Ah, entrepreneurship—the opportunity to be your own boss, to come to work when you want, to not ever have to deal with office politics, to make millions, and never even have to change out of your jammies. Over ten years ago I transitioned out of the soul-sucking, life stifling world of bureaucracies to run through the liberating fields of entrepreneurship. No more bully bosses; if I have a beef with corporate, I just march in front of the first mirror I can find and have a 'come to Jesus' meeting with me and Jesus (He’s my CEO btw).
While I have never looked back in regret, I still had to be ever present and watch out for the inevitable cow patties found in all of life’s fields, regardless of industry, size, nationality, or mission. Having worked in five different organizational settings, I know that certain things stink no matter what. It's just that I like the sweet stench of entrepreneurship much better than I do bureaucratic B.S. (B.B.S. for you acronym lovers).
I coach and speak to thousands of folks every year looking to make a tremendous transition in their lives. Almost 100 percent of the time, they are looking to break out of the confines of a J.O.B. and show up with a sense of passion and purpose in the work of their designing. I designed a term called “Entremanure" which is someone who can succeed despite all the crap. Possible responses to B.S. in previous professional settings, after the critical chain of command had failed to yield any results, entailed the following options: begin job searching, give your two weeks’ notice, disengage and go silent, sue, destroy from within, blast on social media, cry on a therapist’s couch, drink heavily all weekend long, or acquiesce and become a cog in the wheel.
You see, there will always be crap to deal with, but not all crap is created equal. Some piles are incredibly nourishing; others teach resiliency; and then there are those to avoid altogether. Crap is crap; however, some forms of crap are much easier to dig than others. So how do you navigate all the shite you’re inevitably going to deal with? Here are four lessons to remember?
You Can’t Polish a Turd: When you are running your own show, you get to move quickly and consider options that you previously could not have due to the exhaustive approval process. You'll need to be intelligent about what sells as well as margins, who to pay for services, and which organizations' would make profitable strategic partners. Most importantly, you'll need to know when to cut losses and quit throwing good money after bad. We've all witnessed a new idea being unfolded to the tune of millions of dollars, only to have everything reset back to the original way after one year. Big business can sustain this; entrepreneurs can’t.
I had to learn that my operational expertise in a large organization could be my Achilles heel in a small one. I could only cut cost for so long before I had to recognize that underneath it all was still a turd. We can’t throw good money after bad because good money is hard to come by. You’ll have to run this business like you own the checkbook, because you do.
Does it Pass the Sniff Test?: Essential to any entrepreneur is the ability to stay on point and avoid mission drift. As my father, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." What is the one thing that you can do better than anything else, which the world needs, and for which they will actually open their wallets? Do that thing. Avoid looking at what other people are doing and mimicking them. I’ve had numerous consultants call me up and tell me what they could do for my growth. When I asked them for their plan, they used a strategy that worked in other industries, at different times, but which failed to stay current on buying trends and in particular, in my industry.
Personal development isn't like selling jewelry, wine, or trips to Disney World. It takes a particular person hungry for the journey of lifelong learning. So if someone sends you a proposal, make sure it's got your unique scent on it; otherwise, it'll just stink up the place.
Under all that Dung is a Pony: You’ve heard the joke about the pony in the dung heap where there were two sons, one an optimist and one a pessimist. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities — one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist — their parents took them to a psychiatrist. First, the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. "What's the matter?" the psychiatrist asked, baffled. "Don't you want to play with any of the toys?" "Yes," the little boy bawled, "but if I did I'd only break them."
Next, the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist.
“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere for me!” To be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be an optimist. Otherwise, you’ll never make it.
Manure Provides Nourishment: I am a proud South Central Pennsyltuckian, and one thing I am familiar with is the aroma of manure being spread on the fields. The fertilizer that is covered in our lives is also an incredible source of nourishment. Adversity makes us stronger, more resilient, and intrinsically checks our dedication to the job at hand. One of my favorite sayings is, "A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her." Hardship also makes you into a more compassionate leader, and a sense of compassion is something that separates entrepreneurs from regular business people. We are in it for a higher purpose; otherwise, why would we put up with what we do?
Plus, the stinky situations and people we cross paths with teaching us precisely who we do not want to do business with and become. The beauty of entrepreneurship is, we get to decide just how much manure we are going to put up with before we move out of the stench zone.
My father always joked that he knows Republicans lie just as much as Democrats. It's just that he liked the Republican lies better. Entrepreneurship is a lot like that. There are pros and cons to everything in life, and we truly can make the best of any situations with the right attitude, self-control, and behaviors. The question is, which pile of dung heap would you rather spend your life in? For me, I much prefer that challenges of entremanureship rather than hitting my head against the bureaucratic wall. Those who are savvier at office politics will be much better at climbing the corporate ladder than I ever was. Life is all a matter of what suits you best because when you dial that in, everything, even the crap, smells a whole lot sweeter.