As you know if you’ve been reading these musings the past couple of weeks, I’m spending a few hours each Tuesday evening learning from middle and high school students as they enter into entrepreneur-dom and experience the wide range of emotions that come with starting their businesses, from excitement and euphoria to disappointment and defeat. The fact that they have been kind enough to let me into their world is enough to ensure I do my best to repay their generosity by sharing what I’m learning each week, through their encounters and via my eyes.
Lesson 4: An Entrepreneur without the U is Just a Business
This past week I remembered one of the most powerful, if not THE most powerful lesson in business…especially if you’ve created your own company. That lesson, simply stated, is that the business, no matter what it stands for, is ultimately about you. Not your idea, not your vision, not your goal, not your ‘reason’…YOU. For some of you, this may seem like either a very simple statement and to others, perhaps an inaccurate one…but let me plead my case, and then have at me!
Piggy-backing on the last few week’s teachings, our regional YEA! winner will be traveling to NYC this week to present her idea and pitch, and hopefully bring home a nice big trophy to Central Ohio as well as a check to fund her business growth. She has been working extremely hard to get her speech down to three minutes, the time-frame mandated by those in charge of the event. For those of you who have ever had to give a speech on your passion, including the blood, sweat, and tears that go with it, you know that three minutes is not a lot of time. During that three minutes, the contestants must convey the future potential and idealism of their business to the judges, while still satisfying the nuts and bolts of how the business will run day to day. No easy task.
She was doing great preparing on her own, but by listening to some very smart business people (I wish I could take some of this credit, but can’t) she realized that while her pitch made sense, there was something missing. Her story, as it was, centered on a conceptualized young female who doesn’t quite fit the look and feel of what society expects of her. The story then goes on to explain just how her concept will benefit a huge number of women in the world by helping them understand who they are, both inside and out, through the use of style. Very awesome concept and definitely something the world needs more of. The issue with her first run at the presentation (again, as these savvy business people recognized), was that it was missing the true essence of what made the story so powerful in the first place, it was missing the ‘why’ that only ‘she’ could use to materialize vision into reality.
Without her it was a cool concept, but with her it is potentially life changing. Without her, it is unique, with her it is eerily prophetic. The strangely ironic part is that in instances like this, where a great concept is present, theoretically, that concept should take center stage and the person is riding shot-gun to that concept…but nope, not the case. She is the story. She is the reason to believe. She is the bond that unites fact and fiction, reality and surreal, and an idea to a cause.
Many of us that truly love what we’re doing including the brand, vision, and ideals being built. Somehow or other though, we either forget or miss the fact altogether, that we’re actually the story (or maybe our humility has been taught to not admit it). Although the example I’m about to use is clichéd and really overplayed, it has merit. When a ‘guy named Tom’ created a website based on giving away shoes to countries in need by matching those being purchased through his website, it was nothing short of miraculous, attaching modern day innovation to for-profit ambition and adding a heavy dose of ‘bettering the world’ mentality. While the concept was great, without Tom, it would be just another ‘good’ cause – a cool idea, but not as empowering as it could become.… The cause didn’t enable that empowerment, Tom did. The cause was the benefactor, which is ultimately why we do something generous in the first place, but it wasn’t the epicenter…that was Tom.
While you may not see it the same way as I’m going to state it, as many people as Mother Teresa helped, she was actually bigger than her causes. It was Mother Teresa that brought the power to what she was doing. She made it bigger than it really was. Yes, her involvement brought light to issues much bigger than herself, but by making it hers it took those issues to a whole new level and she was able to be, and achieve, so much more…again, with her cause being the original benefactor meant to receive the donation of time, money, love, you name it, in the first place.
In the story from my class’s teaching, our regional winner didn’t necessarily want to involve herself. She wanted to stay distanced from the cause. It was personal to her, which is why she created the idea, but it was so personal that she preferred, no insisted upon, disassociation. While her idea may probably survive if she decided not to bring herself into the limelight, it probably would have ended up falling short. After all, it would have been just another good idea. Luckily she decided to break through the fears she had and show the world how much beauty she really does possess, physically, mentally, inside, and out. She told her story, through her eyes, and she became her brand.
This past week, these students, specifically one very special young woman, reminded me that each of us needs to remember that while the parent in us wants to put the company, vision, or mission first, it is our involvement that truly makes the concept remarkable. It is our involvement that will make that vision be the best it possibly can, which, is the very essence of good parenting. Instead of begrudging that fact, perhaps we should embrace it. When your child does something great, it is, to some debatable extent, with your help. Modesty and humility are essential in this world, but when we create something amazing, perhaps we shouldn’t be so hesitant to acknowledge our involvement at some level.
The world has plenty of good ideas, the ones who truly make the world amazing are led by people that put those ideas into action and ultimately embody the human form of the idea. Blake Mycoskie doesn’t just donate shoes to distant lands. Blake runs a great company that includes customers in a culture that by purchasing things they would have purchased anyway, actually supports those in need. The idea didn’t create itself. Without Blake, the idea becomes nowhere nearly as powerful as it has. Blake is more than a philanthropist, Blake is someone who puts ideas into motion. Blake is a parent. Blake understands that in almost every situation, an organization without a face is more than likely, just a statistic. Blake understands that the world needs him to create and ‘be’ Tom. Our regional contestant found this out as well and I appreciate her reminding me how my being ‘Brian’ to the things I love is not necessarily a bad thing either.
This paragraph below was actually at the beginning of the post, but once/if you read it, you’ll see why it was moved. It really was nothing more than a stream of consciousness and the musings of a title (in case you’re wondering where the two Seinfeld images and references come from). This one was even a little out there for me though, and I was a little nervous (rightly so, I’m sure) that I might lose you before the meat of the story, so I moved it down here. If, for nothing else, than to show that creativity and uniqueness of thinking are complimentary. I could have deleted it, which would have made more sense…but where is the spirit of ‘putting it out there and trying’ in that though??
For those of you old enough to remember Seinfeld (the show about nothing – similar to my blog/writings about nothing), this title is a tribute to the iconic episode involving the ‘Soup Nazi’. PS, shouldn’t I at least get a like or share for at least trying to find a way to include Seinfeld into a post?? In one scene, George is on a date and explaining to his lady friend how manure is not bad, to quote George: “It’s newer, which is good, and a ma in front of it. Ma-Newer. When you consider the other choices manure is actually pretty refreshing”. Not to spoil too much in case you’ve never seen Seinfeld before, but she immediately comments on how much she likes his watch and how her boyfriend has the same one. But the Ma-Newer of Jerry and George is our Entre-pre-newer. And that folks, is today’s completely random and totally unnecessary insertion of Seinfeld into our daily lives.
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