You could make an argument that an entrepreneur is something of a hero.
If we look at heroes across time and culture, we find they all confront similar trials. First, powered by a vision or forced by necessity, they leave the familiar and venture into the lonely unknown. In this unknown, hardship befalls them and they encounter challenges at every turn. However, they are creative, persistent despite persistent failure, ingenious in the face of bewildering complexity. They discover resources, find mentors, assemble teams, and earn success through hard work. With hard-won knowledge and sharply honed skills, they ultimately create a new “familiar” and lift the world around them.
Certainly, the entrepreneur is an American hero. It’s in our historical DNA. Early colonists set sail for the unknown with the belief that fortune awaited. The children of those first American businessmen and women braved hostile terrain in search of a new future and a better life. Their children became the industrialists of the 19th century, and theirs the inventors of the 20th century, and theirs the tech and media moguls of the 21st. Today, they are household names. Ben Franklin, PT Barnum, Edison, Ford, Rockefeller, Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs. We probably know more names of successful entrepreneurs than we do Supreme Court justices.
Of course there are more traditional heroes—soldiers and astronauts, doctors and firefighters, scientists, and steadfast moms and dads who raised them all. Each has a place, but the heroic entrepreneur occupies a special room in the hallowed halls of American myth.
The story of this dauntless hero begins with an idea, an ingenious, innovative, different version of the future. If that creation is not difficult enough, our hero must be able to command attention, describe the idea in a few words and, in a moment, establish enough trust to make stingy, flint-hearted investors part with their pennies.
And if there are enough pennies . . .
There’s the startup. Work around the clock. Build product, market product, sell, pivot, re-design. Our hero’s single-handed ability to do every job gives life to the business.
And if the timing is just right . . . there’s growth. Hire more folk, build more facilities, stabilize quality. At first those hires support, then replace, our hero’s skill.
If our entrepreneur can delegate and manage effectively . . . there’s expansion. People, planning and strategy come to the fore. Now our hero must not only manage people, but manage systems, answer to investors. Rise to these challenges and that little business may become big business and then . . .
The enterprise is mature. Does the entrepreneur stay or go? Business mogul or serial entrepreneur?
This saga is a tale told in five chapters; each presents a different set of challenges and obstacles. Like any classic hero, the successful entrepreneur must be tireless, agile, ingenious, able to learn and adapt to the demands of each environment. No small feat, for the qualities demanded by one environment may be lethal in another. Yes, the successful entrepreneur must command tried and true business methods as well as cutting-edge technologies and practices, but never before has the reach of business been as broad and the speed of change as fast.
In this issue we’ll take a look at the entrepreneurial journey and offer a thought or two on how to travel the hero’s path toward a dramatic and successful conclusion.