Friday, March 22, 2013

WHY Entrepreneurship is Hard

There's nothing new or original about saying "entrepreneurship is hard."  In fact, that's a pretty consistently-heard theme that comes from anyone who has either taken said plunge, known anyone who's taken the plunge, or even thought and long and hard about the prospect.

Let me offer up a reason WHY that's the case, though, along with an implication about why the statistics for start-ups look so daunting.

Before I do, though, I want you to think back to any experience you've ever had as a manager.  Whether it was a classic corporate situation, whether it was a Platoon Leader/Platoon Sergeant position, or whether it was your time as a volunteer Little League Coach, I want to know this -- What frustrated you the most about the experience?

Consistently, many people answer that question by saying that they get frustrated by employees or subordinates who can't understand implied tasks.  In other words, they more or less do what you say, but then they stop.  And they don't start back up again until you give another explicit instruction.  Now, your time is being taken away from what you WANTED to do (steer the ship, chart the course, etc.) towards what you MUST do (lots of hand-holding, specific tasking, etc.)  The employees you loved the most were the ones who could get an intentionally vague directive (i.e. figure out how to improve sales in the Kerblakistan region) and then just run with it.  They knew their left-and-right limits, you trusted them, and they did great things when you set them free.  You wondered why more people couldn't be just like them.  

Well, what percentage of your people were like that?  20 percent?  10 percent?  5 percent?  My guess is that it hovers somewhere between 10 and 20 percent, regardless of where you are.  The skills I'm talking about (hustle, combined with an innate ability to understand what needs to happen to achieve success) don't correlate with IQ, background, education level, etc.  If I could offer a more technical explanation, I could probably be an instant billionaire...but I can't, so I am hoping some people just have it will suffice.

Well anyway, back to my original paragraph, and the purpose of the entry:  I would posit that the only people who can become successful entrepreneurs are those who fall into the aforementioned group.  Admittedly, most entrepreneurs self-select as already being self-starters, so the percentage of successes is much higher than the percentage of the people described above (from the general population).

Why?  Because running a start-up (particularly one with a single founder group or a very small founder group) means that no one is telling you what to do.  

If people found businesses solely because they want to be "be their own boss" and aren't at least a little bit stressed about whether they'll be able to manage their time with purpose and some structure, then I would put all my chips against them.  (Call it the "Gift of Fear"...any who lack it are doomed).

But if you're betting on successes, you need to START with that group of employees you remember who have that knack for figuring it out and getting it done...


Daniel Patrick Murphy said...

Entrepreneurship is not the only thing that is hard. Sometimes the creative process goes awry. You end up starring into parts of your Self that are wounded and startling. During the Renaissance, Michelangelo found consolation for his work from the philosopher Plotinus. As is commonly known, Michelangelo believed that the stone upon which he chiseled contained a perfect form within it. During the renaissance of Lowell, it is wise to find the unique forms that lie within such an energetic and diverse community. As Goethe said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Lowell is at a crossroad. In recent years, it has moved in creative directions. The creative process entails destructive elements as well as creative ones. If you ever watched an artist at work, things necessarily get messy before the artistic work becomes a “thing of beauty.”


She chisels closer to bone,
Works under forged stars,
In graveyards,
When the moon is a blade
Slicing into darkness—
Sparks scatter.

Faded pieces of moon
Are not dark enough
To cover her writing
On resistant surfaces.
She scrawls outlines
With her fingernails.

A touch of spittle shines
On the edge of a chisel,
Sharpens the light.
She beats the flesh of stone.
Her white knuckles, cold pearls,
Hard diamonds.

She chips and gouges
Until waste is gone.
She steps back,
Inspects her work
And stares
Into stone eyes.

--Daniel Patrick Murphy

The New Englander said...

Awesome words -- thanks very much for posting.