An Entrepreneurial Manifesto

I have been an entrepreneur for almost my entire working life. I have experienced first hand the elation of success and the crush of failure. My chosen path as a speaker, writer and consultant keeps me hardwired into the thinking and behavior of entrepreneurial leaders. Just as I marvel at their innovations and tenacity, I cringe at their self-inflicted damage when their thinking and behavior runs amuck. Through it all, there is one sacred and magnificent absolute that every entrepreneur owns – they are in control of their destinies.

A recent segment on the evening news focused on the dismal unemployment statistics. It detailed how tens of thousands of government employees are experiencing the unthinkable – they’re getting laid off. A fireman who thought he had a career for life is now figuring out how to care for his family. At a center for writing resumes and honing interview skills, a dozen white-collar executives and engineers – all in their mid-fifties – are trying to comprehend the reality that no one wants to hire people their age. NASA workers celebrating the final flight of the Space Shuttle know that pink slips will follow the Shuttle’s return to earth. Anyone have an opening for a space suit designer? It’s been five days since I watched that news segment and there’s still a knot in my stomach.

Entrepreneurs will never lose their jobs because of downsizing or budget cuts. We lose our “jobs” when we mess up, make bad decisions or fail to take decisive action. And if our companies tank, we invent new ones. How long entrepreneurs remain unemployed has more to do with how long it takes them to get up, dust themselves off, and get back in the game.

Here are my no-compromise strategies for an entrepreneurial manifesto:

  • Don’t squander it: You have the power to change and influence the lives and the world around you in the most positive way. You create opportunities and careers for others who buy into your dream and choose to join your quest. It is your entrepreneurial duty to push the envelope of possibilities. It is your leadership duty to inspire and bring out the best in others, so they can realize their full potential in concert with you. When you get complacent, you squander a world of opportunity.
  • Stop whining: Starting and leading a company, especially in these economic times, is seriously tough work. You will encounter major roadblocks. You will have to work harder than ever before. You will feel violated when trust is compromised by those you trusted most. You will have to forfeit your paycheck to protect the paychecks of others. But you control your destiny. You can do something right now to change your situation and banish the things you don’t like about your company. Stop whining and do something about it. Whining is a waste of time.
  • Never get too full of yourself: You don’t know it all. You don’t have an endless bank account of “good luck” that ensures every risk will be a winner. People will not continue to follow you when it becomes all about you and not about the dream they signed on for. So when you feel that head of yours starting to swell, stick a pin in it. And when those around you are trying to tell you to replant yourself on solid ground, listen. If you don’t, you will be contaminating your own culture.
  • It’s OK to question yourself: There is nothing weak or wrong when you question your abilities as a leader. Leadership is one tough job full of hard decisions, raise-your-blood-pressure conversations and trying to stretch one dollar into two. At times the stress can seem unbearable. You cannot be master of all things. You will drive yourself nuts trying to be the perfect leader. When you question your abilities, you’re simply doing a self-evaluation. And all evaluations should conclude with next steps. Do you need coaching to help you deal with a situation? Do you need to hire someone with specific expertise to complement where you are weak? You control your own destiny. You can innovate new possibilities. You can be human. It’s OK.
  • Allow others into your world: The best entrepreneurs surround themselves with talent. More importantly, they allow the right people with the right talent to join them behind their curtain – because you cannot do it all and you cannot do it alone. Your inner circle makes you stronger and wiser. Your inner circle will be honest with you and tell you the truth when you need to hear it most. That is if you can put your shields down and listen. Going it alone is like trying to be the Wizard of Oz, who’s really just a little guy hiding behind the curtain pretending to appear big and powerful.
  • Honor, respect and integrity: Your dream is powerful and enticing enough for others to want to take the journey with you. They are not just employees; they are followers of your dream. They not only believe in you, they trust you. Sure, you have all the risk and have everything you own on the line. I’m flying home from a consulting project where one employee has been with the owner from the beginning – 32 years. Amazing, 32 years of an individual’s life in service and dedication to the leader’s dream. It’s not perfect, but you must honor and respect such loyalty while practicing the highest levels of integrity.
  • It’s only about the dream: Your team may respect and be loyal to you, but it’s the dream – your dream – they hitched their wagon to. Over the years, I’ve been hired to figure out why a company went stagnant only to find that it’s the dream that went dark. It became all about the numbers, hitting goal and sticking to the budget. All that numbers, and financial and performance reports do is measure progress to making the dream a reality. I don’t work hard for the money. I work hard for the dream I have for building an extraordinary coaching and training company. If I do that, the money will come. All the reports do is chart progress – and my effectiveness as a leader. It’s about the dream. You still remember how to dream about extraordinary dreams, don’t you? Close your eyes. Without constraint, allow your wildest dreams of success for your company to manifest in your mind. Is the impossible really so impossible?
  • Honor your accomplishments: Hey, you got a lot right. You can sap and waste your energy on all the stuff that isn’t right with your company. Snap out of it. You’re an entrepreneur who controls your own destiny. You built a company and hit some bumps in the road or a major roadblock. You can stop and complain about it, or you can plot a new course. The only reason for a company to fail is when the leader disengages and accepts defeat. It’s hard to talk an entrepreneur off the ledge who lost faith in his or her ability to create the right outcomes. Honor the good stuff you’ve done. Celebrate it. Magnify what’s great about your company. Polish up that dream until it’s shining bright for all to see – even you.

There is no way I could allow myself, an entrepreneur, to be an unemployment statistic. I am in control of my own destiny. I’ve seen the fiery pits of hell and the view from the top of the mountain of success. I respect that hanging at the top of that mountain is a commitment that many are not willing to make. It’s a long-term commitment. It’s about acknowledging and honoring that you are in control of your destiny. And in the process, you are responsible for the destiny of those who believe in and follow your dream.

Never compromise your dream. Be the no-compromise leader your dream demands. Just go for it. What’s the worst than can happen? What’s the best that can happen?

And there is my entrepreneurial manifesto. Go for it. Go for it!

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


1 Response to “An Entrepreneurial Manifesto”

  1. July 22, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I often joke that starting my business seven-and-a-half years ago, at the ripe young age of 50, has rendered me unemployable. But the truth of the matter is I wouldn’t choose to be employed. I’d rather employ — and continue to create, adapt to change, reinvent myself, and survive by my own wits. Perhaps the readers of the Monday Morning Wake-Up will find this reflection a complement to your Manifesto:


    Go for it, indeed.

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