|A Business Forum Book Review:
USA Today recently conducted a survey that revealed 96 percent of the respondents between ages 25 to 44 are contemplating starting their "own business." Statistics released by the US Department of Labor report that 20 million Americans currently earn their primary income as independent entrepreneurs, with 7 million more men and women actively trying to start their own business. And corporate downsizing, "encouraged" early retirements and workplace frustrations are driving Americans out of the larger corporation and into smaller businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. Although these are frightening times for people having to abandon corporate security for uncharted territory, these are also exciting times. But who has "The Right Stuff" to be an entrepreneur?
Among the plethora of guides to leaping from the presumed-security of corporate life into the tumult of self-employment, one of the better how-to-do-it primers is FIRED UP! From Corporate Kiss-Off to Entrepreneurial Kick-Off, by Michael Gill and Sheila Paterson (Viking/Penguin Books USA Inc., 244 pages, $22.95). First, the authors have both made this tortuous passage themselves -- successfully -- and they are willing to share their experiences candidly, including their fears and failures. Michael Gill served many years as Executive Vice President and Creative Director of the J. Walter Thompson Company, while Sheila Paterson was Executive Vice President and Marketing Director of Ted Bates & Company -- both preeminent advertising agencies. In 1990, each left these secure positions to establish their own successful ventures. Michael Gates Gill & Friends designs creative solutions to tough marketing challenges for major clients; e.g., Mobil Oil, American Express, and the National Football League. Paterson is now a partner with Macro International formulating marketing strategies for corporate clients ranging from Mars, Incorporated to Rembrandt Tooth-paste.
And secondly, despite the distraction to some of hyperactive prose, this book delivers the practical tools for self-assessment, realistic planning and preparation for the new venture, launching the enterprise, and -- perhaps most importantly -- identifying problems and quickly correcting them during the hazardous period the business is getting underway. It offers some tough lessons and non-conventional counsel; e.g., "When Your Accountant Becomes Your Best Friend and Lawyers and Bankers Can Be Your Biggest Enemies."
Among the helpful nuts-and-bolts recommendations, the authorsâ€™ five essential principles required to become a successful entrepreneur are outstanding:
- "You've Got to Be a Brand." Your business has to be perceived as a brand and marketed like a package of Tide. Your unique brand identity is established by selecting the right name, logo, and mission statement. The "Unique Selling Proposition (USP)" of the business must be capable of definition in ten words or less.
- "The Quick and the Dead." Today, everybody -- your colleagues and your competitors -- is busier than ever before. Successful entrepreneurs make literally every minute count because every minute of their time has to drop to the bottom line. Only one percent is the slim margin between success and failure.
- "Worriers Make Winners. " Using their fears to produce positive results, successful entrepreneurs worry all the time. This is a productive worry -- "sweating the details." Winning race car drivers step on the accelerator, not the brake; fear is the fuel for constructive forward motion.
- "Have the Courage to make Big Promises and the Will to Deliver on Them." Big -- sometimes outrageous -- promises are needed to generate critical business. But the entrepreneur must be prepared to fulfill all of these commitments.
- "Get FIRED UP!" Successful entrepreneurs are passionate about their work, creative in solving problems, and determined to succeed. This resolution is the critical factor assuring their success. The authors' upbeat slogan: "Donâ€™t be fed up, get Fired Up!"
This book concludes with an inspired observation by Marg VeneKlasen, a former high school coach and now the President of the VeneKlasen Property Management Company, one of the most successful property management operations in Santa Fe, New Mexico: "Entrepreneurs are like athletes: They really have to focus. Focus means that it's your life and you're thinking about it all the time. When you focus, the ideas flow, there's an excitement about it, and you know you're doing a great job and it;s like being on cloud nine!"
Your comments and suggestions for these pages are most welcomed!
Revised: February 28, 2000 TAF
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