It has been nearly two years since I left a large global corporation and struck out on my own, firstly in consulting and then on to software products and services with Algorics, Inc. So am I an entrepreneur? Yes, to some extent I am. I did take some risks in not seeking another corporate position and in breaking out of the areas in which I have most expertise. I did form my own consulting company and I did co-found Algorics. But one thing I have learned in the past two years is that I am the sidekick, the wartime consigliore (ref. “The Godfather”), or as a friend and former colleague (I think with affection?) termed me “The management gadfly”.
So who or where are the true entrepreneurs? I think I have met a few along the way (including our CEO!). They are the people that impress us without trying. They aren’t typically the alpha males of stereotype (and to be clear this isn’t a gender specific type anyway). They aren’t always the smartest or most creative people you have met though they are rarely short of either ability. Nor are they usually the CEOs of established companies no doubt those people are talented and capable but they choose to steer ships; entrepreneurs build them.
The real leaders in entrepreneurship that I have met are smart enough and confident enough to realize they can’t be good at everything and surround themselves with people that make them more effective. They have a rare talent for persistence: in the early days of a company you only have yourself; there is no board or investors to share responsibility and if you ever give up you have failed and your business has failed. Most importantly they have more hours in the day than most of us and twice the energy. Another term for this is overachievers. Don’t look for the great sportsperson or student, look for the person that is both and who has also found time and energy to start a society or charity or become a practiced amateur chef, photographer, or learned another language. That’s where you bet your money – the reason why investors look first at the CEO and then the team and then at the product or service.
So do you want to be in at the start of a company, and you have experience, smarts and desire, but you don’t quite have that great idea? Or maybe you have the ideas but don’t know how to execute, or believe that you can? Go find that overachiever that you know and with whom you know you share perspective, values and laughs. Pitch your idea and then hold on for dear life. There will be no guarantee of reaching your destination, but you will surely enjoy the ride.