If you missed Part I of this 10 part series, let’s catch up quickly. I was asked to help instruct a group of amazing students in a program called Young Entrepreneur’s Academy. YEA! is a program that is replicated across the country in counties wishing to better their students’ knowledge and understanding of all things business for use in the future. I am teaching the third and final 10 weeks of the 30 week course, where the students actually run their businesses, gain sales, and simply make their businesses come to life.
It dawned on me that, while I had signed on to be of value and service to the children, I had an amazing opportunity to learn from them and see the business world through eyes that had not been subjected to some of the horrors of business each of us ‘veterans’ experience daily. I figured that for me to not share this information through a blog, no matter how simple it may seem, would go against who I am and what I stand for…business and personal evolution with the purpose of more amazing things. So what was created was this 10 part series, where, after each Tuesday class, I look more into what I learned that week and why it was worth seeing through new eyes and reinforcing I may have known, but needed reminded of.
Lesson 3: Not Everyone Has to Agree With You
Starting and running a company is an amazing place to be. The energy is astounding, the flood of ideas seem to keep you up all night, and the changes and challenges are always minute to minute. To those of us who love creating and building something new and amazing, that is music to our ears, and the reason we jump out of bed each morning.
Starting and running a company can also be one of the loneliest places ever. By nature, many of us as entrepreneurs are somewhat ‘hot and cold’. When we’re high, we’re really high, when we’re low, we’re really low. Keeping that in perspective is key and doing our best to level out some of those highs and lows keeps us grounded, but the loneliness of our undertakings is never something that completely goes away. The loneliness is kind of like having an ominous figure hanging out in the back corner of the room at all times. He’ll leave us alone for the time being, but eventually you know he’s going to make his presence felt again.
On Tuesday, we went through filing for licenses, business name registering, and working with state, local, and federal governments to insure you and your company are completely compliant. As you can imagine, it had myself and the students glued to the edge of our seats! As the discussions went on, I genuinely believed I would probably not have anything to discuss this week. After all, if the students are not experiencing and interacting, how can we mooch some of their vision? Please don’t misunderstand, this information was crucial for the students and certainly something that they not only should understand, it was something that, by law, they must do for several reasons. I’m simply stating that it was like reading a text book and while learning from a book is great, it’s the implementing of that knowledge in the real world where so much is really gained.
Luckily, there is only so much paperwork you can discuss in a three hour class, so about halfway through, that portion was over. The remainder of the class would be used to go through much more fun concepts: value propositions, marketing messages, marketing mediums, demographical targets, etc. What is surprising though was that Lesson 3 did not come from any new found understanding of these ideas. No, lesson 3 was somewhat wedged between the gripping tales of governmental record-keeping and the aforementioned marketing topics. Lesson 3 came from a practice speech given by our group’s yearly as she revised and practiced her presentation, taking it from 5 minutes with slides to 3 minutes with the finish line being the opportunity to present her speech in two weeks in NYC, for a possible $10,000 scholarship.
This young lady has so much going for her. She has a great vision, wonderful work ethics,and while she is resolute in who she is and what she stands for, she is VERY open to constructive criticism to make her and her concept stronger. Long story short, she is really someone fun to root for. As she prepared to give her updated speech to the class, I asked everyone to shut laptops, give their undivided attention, but most of all, really challenge her with questions at the end…and not just layup questions, tough ones. As a side note, there is a question and answer period after the NYC speech where the real investors get to do the same thing. Having our winner prepared for any and all questions that may come her way is something I strongly subscribe to.
The speech began and she performed like a star. She presented well and represented her idea and vision with passion and energy. Now came the questions from the students. As instructed by me, they were relentless. There was nothing ignorant or rude said, but the questions cut to the core of the idea. They cut to the core of the vision, and they probably cut to the core of our speaker. This may have been the first time she was ever met with such challenge before, and our goal was certainly not to have her feel attacked or beaten down, but to learn to deal with differences of opinion and sometimes even agree to disagree.
In reality, the opinions were so tough, that if I had to take a guess, I would say that at most, only one to two of her teammates in the class either understood the idea or thought it was something that actually would work in the ‘real world’. I would love to tell you what the concept is, but that’s not for me to discuss. Let’s just say this, it is an empowerment tool that boosts confidence while still providing economic motivation. It’s a non-profit vision with a for profit mentality and it has a lot of very good merits. I think with the right people behind it, it will be a very powerful engine and will bring strength and confidence to many people who need it while still serving the commerce mentality. But my thoughts are not what is important at this moment. Our class winner was under fire. She was alone, answering questions to people who admittedly ‘did not get it’. They didn’t get why anyone would care, they didn’t understand why anyone would subscribe to or buy her service. Again, they just didn’t get it.
After one final rough question, our winner dug in her heels and answered perfectly. The question she was posed with was something along the lines (but much more respectively put) ‘I don’t think anyone really cares about this cause nor would they pay money for it.’ The reply: we’ll agree to disagree…we have information that proves that x% of people suffer from these issues and most suffer in silence. It is something I personally have seen and that is what drove the concept in the first place. Since presenting this idea to other investors, I have had several of them comment that this service was something they wished they had at this very moment.’ That was it. Ding, ding, ding. Round over, match over, we have our winner.
I stepped in and really expressed my gratitude to the class for their willingness to do the uncomfortable, and take shots at a concept or person that they respected and liked in the sake of helping her improve her answers, thought processes, and most of all, her grit. I thanked our winner for taking everything said in stride and supporting her continued growth by allowing herself to become vulnerable at the sake of her teammates’ constructive questions and criticism.
What really hit me though, was that this is why being an entrepreneur and business owner is so lonely. Few and far between are the ‘Googles’ of the world, or the ‘Facebooks’, where it seems everyone loves the concept and if you aren’t part of their camp, you’re wrong. Most business owners live in a world where the majority does not like you or your idea and won’t buy from you at this given moment. That doesn’t mean it won’t change down the road, but herein lies the loneliness part. You hear so many no’s and so many reasons why not, that you begin to feel you’re the only one who believes in your vision. As I adamantly stressed to everyone in the room, that is not the case. It’s just hard to find those champions who really see the vision you see. You really don’t need everyone in the world to like you or your idea. In fact, you really don’t even need 10% of the world to like you or your idea. Just find the few people who do and really leverage their belief in what you are doing for success. The other 95% of the population serves a very valuable function though, they exploit flaws and weaknesses. If you can hear what they say, sort through the painful parts, toss the bad ones, and still find the value in what is being conveyed, that percentage that loves you and your idea will increase. It’s a long road, but a necessary one. As I remembered vividly on Tuesday night, standing in front of a room of people who don’t ‘get’ what you’re doing is a lonely feeling. Once again though, if we can force ourselves to remember that you don’t need everyone to like your idea, but rather to focus on the few that do, we’ll all be a little better off.
About Brian Pitzer
Chief Evolution Officer, sales and marketing junkie, family man, and all around heckuva good guy. Daily, Brian is the head of Evolve (www.evolvegrowth.com) a sales execution agency that believes value comes not from ideas, but form ‘doing’. Brian shares his insights on evolving your sales, your company, and (a dash of) yourself. The results are 2 parts unique, 1 part sarcasm, 1 part edgy, and a dash of normalcy. Motto: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney. Email Brian at: firstname.lastname@example.org