Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Entrepreneurial Benevolence

Small and medium-sized businesses are struggling to survive in this tough economy, right?  Entrepreneurs are fighting to make payroll and advance their companies to the next level, aren't they?  Yes and yes... and some of these business owners are even growing their companies and their market share in these difficult times!

What's even more amazing is a trend I commonly see within these entrepreneurial companies.  Here is a conversation I had yesterday morning, paraphrased and altered to protect confidentiality:

Oh, Ken, there's one thing I need to tell you about our payroll.  You see, there's this guy named Fred that we have on payroll to try and help him out.  He can't find a job and I'm trying to help his family - he's a good friend and neighbor of mine.  He helps us out here and there, and he tries really hard, but I could think of a lot more qualified people to hire.  But I feel like I need to help him out.

Amazing, especially when you consider this entrepreneur is investing all of his resources to adjust his business into a more profitable and sustainable model.  But he wouldn't stand for letting Fred go.

If this happened once or twice, I wouldn't bother to write about it.  But I can think of five companies I have met in the last two weeks with which I have had a similar conversation.  I've decided to call it Entrepreneurial Benevolence.  If you meet an entrepreneur, I'll bet there's a good chance he/she has someone in a less fortunate situation on payroll that is mainly there to help that someone.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Resilience Required for Entrepreneurship

An entrepreneur started his company over 20 years ago.  He had built it up to several locations with a strong, recognizable brand.  I won’t go into all the details of why his business failed, but what amazed me the most was how, on the brink of financial and professional ruin, he was figuring out what his next business was going to be.  The word I use to describe this attribute, which I find among so many business owners and entrepreneurs, is resilience.

From the moment you decide to start a business you are signing up for adversity, problems, and challenges.  Many will tell you your idea is horrible.  Resilient entrepreneurs accept such criticism as proof of concept!  You will make many mistakes, but resilient entrepreneurs call that experience and improve themselves as a result.

So, is resilience just trying to shed a positive light on negative things?  Absolutely not.  It is much more than that.  My definition is that no matter how hard things get, no matter how dark the scenarios, not matter how painful the process, those that are resilient figure out how to overcome and thrive.  Entrepreneurship is really problem-solving on steroids, isn’t it?  Only it’s legal and arguably even more productive, in the short and certainly the long-term.

In looking through a few online resources, here are some words and phrases that many associate with resilience: rebounding, springing back, buoyant, returning to its original or better form, recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like.  Sounds like entrepreneurship to me.

The example I shared above has a happy ending.  That entrepreneur went on to build another successful business, and he continues to be an example of entrepreneurial resilience.  I'm not sure if you can teach it, but it sure is an admirable trait.

Feel free to share any examples of entrepreneurial resilience or your thoughts on resilience as a necessary attribute of all entrepreneurs.