The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur

There’s been a bit of buzz in entrepreneurial communities about a recently released study released from The Kauffman Foundation titled, “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur.” It’s available here. It’s worth the read. Entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes will identify with some of the statistics, and find some quite surprising. It’s a decent report from which my own take-aways were the following:

74.8 percent of respondents indicated desire to build wealth as an important motivation in becoming an entrepreneur.

66.2 percent said the appeal of a startup culture was an important motivation.

Definition of founder: We allowed company executives to tell us if they were a founder. The guidelines we provided for defining a “founder” was “an early employee, who typically joined the company in its first year, before the company developed its products and perfected its business model.”

Age: The average and median age of company founders in our sample when they started their current company was forty.

Company founders tend to be well-educated Company founders in the industries we researched tend to be well-educated. More than 95.1 percent hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. A higher percentage of respondents had just bachelor’s degrees (48 percent) than advanced degrees (47 percent), however.

Among respondents, 36.9 percent described themselves as lower-middle class, and 21.8 percent described themselves as upperlower class.

Further, the results indicate that extreme poverty is a significant barrier to
entrepreneurship.

There are some great charts and graphs in the report too. I urge you to check it out but do not let this deter you from becoming an entrepreneur! These are statistics, nothing more.

Decisions, Decisions

iStock_000006048082SmallAh, decisions decisions. They never end in life, unless you just decide to spend your life as a lump on a log. But even then you still have to make decisions, starting with “I’m going to be a lump on a log.” If, however, you’ve chosen a life beyond lumping on a log, your life is full of decisions. Every day we’re faced with them:

Should I get out of bed?
Should I eat?
Should I wear the wrinkled shirt?
Should I get gas?

Those are routine daily decisions that we all have to make, and there’s nothing  exciting or risky about them – we all make them. We’re not paralyzed by them, unless we suffer from a disorder, as some do.

There are other decisions that are far more important, that we don’t face every day, decisions that affect our lives and the lives of those around us. Decisions like…

Should I marry her?
Should I have children?
Should I buy this house?
Should I get that operation?
Should my child get that operation?

People who are in business for themselves, whether they’re a self-employed contractor doing roof work around town, or an MIT scientist who discovers a new  vaccine, face a whole different set of decisions. These entrepreneurs make a huge decision once they decide to go into business. Some decisions entrepreneurs face…

Should I start my own business?
How do I get my first customer?
Can I afford to pay a staff?
Can I afford to pay myself?
Do I really have a business here?
Can I make money?
Should I raise money?
Should I incorporate?
Should I trade equity for money?
How much control do I give up?
Should I keep doing this?
Should I fire this person?
Should we expand the business?
Can I keep doing this?

The list goes on and on. These decisions have a way of putting an abnormal amount of stress on an entrepreneur because they’re piled on top of the routine/daily decisions, the big life changing decisions, and yet at the same time an entrepreneurs decisions affect herself, her spouse, her children, her family, her social life, her employees, her partners, her customers, her investors, shareholders, board members, etc. There are more people who have a stake in an entrepreneur’s decisions than one might first realize. It’s facing those decisions every day that partly define an entrepreneur. Some are good at these decisions, some aren’t. Some can make these decisions with little help, others need lots of help.

The hardest decisions I’ve faced as an entrepreneur have been the ones that affect individual people – like having to lay someone off, or fire them. There is just no way around it – it hurts the entrepreneur, the employee, and those around the employee.

Recently I faced another hard decision. This one pertained the direction of my company and pertaining those who were at the helm with me. You might say that I was at a point where I felt like my number of options were becoming more and more limited. And for an entrepreneur like me, who’s a fast decision maker after a quick risk/reward assessment, there’s nothing worse than being out of options.

Over the last few months I’ve had to face a reality that was hard to come to terms with – that the company that I’ve built with Bob over the last four years, that I’ve put so much of myself into, was slipping from my grip. I was not pleased with the direction it was going and my vision for the company was moving towards my periphery instead of where it had always been – straight in front of me. Something had to change, and some decisions needed to be made. Others agreed.

Ah, decisions decisions. They can halt you in your tracks. Some people can go their whole lives regretting one decision, and it becomes something of a curse. I knew I was at one of these splits in the road but I couldn’t be hasty. This decision required a lot of thought, and it required a lot of smaller decisions along the way, like playing a game of chess or poker.

A couple of weeks ago, the decision was made and almost immediate effect at many levels. And at the risk of being secretive, but in light of the fact that this decision was a sensitive one, I’m unable to explain what the decision actually was. It’d be inappropriate of me. Also, not knowing the ultimate outcome yet, it’d be reckless. But what it pertains is the very course that CitySquares takes in the near future and long term future. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving. It’s the difference between growth and prosperity or slowly suffocating. It’s about change. And change starts at the top.

Sometimes you don’t know if your decision was the right one for quite a while, and sometimes you know instantly. Sometimes you can go back and change your decision, other times they’re finite. This one was finite.

I learned something during this process, and it was something that I knew but hearing it from one of my investors, hearing him articulate it, and having him look straight into my eyes while saying it, really drove it home. What I learned was this: I am the founder of this company. While I have shareholders and a board of directors, it’s me and my vision that the investors bought into. It’s my passion, my knowledge of the space, my guts and gusto, my vision that got us this far. And if I believe in myself at least as much as my investors believe in me, then I must have an equal amount of conviction and gusto when presented with decisions that do not align with my vision and strategy of the business.

At the end of the day, when I have to rest my head on my pillow, I have to be able to say “I made the right decisions today.” Not making the right decisions, and not making them in timely manner, is the difference between sleeping well and not sleeping well – the difference between doing right by my own Self, doing right by those that trust me (from investors and shareholders to staff and customers) and one day living with regret.

I’m extremely pleased with my decision so far, and I’m proud that I turned this corner as an entrepreneur. Time will tell if they were the right decisions, but I refuse to be a lump on log and let others make them for me.

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I’m a Happier Person, Thanks to My Mac

mac-pcNo, seriously. I can honestly say that I’m a happier human being because of my MacBook Pro. My entire life I’ve been very into art, music, and especially the digital forms of those things. So I guess in some respects I’ve always been somewhat of a closet artist, but hadn’t really found my medium yet. With a knack for computers and technology those two things (computers and art) never converged for me. Why? Now I know. Because I was stuck in Microsoft land. And let’s face it  – there’s nothing artistic or creative about being a Windows user. Being a Windows user does not inspire creativity. And lets face something else  – something that took me years to admit – doing visual arts or music on a Windows computer is extremely difficult.

Case and point: A good friend of mine, Aaron, is a brilliant musician. He’s not only multi-instrumental, but he’s a brilliant song writer. In the 1990s he and I used to dabble with MIDI instruments, synths and a variety of other music technologies, all at his house or in one of his studios. All the while he had a Windows computer. Yet he’d always complain about how difficult Windows made things for him. He’d frequently ponder getting a Mac, and for some ignorant reason I’d convince him not to bother with a Mac. I look back now and I regret being so stinking ignorant!

There’s so many other stories I could tell similar to that one. One about a friend Liz who was a talented graphic designer. She used a Mac and I used to pick on her for it. Why? Cuz I was an ignorant Windows guy.

For enterprise purposes, a Windows machine is a great machine, always has been. But once Apple stopped building their own processors and finally started using Intel processors, all that changed. That’s when I got myself a Mac, well, a little later.

I got my MacBook Pro after having a fit of rage (a silent one) on a train to/from NY in March of ’08 years ago (read this for the story). I’ve never looked back! I feel like some once-pious Christian missionary who’d preach all about the ways of Christianity, to only find himself miserable and converting to, I don’t know, Buddhism. What I mean by that is, I regret being so ignorant for so long. I’m sorry to all those Mac people who I dissed so many times! I’m sorry to any Windows people who I steared wrong.

Today, I find myself a healthier person – and I mean that. I’m healthier because I have those creative mediums at my fingertips like never before. I have a small home studio that I use to make music. I have a synth (thanks Aaron!), and some killer studio monitors, a crappy little electric guitar, and dual monitors – and I use a bunch of professional grade studio software apps for this. I’m learning, and I’m having a blast. I’m learning to use Final Cut Pro. Holy crap that’s a beast. But I’m lovin it! I’m also a semi-pro photographer using Lightroom and Photoshop and a bunch of plugins. For the first time in a long long time I’m once again a closet artist. I have a bunch of little projects I’m working on and I’ve never felt more inspired and creative. And I would not be doing any of these things if it weren’t for that fateful day on the Acella Express when I finally had enough of Windows and made the switch.

If you’re like I once was, an ignorant Windows jerk who for some stubborn reason would “never” switch to a Mac – well, good luck to you. You don’t have to be ignorant, or a jerk either. But if you are looking to really have fun with technology, fun with a computer, and create and inspired – get yourself a Mac.

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