Monday, September 19, 2011

What if the Cynics are Wrong about Your Business Idea?


These letters form part of our mindset for business success series. It is written from the perspective of someone who's also on the road of entrepreneurship, maybe only a few paces ahead of some, but a bit further down the road.

The idea of these letters is to prepare imminent entrepreneurs, and business owners, for the journey of entrepreneurship. It considers what is needed to succeed as an an entrepreneur. 
Dear Imminent Entrepreneur

So you've finally decided to go into business for yourself.  If you are anything like me, you've been playing with the idea for some time. Pondering on ideas for your own business, imagining   what it would be like to do your own thing.  

Then, one day, you've decided you're actually going to do it.  You're going to start your own  business.  

I congratulate you for making that decision! It takes a lot of guts to do it.  Starting and running a business is not the easiest thing to do.  It's also not the least risky option.  That's probably why so few people actually do it. To be honest, it is a challenging, scary, often lonely, but exciting road to take.   

You've probably been working for a boss these past couple of years. Like I also did before venturing into business ownership. But now that's going to change.

You're probably feeling like you are heading out on an unfamiliar path. I've also been there and freaked out at the thought of it.  Not that I am claiming to be an expert, not at all, I've perhaps only walked a bit further than some on this road.

I am hoping that I could give you some pointers to guide you on your path, some things to think about. Things I picked up along the way. Maybe I could spare you some trouble, or help you to start off better than I had done.    

I've had some successes, some failures, some good times, some bad times.  Overall it was very challenging, but exciting road. I cannot promise you that it will be an easy road, but I can tell you that you will definitely grow during the process.  You have to. The road of entrepreneurship requires that from all of us.   

It requires us to face our fears, to continuously walk outside our comfort zones. It requires us to rethink how we treat people; our clients, our employees, our business partners, our communities.

It requires us to learn many new skills, skills you wouldn't necessarily have bothered with before.

It challenges our beliefs; our beliefs about the world, our beliefs about work, our beliefs about money,  but, mostly our beliefs about ourselves. It requires us to remain positive in the hardest of situations. It requires us to keep our heads up even when everything else is seems to be going to hell.

Entrepreneurship requires faith. Faith in your idea, faith in the worth of your product or service, faith in the value of your business. But mostly, it requires us to have faith in our own abilities.  That being said, it also requires us to deal with the reality of our businesses, while dreaming about what could be.

Entrepreneurship requires persistence, persistence to keep working on our ideas, maybe even for years without much payoff. To keep working while many of your friends and acquaintances are excelling in the job market and their careers.  

Clearly, it is a demanding journey.

Allow me to share one thing that really meant a lot to me. Something about people an their opinions.  Something I learnt while watching a one of Jamie Oliver's programs. Something I also had to grow in; which is, the ability to handle negative feedback and criticism. 

I respect Jamie Oliver as a chef and entrepreneur.  In one of his recent shows he had an idea to convert an unhealthy town in Britain to a lifestyle of cooking and healthy eating.  Jamie had a big dream, a dream to use this little town as a template for changing the way the rest of Britain eats.  

In the show, Jamie recruited a number of novice cooks to 'pass on' a number of simple recipes to their friends. The idea was that friends will teach other friends how to cook and that they, in turn, would teach their friends to cook, and so forth. Jamie hoped to change the entire culture of this little town trough this 'pass it on' process.    

But Jamie had a critic on his team.  A very cynical lady, named Julie, who rarely had a good word to say about any of his ideas. During the episodes she continually criticized every idea and tactic Jamie tried.  During the final show, she again told Jamie that one of his ideas would not work.  She said that the town's people were just too busy, too poor, and not interested in  learning how to cook.  

During the series of episodes, Jamie intently listened to her issues, her complaints, her opinions, and her excuses. I could see that she often upset him and the rest of Jamie's team through her negativity.

Finally, during a pivotal moment in the final episode, he asked her: 

"Julie, what if you're wrong?" 

Jamie then said "Julie, if you're wrong, its gonna be a beautiful thing"

To me that summarizes a core element in the mindset of successful entrepreneurs. A belief that 'it', whatever 'it' is, may just work.

Jamie had his critic and you'll have your critics. People will often find fault with many of our ideas. That is a given and we'll have to manage such feedback constructively.  Typically, we'll have to listen to such opinions with an open mind (sometimes the critics may be onto something). We'll have to decide if what is being said has merit or not. But, crucially, we'll have to do this without losing faith in our dreams and ideas.  

Remember that attitude is often the only difference between those who fail and those who succeed.  Let's take a tip from Jamie's playbook. Let's ask ourselves, what if our critics are wrong? What if they cannot exactly forecast if our ideas will work or not. In the series Jamie saw what could go right, while Julie only saw what could go wrong. Don't be that way; seeing only what could go wrong .

This is still hard for me. A naturally positive mindset was never imparted to me while I was young and I have to work hard at overcoming many of the negative ideas I gathered while growing up.  It's probable that you'll have to do the same.  

As an entrepreneur, you have to continuously focus on what could go right. I am not saying to run blindly into each situation, ignoring all the problems. What I am saying is that we must stay focused on the positives, while considering the negatives. That takes lots of discipline.

Remember that if they, your cynics and critics, are wrong; your idea may just prove to be a beautiful thing.

Hope that inspires you on your journey. 


Another Imminent Entrepreneur.     

Note: some authors make a distinction between being an entrepreneur, and being a business owner, and for good reason. I also consider this distinction to be important, but we'll get to that a bit further on in this series.      

Do you also have some advice for imminent entrepreneurs, feel free to add by commenting below. 

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