Let me ask a simple question. Why are you an entrepreneur?
Come on, be sensible. Why aren’t we all safely tucked up in Local Government or the NHS? How many potential chief executives of metropolitan borough councils and NHS trusts are sitting round Alternative Board tables?
Plenty. I’ve taken thirty seconds and come up with a list of ten – and that’s only from TAB York.
So why aren’t you doing that? Why aren’t you in the snug embrace of a six figure salary, 35 days’ holiday a year, the chance of early retirement with a fat pay off and an index linked pension? Only a madman would turn that down…
Why be an entrepreneur and battle with rules and regulations, worries about staff, customers that don’t or can’t pay, HMRC tapping you on the shoulder and demanding their share? As I said, only a madman…
But for many Board members the answer’s simple. They don’t have a choice.
“Why do you do it?” I asked one of my members (who was emphatically on my 10 Chief Executives list).
“Are you seriously asking me that?” he answered.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m intrigued.”
He sighed. “Ed,” he said, “Why don’t you ask me why I’m right handed or why I’ve got brown eyes? Running the business is what I do. Along with my family it’s who I am. This is what I have to do. Now make yourself useful and pass me those widgets…”
I was thinking about the meeting as I crawled home on the A64 (memo to self, Ed, remember to check the dates of York race meetings…) Right at this moment his business faced some serious challenges: the SWOT analysis currently had plenty of entries under ‘T.’
But our meeting had been resolutely upbeat. His glass wasn’t brimming over but he was determined to see it as half-full: to make sure that everything listed under ‘T’ was at least balanced by an entry under ‘O.’
That’s one of the best things about working with entrepreneurs. They are constantly optimistic. They absolutely believe that tomorrow will be better than today and that every day represents progress – even if that progress is disguised as a painful learning experience.
There’s an old Chinese proverb – and if there isn’t, there should be – which says that ‘A man without a smiling face should not open a shop.’ Let me add the old TAB York proverb to that: ‘A man whose glass is not half full should not start a business.’
…Because starting and running an SME will test you like you’ve never been tested before. It will test your will-power, your courage, your stamina, your relationship and above all it will test your optimism. So if you’re not a naturally positive, optimistic person it may be best not to start. It may be best to wrap yourself in a rather more secure blanket.
But goodness me do I ever admire and enjoy working with those brave, determined, optimistic people that run SMEs in and around York. As you prepare for the Whit weekend, raise a glass and congratulate yourself – a glass which literally and metaphorically I know will be much more than half full…