If you’ve ever read an article about a successful self-employed person you’ve probably thought they were blessed with a large dose of talent coupled with good fortune. The years of hard work, trial & error, and perseverance, are usually summed up in a few lines that sound like this:
“After college Mr. X worked for 3 years in a high-paced marketing department where he made contacts and began constructing his aggressive business plan. A few years later and Mr. X was entering into negotiations with another round of angel investors and his new marketing company was already pulling in some serious revenue.”
The passage is deceivingly simple and wholly frustrating.
What’s an Entrepreneur?
Crack open the electronic Webster and we learn that an entrepreneur is someone “who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Indeed, it’s safe to add that an entrepreneur is a leader of not only him or herself, but the business and its employees.
As we’ve argued on this blog before, leadership isn’t a trait that appears in the ether or resides in a select few. Entrepreneurship, like leadership, isn’t something you inherit, buy, or borrow, rather it’s something you have to work at and develop. Entrepreneurs have to work long hard days in order to build their business or idea–they don’t just have a good idea and open up a successful downtown office.
Look at Harry Hill. He runs a profitable TV shopping channel through his company, Oak Lawn Marketing, Inc.,…in Japan. However, it wasn’t always like this. He had been working in Japan, on and off, since 1985. He was an English teacher, he started a company that organized sports events, and he pursued various cultural hobbies. He began to help his current company expand in 1999 and only recently has it started to prosper. It took Mr. Hill nearly 20 years to find his niche, his calling, and a business plan he could work with. On top of that, he had to invest serious time into learning the Japanese language and engaging in cultural studies.
However, his story handled by a hurried business writer would have a different ring to it:
Mr. Hill, CEO of Oak Lawn Marketing, Inc. came to Japan after college and started to make contacts and work on a business plan. A few years later he founded Oak Lawn Marketing, a Japan based TV shopping channel, that has made him a local celebrity and a entrepreneurial success story.
Sounds simple, pedestrian, and achievable. But we know real sweat went into Mr. Hill’s venture.
Like leadership, entrepreneurship requires specific skills that can be learned and developed over time. Entrepreneurs need more than a good idea. They need to stand behind their dream with conviction, create a coalition of supporters and investors, and make risky calls and all this requires skill. Entrepreneurs need the skills of a leader in order to get people on their side and to build a support base. They need to be able to create buy-ins, credibility, and respond to nay-sayers.
Keep this in mind the next time you read about a successful entrepreneur or a “natural” leader. Don’t enviously throw the magazine away or scowl at your screen. Instead, look for information and strategies that the entrepreneur in question used to achieve his or her goals. Talent and luck play a smaller role than you may think–it’s just that business writers have a hard time making hard work sound appealing.