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Big Poppa

Float like a Butterfly....sting like a bee

Rating: 7 votes, 3.71 average.
I am a card carrying entrepreneur.

America was built on the backs of passionate entrepreneurs. Every success story, publicly traded company and institution today started as entrepreneurs and somehow lost their way. Here is my perspective.

My best analogy is the caterpillar. The slink along the ground and crawl and do what they want. They somehow stumble into this process that they don't quite understand....its called a cocoon. After awhile they break out and become a butterfly and sail off to great heights. The only problem is that they end up too far from the ground...That's OK because they have created an opportunity for the next cocoon. Distance from the ground creates opportunity.

I think one of the problems is that our programming of success is all whacked out. In surfing some think that the reward is on the beach on the podium. I think its the time in the tube. I think its the immersion in the process and not the podium.

Living in the desert I am surrounded with people who thought the goal was the economic finish line and they are like groundhogs day...same foursome, same time. They sold their relevancy....They were lions and now they are duffers. They usually have developed a substance problem along with a gambling problem.

But back to the loss of entrepreneurship. Its not like losing your virginity...You remember that. It is gradually distancing yourself from your customer and your product. Symbolically the exec keeps moving to the top floor instead of keeping their offices on the ground floor. The further the exec rises physically the more likely they are creating the opportunity for that next determined caterpillar.

I get several calls a week with offers to "take some money off the table" My business and lifes work has now been buzz-worded into a piece of furniture. What they are telling me is that they can load me down with debt and with their unique and talented professionals they can value engineer me into a coma of non relevance.

Signs that you are losing your entrepreneurial spirit:

1. You start every sentence with "At the end of the day" My current pet peeve....At the end of the day I have dinner and try to make it to 9:30.

2. You stop using your own product.

3. You dread consumer contact.

4. You can't answer a question regarding your product or services with out blackberrying a junior marketing exec.

5. You hire high priced idiots to ask strangers questions about your product and its applications. This is called 'market research' or 'focus groups'. These are the same monotones that call you during dinner.

6. You outsource everything but have more guys in suits shuffling papers. You don't even design your own products.

7. Your focus is more on the cash then the product and process. Entrepeneurs almost never start out to get rich...that is a secondary dream...they are convinced that there is a better way of making or doing something and usually they have been forced to prove it by others rejection of their idea.

What can I tell someone new? The heart of the watermelon is the journey not the financial ending. You will have golden moments of innovation and success...try to identify and enjoy those moments because for every one of those there are pot holes. They talk about 'ying and yang' and 'sweet and sour' For every ying and sweet moment there are at least nine sour ones. Watch your inventory and receivables. Keep your office in the center of your structure not the corner or penthouse. Never give more than five strokes in a golf match. Especially to a guy from Kentucky.

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Updated 01-05-2010 at 11:22 AM by Big Poppa



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  1. Eggman's Avatar
    Sweet and sour - Ying and Yang - Yeses and Noes. Those who get defeated by "No" fail to realize that with each "No" you get closer to the next "YES".

    Great words, BP.
  2. fogman's Avatar
    awesome words Sterling!
  3. five7's Avatar
    You are on the right track.
  4. Bart B's Avatar
    It's like life, what counts is the journey. The goal of life as we experience it should be the journey, and the experience.

    When you raise a kid you want to see every part of it's life, not just the point when he leaves the house and is on his own and you did the job well (maybe strange to compare this to a company but I feel it like tht.

    great post
    Updated 01-05-2010 at 12:04 PM by Bart B
  5. kimonostereo's Avatar
    As a serial entrepreneur, I know everything you say is true.

    I've seen, especially in corporate climate, the tendency to barricade off anyone below you, get an assistant and be done with it. But I discovered when I was a manager, that instead of separation from your staff, what you really need to do is sit amongst them. Tearing down this physical and invisible wall was one of the best things for both myself and my staff at the time.

    Wonderful reading and very inspirational.
  6. stretch80's Avatar
    I agree on the importance of focusing on the product/process/work/customer, and not the financial end-game.

    In one of my startups, one of my partners couldn't "see the exit strategy" and left a year before everything came together...
  7. TheAntMan's Avatar
    This is so dead on!

    I believe that there is a point at which an endeavor must stop. Not because you can't go higher but you miss the ability to enjoy the climb and those you bring along with you will suffer for it.

    Businesses must learn to keep true to their customers and employees over the next big buck. Doesn't mean you stop growing, just slow it down so as to not lose integrity.

    Awesome blog, thanks BP.

  8. DaddyFlip's Avatar
    BP- I wanted to send you a book for Christmas that I thought you could appreciate, but I didn't know how to get it to you without PM'ing you so I sent it to my sister. However, your blog post makes me think that somehow you've already read it, so I will share the info with everyone for my second installment of personal enrichment opportunity.

    The book is Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus. The subtitle is "a tale--partly about life, partly about revolution and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read)". I've included the amazon.com link for anyone who is interested in the deadly accurate, fully illustrated version of your blog post. It is a classic (originally published in 1972- my sister's copy is a first edition) and it is a gripping tale, despite its simplicity. Hope ya'll can check it out (might even find it at your library).

    [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Hope-Flowers-Trina-Paulus/dp/0809182491/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262751236&sr=8-1]Amazon.com: Hope for the Flowers (9780809182497): Trina Paulus: Books[/ame]

    PS... I also posted this as a reply to your blog notice thread.
  9. tommixx's Avatar
    Mr. Ball I salute you! GREAT post and it tells me that you really do get it! Keep up the good work...If you ever decide you need to know what is "wrong" with the company (not yours!) you should always ask the guys sweeping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms. They have not lost perspective in the pool of dollars and usually know EXACTLY how to fix ANY problem in a business.

    When I was a kid I worked for a man that owned a lot of car dealerships and real estate (a friend of my grandmother's, she insisted that I spend 6 months working for him so I would know how to live in the "real world") He was quite a character and one of the first things I noticed about him was that his office was right in the middle of the dealership with glass windows where everybody could see him. at first I thought it was odd. But every time someone came into the showroom he made it a point to stop and talk to them. Whenever he wanted to know what was going on in his businesses he would call one of the guys that washed cars into his office and close the door. The car washer had no education as he dropped out of school in the 6th grade. ALL he had was common sense....He was probably the nicest guy I have ever met and he always had a smile on his face. I am sure he was not making too much more than minimum wage as Mr. Watkins (the owner) was T I G H T!! But you would have thought this car washer had all the money in the world. He liked his job...he liked the fact that he HAD a job. He had responsibility...but most of all he had the trust of one of the wealthiest people I have personally ever known. I would see Charles the car washer) in Mr. Watkins office at least 3 or 4 times a week and they were just talking. Mr. Watkins told me one time that they talked about many things but he always wanted to know if Charles was happy working there. He figured if he could keep his lowest paid employee happy and feeling like he was contributing to the success of the company then surely his company could not fail. Everyone I know loved Mr. Watkins and he was a delight to work for. He taught me responsibility beyond what I already knew and he taught how to listen to everyone, regardless of their position in life. When he passed away there were 14 accountants and attorneys in the dealership trying to determine what he actually owned and where it was. I had been long gone by then mut I heard through the grapevine that he was worth between $600 and $800 million. When they read his will he left 50% of his holdings to be divided between his 2 children.

    The other 50% was to be divided equally among all his employees...

    He appointed Charles a trustee and the Executor of his will....NO ONE contested the will and no one squabbled over who got what from it. There were many farms and a number of major and minor interests in car dealerships, hotels, homes, various types of real estate, and a lot of cash. In the will he said that he thought Charles was the finest and most decent man he had ever known and as a result he gave Charles an extra $1 Million dollars to oversee the distribution of his will.

    Charles promptly donated ALL of the money that Mr. Watkins left him to several charities in the community including the Volunteer Fire AND Rescue Squads. He built a Soccer stadium for the local kids on what used to be my grandmother's farm. He gave the local Hospital where Mr. Watkins died $500,000. A few years later the local paper interviewed him and asked him what led him to spend all the money he was left. He replied that he had been blessed to know Mr. Watkins and he had been blessed with his health and the health of his children. He had already sent his children to school and did not really need a lot of money to live. When the reporter told him what an extraordinary thing he had done he replied that Mr. Watkins had always trusted him to do the right thing no matter what and sharing all that money with people who needed it more than he did was just the right thing to do.

    I saw Charles over the Holidays at Walmart and he spoke to me as soon as he saw me. I stopped and talked to him for a few minutes and I quickly realized he was the same Charles I met on that car lot when I was 17. That was over 27 years ago...He still had the same smile and the same manner about him. Nothing had changed in him at all. He was the nicest and most genuine guy you would ever want to meet.

    I guarantee if given the chance he would make a GREAT CEO....

    If only....

    Keep doing what you are doing! Don't change and don't let anyone change you BP...YOU decide which way to roll the Ball....


  10. GavinP's Avatar
    Right on the mark Sterling!
  11. RacerS's Avatar
    You are so right on. The journey is the reward, success is loving your life.

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