14/07/2010

By Charles McLachlan

In our individualistic celebrity culture we seek to make heroes of individuals and icons of their ideas. Just think of some of the celebrity entrepreneurs that readily come to mind: Dyson, Branson, Sugar, Gates, Jobs with their iconic products — Dyson: cyclone vacuum cleaner; Branson: Virgin Atlantic; Sugar: Amstrad PC, Gates: Microsoft Windows; Jobs: Apple, iPhone.

And then there are those celebrity entrepreneurs that had a meteoric rise and fall. For members of my generation we remember Sir Clive Sinclair, provider of the first affordable home micro computer (just £69) who then brought us the Sinclair Spectrum but crashed to ignominy with his creation of the C3 electric vehicle that encapsulated all the design sophistication of Noddy's car. More recently the dot.com boom and bust has created and destroyed heroes and their ambitions in just a few years.

But it is not the risk of failure that deters me from pursuing this vision of becoming an entrepreneur. No, rather it is my belief that this vision of being an entrepreneur is so imperfect. Consider the role of a film producer. This is an incredibly entrepreneurial activity — seeking to take an idea (usually somebody else's treatment, script, book or play) through to successful artistic and commercial realisation, often over a period of 5-15 years! As the process unfolds the producer will need to acquire rights, negotiate with investors, distributors and leading actors. The writers and directors may move in and out of the project as it evolves. Eventually the shoot will commence with all the financial risks in play and often without all the necessary distribution in place. But, for all this trouble, the headline credit goes to the leading actors and the director with the lead producer often hidden amongst a list of co-producers associated with the coalition of investors and distributors supporting the film.

This, for me, is a much more realistic model of entrepreneurship. In film making it may be the commitment to each other of a writer, director and producer or a producer, actor and director or a director, writer and actor and the trusted, intimate intercourse between them that brings an idea to conception. After a time that may challenge the gestation period of an elephant, the idea is birthed and it then requires the supporting roles of midwife (often a studio) and the complete range of supporting services to bring it to the final finished product ready for presenting to the world at the première.

So much more often, it is the relationships that bring about a commitment to work together and the capacity to succeed together, rather than the dogged determination of the single minded, inspired and solo entrepreneur. Indeed the inspiration may not be the most important part of the process: the idea that starts the journey to success is often just a product of circumstances. Simply the fact that the mutual commitment to doing something together, with each other and for the common benefit can be enough to enable the creativity from which great businesses are born.

So what does this mean if you want to be an entrepreneur? Lesson number one is to find one or two people that you believe you can work with that will be loyal through thick and thin and whom you can trust. Spend time trying things out, getting to know each others families, doing joint projects, doing one-off money making ventures. See how you complement each other; see how you handle conflict; see how you share and divide responsibilities and leadership.

Lesson number two is that if you already have an inspired idea that you believe you have to make happen then spend the time to find the one or two people (even if they are initially only committed part time) that will be your initial team, that will hold you accountable, that will challenge you to greater creativity when the way forward seems blocked.

Lesson number three is that these relationships (if properly honoured and valued) will survive both success and failure — the tragedy of being rich and lonely is only matched by being lonely and poor.

I don't want to be an entrepreneur but to be part of the fellowship of entrepreneurship that comes from a committed and inspirational team — now that is a real joy.


Watch a video of the Academy for Chief Executives Speaker Showcase at The Grand Connaught Rooms in 2009, where speakers talked about new ideas.

[tv-prg233-360x202]

Charles McLachlan, Chairman of Academy Groups 27 & 28 and Entrepreneurs Boards 5, 25 & 26, is co-founder of the Transformation Development Partnership which works with individuals, teams, enterprises and communities that are committed journeying to building 4D Enterprises: enterprises bring impact economically, socially, environmentally and spiritually.

Charles has witnessed first hand the power of the Academy Community as he is both ACE Chairman and a Speaker for the organisation. ACE is dedicated to inspiring the leaders of businesses to change their thinking, challenge their views and help them with their decision making abilities. Leaders no longer need to feel isolated at the top. For more information visit www.chiefexecutive.com

© Charles McLachlan 2010 charles.mclachlan@chiefexecutive.com