Some Extremely Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Love Their Companies (And Why That’s More Than Okay)

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Artist Corner, Marketing Tips, Social Media Tips
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We’ve argued throughout that everyone will have to become an entrepreneur.

Some people take to the idea of becoming an entrepreneur like a Labrador retriever puppy entering a lake for the first time: After about ten seconds of nervousnessy, they are incredibly enthusiastic and once they are immersed, it’s virtually impossible to get them out.  (If you are not a Lab owner, ask one.)

These happy swimmers in the entrepreneurial pond are people who either always wanted to have a business of their own—and had been thwarted for some reason–and now have the chance to thrive on their own—or they just found a place they belonged, once they started their own company.

But do you have to feel that way?

Absolutely not.

You can use entrepreneurship as a means to end.

Sure, the people who extol entrepreneurship treat the businesses they starteds a member of the family. They have an extremely personal relationship with it. However, you need not feel that way.

When franchising started to become incredibly hot back in the 1970s and ‘80s there was a tendency among some “serious” entrepreneurs to refer to a franchisee as someone who was “just buying themselves a job.” The thinking went, these people were plunking down say $500,000 for a franchise that would pay them $50,000 a year for the rest of their life, thanks to the efforts of the parent company, and they were just trading their old corporate job for a new one, in slightly different form.

Well, the patronizing attitude was wrong. In the for-profit world, an entrepreneur is someone who creates and runs a new business where one did not exist before.  No, the McDonald’s franchisee didn’t create McDonald’s. But he certainly created a McDonald’s where there never was one. Franchisees are entrepreneurs, despite that “buying themselves a job” snide analogy.

But the deeper point behind the analogy can be right. One of the reasons people who start companies look down at franchisees is that the franchisee does not have a passionate relationship to his business, since he did not give birth to it. But that is more than fine. The business you start does NOT lead to fulfillment in and of itself. (You just may not have that gene.) But it can provide you with other substantial benefits such as: replacement income, more control over your life and seeing a direct relationship between what you do and the end result.

That is pretty fulfilling in and of itself.

So don’t think you need to be someone who as a kid had a lemonade stand or paper route to start a company. The ideas we advocated are universally applicable, and you will benefit, even if you couldn’t sell your mother a box of Girl Scout cookies when you were growing up.

Do you agree?

Here’s the reason I am asking.

We are in the middle of an experiment

From now until the end of October you have the chance to shape this space.  During that time this blog will be devoted to discussing the very tangible problems you have in starting and growing your business—how to get financing; what kind of customers should you target; where and how to market, and the like.

You suggest the topics and talk about the concerns you have (and also what you have found that works well) and your peers will offer their suggestions, and raise concerns of their own.  I will go through everything, cull the best answers/comments/ideas, and as a micro business owner myself (as well as someone who has been writing about this stuff for more than 30 years) will add ideas of my own.

Paul B. Brown is the co-author (along with Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer) of Just Start: Take Action; Embrace Uncertainty and Create the Future recently published by Harvard BusinessReview Press.

Please note the Action Trumps Everything blog now appears every Sunday and Wednesday. (Except this week. I will be traveling on Sunday.)

Click on the “Following” button to get the newAction Trumps Everything blog post as soon as its goes live.

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