I get impassioned about issues, concerns, art, ideas, explorations and discoveries. Among my primary passions is “entrepreneurism”, applied to creating and developing businesses and organizations, and applied to a particular way individuals can create new pathways and stimulate innovation. In our collective pursuit of “new communities” and “new economics” since the melt-down of 2008 and elevated concern about the environment and global warming, nothing stands out to me as being more revolutionary and transformative than entrepreneurial initiatives.
If local community-based, resilient and sustainable economies and enterprises are at all desirable, then you, too, are or soon will be an advocate for venture and enterprise creation and development. New small businesses and community-based organizations create local wealth while inventing, building, producing, and distributing everything from locally grown healthy foods to advanced materials to smart-phone “apps” to socially responsible investing and crowd-funding to works of art. And if you’re already an entrepreneur, business owners, inventor, or organization leader and participant, then you’re actively engaged in building and sustaining the communities and cities of the future.
The Role of Uncertainty
Somewhere between protecting older and almost obsolete technologies, sectors, and skills and trying to plan and direct what sectors should develop next, is the preferred approach in the arena of enterprise development. I’m a advocate of entrepreneurs; I’d like to see more resources and efforts go to training, educating, supporting, and assisting individuals and groups to try and eventually succeedin their individual and small group initiatives. The mindful entrepreneur is all about supporting innovation, exploration, discovery, creativity, and production in the context of working collaboratively, in networks, in and on behalf of communities: this is, in my mind, the direct approach to the common good.
“Try and eventually succeed” is a key phrase. The entrepreneurial approach is uncertain; it is risk-based, and more akin to being an explorer and discoverer than it is to being a builder. You, the small business creator and owner, are barraged by hundreds of new books each year about how to succeed, how to do it right, how to start and grow a business, and on and on. There are detailed lists of must-does and how-tos, should-nots and avoid-these. If you read and practice and evaluate even half of all these, you may never have the time and energy—or interest—to actually have a business. It’s better to read and learn as you explore and develop.
Here’s my best advice in all of this:
- First, accept that you’re an explorer. You will be discovering and learning something new—about yourself, your business, your customers and clients, your markets, your community—every day you stay in business. You can’t duplicate another person’s success; you’ll have to explore and discover a lot on your own. If you have no inclination to explore, and find uncertainty and risk troublesome, don’t go into business alone. Consider the possibility that you shouldn’t go into business at all.
- Second, understand that you need to be a critical thinker, problem solver, and innovator, because you’ll have to figure things out for yourself. You’ll face situations for which there are no magic-bullet answers. If you’re still in business after five years, and are successful by any measure you choose, then you know as much about this arena as anyone who has published a book about it. You may still need and want—and even enjoy—the expertise, knowledge and insights of others (never underestimate the value of someone else’s learning and experience!) and you’ll continue to find books,articles, and workshops of great value. Pursue and use these opportunities. Just realize that you, too, could be a business-advisor and author!
- Third, this enterprise is about you and your networks of colleagues, customers, and communities. Through your individual and collaborative initiatives, you can retain individual freedom and achieve community-wide benefits and value.
- Fourth, master the basics as you go along. Learn something about value-chains, SWOT, organization and management. Involve others—partners, consultants, employees, friends—who know more about these things, and who bring expertise you may lack: typically new product and service development, bookkeeping and finance, sales and marketing.
- Keep learning every day.
Returning to Your Core Strengths
But if you find that you can’t start or make a move until you’ve read the most recent piece of advice or the newest technique, that you need to get all the answers and perfect your approach first, and this sense repeats itself over and over, you should probably reconsider your options. Most of you are not feeling this, but you probably do feel anxious at times as you wonder why some aspect of your enterprise is not going as you expected or planned. Combine reading with using an analytical technique. Don’t just learn about metrics: use them. Reach out into your network of fellow explorers and consultants: you will find comfort, strength, support, and information. And you will reinvigorate your own insights and core strengths; you are, after all, the well from which your success will emerge.