Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stupid is as stupid does, in business and in life.


Sometimes dreamers try to become entrepreneurs. They fail and they do it again. We call these people "serial entrepreneurs", and hail them as heroes. I believe there is a point where, as Forrest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does".

Every day I ask myself two questions:  "how do I make money at that", and "why am I doing this?" Here's why:

1.My life is invested in whatever decisions I make, as are the lives of my family so I need to be profitable and responsible.
2.I need to be able to live with myself and do work that has value and meaning to others.

There is a lot of buzz these days about being an entrepreneur, so much so that it has become part of mainstream / reality media programming. Admittedly, I record Dragon's Den weekly. I watch and wince every time I see someone who has over-invested in a badly formed idea.  I also cheer when a good idea that is well formed, researched and presented gets their support. I study the pitcher's facial reactions and body language and make a mental note to never do that should I find myself in the hot seat and about to be rejected. Yes I am a Dragon junkie.

When we think of entrepreneurs, we think of people who are self-starters, resilient, relentless and fearless. I would add intelligent, objective and informed to the mix.

To be a self starter should be a no-brainer, whether you work for the post office or you are starting a business. Self starting is the act of getting out to bed, getting dressed and facing the world. If you are not able to get out of bed in the morning, get dressed and look presentable, forget about losing your life's savings on starting a business.

Being resilient is another attribute that must be in every living person's toolkit in work and life. Resilience helps us roll with the punches and deal with successes and failures. Resilient people have a high bounce factor.  If you are in business, or worse yet, introducing something that other people may not understand or know they want, the likelihood of rejection is very high. If you are not a get-your-butt-off-the-floor kind of person, hang onto your cushy job in the biggest company possible so it will take some time to find you.

Being relentless with a bad idea is just bad. No amount of relentlessness can save you if your dream is doomed to fail because you have not thought it through, right down to the dollars and sense.

Finally it does take a certain degree of fearlessness and confidence to walk against the traffic. I don't believe well informed people are fearless. I believe they are competent, confident and knowledgeable. They understand the sacrifices of money, security, personal time and the good things in life that money can buy.  They have a parachute or a cushion at the ready.

In my experience, if you haven't proven the idea on paper, and been terrified at the prospect of failure as a result of what you have learned about the market, the competitors, customers and the costs involved, you haven't done your job. It is safe to fail in a business plan, but not so safe in the real world. Finally, separate love from money. Loving an idea or a concept can create blinders. Love is not enough to make money.  The market has to support the idea. So prove it on paper before you give up your day job or sacrifice your life investments.