to some extent, you’re either born with it, or you’re not.  Those of you who have sought certainty and predictability in your careers and elsewhere in your lives may find it very challenging to be in the relatively chaotic world of entrepreneurship, particularly at the early stage of a venture.  In your case, you would be wise to associate yourself with others you know who perhaps have more of a tolerance for those situations, so you can lean on them a bit when the inevitable chaos and uncertainty arrive.  You may also want to take a role in the venture that allows you to deal with some of the tasks that are a bit more routine and predictable.

4.)  A Strong Desire to Succeed

Most of the great entrepreneurs I know have an extremely strong desire to be successful in everything they do.  They are usually quite competitive, sometimes to an annoying degree and sometimes regarding tasks that, at least on the surface, don’t seem very important.  This drive to succeed is what pushes them to be the pioneer, to take the proverbial arrows, while others are content to sit back and fall into a routine.  If you don’t have such a strong desire to succeed, this may be another one that is a bit difficult to learn — but I do think it’s possible.

5.)  Different Definition of Failure

Hardly any entrepreneurs in the history of time have achieved great success without a failure, usually many, many of them.  Sure, a few have done it, but some people have hit the lottery as well.  It happens, but it’s highly unusual.  Much more common among successful entrepreneurs, are stories of repeated failure — sometimes 10, 20 or more failures — then what appears to be a sudden success that came out of nowhere.  The reality is that it did not come out of nowhere; it came from the ability to learn and course-adjust, based on previous approaches that did not work.  As with achievement in most disciplines, mindset is everything as an entrepreneur.  This is best illustrated by a comment made by Thomas Edison, when someone asked him if he had failed on a particular experiment.  His response was to the effect, “no, I just eliminated another way that does not work.”

So, let’s take a look at each of these traits in a bit more depth at it relates to “teachability”.  In the case of perseverance, perhaps the most important trait, let’s say it can be learned but cannot be taught.  A coach or other third party may be able to help you push your way through difficult situations (i.e. persevere), but the drive to do so must come from inside.  Another person can teach you how to set goals correctly.  They can also teach you and encourage you to monitor your progress toward those goals and to course-correct along the way.  A third part cannot teach you to have a personality or mindset that tolerates uncertainty well, at least not easily.  Your risk and uncertainty tolerance is something you’ve developed over a lifetime, so it’s not easy to change.  It’s possible, but only with concerted effort and incremental progress, mainly on your part.  A coach or mentor can encourage you in this process, but the desire to change will need to come from within.  If you are to develop a strong desire to succeed, that too will have to come from within.  Again, outside parties can encourage you, however, the desire will have to come from you, and it will likely be based on how important your goals are to you.  You need to set goals that really get you “fired up”.  You can redefine your definition of failure and this is something that can be taught.  It may take some time, but it is vital to your success as an entrepreneur.  If you are going to look at every small bump in the road as a failure and allow it to cause you to get off track, rather than learning from it and moving on, entrepreneurship is going to be a very tough road for you.

In summary, in my opinion, many aspects of entrepreneurship, include some parts of the “entrepreneurial mindset” can be taught and learned.  For all aspects though, the desire to learn and continue becoming a better and more successful entrepreneur will need to come from within.  You will need the drive to succeed that leads to the willpower to overcome obstacles and “make it happen”.  If you don’t have, or can’t muster this drive and willpower, no amount of teaching or learning is likely to allow you to become a successful entrepreneur.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

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Jun 022011
 
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If You Want Success, Learn To Navigate For Yourself

We’ve all heard the expression “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else”. Let’s take that to the next level: If you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t take charge of charting your own course, you probably won’t end up going anywhere.

Take a look around at the successful entrepreneurs, CEOs and other people that you know or know of. How many of them are current or former pilots or avid sailors? Ted Turner, Richard Branson, and Michael Bloomberg come to mind, but the list is much longer. What does one have to do with the other?

In all my time as an entrepreneur and now increasingly as I have started doing more coaching, research and writing on the topic of human “greatness” and peak performance, one trend I have noticed in those who succeed in all sorts of endeavors is that they take control of their own destiny. They leave the “employee mentality” behind, they determine and describe in a detailed way all that they are trying to accomplish, and then they chart a course to get there. When they chart that course, they know that there will be obstacles and they know that they will likely be off-course a good portion of the time, but they also know that it is far better to have an imperfect path charted than to have nothing at all and just hope for the best.

At its essence, this mentality boils down to taking control and taking ownership of your life, your ventures and your future. You must become the “pilot” of your life – even if you don’t literally become a pilot, you must take the leadership, responsibility and control of where you take all aspects of your life. And like those mentioned above, you must do so realizing that life hardly ever goes exactly according to plan; you will need to monitor your progress and course-adjust on a regular basis. You must also learn to react calmly in the face of changes and danger – only by overcoming your fears will you be able to reach your goals. The knowledge and confidence inherent in having a course charted and having developed contingency plans will help considerably in maintaining calm and “pressing on”.

Be bold. Take charge. Overcome your fears and other limitations. Become the “pilot” of your life and all your ventures and watch how the results you achieve improve markedly.

Oh, and by the way, punching coordinates or a street addresss into a GPS is not navigating – it does not teach you to think through the route you want to take, consider alternatives, take note of the landmarks you should expect to see, react with calmness to changes in the roads, etc. While GPS is a wonderful technology and, like any other technology, should be used to support you as you chart your course and embark on your journey in business and in other aspects of life, you should not become so reliant on it that you learn not to plan, think for yourself and stay aware en route. It’s like my father said to me back in the day, when he saw me using a calculator for my homework – it looks like a nice toy, but make sure it doesn’t keep you from learning the basics of math, the foundation upon which you will build all your other learning.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com
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Mar 292011
 
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For those of you who are poker players and entrepreneurs, you may get a feeling in your gut that this headline is accurate; if you don’t let’s see if I can convince you otherwise. For those of you who are not poker players, in particular tournament poker players, I will try to lay out the analogy in very clear terms and define any special poker words or phrases, to see if I can convince you as well.

I thought it would be fun and instructive to develop this analogy, as after my family and friends, poker and entrepreneurship are two of the things I love most in life, and I’ve been doing both since well before my 10th birthday. My story with poker started sitting on my Dad’s knee as a kid, watching him play and more often than not, win, at various types and levels of poker games in our dining room. It was there that I learned so much about human behavior, and specifically about how logic, emotion and luck all play very important roles in the success of all poker players … and entrepreneurs.

Ok, so let’s set the scene for how being an entrepreneur, especially a startup entrepreneur is very much like playing in large poker tournaments. I will use No-Limit Texas Holdem poker as the example, since this is the game that has become the most popular in recent years, given the meteoric rise of such events as the World Series of Poker. So, imagine that you have entered a large poker tournament, either online or a live in-person event. You paid $10,000 to enter the tournament. For sake of argument, let’s say there are 2,000 players, so that would be 200 tables of 10 players each. In order to win the tournament, you need to be the last player standing. Do you like those odds? But at a minimum, of course, you’d like to at least make the final table so you can get some “TV time”. Besides the TV time, reaching the final table in such an event would mean that you’d bring home several hundred thousand dollars, at a minimum, which wouldn’t be bad given your $10,000 entry fee.

Now that the scene is set, let’s talk some specifics. It depends on the particular tournament, but you don’t usually start with the same number of chips as your buy-in amount. In other words, in this particular example, you wouldn’t necessarily start with $10,000 in chips; you may start with $1,500. It doesn’t really matter, as long as everyone starts with the same amount and the “blinds” structure reflects the starting chip amount. What are “blinds”? These are the blind bets you are forced to make each time around the table. With $1,500 in starting chips, the usual starting blind structure is 10/20. This means that each time the dealer button comes around the table, you will be forced to bet the “blind” amount, first the “small blind” ($10, in this case), then the “big blind” ($20, in this case), so in total you’ll be forced to be $10 + $20 = $30 each time around the table. This doesn’t seem like much at the beginning, but the blinds steadily increase, usually every 15 minutes or half hour. This is done so that people can’t just sit there and not get involved in the action and simply wait forever for a huge hand to come. It is designed to keep the game moving; otherwise tournaments could last an intolerable amount of time and would be very boring.

So now that you understand that you will not be able to sit there and wait to participate until you have a pair of Aces, let’s talk about what this means in practicality. Well, it can mean different things to different people, depending on their nature and how much the entry fee means to them. It is not uncommon at the beginning of a large tournament to see many people go “all-in” (bet all their chips) almost without regard to what cards they have in their hand. This is crazy, right? Well, yes and no. It’s crazy because they’re risking their entire entry fee right away, without having been able to play for a while and receive other information that may be helpful to them. It’s not crazy because, as most veteran tournament players will attest, you typically need to get some early momentum in order to have any chance of winning or reaching the final table. I’d say it would be less crazy if, in the example above, they didn’t go all-in “almost without regard to what cards they have in their hand”, but with a very strong starting hand. As veterans, they know they will have to suffer some “all-in moments” at some point during the tournament, so the philosophy could be, “I may as well suffer them with a great starting hand, regardless of when I get it in the tournament”.

This is an interesting juncture to start bringing the analogy back to entrepreneurship. First, do you think it’s realistic that most entrepreneurs starting up today will need to invest $10,000 or more to get their businesses off the ground? While there are exceptions, of course, I’d say the answer is definitely yes. Some great businesses have been started for less, but on average, it takes more than that to get a business off the ground. Second, is it accurate to say that although you may not be physically sitting at a table with your competitors when you start a business, you will have competition, and in most markets, that competition will be very intense? Third, do you believe that among the various competitors you’ll be up against, there will be “aggressive players”, “loose players”, “tight players”, and every variation in between? Finally, do you believe that some people “show up to the tournament” to win and others show up just for the entertainment of being there? Is this not also true with entrepreneurship that some people are there to make as much money as they possibly can, to “win”, and others are there for different reasons – they may like to make some money, but that may also not be their primary motivation?

So how do we use these ideas to help us in our own quest as entrepreneurs? First, I’d say that you must realize that logic, emotion, and yes, luck, will play a role in your success as an entrepreneur. Just as with poker, you must do everything you can, to “get your money in good,” but you must also realize that luck will play a certain part in your success in a particular initiative. The good news in entrepreneurship is that, unlike in tournament poker, your success is not binary — you’re not either in or out, but rather you have the chance to get back up, dust yourself off and try again. And that you MUST do to be successful as an entrepreneur. Second, realize that if you are by nature very conservative, sometimes you may need to “change gears” and step outside your comfort zone to be successful as an entrepreneur. In poker, if you become too predictable, you’re dead.

The same can be said for many aspects of entrepreneurship. You must be willing to get “outside the box” you’ve created for yourself and do so without fear. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, realize that you are being “blinded off” in entrepreneurship as in tournament poker. You constantly have to make blind bets and you cannot sit there and do nothing. In entrepreneurship, these “blind bets” come in the form of all those little and not-so-little recurring and non-recurring expenses you’re paying to “be in business”, non of which benefit you unless you’re willing to make your move and take a chance at “winning the tournament”. I’m not advocating that you go all in right away, in fact I think it’s a good idea to get as much other useful information as you can before making your “all-in move”, but I implore you to not just sit there and watch everyone else play the game. If you do, you will have wasted your time and “entry fee” unnecessarily. If you had the motivation to get started in your business, then you have what it takes to succeed, but you must have confidence in yourself, be an active player and not wait for success to come to you.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Please enter your comments below or by clicking on “Responses” on the top right corner of this post.

Paul Morin
paul@companyfounder.com.

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Sep 092010
 
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As humans, we like to oversimplify, to throw people into “buckets”.  One of the biggest buckets we use tends to be that most, if not all, people are driven by money.  My experience has taught me that, while money is important to everyone as a means for survival, a very large percentage of people have other factors that drive them as much or more than money.  Setting up a compensation plan that focuses only on monetary remuneration therefore will miss the point for many of your employees.  While there are certain benefits that you may provide standard to all of your employees (such as healthcare or vacation time), you will want to work to understand what motivates each of your key team members, and structure compensation programs that will encourage them to perform at their best.  A few examples of non-monetary compensation include a bigger office, an important title, the chance to run a key project, the chance to manage people, etc.  There’s a very large number of possibilities, just make sure that the approach you choose is not predicated on the simple assumption that money is all that drives people.  In most cases, it’s not.  The same line of thought can be applied to your interactions with and offerings to customers, partners, suppliers, etc..

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