So you want to be a successful entrepreneur. What do you do? Come up with a brilliant idea? Find an investor with bottomless pockets? Well, yes, all those things help -- but there is really nothing like having the right mom.
Just ask Bill Delaney, a Lexington, Mass, consultant, who recently did a survey to find out what makes entrepreneurs tick. He discovered all the predictable traits -- that entrepreneurs are stubborn, assertive, persistent, impatient, and so on.But where did they come by these qualities? he asked. "In questioning 150 entrepreneurs, it turned out that most of them came from homes where the mother was the dominant influence and placed requirements on the child to help her," says Delaney. "Mothers didn't know it, but they were training entrepreneurs."
Author A. David Silver, founder of the Santa Fe Private Equity Fund, agrees. "The list of successful entrepreneurs whose fathers were absent due to death or divorce or often away on business seems virtually endless [but that] in itself is not enough to put a leg on the entrepreneurial stool," he writes in The Entrepreneurial Life. "It is of equal importance that the mother-son bond be as strong as iron. I call this mother-stroking: making the child self-reliant at an early age." Silver also believes that guilt is an essential factor. Apparently, there is no better motivator than the image of mom awake at night wondering if you might have been a doctor or a lawyer -- instead of an entrepreneur -- if only she had let you have a pet snake when you were six. Guilt turns into drive; drive translates into success; and success means acceptance from mom.
Such reasoning doesn't apply, however, to all mothers. In the book On Wings of Eagles, Ken Follett tells of Lulu May Perot, who not only encouraged her son, H. Ross, to start Electronic Data Systems Corp., but also served as its bookkeeper and founding director. It was her advice Perot sought when faced with a tough moral decision in December 1969. He had planned to fly to Hanoi to draw attention to American prisoners of war, but his associates at EDS warned him that putting his life in danger might cause the price of the company's stock to fall. His mother's advice was unhesitating: "Let them sell their shares." Perot flew to Hanoi.
We could go on and on -- and we will remind you that Mother's Day is May 12 -- but beyond that, let the pictures tell the tale.
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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