Just what is this animal?

  • noun: a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit: many entrepreneurs see potential in this market

Key words: sets up, business, risks, profit. Okay, onwards.

Two Big hitting B’s : Branson + Buffet

So what does this definition tell us about this animal? Let’s ask the enigmatic Mr Branson:

“I will work day and night to avoid failure”

“My house was struck down by lightning, the next day at lunch we were planning our next house”

“Young people with ideas normally come by 99 people out of 100 who say it has been done before, or it won’t work. Sometimes you have to just screw it and do it”

“If you set seemingly impossible challenges, you make what people believed impossible possible”.

This is the guy that is now running a little sideline in space travel tourism. Impressive. All from the acorn of a boy who left school with no qualifications and has had his fair share of inflight turbulence. Branson is the original mold-breaker.

Warren Buffet, another outrageous performer in most things financial for the last 50 year plus and is still active at 83 years young. Some gems:

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction”

“You do things when the opportunities come along. I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve had a bundle of ideas come along, and I’ve had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I’ll do something. If not, I won’t do a damn thing”

“I buy expensive suits. They just look cheap on me”. Funny.

His secrets? Read the book. It’s a total classic.

Born or made

That’s the Question Morpheus. My brother Steve considers himself one. He has the knack of using other people’s capital for his businesses, normally leveraged from a sales patter fuelled from 6-7 pints of Stella. The skin in game theory bites him in the bum however and all bar one has flopped. He is also not a stayer when the honeymoon is over. Love thy brother.

Overall I’ll go made until geneticists unearth the E genome.

The ladder, which rung are you on?

Ever seen this ladder on your travels:

  • Rung 6 Entrepreneur
  • Rung 5 Investor
  • Rung 4 Owner
  • Rung 3 Manager
  • Rung 2 Supervisor
  • Rung 1 Employee

The higher rung you occupy on the ladder, the higher the intrinsic proportion to freedom of expression, influence and innate capacity to handle and live with risk (some may say nonconformance, mentioning no names Mr Branson). The inverse proportion is to security (i.e. of job, ‘but I like the regular pay cheque..‘). Imagine the ladder as a societal pyramid too, the lower rungs being the foundations, the entrepreneur being the satellite antennae sitting on top, proud as punch and bopping the odd kamikaze seagull. Most western OECD economies, not surprisingly, have 90%+ of the workforce at Rung 1. This is absolutely necessary.

I worked with a company in UK where the MD was talented entrepreneur. High D in DISC profile, low C in that he never finished anything, he was riding over the hills in to the next adventure. Classic entrepreneur profile. He was brilliant. His Achilles heel was that his high D bordered on narcissism and he seldom took the Board with him on his journeys. Shame.

A school friend of mine is a successful entrepreneur and now lives in Scotland, plays golf 3 times a week and flicks his stocks around, nice. But he has taken risks and nearly lost it all. Sure be made some wonga on the property market in the 90s, but he went with gut and is doing nicely. He cultivated a bar/restaurant concept with an internal driving range to attract chiefly US and Japanese clientele who go bonkers for golf where price is a demand determinant left in the locker. Well done mate.

Kiwi beacons

If we look at examples of successful Kiwi entrepreneurs like Sam Morgan, Geoff Ross and Rod Drury, they all have a number of essential attributes. These include:

  • a strong nay undying belief in their products,
  • a willingness to back their own judgments and decisions to the hilt,
  • a high determination to overcome setbacks and problems and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

They are also innovative, alert to new opportunities and have a willingness to embrace uncertainty and change or to take calculated risks.

Arise Sir Peter Leitch, that butcher who is just a little bit mad, is a kiwi survivor entrepreneur and has been for 40 years. His business success has nothing to do with madness. Peter freely says, and I paraphrase:

“Get the best people around you in your business, because they will make you money’

There’s a golden lesson in there, mirrored by Branson. Both Peter and Branson are also unerringly self-effacing and admit to not knowing it all. Branson in particular can appear vulnerable in interview. How marvelous is that? A human being.

As for Peter, he left school at 15 with no qualifications and opened his first cow bye bye shop at 27 years old. Imagine Peter being an employee? Not on your nelly, particularly if nelly was next in line to go to one of his shops. He is Dyslexic to boot. Respect, respect, respect. Thanks Peter, and a BBQ pack to go thanks.

Can anyone be one?

In short, no. We all conform to norms. Norms from childhood, norms from our parents, norms from our moral compass. Conservative people are more risk averse and are less likely to risk the family silver, they are typically employees in the freedom ladder. Safe. Middle of the road. And that’s fine because we need them there. Arthur (Daley, pictured) would have flogged the family silver in an instant to save the car yard from the IRD and not worried about her indoors. Was Arthur an entrepreneur? Well, he was in his world, but not in many other worlds.

End game

With these E animals:

  • They have always been around and the world needs them,
  • They are eating your lunch, normally when you are asleep,
  • They have common traits and live beside the total belief and risk forest,
  • Their switches are flicked by the thought of design and building the boat, not being agog at watching it sail out of port. Ahead of the curve if you like to coin an in vogue expression,
  • They use those they known and trust around them to get them there, and make no excuses about this.

Finally, they love the heat of the battle, that’s their mojo, and they hold it dear. Over and out.