Here are three more examples of how this question was answered.
Tim Schneider, Schneider Publishing; Trade Magazines and Conferences – 20 employees.
“I’m not sure if being an entrepreneur is genetic, but I can remember starting businesses from a very young age. I grew up on a farm in central Kansas, the youngest of seven children, so the businesses I started rose or fell depending on the receptiveness of a very small sibling customer base. One of my favorite rackets was a map stand that I set up in my family’s living room. I would call the toll-free numbers for tourism bureaus and they would send me their visitor information packages, from which I would extract the maps. I would then try to sell them for 10 or 15 cents to my family members or anyone else who would pass by. Pure profit but very limited demand! The map stand didn’t last long.
“One of my more elaborate enterprises was Tim’s Candy Stand, which was also headquartered in the family living room. I negotiated lower prices for buying candy in bulk from a local drug store, and would then resell it—again to family members, unsuspecting guests, and anyone else who would pass through our living room. My father even had a local handyman construct a display case with lighting and a lock to keep my inventory well lit and secure. This business did much better over a longer period of time, thanks to the consumable nature of the products and the fact that I could specialize in items that I knew would sell; namely, the favorite candies of my limited customer universe.
“So the die was cast at a very young age and much of what I’ve done in my adult life is just a more complicated version of what I did as a child. I can’t really recall what it was that gave me a burning desire to be in business for myself but I certainly recall never much wanting to work for anyone else. Certainly, my father was an independent sort who always worked for himself, so I am sure that observing him was a major influence. Thankfully, my family, parents and siblings indulged (or at least tolerated) my activities, which served as encouragement for me to keep trying the next thing.
“Another one of my enterprises was the launch and publication of a newsletter on my family’s activities and life on the farm. It was called “The Farm Monthly.”
“Since I had no way to reproduce the newsletter, one handwritten copy had to suffice. I put the newsletter in an opaque binder and then charged each person who wanted to read what I had reported on them to have a look. That was my first foray into publishing and the success of “The Farm Monthly” helped move me toward publishing as a career path. Interestingly, the majority of our company’s revenues today are derived from the work that we do for tourism bureaus, which once several decades ago provided the inventory for my map stand. Plus change…the more it changes, the more it stays the same.”
Jim Werner, Seriel Entrepreneur.
“My career started as a banker with a large Canadian international bank which was going to provide a reasonable salary, advancement with on-the-job training and job security. After a few years, there was the opportunity to join a small regional bank in a head office function. In this position, I soon realized that the bank was not particularly interested in my well-being or development and job security was certainly not guaranteed. As a result, when the opportunity arose to get involved in a private company with the chance of ownership, I didn’t hesitate to make the move.
“The primary motivation for leaving a somewhat secure position was to have some control over my destiny. The first opportunity resulted in receiving a share of ownership and, more importantly, it allowed me to make decisions that not only affected me financially but also provided a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the company grow and prosper.
“This first venture was very successful. So after selling that first company, there was no way I could ever go back to work for another organization. I have since invested in and helped four small businesses grow and turn a profit.
“The person who influenced me the most about entrepreneurship was the man I first joined in the public warehouse venture. He convinced me to make the switch from the bank to help run a small business. He was a true entrepreneur, full of ideas and always ahead of the curve.
“My primary motivation as an entrepreneur was to be able to control my own destiny. The greatest satisfaction comes from `making things happen’ that results in a company that grows, is profitable and, most importantly, helps employees achieve their fullest potential.”
Jim gave me as good a definition of an entrepreneur as I’ve heard.
“An entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of making a profit.” It is a person who wants to lead and generate new ideas, which is probably as good a definition as you can find.
My story, Marketing Association Services, Association Management, Trade Shows, Publishing – 30 employees.
Not sure how the work ethic started. My first job at age 10 was delivering Mahjong tiles and annual regs for my mother (a Mahjong teacher) and then it was using my bike to deliver for a butcher.
In my teens, it was summer camp jobs as a waiter, dishwasher and assistant salad chef. During high school and college, I delivered personally-printed Christmas cards to high-end department and Fifth Avenue stores and filled in on routes for the Silent Watchman Time Clock Company.
Perhaps the greatest influence on my entrepreneurial exploits came from sales jobs and seven or so years as an active member of the Phoenix Jr. Chamber of Commerce. I learned something about leadership and people interactions, community involvement, and the running of small business-type projects.
The Jaycees itself was a small business and serving on the board and as treasurer was very instructive. I was always independent, but the Jaycees taught me a lot about organizing and delegating.
At the same time, I worked for the Electric League and my principal mentor was Dick Reucker. He improved my abilities in every direction and taught me “when two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”
The pay at the League wasn’t great, but it was the best job I ever had. I thought, “This is where I should stay forever.”
As I approached middle age, I felt my current position with the Electric Association in Los Angeles was somewhat tenuous. The utilities were being pressured to get out of the promotion business and that was our main thrust.
I thought I had three choices: get a master’s degree (classrooms never thrilled me), look for a new job (the hardest job in the world and something I didn’t enjoy) or resurrect an old idea of starting a marketing promotion agency.
In my blog on 3-16-16, “Using Adversity to Advantage),” I described my launch pad to become an entrepreneur. The opportunity presented itself and I had enough confidence at that point to dive into the unknown.
It was more exciting than I could ever have imagined and carried me for almost 30 years.
Next month we’ll try to learn more about what makes entrepreneurs.