Throughout most of human history, however many thousands of years that is, there have been incremental changes that have made life better for all. But in the late 1770’s that changed in a little place in North America that no one ever heard of. And when they did, it wasn’t as if countries were sending the cream of the crop. When America achieved independence from Great Britain, few thought it would survive. They were almost right. 70 years in it almost imploded. But it didn’t. Shortly after that, things changed. Between the 1880’s through 1970, we went from the horse and buggy and candle-lights, to the automobile, electricity, skyscrapers, the telephone, TV, airplanes, to sending a man to the moon.
So how did this happen over 90 year period when nothing of real significance happened over the previous 10,000 years? That tiny little place in North America that no one wanted to go allowed for this one simple concept that made it all happen: Taking an idea and putting it into production.
So what does this actually mean? First you obviously need an idea. Once you have that, you need to know what the end result will look like, before you begin. This is key. This is what an entrepreneur is: someone who comes up with ideas and can see the end result.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new idea. It can be an improvement of an existing idea. Look at flat screen TV’s. Remember those big wooden boxes that took three or four guys to move? Now TV’s are only a few inches thick.
How is a job created?
This is a question I wish someone would ask any politician running for office. After all, the economy is always at the top of everyone’s list. They all say they can create more jobs than the next guy. But they never say how. I’ll bet most can’t answer it.
Let’s use one of my all-time favorites Henry Ford as an example. His idea was to make the automobile affordable to every American. The idea is the automobile: the vision is a lot full of cars for every American to choose from. So how did he do this?
· First he needed a place to build the cars
· Then he needed the steel to make the cars
· Then he need an engine to make the car run
· Then he needed fuel to make the engine work
· Then he needed parts to make the car complete; things like tires, seats, and windows
· Then he needed workers to put the car together
· Then he needed accountants to keep the records
· Then he needed finance people to project the cost of future expansion
· Then he needed legal people to make sure he was following the law
· Then he needed someone to sell the cars
· Then he needed someone to fix the cars when they broke down and maintain them so they didn’t
All of these activities, between the idea and the vision, are jobs. Most of us will fall into the in-between categories, so we need to make sure we have the necessary skills. But at one point in our lives, we may ask ourselves, no matter how much we like our “job” if this is what we want to do with the rest of our lives. We all have ideas. But make no mistake about it: the idea and vision comes first, not the workers. Anyone who says otherwise is either dishonest or has no clue how a job is created. Most of us think we are incapable of achieving great things, so we settle for mediocrity and don’t even try.
What Kind of person doesn’t settle for mediocrity and takes on the challenge of putting ideas into production?
· Passionate: What excites you? These people can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and start working on their idea.
· Embrace change: They see change as a good thing. They always ask “Why not?”, challenge the status quo, and don’t see change for the sake of change. Jessica Alba, the actress, isn’t someone you would think of as an entrepreneur. She is not a Harvard MBA. After she had a baby, she discovered how expensive baby products were and the harm they did to the environment. So she teamed with some smart people and created a company that makes baby products out of organic materials that is worth a billion dollars today. Nothing groundbreaking. She just challenged the conventional way of making baby products and came up with a better alternative.
· Benefits vs Features: They focus on what a product can do for you, not toot their own horns because they created something so awesome. Take the smart phone. It has a camera in it, which is a feature. The entrepreneur will say “wouldn’t you like to be able to send vacation pictures to your friends and family instantaneously?” That is a benefit.
· Think positively: They never use the word “can’t, which is the 2nd worst word in our vocabulary. Scratch it from yours. (Hate is the first in case you are wondering).
· Trust and delegate: They know what they are good at and what they are not. They have no problem hiring people to do the stuff they aren’t good at or the ones they are if their time would be better served elsewhere.
· Always learning and investing in themselves: They believe they aren’t know-it-alls, even if they are experts. They see the learning experience as a way to build their brand. Warrant Buffett is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. But even he thinks he can improve his leadership skills. This from a man who leads a multi-billion dollar company, someone who when he says something, the markets hinge on every word.
· Not workaholics: This will surprise some people. Yes, there are times where they’ll put in 60-80 hour weeks, especially in the beginning. But they make sure they live a balanced life: work, family, mind, spirit, and exercise.
· Give back: It’s almost like every day is Thanksgiving, minus the food. They love to spread their good fortune, contrary to some belief that they are greed-heads. The USA gives $300 billion a year to charity. A common way of giving back is through mentoring programs.
· Negotiate: They think in terms of win/win for all parties vs zero-sum game, where there is one winner and one loser.
· Resourcefulness: They make most of what they have. There is no whining or woe is me attitude, or it’s everyone else’s fault but mine.
· Perseverance: This is one of the most important ones. They don’t give up, especially after getting a bunch of “no’s”. They aren’t afraid to step out of comfort zone. Walt Disney was fired from his first job because he wasn’t creative enough. Tomas Edison failed over a thousand times when creating the light bulb. Steve Jobs was fired twice from Apple. Imagine if those three would have given up after the first try?