Business Information by Gladys Edmunds
|At age 15 Gladys developed a travel service that would prosper for more than 30 years. She is a national award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author and columnist. Visit her at www.gladysedmunds.com|
Just Starting Out? Be Careful of the Advice You Get
What is an entrepreneur? What kind of help and information does an entrepreneur need to get a business up and running? And what kind of help and information does an entrepreneur need to keep things running smoothly.
These are just a few of the questions that came to mind several months ago as I sat on a panel at an entrepreneur training session at a college. On the panel with me were three men. One said that he had been an entrepreneur before, while the other two were former middle-management corporate employees who have started a company teaching entrepreneurs how to take their business to what they called “the next level.”
Responses that the guys on the panel gave to questions from 40 unemployed folks who appeared eager to get started into their own businesses greatly concerned me. There was a lot of time spent discussing various ways that large corporations operate and comparing those methods with how small businesses do things. It often sounded like they were suggesting that small businesses should try to imitate large corporations. One panelist suggested that every small business worth anything should have an exit strategy. Yet most of the people in the training session were looking to get into business, not get out of one. The other panelist focused their information on the problems of having your own business with little attention directed to the positive side.
At one point one of the panelists told the participants to keep in mind that most businesses fall short after getting started. This is a statement I hear often. All in all, there were enough negatives in the session to make any normal person who had ideas of going into business, or staying in their current business, want to abandon the idea.
I’m from the traditional school that says an entrepreneur is someone who takes scarce resources and builds a viable business out of it. I realize that there are many different types of entrepreneurs. But my focus has often been on the more traditional type.
I was reminded of a situation I experienced while on a consulting project. It’s a story about what makes and entrepreneur and how important it is for established entrepreneurs to give more encouraging information and less negative talk about stats and exit strategies.
I once met a single mother whom we will call Shirley. Shirley was completing a Welfare to Work program at the company that I had been contracted to consult with. She has struggled to find employment for several years so that she could end her dependency on welfare. Her difficulty in finding employment was due to her lack of education. She failed the entry exams that were required for most jobs. And this company would not be keeping her after completing the program. Her reading and writing skills were poor.
During a conversation with her, the subject of cooking came up and she asked me if I knew how to bake sweet potato pies. I told her that I was quite good at baking pies and that my father who was the best pie maker ever had taught me. She gave me a look of surprise and said that she was certain that she made the best sweet potato pies. She agreed to bake a pie and bring it to the office. One week later, she did.
Turned out that her pie was the best. I suggested that she consider selling her pies while looking for a job. She couldn’t believe that anyone would buy from her. I encouraged her to take the pie she had brought in and cut it into small pieces and let people in the building sample it. If they liked it ask them if they would like to place an order. She did. And she got six orders right away! Shirley learned that day that job or no job, she had pies that were good enough to sell and there was a customer base ready to buy.
What Shirley needed was a little information, direction and encouragement. My guess is, if she had attended the entrepreneurial training session that I was at, it would have scared her out of taking that much needed step to earn a living.
Sessions like the one I sat through can easily turn off any would-be entrepreneur. Small business is the backbone of this country and has helped many people since the beginning of time to make a good living and support our families. And those of us in business should do everything we can to encourage and assist new and would be entrepreneurs in getting started.
Don’t forget to spend some of your holiday shopping budget with a small business.
Read other business articles by Gladys Edmunds