I get excited about meeting and spending time with all kinds of entrepreneurs. It’s where I feel like I belong. In particular, I like meeting and learning about entrepreneurs who started from nothing, and with nothing, then managed to turn that nothing into something. They have something really special about them. I met one of these special people recently, and he simply blew me away. Here is his (very abridged) story – along with a little commentary of my own.
While it’s not universally the case, I’ve found that these folks have an eye for seeing opportunity where others don’t, have the work ethic to pursue the opportunity that exceeds most others, and remain humble (at least a lot do) along the way. They may not have the traditional business education that some might think is necessary to do what they do. While that may seem like it would be a weakness, from my experience, it’s generally not. Education comes in many forms, so MBA’s and advanced degrees are not necessary prerequisites. For many of these entrepreneurs, the world is their school – regardless of how far they made it through “school” school. Whatever they don’t know is usually a lot less important than what they do know – which is how to make something happen – that others maybe can’t see or aren’t willing to work hard enough to make happen – actually happen.
Back to the special guy I met. He started out building houses, until the great recession made the need for new houses no longer a thing. Needing a way to make money, he started looking for a more recessionary-proof business, one that was related to his skill set but, unlike home building, was needed whether the economy was good or bad.
There Can Still Room in a Crowded Market – If……
The search led him to start a new company that focused on cleaning up and rebuilding homes and businesses after a fire, shooting, broken water pipe or some other occasion of unfortunateness. Turns out that ‘unfortunates’ like this happen all the time. He figured that if he could only work a little harder, be a little better, a little more genuine and caring, than the other guys, he could make a name for himself and build a successful business. It didn’t faze him that he’d be entering a crowded industry and competing against a wide band of companies that included big, franchised brands with catchy commercials and great name recognition. He was used to, and comfortable with, relying on his ability to outwork, out-team and outperform, so he dove in anyway, and started his new company from scratch.
This entrepreneur’s mindset didn’t permit the notion of failure as an option. His belief system drove him to accept that whatever grit, determination and work was needed, simply had to be provided. If that meant wearing a uniform and working 80+ hours/week, every week, that’s what he would do. He did – and imagine this – the business became extremely successful.
When I met him, he was as humble as a person could be. Super polite and understated, particularly given his level of success. He was very open about the challenges he faced, about his own limitations and about what kind of help he thought he needed to continue to get better. He never once tooted his own horn. He used “we” way more often than “me,” and gave credit to “them” whenever he referenced something positive about his company.
About himself, he simply said, “I know how to work, and I like to work.”
He was the kind of guy that I imagined his employees love to work with (not for – he would never say that – and I wish everyone would embrace that as well – working “for” strikes me as hierarchical, possessive and disingenuous – very ‘I want to prove I’m the boss,’) because he would always have their back, be willing to get into the dirt with them when it was needed, and express his genuine appreciation and gratefulness for what they do to make the company, and him, a success. I’m sure he’s not easy on them (his standards are high – as they should be), and it’s probably not easy on them to keep up with a guy who moves at his speed, in the multiple directions he does, and with his stamina. But I bet they think it’s worth it, because people love to work hard and believe in someone that believes in them, like he clearly does.
Life / Work Balance is a Personal Judgement
He’s also the kind of guy that people might look at and question his “work/life balance.” Some might say that working the kind of hours he works, especially over a long period of time, isn’t productive or healthy. My guess is that he’d thought a lot about that very thing over the years but hadn’t yet figured how to do it any differently, in the meantime deciding that his grit, determination and time were the resources he had to spend until he figured it out.
When we were fast-growing, but inexperienced, entrepreneurs and got ourselves into situations where we figured there was a smarter way but didn’t know what that was (happened a lot), my partner Butch was quick to remind me that “at least we have strong backs….” I feel like that statement would resonate with this entrepreneur.
For me, life / work balance is a personal decision, and I’m not one to question him, or anyone else, about their choice (unless they ask of course). I’ve worked hard on it myself over the past 15 years (zero before that) and, even having had the benefit of good coaching (Strategic Coach), I still struggle with what feels right for me. Is it possible to work less and get more done? Sure, it’s possible. It’s also possible to work less and get less done – and get beat by the competition, but in a life / work balanced kind of way – : (
When it comes to life / work balance, I think that you should do what’s right for you. If you’re OK with the results your choice produces, then I’d say you’re sufficiently balanced. Just be genuine about it, like this guy I met.
I’m making it part of my mission to keep meeting entrepreneurs like this guy. Almost every time I do, whether we are a personality match or not (and sometimes we’re not), I walk away impressed and at least a little (and sometimes, if I’m lucky, a LOT) smarter. They keep me excited about possibilities, and challenge me to remain curious, humble and ambitious about how much I can still learn and grow. Growing always feels good!
I’m interested in meeting more entrepreneurs like the guy I’ve described in this post. Please feel free to make an introduction!
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