The Entrepreneurs’ Tao, 2.0?

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Way back, when people didn’t feel the urge to add a number to words, I had an idea. A vision. I was lecturing at the university and access to the Internet. The vision was simple: the Internet was going to change the world, if we could add relevance and ease of use to it. So I convinced a couple of people and started working on the idea. It took about a week to realize that we needed to involve other people, willing to pay us for whatever it was we were trying to do, so we invented a really stupid name, added a logo and went on. Since we were the first to do it, heaps of attention from all kinds of media were our share and before we knew we were “famous entrepreneurs”. That wasn’t the intention. It just happened, another by-product. The markets loved us and we had to hire people, more and more people. For these people to feel fine, we had to create more structure then we ourselves needed, so we started to call ourselves Director and created some groups, departments, business units. We continued to grow, faster than our revenues allowed us to so we called in the folks with the money. A bank helped us out, a truly unique business angel (we didn’t know what was meant by that at that time) did the same. We didn’t really had time to reflect on what we were actually doing: running a company. For the idea to come to live, we had to create a solid structure that immediately started to do what structures do: keep itself alive at all expense. We started to feel less comfortable as we spent more time dealing with bankers and members of the Board of Directors or posing for a shoot for that one ad everyone saw. I’m sure the story so far sounds familiar. For an entrepreneur to succeed, having that brilliant idea isn’t but a bare minimum requirement. The idea must be converted into something tangible, something that creates value. And so, we entrepreneurs face a dreadful division of attention. While basically we care only about the idea and barely accept the rest as a price we haves to pay, we suddenly find ourselves involved in stuff we never dreamt of: running a company, managing people... Such is the Tao of the Entrepreneurs. There must be another path, however. As a business mentor I have to pleasure of helping out both managers and entrepreneurs. One of them, a youngster who just turned 30, is walking the Path 2.0. This experience with the advertising world served as a springboard for his ideas. Basically what he’s trying to do is to bridge unnecessary gaps between actors, gaps that are created by the Old Entrepreneurs, who accepted the limitations, the pain. His main motivation is double-faced: of course he is convinced his vision and ideas are great (I tend to think the same), yet he also wants to prove there’s no need anymore for that old way. “I’m going to create a wonderful service that brings things back to their basic proportions, that focuses on what people really want. They’ll pay for the benefits they experience, not for the finishing of my office or the bonus the CEO wants to touch” sums it up pretty much. Of course he wants to have his ideas create money, but without giving in to the structural traps. Instead of building structures top down, he aims for a way of collaborating that at its best creates contextual structures that are fluid, flexible and not oriented towards its own sustainability. These fluid structures offer a perfect framework for specific needs to be fulfilled without asking any attention for itself. They simply come and go. One harsh criticism that he has to counter too much - he had to convince even me - is that such an approach can never create any leverage. That should be the case if the guy wouldn’t understand that he’s an entrepreneur, not a manager. Instead of following the old path, that would indeed turn him into something he really doesn’t want to be, he learned to cope with the idea that as soon as a vision is turned into something that can hit markets, it’s time to move on. The Tao of Entrepreneurs is about being fluid, being very focused and being self-aware. I for one am very happy to be the guide for those who want to walk this path.