July 26, 2004
News & Opinion: Catching Up
To show you how far behind I am, I am going to point you to the Monday Special Section of the Wall Street Journal from two weeks. The topic was small business and there were a couple books that showed up. In the opening article Lessons of Success -- and Failure [sub. needed], there are quotes from two biz book authors:
...While these are problems [IRS, loss of financing, personal trouble of owner] that can plague any size firm, "for small businesses, there is simply less margin for error," says Dave Anderson, a leadership consultant in Agoura Hills, Calif., and recent author of Up Your Business.
Offense as Well as Defense
Meantime, doing things right -- as opposed to just avoiding pitfalls -- is equally critical to real success. From his vantage point, Mr. Anderson believes the enterprises that become great -- not just good -- are the ones that "keep the hunger and stay in attack mode even when they succeed," which, as he points out, "is against human nature." The leaders who prevail over the long haul, he says, don't become "immersed in paperwork" but rather stay in the trenches and keep innovating.
"You can't build a great company by memo or voice mail," Mr. Anderson says.
Patience, too, it seems, can separate winners and losers.
About two-thirds of new employer firms survive at least two years, according to the SBA, but only about half make it to four years. The fortitude it takes to keep plugging along in the early, lean years runs deep in survivors, says Doug Hall, host of Brain Brew Radio, a show about American entrepreneurs on Public Radio International [author of Jump Start Your Business Brain and Meaningful Marketing]. He believes that standing one's ground, even if failure seems imminent, can be the deciding factor in a business owner's ultimate success.
"The challenge with entrepreneurs is that they don't stick with it," Mr. Hall says. "It takes too much energy because the naysayers are whispering, 'It doesn't work, it doesn't work.'"
However, at the end of the day, he suggests, the most important distinction between those who fail and succeed lies in the DNA of the original brainstorm. "To borrow a phrase: It's the idea, stupid," Mr. Hall says. "Did you have an idea that's meaningfully unique?" He believes the most thriving entrepreneurs are the so-called American dreamers -- the ones who see a void in American commerce and try to address it rather than haphazardly chasing any inspiration. For instance, the guy who can't find a printer cartridge on a weekend and is moved to open an office-supply store; or the entrepreneur who goes to a dirty theme park and decides he can do better. That, Mr. Hall suggests, is where the Staples and Disneys of the world originate.
"Money isn't the ultimate measure of their success" in the beginning, he says. "It's the fulfillment of their goal."
BTW, there is also a profile of Arthur Golden, author of Memiors of a Giesha, and his struggle with success.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.