In every issue of Inc., we try to serve up a variety of feature articles. Some offer direct, practical how-to advice, like this month's Know How cover story. Others address big issues that affect entrepreneurs, such as crowdfunding. And some are just great yarns. Right now I'd like to call your attention to one of the yarns--senior contributing writer Burt Helm's inspiring piece about Gabriel Bristol--because of what it says about entrepreneurship in general.
Not to give away too much, but Bristol's life was grim--he was abused as a child and homeless as an adult--until he started working the phones in a call center. He learned he was extremely good at this supposedly unskilled job, an ability that eventually helped him run a business.
It's a great rags-to-riches, only-in-America kind of story. But what's really remarkable about it is how many stories like it you hear when you are around entrepreneurs. It figures, in a way: When your name is on the door, the stakes are simply higher. That's your family's livelihood at risk! Most entrepreneurs have their version of what Inc. columnist Thomas Goetz calls "the smoothie moment"--named after the time he realized he had sunk so much money into his company that he didn't have enough cash or credit to buy himself a smoothie.
But the built-in drama of entrepreneurship isn't the whole story. What makes Bristol's narrative so inspiring--and so similar to those of other entrepreneurs--is that it's about character triumphing over adversity. Not every entrepreneur is dealt as bad a hand as Bristol was, but no entrepreneur gets to cruise to success. Even this month's cover subject, Jessica Alba--who, it's safe to say, never faced a smoothie moment--had to stare down doubters (some of her friends, she says, were the worst) who refused to take her seriously as a company founder.
The fact is, character does matter in business. It's no accident that Inc. 5000 honorees scored off the charts on a recent test of such entrepreneurial attributes as risk taking, determination, and business focus. Character is what makes employees and investors believe in you; and it's all you can fall back on when everything is going wrong. Character doesn't always win, but you can never win without it. And when those smoothie moments come around, it's good to have a little inspiring yarn to remind you of that.