"Hello, my name is Glen and I represent Mason Shoe Company." That was 37 years ago and I was twelve. I found an ad for shoe salesmen, completed the application and attached a letter written in pencil. In the letter I asked if I was old enough, but I don’t think they ever read it although they did send training materials, catalogues and order forms.
So I got on my bike and set out to conquer the world—a new entrepreneur. I was turned down cold at the first house. The next house was that of a widower who didn’t seem to tolerate kids and kept to himself. I stared at his house for a long time building the courage to approach. Surprisingly he smiled at my introduction and invited me in. He bought two pairs and when asked, I looked at my price list and told him the retail and my cost. He wrote me a check for the retail and told me never to tell anyone the cost.
That experience taught me that within limits, we make our own rules. All of my experiences have taught me something. So here are some thoughts I developed over the last 37 years.
- Look for ways to make a difference.
I saw job descriptions as the “had to do” list not as a limit. Throughout my career I created opportunities. I think that’s a big part of what entrepreneurs do. They identify opportunities and apply themselves, frequently without invitation to do so.
- Follow that overwhelming desire to take action.
At one point I used the regular hours of my job to teach as an adjunct professor, which lead to an appointment on the Boards of Retail Advisors at the University of Florida and Cornell University. Entrepreneurs seem to have a voracious appetite for learning and teaching. We also feed on multiple tasks or projects, which lead to increased productivity.
- Exert your influence as much as possible.
I resigned from one job in frustration over major differences in direction. Within two years they were bankrupt. I saw this as a failure on my part for not influencing the organization. An entrepreneur can go from the trenches to the big picture and assess cause and effect. The protagonist in this story is influence. Without it we are frustratingly adrift.
- Help other would-be entrepreneurs.
It was an entrepreneur that I worked for that saw something in me and gave me a helping hand. He told me I needed to go into business for myself and help struggling companies. Four months later I left and he provided a generous severance to get me started.
Someone once asked me what it was like going out on my own as an entrepreneur. I told them it was like jumping out of an airplane with all the materials needed to build a parachute. An entrepreneur must be willing to take a risk.
What are your experiences and list of critical traits and skills?